How to Leave Evernote and What It Gets You
I had the pleasure of using Evernote Premium for a couple of months. Unfortunately my just ended. It’s pretty cool what it does. I would be happy with their free tier, if they would allow me to have items offline without the requirement to star them.
Evernote also falls short in terms of editing. I wanted a better solution to get the most out of my learning. Evernote is great, but it’s also limited since their system is closed and only a few apps integrate with them directly and everything needs to be synced to their servers — no offline viewing allowed. I would much rather use the entirety of iOS apps to create and annotate notes. DocAS, Notability, MindNode, the built-in Camera app even. All of which have certain niceties Penultimate and Skitch lack.
The only feasible solution? Jump ship.
First some considerations of things to give up in a non-Evernote setup has:
- There needs to be a thing that displays many types of documents in one place.
- The thing needs to be able to edit documents. (in-place if possible)
- The thing needs to sync.
- The thing needs to work on iOS. OS X is not a huge problem, as you will soon realize reading this article.
- Nice to have: metadata
So you need a thing that allows you to view, edit and sync documents. Let’s go through these one at a time.
For syncing (also known as: make available) I would suggest Dropbox, Box.com or some other cloud provider. This is where you store all your documents. Create a folder for your Evernote documents, a new one for every Notebook. I called mine Study, since I was using Evernote mostly to keep questions and notes related to research I did.
You then need to be able to make your documents available offline. Dropbox itself requires you to “favorite” items for viewing them offline. So the Dropbox app is no good. GoodReader (iPhone, iPad) and Documents (previously ReaddleDocs) however, have sync built in, which also makes folders available offline. Gold.
Sync in Documents happens automatically or manually, set in the preferences. GoodReader syncs manually only.
- See Documents’ Help section “Sync with Dropbox and other storages”.
- GoodReader manual on sync..
GoodReader and Documents are also great apps to view documents such as PDF’s. They also allow to annotate PDF’s. Something Evernote doesn’t do.
These apps also view a plethora of other types of documents such as movies, audio files, text files and many more.
Editing is a bit of a pain. Just as editing photos on iOS isn’t really straight forward, so is editing documents. If you’re not careful, you can easily end up with multiple versions of one and the same document. Luckily both apps allow you to edit plain text textfiles straight in-place, but they don’t offer many features in terms of power editing. No syntax highlighting for Markdown is a huge let-down for me personally. For smaller edits though, Documents and GoodReader are doing their job.
Fortunately both apps allow other apps to edit their documents. This way you can edit a document in your favorite text editor.
I’ve been testing:
All of which work “somehow” as expected, round-tripping a document, but it’s not intuitive. If you can, use the clipboard to move the text back once you made an edit.
Writing Kit, Textastic, and Nebulous Notes also allow you to use Open In to copy the file back into Documents or GoodReader, where you need to manually replace the original file with the new version. Don’t worry though, Dropbox will recognize that you’ve been updating a file, rather than deleting and making a new one. Revisions won’t be affected.
I can’t recommend Byword for this setup. If you use Open In, the document will be saved to wherever location you’ve set Byword to sync to. Which, in my case, creates the same document again in
Getting Documents Out of Evernote
Now that we have a place for new documents to go into, we need to get our old documents out of Evernote. This may cause some technical problems, so here’s some advice.
Exporting PDF’s and images
It is not very difficult to export these documents with Evernote 2 on OS X. Just select documents from a Notebook and select Save Attachments to Folder from the File menu. Evernote will also show a Save Attachments button in the main window when multiple notes are selected.
Getting written text out of Evernote is more problematic. Evernote saves HTML documents with its Export Note feature (also in the File menu).
Easy conversion for advanced users
Open an exported document in your favorite text editor and use pandoc to convert the document to Markdown. Get these System Services to make pandoc easier to use.
Easy conversion for non-advanced users
Put the HTML document in your Dropbox’s Public folder. Select the file and copy the public link to the clipboard. Now go to Fuck Yeah Markdown and paste the link. Press Go to “markdownify” your document. Select the text and create a new text document, in the Dropbox folder that is synced with Documents or GoodReader.
Obviously this will take some time if you have a large(r) amount of documents, but once completed you’re not bound to Evernote anymore.