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Parting Ways With Evernote

Today I canceled my subscription and closed by account with Evernote, which most will think a trivial event. People stop using software all the time, except I’ve been using Evernote from the beginning that it first became available for Windows in 2008. In fact, I am pretty sure that I first used a beta version of the product perhaps as early as 2005. At the time it was introduced no company was really developing notetaking software, at least not for Windows. When first introduced the UI of EverNote had the form of a continual scroll of information “flagged” by date, in fact it could be my first experience with the newsfeed/stream UI now commonly used by social networking applications.

The closest resemblance EverNote had to any other product was the UI of the Newton OS that ran on Apple’s Newton Messagepad. The resemblance may have been intentional because EverNote was founded by Stepan Pachikov who with his company Paragraph International, lead the development of the handwriting recognition engine known as CalliGrapher, which was licensed by Apple for use with the Newton OS. EverNote’s resemblance to Newton definitely drew my attention to the product.

Pachikov brought Phil Libin onboard as CEO of Evernote (originally the product name had a capitalized N that was changed to lowercase by 2008) and Libin grew the company and the product into the well recognized, multi-platform product that most people know of it today. In my opinion what made Evernote attractive is that it centrally stored data (perhaps one of the first commercial client/server applications) that is accessible to client applications running on nearly every computing platform that I use. At a time when it was common to see applications that ran only on Mac or Windows, or iOS, Evernote ran any every single one of these platforms.

Of course, developing and then maintaining separate code bases for each platform is daunting, particularly if the application architecture was not explicitly developed for that use, and so over time bugs crept up that caused problems. The relatively fast growth of the product also lead to performance issues, and for some data loss. For me Evernote jumped the shark around 2013 when the company began licensing/selling products with Evernote branding, like socks, that had no relationship to the core product, while there were significant problems with the Evernote app. One year after Libin left Evernote the company stopped selling these products.

It might be said that Evernote began its path of decent soon after Libin left the company in 2015. Key developers started to leave the company and soon there seemed to be yearly rumors of the company going under. While many who I associated with stopped using it, by 2015 I had accumulated seven years of information in the application and I felt the yearly $60 subscription was worth my continued access to that information from all the devices I use. The Evernote web clipper had become my most valued tool of all the software I use and it is still the best browser web clipping application available particularly on mobile devices. Unlike most other apps, sharing to Evernote on iOS and Android captures the entire web page rather than just the link to the page.

So, despite the dismal outlook for the company and the app, I stayed committed to it, but last year it was acquired by Bending Spoons and they changed the subscription cost to $15 per month, which I decided was too expensive in light of what I pay in other software subscriptions. When the rumors of the demise of Evernote started appearing I began testing ways to export my information out of the application and import it into others. Two years ago I exported everything from Evernote to OneNote, which wasn’t perfect but good enough for me to find information should I need to. Last year I found I could also import my Evernote archive into Obsidian, which I completed last fall and from that point stopped storing new information in Evernote.

My yearly subscription with Evernote renews at the end of January, so my deadline to delete my data from Evernote and close my account was this past weekend. Deleting my notes was much more laborious than I would have preferred, as a deleted note is moved to Trash and then one has to empty the Trash in order to completely delete the note and I found that Trash emptying seemed to only handle about 100 notes or so at a time, particularly with the web application. The problem seems to be with the synchronization performance, even the web app syncs data with the browser local storage, and I suspect there is Javasript handling all of the API calls to tell Evernote’s servers to move and delete data.

I am obviously much more brand loyal than most other people, so it’s really a big deal for me personally to stop using a product after having used it for more than ten years. Obviously, my issue is not with the product itself but the subscription cost that most likely is driven by a decreasing number of subscribers. I do expect Evernote to eventually disappear within the next year or two. Going forward I am using Joplin to capture web clippings from Mac and Linux, tolerating the fact that sharing to Joplin with iPad only captures the link and not the web content. I have also started using Archivebox on my home network. I am using end to end encryption with Joplin and using OneDrive as the “hub” for storing/syncing the data in Joplin between my desktops and iPad. Unfortunately the Android version of Joplin does not synchronize well and I gave up even trying to use it on my Pixel 7a.

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