Evernote has a long and storied history. It once reigned as king of note-taking services, successfully blossoming in an increasingly mobile world. But as the service grew larger, it became a less efficient tool for the core task of viewing and creating notes. New features and tangential apps added over time created bloat and became distractions. For a time, there weren't many worthwhile alternatives for Apple users to explore. That changed in June 2015, when Apple introduced a revamped Notes app for iOS and macOS.
I'd been unhappy with the clunky state of Evernote at the time iOS 9's Notes was unveiled. My experience with Notes in the past had been frustrated by poor syncing that led to data loss on multiple occasions. But what Apple demonstrated with Notes' overhaul looked promising, and I gave it a shot.
Notes has kept me satisfied since its big update, and I know many people are in the same boat. But Evernote recently launched version 8 of its iOS app, which led me to give that service another try.
Evernote unveiled a major update to its namesake app today. The company says it redesigned the app from the ground up with a focus on three functionalities:
- Faster ways to find notes
- New notes, now just one tap away
- Add color and style to your notes
In general, Evernote has taken a cleaner, simpler approach to the app's design. The tab bar along the bottom of the app features a prominent plus button for adding a new note. Pressing and holding that button gives users the option to record audio, capture images, and create reminders. Evernote has also added new ways to format the text of notes with colors and other choices.
Navigation has been improved too. What was the home screen, has been eliminated. Instead, Evernote launches to wherever you left off the last time you used it. Features like notebooks, tags, and reminders are still available but have been tucked away in the UI so they are less prominent, creating a less distracting experience overall.
Although I have not had an opportunity to thoroughly test the update, I am encouraged by Evernote’s renewed focus on note taking. The redesign is a good start, but the company has a long way to go to win back the trust of many users based on feedback we’ve gotten from MacStories readers. For those interested, David Pierce has a great piece on Wired covering Evernote’s recent missteps, where it hopes to take its product, and the ongoing challenges it faces. How Evernote addresses its past missteps and communicates the changes it’s made to users will be just as critical to its future as the redesign released today.
Casey Newton has an interview with Evernote CEO Chris O'Neill, who took over the company 10 months ago.
Reading through the article, three things stand out to me: I like his attitude; they don't need to raise more money; and, they seem to realize Work Chat hasn't been a success.
So let’s talk about business. Evernote invested significantly in a feature called Work Chat, which allows for collaboration around individual notes. But it doesn’t seem like the company has gotten much of a foothold. How will you tackle the business market? Should we expect the company will orient itself more toward collaboration uses?
No. It’s important to not try to be all things to all people. You have Slack, you have Hipchat. That’s a well-served market. Let’s just politely say, collaboration and chat is well served. So I don’t see it as, we need to try to do everything. If we do well with frictionless capture of ideas, and world-class search and retrieval, I think we can partner with a lot of other players.
I want to believe there's still hope for Evernote.
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
Today Microsoft announced a new Evernote importer app that lets you bring your Evernote data into its excellent OneNote application. If you’ve been thinking of leaving Evernote—especially if you’re already paying for Office 365, so you’re paying for OneNote—it’s worth considering.
Unfortunately, the tool currently only runs on Windows. Typical Microsoft. Fortunately, a Mac version is on the way “in the coming months.”
First Apple, now Microsoft. I wonder if Evernote is starting to regret adding the export option.
(I also wonder how much these import solutions are going to impact Evernote, and if they'll decide to turn exporting off eventually.)
Mikey Campbell, writing for AppleInsider, reports on the upcoming update to Notes on OS X 10.11.4, which is set to bring support for native Evernote imports:
The new Evernote compatibility comes as part of Apple's Notes buildout, a project that most recently resulted in substantial feature upgrades on iOS 9 and OS X last year. Adding to a rich in-app note-taking toolset, .enex file support means enhanced flexibility for those invested in Evernote's platform. […]
Apple marketing VP Brian Croll mentioned the forthcoming Mac feature in an interview with Japanese publication PC User, saying Evernote "capture" support would arrive for OS X Notes "soon." The report was spotted Mac Otakara on Monday.
I just tried it on my MacBook Air running the latest beta seed of 10.11.4 released earlier today, and it worked like a charm. I exported a handful of notes from Evernote, each containing rich text formatting (links, lists, fonts with different sizes and colors, inline images, etc.) and, despite it being a beta, the results were very good. The app displays an alert warning the user that notes may not look the same once imported – some formatting will always be lost in the transition from one proprietary platform to another – but, as a start, this should be more than enough to move everything out of Evernote without having to use scripts or other workarounds (you can import multiple .enex files at once, of course).
This is going to be an important addition for those who are thinking about moving from Evernote to Notes. I did last summer, and I continue to be impressed by the simplicity and functionality of Notes on iOS 9.
With a blog post published today, Evernote has announced they'll end support for various versions of Skitch (including iOS), Clearly, and Evernote for Pebble. Skitch for Mac will continue to receive support.
Specifically this means that as of today, we will no longer be making updates to these apps and as of January 22, they’ll no longer be available for download.
If you currently use any of these apps, you’ll find that they may continue to work for some time beyond January. We are not turning these apps “off,” but external changes like updates to your operating system or browser may break features or functionality at any point in the future.
The discontinuation of Skitch for iOS doesn't come as a surprise: Evernote has been discontinuing other apps to put more focus on the main product; many of the dedicated Skitch functionalities are also available in the Evernote app; and, Evernote had left Skitch for iOS languishing anyway. Evernote acquired Skitch in August 2011.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for quick image annotations on iOS these days. Personally, I recommend Pinpoint and PointOut.
Alternote for the Mac is like Evernote for the Mac, done right. It dumps many of Evernote’s advanced “features,” focusing on note-taking and note-using instead. If you ever get frustrated by Evernote’s bloat, Alternote is your answer.
Best of all, it runs on Evernote’s back end, so you lose nothing by trying it out, and it automatically integrates with all your other Evernote tools.
An update to Skitch – Evernote’s image annotation and sharing tool – was released earlier today for iPhone and iPad, quietly adding action and photo editing extensions to edit images in Apple’s Photos and other apps.
Speaking of scanning documents, Evernote released version 7.7 of their iOS app today, bringing a new “Scannable-inspired” camera mode that automatically detects document types. From the Evernote blog:
We learn a lot about what features work well and how people use them when we build products like Skitch and Evernote Scannable.
The successes of our stand-alone products can help quickly deliver improvements within our core apps like with this update to Evernote for iOS.
We’re very excited to debut an all-new, Scannable-inspired camera experience in the latest Evernote for iOS (update 7.7).
That's not exactly reassuring for users of their standalone apps, though – the latest compatibility update to Skitch was in September 2014, and a feature update goes all the way back to June 2014 (version 3.2). I, like others, appreciate the simplicity of standalone utilities that are tightly integrated with Evernote, but the company makes it sound like these apps are more like experiments for features that are eventually added to the main Evernote app.
The new camera mode is nice – it's the Scannable engine, only in the Evernote app. At this point, however, I'm curious to know if Scannable will suffer the same fate of Skitch, or if Evernote has plans to keep it as a standalone app with more functionality. Having the same features available in multiple apps from the same company seems confusing.