"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Simplicity // Technology
January 11, 2019

This Week I Quit Evernote

Once an essential tool in my work Evernote increasingly became a confusing headache. This once great application seems to be the solution for problems we no longer face and not the best answer for our needs today.

Last year I took Tiago Forte’s Building A Second Brain course. Tiago’s system is fascinating. It’s an excellent guide to building a digital note-taking system, with great insights into how organising your notes can fuel creativity.

The course is built around using Evernote. But you can use any note-taking application, and that’s what I did. I took the opportunity to build a new, light note system using Bear, which I’ve kept ever since.

Bear replaced Evernote, and now Evernote and I are done.

I’ve used Evernote for many years. I took up a premium account in 2012 and had thousands of notes. But it was always a bit of a mess. Part of Evernote’s appeal is that it can do so much: notes, lists, storage of PDFs, web clippings.

But my Evernote was always chaos.

This was because I never really managed to figure out what Evernote did best for me.

Bear is a better app for notes and research. The app’s clean, minimalist style doesn’t just feel fresh and contemporary. It encourages you to do the work of turning information into a note. Thinking about it and organising it. Whereas Evernote always felt like a way to clip endless things without processing them.

The true work of note-taking isn’t just seeing something that might be interesting and saving it. A useful note is one you’ve done a little work on. Where you’ve made it clear what the interesting idea is, and how you might use it in the future.

Evernote has a good way of handling reference material, like manuals and guides, in text or PDF format. But what still works better for me is the old-school way of organising this stuff into folders based on active projects and areas of activity. I can find the documents quickly by combing the folder structure and also by doing a search. I use both.

But once you have taken the time to organise folders in this way, you don’t need a dedicated application like Evernote. A simple structure in DropBox, or even Apple’s Cloud Documents system (or Adobe’s Creative Cloud) works just as well.

It feels like Evernote’s appeal was based on an earlier generation of digital needs. Like when operating systems weren’t good at searching for content inside PDFs. When synchronising files across devices was less reliable. And buying storage space in the cloud was costly and complicated.

These issues are not what they once were. Having realised this, it makes no sense to keep Evernote around.

This Week I Quit is an occasional series where I share experiences of quitting apps, platforms, habits and commitments in a quest to live a simpler and more focussed creative life. Last time I quit lynda.com (and had a rethink of online learning) and you can read the rest of the series here.

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