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Why is it so difficult to make a note taking application?


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Genuinely.

It seems like it shouldn't be that difficult to sync text and meta data, but somehow EN continually makes a mess of their platform. I work in IT and the only other tools I see that are as buggy and disconnected from what users want are the ones whose business leaders don't actually use the product. The developers, I assume, do because they have to build on it but at the same time, if I were a developer at EN there's no way I would trust Evernote to retain development docs, code snippets, any of it.

I've been a member since May 2010, just checked. My subscription expires in October of this year. So far I've got 10 GB (99%) remaining this month and [my] monthly limit resets in 7 days. Previous months back to June are the same.

I used to love EN, it connected to everything, it was fast, and organization was fluid enough that building a personal workflow was easy. Then it became a case of acclimating to the workflow they force on you is ... easy-ish. Then it became feeding your data into their machine so they could recommend ***** from the NYTimes or whatever, with, of course, no way to turn the feature off. Now all my notes live on their servers without local copies? It's... not really mine anymore is it? If you have a fire, an angry admin, or just forget to pay the electric bill (which my history of reading EN news would suggest is very possible) all my information is just ... gone.

Evernote used to be a good note taking application. Then it wanted to be a good document storage solution/office application/team management tool/collaboration hub/whatever other buzz word some C-level desk-jockey felt benefited the SEO. And now, now it's uselessly slow, the note window has turned an empty text box into some psudo-object based segment thing. But of course, they won't just commit and make page layouts like OneNote or Notion, no, they're going to strip out text, replace it with blocks no one wants, and then make it proprietary.

Never mind years of running security scandals.

I realized today, while looking at the forms and my barren data consumption information that Evernote isn't a tool I trust to save data anymore. I valued it highly for all the integrations but do features you don't use because the platform is flawed really have value? Opening Evernote now is more dread than interest. I don't ask myself a question then go to EN to find the answer or information. I occasionally and reluctantly open EN hoping it hasn't randomly deleted that two or three year old note I made when I still trusted it to keep notes.

All ENs new features are worthless when they come at the cost of stability. I want to like EN. Desperately I want to like it again, but I just don't.

Sadly, I'm out. Going to use Apple Notes for a while until I get back in the habit of electronic notes because, looking at my desk, EN has pushed me to using Sticky Notes on my wall and a spiral binder because it's literally faster, more secure, and doesn't fill me frustration like EN does.

Anyway, I'm sure this will just get deleted because EN doesn't like to hear criticism, which is why r/evernote exists, but whatever. Maybe one day when EN isn't a revolving door for developers and executives it can finally decide what kind of application it wants to be then pull up it's big boy APIs and be a suitably stable solution. 

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Hi.  I'm still using the 'old' versions of Evernote Android,  Web and Windows and they're just as good (or bad) as they usually are - when v10 shapes up a little more I may consider moving across - or I'll leave - it remains to be seen.  Meantime please be aware you can always take a step back into the good old(ish) days if you need to,  the new version having been released (apparently) in stripped down form in the fond hope that the dev team could quickly add features back in,  given the new architecture they spent the last couple of years developing.  That doesn't (quite) seem to be happening,  but I'm happy to give them the chance to get there before doing anything rash.

Things don't seem to be quite as bad as you paint them - there have been no 'security scandals' that I'm aware of,  it's not exactly a revolving door at any level,  and if you have any links to show different please let us know!

Plus - if Evernote were scared of feedback I think they'd nuke this forum pretty quickly since the last few weeks have been almost nothing but criticism.

However;  if you gotta go,  you gotta go.  Bye.

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Hmm, perhaps that's fair about the post deletions. This forum is... depressing.

I'll collect up some links. I had them in Evernote but... c'est la vie eh. Still, if I recall it's only been a few years since most of the executive level swapped out (or at least around)? As for security, yeah I'll do some Google-fu for ya but the ones that come to mind are the password breach in like 2010, the clear text error logs issue in... 2015?... the employees accessing notes thing last year... Not that any cloud solution is risk-free of course. Evernotes replies to security breaches have also been pretty tone deaf which doesn't inspire confidence. Still, they've managed the basics like 2Fa and end-to-end encryption.

I'll consider going back to the older version. Given how late to this frustration-party I am is probably a solid indication that I don't use EN enough anymore to justify paying for it anyway.

I almost wish they had a lite version. All the integrations with other apps and the device ubiquity, but just a basic version of the app: markdown, image/file attachments, folders, tags, the end... I miss that.

Edit--

I think part of it is that it seems more and more that Evernote is taking a similar direction to Dropbox you know? I'm sure there's a huge market space for workspace unification so integration with Office and Google Drive make sense but... they're still a 3rd party tool vying to take users away from the ecosystem's tool. I like dropbox fine myself but I'm not going to try to shoehorn it into my Exchange and O365 work environment, that's what OneDrive and SharePoint etc are for. Likewise, all the Office-esque features Evernote seems preoccupied with are ... ok ... but they're not going to take OneNote's user base unless they go all-in on cloning it, and it's still an uphill battle... Google environments maybe. Context for example, what is that except marketing? It's not like an algorithm is matching content to sources you want, it's sources that EN thinks are worth working with. That's not a feature, that's not informative, that's a revenue stream. The business back-end market just seems like a strange choice for EN to be so desperate to break into that they're willing to add, remove, add, strip down, rebuild, add, and remote ad infinitum features, UI elements, whatever. It's like the architecture team is made up of squirrels. Be a note app—wherever people use you if you do it really, really, well everything else will fall into place. It's literally what made them. I'm sure they're feeling some pressure from the digital disruption of so many competitors popping up all over but... tools like Bear don't do a fraction of what EN does and it's growing like bamboo because they focus on what they do well. It's like EN is scared they're not up to the competition so instead of polishing what they've got they're playing pin-the-tail-on-whatever-people-might-talk-about.

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It is not difficult to write a note taking app per se. The problems start when

1. They want to make it cross platform, hence it ends up lowest common denominator to maintain same code base rather than taking advantage of native platform.

2. They use a proprietary notes format making it complex migration (export/import) necessary when you want to quit them.

3. They force you to store your notes into their cloud, thus incurring cost of storage.

They do all these to make it a profit making business.

The way out is:

1. Save notes in open format like RTF, DOCX, HTML etc.
2. Keep notes as files in local device - which you may link with cloud like Onedrive, Dropbox etc.
3. Use a 3rd party app for searching across all files.

Of course this solution is not as well integrated as EN but it kinds of decouples you from the vagaries of any app.

Now some may argue that ENEX format is HTML, but no it is not. You can't open ENEX without Evernote to make any sense of data.

 

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Almost every commercial desktop software company's going crazy and rejecting their primary users (desktop) because they see mobile/tablet as a much larger potential market, rightfully so. Desktop is dying, or at least stagnating while mobile never stops growing. Just because we prefer it doesn't mean companies care. Mobile users don't understand the concept of local files, and tbh it's quite hidden by the mobile OS, so out goes local files, in comes online storage. Out goes advanced features, incomes streamlining, because multiple features confuse mobile users.

There are many desktop apps that will let you take notes and have you own them, in local files. They tend to be open-source apps that won't auto-sync your stuff to their servers, and in general are a poorer experience than desktop Evernote (v6, not the latest V10).

Off the top of my head: Joplin, QOwnNotes, StandardNotes. The 3rd one saves locally but sync to their servers by default. The first two are local, but can sync via your own Dropbox, or Nextcloud. They save in an open format, on your filesystem,  and let you export your data to other formats at will.

Another commercial option is Obsidian. It's also local text files.

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Both @Vidalia and @isthisme are absolutely correct.

Yes, the ideal best way is to have your data reside in individual files in common document formats, and use the built in OCR capabilities that most cloud storage providers offer.

I’ve done this for a couple years. Yet I am coming back to using a note / data management wrapper, for the simple reason that there’s just no good fast common format notetaker for mobile that has things like quick new note, auto save, handwriting recognition, or OCR in embedded PDFs or images. When I need to quickly snap a few photos, mark them up, and save a note that I will later edit on my Windows laptop, Word for iOS takes too long because I have to name and save the file - it’s a word processor, not a notetaker - and Notability is great except for the later editing part. Really, Evernote / Onenote / what have you are mainly needed due to mobile - at least in my view. If I was only using the laptop, Word would suffice just fine.

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Regarding the original question, it is really difficult to find a good note-taking app (however one defines it), and few of my favorites have survived well over time--all too many are abandonware or buggy now, with only a few remaining in any usable state. The more complicated apps have their share of complicated problems. I imagine Evernote is one of the most challenging of all the apps (at least on the back end), because it has to reliably sync for millions of users across multiple, constantly changing platforms (Android must be a truly harrowing developer experience). It looks simple from our end, but the fact that so few developers get it "right" suggests that it is easier said than done.The original poster seems to know far more about developing than I do, so this is probably already well understood.

On to the specifics in the thread. Apple Notes. A lovely app. It's "free" with the purchase of your iOS device--remember when we didn't spend 1000 dollars every three or four years for a new phone? I have used it a lot over the last decade or so. Try to get your data out of it, though. Good luck! Try saving a website to it. Oh no... Try linking notes. Impossible. The list goes on. Even one of the most richest and most powerful companies in world history seems to have trouble doing things we take for granted in Evernote :)

Obsidian? Yes. It is nice. I am afraid I am unlikely to use it over the long term, though. The subscription business model is all the rage, isn't it, and while it isn't especially expensive, few individual apps or services are. The problem is that everything is a subscription, and it isn't a question of one particular app's pricing, but how much of your budget you are willing to allocate to subscription services that (generally speaking) are constantly increasing in price. I think Dropbox has increased 25%, Evernote over 60%? How many of us are seeing equivalent increases in our salaries every few years? It's probably a tough sell, especially if you are into other subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. etc. There's less and less money to go around, so no matter how inexpensive apps are, you have to prioritize. I am guessing a lot of folks have a tough time justifying a note-taking app subscription. The original poster makes a good point--look back at your usage and consider if your subscriptions are worth it. In the case of Evernote, I'm in a similar position, because the updates (including on iOS, which cannot be rolled back) have dramatically decreased my usage. That's only anecdotal, though, and perhaps simply inevitable when the app goes one way and my workflow goes another.

In the end, considering the context in which Evernote operates, it's pretty amazing. I'm having issues with it right now, I'm afraid, but a lot of folks seem to be enjoying it, and if I were one of them, I think I'd be reasonably confident in the security (given all of the drawbacks inherent in any app with such meagre encryption options) and I'd have few concerns about having copies of my data in my local drive (Evernote data is kept in the cloud, of course, but it all resides on your drive as well). 

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