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Do You Find Evernote to be a Polished Writing Tool?

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Do You Find Evernote to be a Polished Writing Tool?
 
Evernote CEO Phil Libin was quoted today at the annual Evernote Conference as saying the following.
From Evernote Unveils Evernote Context by TechCrunch:
 

“We’ve tried to make the writing experience across all our clients really polished,” CEO Phil Libin said today. “Evernote wants to be the best place for writing.”

 
I guess this really caught me by surprise since I've seen nothing but complaints about the Evernote text editor.  And, the response has often been that if you want a writing tool, or a word processing tool, then go somewhere else.
 
The Evernote Editor seems OK for most note taking, but it doesn't even offer the basics of what one would need for writing and formatting serious documents, articles, etc..  I certainly wouldn't call it "polished".  Far from it.
 
Seems like if “Evernote wants to be the best place for writing”, it has a long ways to go.

 

What's your opinion of Evernote as a writing tool?  Please indicate the EN Client you use.  I use EN Mac.

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I can't do my "real" writing in Evernote because publishers usually want Word documents. So it doesn't work as a complete writing solution for me. 

 

That being said, Libin was speaking in present tense, but I think he meant to speak in future tense. Their unified editor will be the best place for writing (as defined by Evernote). I don't think it will ever be my complete writing tool given the system I am in and my own reliance on reference managers. However I am withholding judgement until I see the new editor as to whether it is a competent writing tool for others (and myself, to the extent I can use it). 

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@Scott:  Actually, he was speaking in PAST tense:  “We’ve tried to make the writing experience across all our clients really polished".

 

I just don't see how he can say the current clients are "really polished".

 

As far as your need to transmit in a Word document -- that should be easy:  EXPORT Note as Word document.

Just like today you can, from Word, export as PDF.

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I think there are some practical roadblocks for me that make it a little rough around the edges for my writing. I need footnotes. I'm not an edge case. Most university students, researchers, and so forth are in the same boat. Evernote doesn't have them. If I write in plain text using some Scrivener-friendly markdown for footnotes and the like, I can do all of my work in a basic text editor on the iPad synced to Scrivener on the desktop. It's beautiful. And, I can fiddle with the line spacing, font, etc. :)

My needs are really, truly basic. It's just text. Plain-text editors can manage it just fine. Evernote can't. However, rather than expecting Evernote to somehow meet these needs, I think a handy third-party integration (perhaps even one with Scrivener) could manage it. So, the potential is there.

Phil might be right about some other use cases. It is much improved over the old days. In my opinion, though, Word is still the gold standard, and no one has even come close to it in the last few years. Truly, it is one of the most elegant and powerful word processors ever designed, and I think Evernote should avoid comparing themselves to it. If I had a Surface, if Word on the Mac wasn't fuzzy, and if Word on the iPad wasn't such a pain, I'd use it for any "files" or "documents."

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To add to your comment about researchers, engineers and scientists of all types (not just the research types) have many needs in writing, like math formulas, that EN does not support.  There are also many HTML features that are used a lot in writing documentation, how-to's, procedures, etc that are not supported by EN.  

 

For example:  

  • Internal Note (HTML page) links
  • Collapsable sections
  • Legal numbering
  • Youtube style video links
  • Style Sheets

Some great Word features missing in EN:

  • Change tracking on a text basis
  • Comments
  • Embedding of Excel sections that render very well (unlike the EN Excel inline viewing which is terrible)

Writing is much more than just capturing your words.  Presentation and formatting are important too in order to make your work easy to read and understand.  IOW, style is an important part of communications.

 

Another important area of writing today for online audiences:  interactive documents, especially for teaching and training.

 

Evernote today is far from a polished writing tool.  It is barely more than a plain text editor, and some would say it's not even good at that.  ;)

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I use Mac.  I don't do any writing in EN, it is too cumbersome.  I usually use Scrivener, TextWrangler or LibreOffice.

 

I would love it if they made the editor so good we could use it for writing, however with them changing things without getting any feedback from the uses in relation to other features I kind of worry if I will like where it is heading.

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Agree with the previous two posts... writing in EN is painful. I use it on Windows, Mac, iOS, and occasionally the web client... it's universally a poor experience to write content in Evernote. Font changes across platforms, weird formatting oddities (try to indent a section - go ahead), etc. For a real writing project, just try doing any sort of outlining in Evernote.

 

I'd pay double what I currently pay for Premium to have Markdown available to me... just like the Mac/iOS app, Day One. I can write/edit in plaintext Markdown and then when I save/view my note, it's formatted accordingly. Yes, I know I can write markdown in Evernote... just like I can write Markdown in Word. Or Excel. The issue is that it's a poor experience to do so and doesn't give me the tools to be more productive when getting that content in/out of Evernote as a project moves forward. 

 

I really don't need Evernote to be a chat app, presentation software, or to tell me what Fast Company thinks of my current note's content -- just a universal shoebox (which it IS good at) and a place to create, manage, save, and archive my own projects. Give me a good editing experience and I'd spend a lot less time in Word, Scrivener, SublimeText, etc and a lot more time in Evernote.

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A user hears the CEO talk about the application we all use and asks other users for their opinions. Your response is to mock those opinions.

 

Were the previous 11K posts as helpful?

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I think, channeling Jefito, that he might have been encouraging us not to get bent out of shape and make sure to maintain a bit of perspective on things.

 

Evernote is perfectly sufficient for plenty of writing tasks, and for basic notes like lists (mentioned by Phil when he contrasted Evernote with Excel), or maybe notes about a meeting, it is in its element. I think when it comes to more hardcore writing, it is probably a little less polished than many writers would like.

 

To continue with Shakespeare, I think the bard would have been a little frustrated if he couldn't re-arrange all of the acts in a play in the order he wanted (manual sorting missing on every platform) or write in a font and font size that was legible to his tired eyes (zoom, font family, font size, etc. missing on the iPad). Shakespeare might well have preferred Word over Evernote for the ability to indent too :)

 

I'm not terribly interested in picking apart and parsing every statement that Phil makes, especially because I think the gist is clear here. Evernote is going to continue with its longstanding policy of only adding new features that are innovative and/or will make an impact on a large number of users. The definition of "polished" doesn't include the ability to manipulate your text at a fine level (kerning, footnotes, line spacing, indentation, etc.). That's all. For a lot of folks, I imagine it does feel "polished" as it is.

 

In the end, if you are a professional, and you make your living with writing, it is quite likely that you'll need to look for additional, more specialized software. In the future, if we are lucky, someone will create a third-party app (or apps) that bridge the gap. In this respect, Evernote is quite well prepared to help out with its API and knowledgable employees).

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I got excited when Libin was talking about Evernote being a place for writing because I thought he was going to make an announcement that Evernote would finally be a nice place to write.

But he didn't.

I guess in his mind it already is.

New features are great, but Evernote hasn't fine-tuned the core writing features yet.

Almost every indie developer in tech has adopted markdown as a standard for writing. It is perplexing that big business like Evernote don't recognize that people want markdown.

The formatting in Evernote is terrible. I'm not a fan of rich text, anyway, but I'm sure there are many people that like it. That's fine. Leave it in there, but why not make the presentation mode automatically recognize markdown and present it formatted accordingly. Then add an option for the default note format to be plain text.

So many of the popular writing platforms now are simple. That's why people like them. Many people are frustrated with MS Word because it's complicated. Evernote's formatting is just as bad as Microsoft's, so if they are trying to be like Microsoft, then they are at least succeeding in that area.

Other people are not like me and they like Word because of it's full set of features. Evernote fails here, too. So the are neither simple nor complex. And thus are not pleasing many people that are looking for either of those things in a writing platform.

They also are lacking the real-time, multi-user editing that people love Google Docs for. (Another disappointment when he started talking about working with others, only to release Work Chat.)

This is not saying that I hate Evernote. I love it. But I use it for storage and rarely ever work in it. I use it to store things that I have completed and to keep reference material for when I'm writing in another app.

In my opinion, they are trying to branch out to too many areas without making the features they already have to be really good. As example, they announced reminders several years ago only to do nothing with it since. There is such potential there to be a really good task manager, since it is already holding all your information. If they would add the simple feature set found in something like Apple Reminders, it could actually be used by more people. I'm not saying they need to recreate Omnifocus, but I've heard of few people that actually use it to manage tasks. Fraiser Spiers tried it, but he soon returned to Omnifocus. I also tried it, but it was to difficult to keep track of tasks. If Evernote would release a separate task app that pulled reminders from your notes and organized them by lists based in notebooks (projects) and tags (contexts) it would work for many people, I think. (I am really off topic.)

Evernote is great. But there will have to be a lot done before they can be the place where you work, like they are trying to be now.

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Uncle Phil has an uncanny knack of making profound and eminently quotable statements that get super publicity for a certain big green product in the room,  but don't necessarily translate into practical application tech for users - or at least not yet.  I've been a 'professional' writer for <mumble> years,  and my writing process only uses Evernote for the research and drafting stages.  Planning and writing the content are currently elsewhere - not least because content for the web needs one layout,  and for paper needs page breaks and page numbers and styles,  and columns...

 

I'll always look at Evernote for some part of the process,  but I don't expect to use it as a browser or a picture editor because it isn't Firefox or Lightroom;  if I have an inspiration late an night and want to get some pearls of wisdom down,  they might go into a note until I fire up the laptop next day - or I might get the candle and quill out and emulate Bill S.  It depends what's within easy reach.

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A user hears the CEO talk about the application we all use and asks other users for their opinions. Your response is to mock those opinions.

 

Were the previous 11K posts as helpful?

Shakespeare was well-known for going on and on about not being able to get good quills for his pens. Yes, I do mock sometimes, but not always -- you'll need to read the other 11,000 posts to see whether I can be helpful or not. Phil does marketing. He's an ideas guy. I think that sometimes he doesn't filter what he says1. He's built something pretty cool and useful, but I don't take everything that he says with utter seriousness. As for the topic, good expressive writing can be performed without fancy equipment. You can wrap utter drool up in pretty formatting and it's still just saliva. Whereas Shakespeare...

 

1 edit: or maybe he just likes being provocative.

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@Scott:  Actually, he was speaking in PAST tense:  “We’ve tried to make the writing experience across all our clients really polished".

 

Good catch - I suppose there is some fluidity to the definition of "polish" :)

 

I'd certainly not say it has been a "polished" experience... "fair" or "adequate", sure. 

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As far as your need to transmit in a Word document -- that should be easy:  EXPORT Note as Word document.

Just like today you can, from Word, export as PDF.

Yeah but the formatting requirements are generally fairly strict so after writing in Evernote, exporting to word, I'd then have to re-do all my formatting according to the specifications asked of me, potentially correcting any formatting issues that came along for the ride, THEN discover I'm over the word count or page length, THEN insert my references. 

 

It's too much of a pain! I'll just write straight in Word using my reference manager, save as a .docx, and send. 

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Evernote wants to be the best place for writing.

 

 

Please, I hope they can see they will never surpass Microsoft Word (or Openoffice or Libre office) for that. Or Scrivener. And I hope they won't try to achieve it. There is a reason why writers/journalist use Word/OpenOffice/Libre office for their writing: the software is totally designed for that. It is the main purpose. Using templates to easily create reports or CV's, spell check, ability to add comments, footnotes, indexes, automated tables of contents: it does those things well. Because it is dedicated app for writing. It has one purpose.

 

Evernote's purpose is making notes or collecting information easier. It does it well and should be the only purpose of the application. True: basic text editing option should be there and should be done well. Evernote should focus on becoming the best place for collecting information. Because where you are going to draw the line otherwise? What's next after becoming the best place for writing? The best place for spreadsheets or presentations? The best place for browsing or communication? 

 

There is reason why people use a specific browser, e-mail application, text editor, etc. And working with a set of dedicated software isn't bad and surely Evernote can have it's place among the other software people use. And especially if Evernote can work together with the most used software or services (Word, Thunderbird, Google Docs, Gmail, Outlook, etc.). Because Evernote fits nicely in the daily routine and daily used software in that scenario.

 

So, please focus only on collecting information.

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Evernote's purpose is making notes or collecting information easier. It does it well and should be the only purpose of the application. True: basic text editing option should be there and should be done well. Evernote should focus on becoming the best place for collecting information. Because where you are going to draw the line otherwise? What's next after becoming the best place for writing? The best place for spreadsheets or presentations? The best place for browsing or communication? 

This is basically where I am with Evernote. The rich text editing is OK -- not perfect, but functional -- but it suits what I do with Evernote. A few lists here, some screen caps there, an attachment or two, web clippings for research, plus those simple reminders: that's the bread and butter of my daily work / Evernote usage.

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“We’ve tried to make the writing experience across all our clients really polished,” CEO Phil Libin said today. “Evernote wants to be the best place for writing.”

 

Evernote is irreplaceable for a lot of the stuff I do... but... it is anything but a polished writing experience. Maybe he was referring to the minimalist layout (and I can think of more aesthetic 3rd party Evernote apps that do a better job in this area).

 

Haha, "REALLY" polished is going a tad bit too far! I do, however, get the feeling that speaking in the present perfect might be due to plans they've had in the pipeline (and which may be rolled out soon) that we are not yet privy to. So, to the development team, a polished experience might already exist. I hope so ;-)

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Evernote wants to be the best place for writing.

 

Please, I hope they can see they will never surpass Microsoft Word (or Openoffice or Libre office) for that. Or Scrivener. And I hope they won't try to achieve it. There is a reason why writers/journalist use Word/OpenOffice/Libre office for their writing: the software is totally designed for that. It is the main purpose. Using templates to easily create reports or CV's, spell check, ability to add comments, footnotes, indexes, automated tables of contents: it does those things well. Because it is dedicated app for writing. It has one purpose.

 

 

I agree, but evidently CEO Libin believes that all those "old", "ancient" technologies are now irrelevant.  He want to replace them all with his New World Order of Evernote for everything.  I'm not kidding.  Checkout his speech and the recent blogs/interviews.

 

From the EN Context Blog:

 

 

We’re applying our machine learning and augmented intelligence expertise to present you with all three research phases automatically, at the moment you need them, without ever leaving your workspace

 

From the EN Blog on "Evernote: Welcome to your New Workspace"

Office productivity is stuck in a world that’s almost as old as personal computing. When we started using these tools, it was so jarring that familiar metaphors—files, documents, and slides—were needed to ease us into the system. In the years since, the physical objects have faded from view, but their digital look-a-likes have stuck around. They may have moved from desktop computers to the cloud, but they haven’t really changed in the process.

Evernote is the single workspace designed around four central actions that we perform each day

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We’re applying our machine learning and augmented intelligence expertise to present you with all three research phases automatically, at the moment you need them, without ever leaving your workspace

 

 

 

Haha! Maybe they should have kept the in-app browser capability that I used to see in iOS... I didn't have to leave Evernote... I simply created a Google.com link and surfed around, clipping any pages of interest to Evernote (In-app). Maybe that was the closest and most realistic to not needing to leave the Evernote workspace ;-)

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In answer to the original question.

 

No, of course not and whatever the nonsense being spouted at the conference it's still some way behind the apps that we would call the competition. But, I get the impression that Evernote doesn't want to mirror what  Word/Pages/Scrivener are doing. I get the feeling that they are trying to create a simpler, less feature rich environment that appeals to a wide audience who need to write stuff.

 

If you are writing a book or any kind of long-form writing then I'm sure that Evernote is never going to be the solution for you and I'm not sure that it really should be. For a specialist task you should be using a specialist app - this whole idea of trying to use one application to do everything is to my mind rather dumb.

 

Now I'm sure the CEO will tell me that meetings are boring, spreadsheets are horrible and we all need to chat in our documents. All these things may or may not be true (I disagree with a lot of his clickbait pronouncements), but I want Evernote to be my external brain, a good general tool that allows me to write a bit, to clip a bit, to store a bit and to find things really well - the rest of it, well to me it's just noise and clutter and will probably be the thing that ends up driving me to another platform.

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Exactly... I don't think anyone is looking for Evernote to be a full on writing tool like Word, Pages, etc.  Just don't get in front of a crowd and rave about it being a "really polished" writing application. Not when simple things like formatting are broken and large databases are unusable.

 

That's my concern with that statement and the whole vibe coming out of the conference about Evernote as an office/workgroup productivity tool. I don't need features like chat, a Powerpoint-killer, or AI that points me to WSJ articles. I want the features that are there to work the way they should.

 

They should stay on the mission of being the external, digital brain and optimize for getting things in, organizing what's there, and getting things out.

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I completely and totally agree with Metrodon and Oneleftfoot! There are already a number of highly effective programs and out there already doing the virtual workstations. Some are even partnered with Evernote.

Take Azendoo for example, I tried this out when it was first announced on EN and it's a beautiful, well-run system - with or without Evernote. Out of curiousity I pulled up my old account today - which I had let go inactive simply because it was far more than I needed to trade brief household and appointment notes with just my husband - and they gotten even better. It is 100% free up to a certain number of users, suitable for many a small office, and they now have a mobile version. Their user support to free and paid users is phenomenally good!

The one thing they aren't set up well for is to create and stores digital data and in-depth note taking. You know, the two main reasons we all joined EN for in the first place!

Please, EN, if you're trying to completely change the direction of your entire company be giving up the the "digital" repository for a wide variety of of digital data and basic note-taking abilities, and are instead intent on becoming another virtual office set-up, then just bloody tell us! Tell us so we can finally decide if it's worth our time to keep hoping you'll keep your always promised improvement to a decent rich text editor on ALL platforms, and fix the scalability problems on large accounts. You know, live up to your own advertising and repeated promises that these issues will be "fixed soon!"

Please, I don't want to move to OneNote, but if you persist in brushing off or flat out ignoring these issue, I and many other users are likely to jumps ship. I *want* to stay and I *want* to upgrade to a Premium account, but first I need to know if it would be a waste of money or not!

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Please, EN, if you're trying to completely change the direction of your entire company be giving up the the "digital" repository for a wide variety of of digital data and basic note-taking abilities, and are instead intent on becoming another virtual office set-up, then just bloody tell us! Tell us so we can finally decide if it's worth our time to keep hoping you'll keep your always promised improvement to a decent rich text editor on ALL platforms, and fix the scalability problems on large accounts. You know, live up to your own advertising and repeated promises that these issues will be "fixed soon!"

 

I think they've been telling us for quite some time. So no issues there for me. But I agree that some of the basics need to be hashed out before or simultaneous to rolling out these new features - even though I don't require a better word processor in Evernote. Maybe, then again, I've been curbing what I can do in Evernote and just settling. I like to make do with what we've got, but I can definitely see the benefit to improving the word processing area, for example.

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Edit: Ignore the typos. I'm too tired to fix them.

But have they really, Frank? The only thing that's clear to me is that they are branching out into the business world, but as they are still promoting and selling Premium memberships - which are geared towards personal single users - it seems they want to do both. But as far as I can tell, they aren't accomplishing either goal that well.

I'm not asking for full on word processing capability, I'm just one of countless users - free and paid - asking they focus on delivering what they've been promising for ages, as per the below quote of a post I just made in long thread about it:

I'd settle for a stable RTF text editor that works as expected on all the clients. i.e.

As in being able to count on formatting like bold, underline, italics and bullets not getting mangled when created on one device, only to later open that same note on a different client and find out your formatting is gibbled.

And I want to see the scalability problem solved so I don't end up in the same positions as BurgerNFries and several other powers users are in, a few years down the the line after I've got 20 or 30K of notes as a paid user who's database becomes unusable. Remember, they say we can have up to 100,000 notes per account. That statement explicitly implies that people with tens of thousands of notes, it should not slow to a crawl, then become completely unusable when folks haven't even reached the halfway mark to the stated 100,000 notes capabilities!

I love the Evernote concept of being an external brain where I can dump and web, scanned or typed content into a virtual file cabinet. I find the EN Search abilities, Classic Note Links and *searchable* tags to the best system I've ever used to track things and organize most areas of my life.

At first I had a really hard time not thinking in terms of hierarchies, folders and files, but now I'm a complete convert and dread going back to such a system!

So yes, I want a *concrete* answer about a stable RTF text editor where I can create notes with basic RTF formatting and bullets on either of my three clients - Windows Desktop, my Android phone and my Android Tablet - *without* having to worry about finding gibbled text when I open them on a different client. I want to know IF and WHEN this will actually happen.

I want a *concrete* and *honest* answers about the scalability problem. Is it actively being being worked on ny a focussed team of devs and/or techs who are focussed on this problem alone, and if so, will they continue until it's finally solved for good!

********* OR *********

If they have no interested in having non-business, single, personal users anymore and wish to focus ONLY on Business Users from here on out, the just SAY SO. Give the current Premium users a few month more of Support while they scramble to find an alternative, and refund any pre-paid months once they leave.

As for those of us free users who are still on the fence about whether to go Premium or not, we can all be gone and out of Evernote's hair in a couple of weeks.

********* OR *********

If EN plans to pursue the Business world AND keep, as well as acquire more, Premium personal users, then they need to devote the time, resources and energy into fixing the problems I described above, as well as address other major concerns discussed all over the forum. AND restores the User Tech Support to it's not to distant former glory!

Please, EN, if you're trying to completely change the direction of your entire company be giving up the the "digital" repository for a wide variety of of digital data and basic note-taking abilities, and are instead intent on becoming another virtual office set-up, then just bloody tell us! Tell us so we can finally decide if it's worth our time to keep hoping you'll keep your always promised improvement to a decent rich text editor on ALL platforms, and fix the scalability problems on large accounts. You know, live up to your own advertising and repeated promises that these issues will be "fixed soon!"

I think they've been telling us for quite some time. So no issues there for me. But I agree that some of the basics need to be hashed out before or simultaneous to rolling out these new features - even though I don't require a better word processor in Evernote. Maybe, then again, I've been curbing what I can do in Evernote and just settling. I like to make do with what we've got, but I can definitely see the benefit to improving the word processing area, for example.
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I'm not asking for full on word processing capability, I'm just one of countless users - free and paid - asking they focus on delivering what they've been promising for ages...

 

I'm totally with you on this Wordsgood. Saying that it's "very polished" when it's not is far from reality. I promise to order some Evernote socks the day I deem it really polished. I'd buy the socks anyways, but they don't offer them to users in Brazil. Maybe I should start a topic to get some help to get me some of those...

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Do you know anyone in the States you could wire the money too, have them buy the socks and mail them to you.

That's a lot of effort for a pair of over-priced socks, but hey, it's your money!

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Do you know anyone in the States you could wire the money too, have them buy the socks and mail them to you.

That's a lot of effort for a pair of over-priced socks, but hey, it's your money! 

 

 

Haha... I could wire the money to you if you're offering. Seriously, there are a number of things I want from the Evernote market. The effort would just be in the waiting... terribly slow postal system once a package enters Brazil (Not that I'm complaining... I love my adoptive country!). Plus everything is incredibly expensive here. Even socks. The only thing I feel I'm getting my money's worth out of is Netflix... and Evernote, since the prices are pretty much standard from one country to the next. If you're offering, PM me :-)

 

Now... back to our semi-polished writing tool...

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Alas no, I'm in Canada. But watch out for a new PM from me in a couple minutes.

Do you know anyone in the States you could wire the money too, have them buy the socks and mail them to you.

That's a lot of effort for a pair of over-priced socks, but hey, it's your money!

Haha... I could wire the money to you if you're offering. Seriously, there are a number of things I want from the Evernote market. The effort would just be in the waiting... terribly slow postal system once a package enters Brazil (Not that I'm complaining... I love my adoptive country!). Plus everything is incredibly expensive here. Even socks. The only thing I feel I'm getting my money's worth out of is Netflix... and Evernote, since the prices are pretty much standard from one country to the next. If you're offering, PM me :-)

Now... back to our semi-polished writing tool...

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I just noticed this thread, which seems to indicate there's not much polish:  ;)

 

Please, Please, Please, Fix the text editor!

 

Dumb.

 

That's a thread that relates to the existing editor on most clients (apart from the current OS X), I don't think that anyone is saying that it's particularly great, least of all Evernote who have rewritten a new editor for all platforms.

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I just noticed this thread, which seems to indicate there's not much polish:  ;)

 

Please, Please, Please, Fix the text editor!

 

Dumb.

 

That's a thread that relates to the existing editor on most clients (apart from the current OS X), I don't think that anyone is saying that it's particularly great, least of all Evernote who have rewritten a new editor for all platforms.

 

 

Clash of the Titans...

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Just posted today in Please, Please, Please, Fix the text editor!

 

 

I've only started using the Windows editor recently (Win 8.1) and I can assure you, they've not been working on it. It's awful. IMO the whole Windows app is awful. It's possibly the hardest piece of software I've tried to use in ages. 

. . .

I'm really disappointed. I thought Evernote would be a great way to capture stuff but I'm so frustrated by the whole newbie experience, I'm tempted to try OneNote. I'm not a big fan of Microsoft Word, but at least it works as an editor. 

 

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