Evernote Review (1 Year Later)

A year ago there was nothing hotter than Evernote, the application touted as “your external brain.” I had high hopes. A long list of writers, podcasters and productivity buffs heralded it as the answer to information overload.

I played with it for a few months, then paid for the premium version. I shoved all my notes and documents in it. I listened to their podcast. I subscribed to their feeds.

After I had loaded it up with information, I started to actually use it for its intended purpose - retrieving information. What the hell had I done? Now, nothing was findable without twice the work and simple tasks felt like I was asking my processor to edit video. Turns out, I wasn’t alone.

John Gruber blasted it, Jason Fried questioned the numbers and Merlin Mann abandoned it (after being one of its biggest cheerleaders).

I’m coming to the same conclusion, at what may be the worst possible time. With the release of the iPad, applications like Evernote will become essential to house, in one place, what we used to store in a myriad of different files types in nested folders on our hard drives.

The problem is, it just doesn’t work like it should. The search returns every note, but the one you want (even if you’re searching for the exact title of the note you want). Text of no consquence in a picture gets treated the same as the lead words of your most important note.

Much like a black hole, information goes in and doesn’t come out unless it’s in a jet blast of random text and images.  This is seen as a feature, not a bug, by the developers at Evernote. In fact, in the newest Evernote promo video (for the iPad app), a search is performed for “soup.” It yields 80 results. The demonstrator is excited by the amount of information returned. I think it’s the heart of their problem.

The Spotlight integration is..well..spotty (often non-existent for me). And then there’s the beach balls. What’s on my Mac is there because it’s fast, simple and works with minimal effort. Evernote is none of those things.

Evernote will probably improve in the future. And the iPad app looks like a vast improvement of the UI. But, for now, I’ve started moving my files back to the documents folder, where I’m finding what I need in a split second through Spotlight.

2.5 year update: I’ve since downloaded and re-evaluated Evernote and it seems even more cluttered than ever. They still haven’t addressed their biggest problems, as they see them as solutions. I’m now trying out Yojimbo, because it comes highly recommended by people I respect.