Evernote is one of the finest note-making tools out there. Proof of that is the number of users who swear by it.
But my humble initiative to bring you the best tools doesn’t work very well if I find something good and stop looking.
So I set myself the target of finding the best alternatives to Evernote that you should try in 2019.
But why isn’t this post called the best note-making tools of 2019. Why is the emphasis on Evernote?
Here's what we'll cover
What is Evernote?
Evernote is a cloud-based note-making tool. It allows you to create, store and organize documents in a way that you can retrieve them easily.
You can also use it to grab stuff off the web as store it for later use. But its primary use is that of a single point where you can hold all relevant information documents.
These can be organized based on what project each belongs to. You can separate your work stuff from your personal.
The aim has always been to be the one place where a user keeps the important and not-so-important documents.
Why is Evernote so good?
The reason why it is such a beloved tool is because of the ease of organizing your data.
This is down to 2 main features: Notebooks and Tags.
These are the pillars on which the Evernote system is built. These are the reasons why it is easy to store documents and find them easily later.
A notebook is a folder of sorts where you store ‘notes’ or documents. It’s a basic way to organize. Simply add notes of a topic to the correct notebook.
You can even stack notebooks under a single mega-notebook (?) or ‘stack’.
The only limitation here is how much information a single notebook can hold. It ranges from 25 Mb for the free plan to 200 Mb for the paid one.
25 Mb is usually more than enough for text-only stuff, but you’ll need 200 Mb if you’re using rich media.
Tags is what rounds off this perfection of document organization. You can, in Evernote, give each document multiple tags to make retrieval simple.
What this does is make it possible to find a document by topic or type of content. The notebook it is put under defines its general topic.
The tags give it richer descriptors to find them by. Say you have multiple projects running simultaneously.
Assuming outreach is part of each project, chances are you’ll need to store email templates for the individual project.
So I would create the template inside the correct project and put a ‘/etemp’ or ‘@emailtemplate’ tag on it.
So if I wanted to make uniform changes to all email templates I’m using, I can simply search for all documents with that tag.
To go into further detail, I use tags of the format ‘@name’ format to denote the creator of a note.
All tags of the type ‘/xxx’ describe the type of content inside that note. So notes I’ve taken of a course will be tagged ‘/courses’.
Then tags of the format ‘%xxx’ to mark the date it was created. So any notes I make this month will have the tag ‘%jun19’.
So with a combination of 3 tags, I can apply descriptors of the owner, date created and type of content inside.
These become 3 types of searches I can use much later to find a specific note within a selected notebook.
Rounding off a robust storage and search system is a way to add random notes to your Evernote.
Evernote has a chrome extension that you can use to take ‘clips’ of web pages and add it to a specific notebook. It is quick and efficient.
Evernote ensures all your data is synced across all platforms. That’s your desktop app, browser page, smartphone, tablet etc..
This is a necessity nowadays when you’re likely to add and retrieve from any one of those devices.
Document sharing is also a breeze on Evernote. You can share any note or notebook to an email address.
You can then set permissions to read or edit. This is also a necessity when you’re working in a team and will need to collaborate with your teammates.
Who uses Evernote?
AKA, who will be interested in a list of alternatives to Evernote.
Evernote is a useful asset to anyone that needs to work with multiple documents. That is really anyone even slightly involved in an online business.
So if you’re here reading this post from this blog, Evernote and their alternatives are of interest to you.
The best alternatives to Evernote
Fortunately for us all, competition is strong to Evernote and there are quite a few contenders worth mentioning.
I’ll cover every other note-making tool I’ve used so far and point out how they may be better than Evernote.
In my opinion, the strongest challenger in the great and fierce war to be my note-making tool of choice.
It is a big departure from the rest of the options we’ll see here. It has a very basic, uncluttered appearance.
The team behind Notion has set out to build something that replaces the clutter of multiple workspaces and integrate them all into one simple tool.
A good way to illustrate what Notion can do is a demo page.
A single page can hold a number of content types. Here’s just a few.
- Embedded YouTube videos
- Embedded Tweets
- Google maps
- PDF files
- Loom videos
And many more types can be added. All this on a single page. In my opinion, this makes Notion a superior note-making tool.
This particular page ‘Tool comparisons’ is stacked under the Blog ideas page. It has all the match-up posts I want to do.
First-up is text describing the contents of the page. Below that is a table. The first column is the tool category I’m covering.
Next to that are the two contenders I’m pitting against each other. Then comes the status of the post – in progress, review or completed. This is accomplished using a single-select field that lets you choose among preset options.
Then rounding off the table is a link column that takes me to the Google docs page with my content.
Below the table is an embedded YouTube video that I feel is an important reference for the first post.
This page holds only 3 of the possible 49 (wha?) different types of resources I can add to a single page.
This is a better ‘level’ of document than you can have on Evernote.
But unfortunately, Notion does not have the same ease of organization as Evernote with its tags and notebooks.
The document storage is of an endless-document variety. You can have an initial level of 3 main documents, within the main page ‘Blog ideas that has more documents inside it.
On the top left, you can see the base workspace. A page inside this workspace is the page Blog Ideas. It is that page that we see in the screenshot above.
Inside that page, I’ve created more pages like Tool reviews, that can have sub-structures of their own.
Sharing is possible, although it was a bit more complicated than sharing on Evernote.
It is possible to create my workspace, then invite others to collaborate on portions of the workspace even though they haven’t signed up for Notion.
This is an excellent way to collaborate with others. All the while, you can keep parts of it private and inaccessible to others.
That is the shared pages you see on the left panel. Those are parts of someone else’s workspace I’ve been allowed to access.
In summary, I’d say a document in Notion is of a superior variety. But it is not as easy to use as Evernote.
OneNote is Microsoft’s answer to Evernote. It has the advantage of being in a default setup for a Microsoft PC, notebook or phone.
It uses a similar organization setup to that of Evernote. A big difference being that there’s no limit to the number of notebooks you can have at any time.
You can have notebooks, sections within those notebooks, and then pages within those sections.
It’s an easy to understand hierarchy. It’s pretty similar to Evernote, but I have found the Evernote a better tool for regular use.
But OneDrive is free for a Windows user. And if you use OneDrive, which is one of the best cloud storage options, OneNote is the right way to go.
The only limitation is the space on OneDrive, which is 5 Gb for a free plan. But it can be upgraded to 50 Gb for $1.99 a month.
The actual note formatting part I found to be a bit more feature-rich on OneNote. But this is more about personal preference.
Sharing is possible on OneNote but again I found the sharing system on Evernote to be superior.
Coda is another rich-content note-taking tool, much like Notion.
But it’s also a lot more powerful in terms of raw capabilities. It is peerless when it comes to mathematical and logical functions.
I did mention being able to add tables to a Notion document. But in Coda, tables become a playground of sorts.
Once you create or import a table, you can filter records based on the values of a column, use table data to feed templates.
And there are many templates. Many.
One template, that immediately got my attention was the one that let me feed user data to a table, and then use it in an email template.
Once you set up this template, you can send off group emails. Details like First name, email ID, date of purchase, days since visited the blog etc. can be used to modify the email.
This section does not even come close to doing justice to this tool and I’ll probably have a separate post out to cover what I know of the tool.
Although I have added Google Keep to the potential alternatives, I believe its strengths lie in places other than Evernote.
Google Keep is more of a note-taking tool than a way to store a large number of documents and find the right ones later.
They have Google docs for that. Google Keep is certainly a better tool for taking quick notes.
You can make notes, add a title, pick a color, add an image and pin it to your home board.
The notes can be seen in a board view like in the screenshot, or as a simple list.
You can pick a date and time to remind you of a deadline related to that note. So Google Keep is more of a whiteboard where you stick on short notes.
The problem with this system though is that it can get cluttered very quickly and cannot handle a large number of notes well.
You can pin certain notes to ensure they don’t get lost the more notes you add.
But you can search through the notes using the colors or labels you assign them. This is a primitive but solid system.
If I were to use this system, i’d assign green to blog ideas, yellow to podcasts and red for videos. So when I search, I can pick yellow to get all blog ideas.
Then add labels like ‘big’ or ‘small’ if the piece of content is to be short or really deep in detail.
So when you’re searching for notes, you can look for notes with a certain label or color.
The way I’ve set this post up is that I can keep adding alternatives, whenever I come across them.
I can review a tool, go through the basics, and then tell you why you might consider using them over or along-side Evernote.
- Notion – For creating richer documents
- OneNote – For unlimited notebooks and if you use OneDrive already
- Coda – For data that requires logical and mathematical operations. Also, templates to use this data like you wouldn’t believe
- Google Keep – For quick notes if the number of notes doesn’t go too high. It would also double up as a fantastic todo list app
If you have used any one of these alternatives, let me know of your experience with them.
Did I miss out any of Evernote’s best features, let me know.