This is a quick note, really for the benefit of Google, to point out that Evernote, which is growing more and more popular, was in important respects much better in version 2, now neither sold nor supported, than in the various versions three that are now available on all sorts of platforms. In fact the software changed so much between the two versions, both in what it does and what it’s trying to do, that it’s best to think of them as almost entirely different.
There are two things of interest only to people who use it as I do, and two which are much more generally worrying. So to start with the trivial ones: Evernote’s system for organising information is basically that you dump everything in there, from cameraphone photos to web clips, and then tag it or use a free text search to find it again. In EN3.x, the emphasis has moved right away from tagging and onto simple google-type searching. So tags are no longer hierarchical, which is a real nuisance: an even bigger nuisance is that you can’t easily combine tag searches. It’s possible, but not nearly as easy and elegant as it was in 2.x, where it was at most a couple of mouse clicks to find everything tagged “Might write” but not “For blog” and similar lists. That’s a genuine loss of functionality. The new interface is also uglier and takes more space, but that’s a really trivial point.
The two serious problems arise from the fact that it has been repurposed as a cloud app. In some ways and for some people this is great. If you are an iPhone
junkie recreational user, EN3 lets you photograph stuff and upload it to the database; also to look at your notes on the iPhone. But this comes with a considerable loss of control and ownership. Everything now goes thrugh the cloud. EN2 can sync across a network,1 or using a USB stick. This means that my data stays on my servers. It also has an export to xml function, which allows me to get all the data out and into other programs if I want to. EN3 won’t do either of those things.
I object to this on privacy grounds, but above all because it is far more expensive than the old system. Any heavy user of EN3 will end up paying $45 a year for the premium upload service. That’s not in itself a ripoff. But the more you put into the program the more dependent you become on it. If Evernote becomes your ubiquitous memory, that’s $45 a year, every year, for the rest of your life, to access your own memory.
I have enough trouble with ten years of Ecco Pro notes being hard to access, and I only paid once for that program. EN2, which I paid for without hesitation, is mine for life, and so is the data I put in it.
The answer, I suppose, is to use EN3 only for stuff you know is trivial, and you don’t mind losing. But for a journalist, nothing is guaranteed to stay trivial forever. The archive of memories and notes you build up over 20 years or more is far more valuable than your cuttings. So I really don’t want to trust mine to a third party, unless there is some reliable, guaranteed way of getting them out again.
1 The trick (hi, google) is to sync both desktop and laptop to the same location on a network drive. But this won’t happen by default because the ability to see network drives is turned off. Within the sync dialogue box for each database there is a setting concealed under “more” which switches network drives to visible. Then everything works. It’s meant to break with files bigger than 250mb. I wouldn’t know.