back to article Happy 10th birthday, Evernote: You have survived Google and Microsoft. For your next challenge...

Evernote can quietly celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer, and remarkably, the software company behind it remains independent. Devised by the Russian/Udi computer scientist Stepan Pachikov, who developed cursive writing recognition for the Apple Newton, Evernote can now boast 225 million registered users, with 20,000 …

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Linux

Emacs org mode not mentioned?

https://orgmode.org/

Granted it is probably not for aunt Annie, but if you're an IT professional and you care about owning your own data, it's hard to beat.

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Pint

Re: Emacs org mode not mentioned?

Didn't know that existed, thanks for the heads up!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Emacs org mode not mentioned?

Or, try Leo-editor: open-source, cross-platform, Qt-based, written in Python, can run 'macros' written in python, can import and output markdown, ect. ect.

It is similarly not for your granny, but as an ECCO Pro refugee I find it invaluable as a way of editing data and running scripts on that data.

http://leoeditor.com/

http://groups.google.com/group/leo-editor

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Re: Emacs org mode not mentioned?

Leo-Editor - thanks for that mention. I loved me some ECCO and Polaris PackRat and before that PC-Outline (TSR).

I have around 10,000 notes in EverNote and have worried about their proprietary system. It'd be interesting to see if I can put a bunch of these in Leo.

However, I do think the server-based concept of EverNote is very useful for synchronizing across my many devices. Plus a web interface.

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Re: Emacs org mode not mentioned?

I also went for this in DR-DOS

PC-Outline (TSR) Yes!

and later without TSR because windows. I used it weekly up to 2012. Not bad for software from 1986. PCO was a fabulous organizational tool. But the world being created was not as well organized. Even though I could have up to 9 tabs open, with up to 64K text in each tab, I eventually went to an editor with unlimited tabs and each file up to ... haven't hit a limit yet, but hundreds of MB anyway. Realistically, the size of each file from each source is only a few MB, so whatever the limit, it doesn't come into play. I use ConTEXT, and not the most recent version, which gave me problems. ConTEXT seems to have been abandoned, but it still works.

I've tried some of the special tools, briefly. I want a system that focuses on the content, want minimal screen area taken up showing the UI.

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Meh

Microsoft now splashes out on companies that implement Outlook functionality from scratch.

And closes them down, usually, doesn't it? They probably incorporate the one thing they wanted into Outlook, of course, but it also thins down the potential competitors.

Ironically, I think one of the reasons Outlook succeeded early on was competing against the bloat of Notes. Now Outlook/Exchange seems to be just as bloated these days as Notes ever was when I used it.

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And the UI was, of course, better than Notes'. However lately MS has had some entirely self-inflicted wounds in that respect...

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Oh shit!

"The OneNote Win32 desktop app is being deprecated for a UWP version with less functionality and it will no longer be part of Office."

I used Evernote, not in any corporate context, to share notes across my PC/laptop/phone/tablet/.

And that was almost totally personal notes, with may be the odd jotting of a number or a name for work purposes. An electronic Filofax. But I used the free version. because I can't justify the cost for the bit of convenience (almost £40 a year, every year)*. And then they changed the rules so that the free version could only be used on a couple of devices.

OneNote wasn't quite as good, but I could use it on everything. And the full version in Office allows me to create simple templates, organise and format the data etc. that I could then apply it on my phone.

So Microsoft, in their usual idiocy are choosing to kill off the good version and keep the crappy one.

*It's not so much the headline cost- which is high enough - it's that it's a yearly subscription. I can't justify that much cash for one year's use. Not when it's for personal convenience. If it was as a business application, I guess that'd be OK. And that's the problem with all these kinds of subscription models. OK for business, but,still an unjustifiable expense to pay from the family budget every year , indefinitely- for a bit of personal use. The free versions, if not too limited have been fine. A small annual cost, say £5-£10 would still be OK, I can justify that to myself and the missus. But once the personal use cost is a commercial amount it just stops being viable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh shit!

There's another problem, looking at the article - OneNote will only save to the cloud, and that means I won't be able to use it any more for note taking at work - it's sensitive stuff and I can't store it to any cloud.

MS is still looking for new ways to lure people to Windows 10, but it's still using ways that can only drive people away from both Windows applications and Windows itself.

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Re: Oh shit!

Unless I'm mistaken, the mobile version of OneNote does not allow objects to be resized or moved once placed.

At that point I uninstalled it. If I'm wrong, I'd be happy to be corrected.

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@Terry6

Well, I knew it was going to happen eventually, which is why I'm still happily using Office 2010, including a fully working desktop version of OneNote where I can choose to share some notebooks within the cloud (and accessible from my phone). But most of my stuff is stored locally, with an automated backup on my local server.

I peeked at a more modern version once but I really don't get the feeling that I'm missing out. My interface doesn't look flat and boring, I'm not fully tied into the cloud and most importantly: "It just works".

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Re: @Terry6

Hmm

I'm on 2010 still, too. but use the 2016 version of Onenote, which is stand alone, free and I think still available. But there's still the 2010 to fall back on I guess.

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Re: @Terry6

John H Woods

I think yes. I can't remember all the limitations. But yes that's basically how I recall the "Store App" version.

It's truly a pile of poo.

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Re: @Terry6

I'm still using Office 2003, mostly Word. Every once in a while I look at the newer versions of Word, and inevitably conclude that I'm not missing out on anything. In fact, each newer version has struck me as incrementally worse than 2003, in ways large and small. I long ago gave up expecting actual improvement.

I do wish LibreOffice would add a proper outliner/PIM. An open-source clone of ECCO would be ideal... Fortunately, my old antique copy of ECCO is still working as intended, a glowing tribute to its programmers.

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Software as a (Dis-)service

But I used the free version. because I can't justify the cost for the bit of convenience (almost £40 a year, every year)*. And then they changed the rules so that the free version could only be used on a couple of devices.

This is why after looking long and hard at Evernote, years ago, I not only decided to avoid it, but to avoid all 'software-as-a-perpetual-service' scams.

If Evernote had unbundled the client and the service, I'd have been fine with that. But I'll never commit to an application that wants to manage (i.e. control) a my documents but won't let me own it outright. Having the vendor unilaterally change the terms of the arrangement is only one of many obvious pitfalls. Being forced to accept 'upgrades' that may ruin the utility of the product is another. Having the developers abruptly decide to retire to a South-Sea island and live on their ill-gotten gains is yet another. (I'm still happily using ECCO Pro, 20 years after it was abandoned. Evernote users will never have that option.)

Users need to remember that the interests of the vendor are very different from - in fact, diametrically opposed to - their own. Signing a perpetual contract removes the only feedback mechanism (repeated purchase of optional upgrades) that gives the user any influence over the vendor.

I don't think it's a coincidence that applications that go to the SaaS model tend to either stagnate or backslide. I'm still using Photoshop CS4, and I've yet to see anything in Photoshop CC that would make me feel seriously envious. Despite years of endless 'updates,' Windows 10 (love it or hate it) still doesn't offer me any compelling reason to abandon my comfortable, reliable Windows 7 setups. And I don't expect it ever will.

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Re: Oh shit!

Whoa, spooky, are you me?

I went through exactly the same process with Evernote. Finally canned it in favour of OneNote late last year.

Now I find out MS are Nerfing OneNote.....*sigh*...looks like I'm going to have to buy back in again.

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Re: Oh shit!

>"The OneNote Win32 desktop app is being deprecated for a UWP version with less functionality and it will no longer be part of Office."

Don't know when it happened, but OneNote for Windows is no longer available for download from https://www.onenote.com/download

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Re: Oh shit!

Bastards! Just bastards!

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Unhappy

Good product, questionable quality control

Long time EN user here. There's not much on the market quite as good, but the quality over the last 2-3 years has taken a serious nosedive. Long standing bugs and issues are ignored for years, while unasked-for features (emoji support for example) get shovelled in. Beta versions are released, the community feeds back to EN only to see all those new bugs appear in the general release anyway.

Someone needs to take their dev teams (or at least the managers) by the scruff of the neck and rub their noses in what they're currently pushing out. You get the distinct impression nobody at EN actually uses the product themselves.

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Re: Good product, questionable quality control

I stopped using Evernote about 6 months ago having used it for around 7 years due to a combination of the QA and also the fact they kept changing how things worked, making it frustrating to use. Additionally the desktop, Android and iOS clients all had different options, ways of working, and functionality, which again made it frustrating to use (I had it running on my personal PC, my work laptop, my android phone and my iPad). I gave up on it and migrated to OneNote. The lack of tags can be annoying, but aside from the version in built in to Windows 10, it's the same on every device. It's also easier to use (believe it or not) and more reliable <twlight zone music>. Actually there's one other area where Evernote is superior to OneNote - sync speed. Evernote syncs a lot faster, or rather does when it works. One of the bugs I got fed up with was failed syncs and version clashes.

BTW I was a paying Evernote user after they brought in the limits on the free account, and have lost none of the flexibility and number of devices by using OneNote.

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Re: Good product, questionable quality control

I was recently in the market for something like this, to store code notes etc in..

I didn't even test EverNote as almost every review I could find, reported it as buggy and bloated!

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Re: Good product, questionable quality control

My impression, when I was still using Evernote, was that they were trying to turn a good note taking programme into (just) another big general purpose admin tool. Microsoft seem, on the other hand, to be wanting to do something the opposite, i.e. replace Onenote with a general purpose admin tool.

Neither seem to want to understand that sometimes a programme is just what it needs to be.

I assume that in both cases it comes down to "we can charge more for a bigger programme".

A bit like if Peugeot-Citroen decided to replace the C1/108s with Berlingos. Sometimes you just need the right tool for the right job. [When my kids were little we had a Berlingo - a brilliant, functional, general purpose, family carrier. Now they're all growed up they drive their own 108 type cars and we have something more comfortable]

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Evernote Lament

Sadly we left them around two years ago. Only because they haven't and have no iintention of producing a Linux client. We tried running under Wine, but that broke on upgrades, we ran some third party clients and they did the same. And bottom line if you want it to become mission critical then supplier support is non-negotiable.

Its a shame and we used to recommend it to all our clients. We no longer do so there is some lost Windows business. Committing to any product nowadays that locks you into particular operating systems would seem short-sighted in my view.

My other worry was possibly the reason Evernote would not port was that its design was locked down too much to the OS making a too expensive exercise to bend it to the small but significant Linux market and may send warning signs to Windows & Mac users about future and legacy support.

We found good alternate cross-platform solutions - but using a combination of products. Evernote was a good unifying product which simplified stuff for the user.

So farewell and good luck - and if you now produce a Linux version its too late for us, and i guess, for the others who had to leave them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Farewell Evernote

The problem, sorry, is Linux. 4% of the desktop market and distro fragmentation never helped to develop desktop applications on a large scale - if you want to make money.

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Re: Farewell Evernote

"The problem, sorry, is Linux. 4% of the desktop market and distro fragmentation never helped to develop desktop applications on a large scale - if you want to make money."

Indeed, but probably represent a rather higher percentage of 'recommenders'. My point was by not extending it to Linux (unlike many other independent 'generic' office software producers) this would damage their home market. We are Linux users but we used to put it on a lot of Windows systems. No more.

Evernote must know that as a sensible business. It must suggest that there is an issue with design which means the cost is too expensive due to some design issues that prevents it becoming platform independent. That's a warning signal to all users in my view.

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Re: Evernote Lament

Did you not use NixNote?

I found it works very well on Linux: http://nixnote.org

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Re: Evernote Lament

"Did you not use NixNote?"

Yes. Two issues. It wasn't in the repositories and it broke with library issues on upgrades. This on probably the most popular *nix distro.

The coder did catch-up eventually but you can't run a business relying on that. If Evernote had taken it in-house we may have stayed. Dunno where the problem was with Evernote or the author but the costs to Evernote should have been minimal in order to hold on to even 4% of their business,

One way for Evernote to counter the Outlook/Onenote juggernaut on Windows is to make Windows a choice not a lock-in.

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Re: Evernote Lament

OK, I'm guessing I came to it a bit later than you did.

All fair reasons really, although I thought NixNote was on the Debian repo. I can't reliably confirm that off hand though.

As an aside, I know one guy who basically did that Chrome App trickery with Evernote and made it a web app on his machine. But obviously if your business scenario couldn't use that then it's also useless. Which is a real shame.

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Anonymous Coward

"some design issues that prevents it becoming platform independent"

Actually, the design issue is in the Linux different GUIs and widget sets. No surprise a lot of big GUI application under Linux are written in Java to be portable - but that's of course have its downsides, while LInux applications ported to Windows usually looks ugly and out of place.

Linux really needs more standardization in the GUI to become a more appealing platform for desktop applications. It also needs real GUI designer to develop a more appealing UI and good widgets - Windows (despite its mistakes in the past years) and macOS are far, far better.

It's no surprise for many Linux is mostly a terminal running CLI application or vi. In turn, the lack of good tools to develop nice GUI application easily doesn't help).

And if you can't see enough revenues, you don't embark in expensive development for a small number of users.

Believe me, I would like to see good desktop GUI application available for Linux, but it won't happen as long as Linux don't make changes as well.

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Re: "some design issues that prevents it becoming platform independent"

These days, a lot of the big GUI applications are based on Electron too. Sure, it's inefficient to start up a huge Chromium+JS+HTML environment just for a note taking app, but on a modern Linux desktop I'd take that any time if the alternative is not having the app at all.

I'm also a former Evernote user - the lack of a Linux client was a pain but I worked around it by just keeping Evernote open in a browser tab. What finally killed it for me was the incessant rolling out of glitzy new things like emoticons that I didn't need, along with the charging. I don't mind paying money for a good product where I use loads of the features, but with Evernote I was just taking text notes and having to bodge Linux access anyway. I could do all the same things on Google Keep for less money, so that's where I ended up.

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Re: "some design issues that prevents it becoming platform independent"

Actually, the design issue is in the Linux different GUIs and widget sets. No surprise a lot of big GUI application under Linux are written in Java to be portable - but that's of course have its downsides, while LInux applications ported to Windows usually looks ugly and out of place.

I think this is overstating the case. There are numerous large, excellent applications that work equally well on Linux and Windows. UI implementation is not rocket science.

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Anonymous Coward

UI implementation is not rocket science

Then Linux should stop putting rocket developers at developing its UI. UI are complex beasts, and getting them right not easy at all. It's also a big interdisciplinary effort Apple built its reputation on being able to deliver great UIs.

Linux snubbed them too much ('the cli rules!'), and the result it's Linux is still far behind competition. Fragmentation of designs and libraries don't help either. It's useless to blame others for lack of many GUI application under Linux, when the issue has its root in Linux itself, and it won't be solved until an agreement is reached and an effort is started to deliver a great GUi. Keep it ignoring it Linux won't go past the 5%.

But Linux money are made in the server space, so the investments from the big names aren't put there.

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Re: "some design issues that prevents it becoming platform independent"

"on a modern Linux desktop I'd take that any time if the alternative is not having the app at all."

Not me, unless the application was truly something I couldn't do without or find an alternative option for.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: UI implementation is not rocket science

Some early X window managers and toolkits may not have been up to much, but neither was much of the competition at the time.

But KDE (up until KDE 3) and Gnome 2 were as good as anything you’d find anywhere else.

And Gnome 3, which, after a very shaky start I now really do quite like, is so so much better and more usable than the comparable (and supposedly commercial) Windows 8 it’s absolutely unreal!

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Boffin

A note on the Exchange/Notes comparison...

Microsoft had noticed how embedded Notes was becoming in enterprises, and modelled the Outlook/Exchange combo on the Notes behemoth. But Microsoft, weirdly, never took advantage of the sprawling engine it had created, with its immense flexibility for categorising data and creating custom views on it. Only a tiny proportion of the power in Exchange/Outlook is ever used.

Kind of.

Exchange/Outlook certainly never lived up to the power that was promised in terms of Public Folders and custom forms. A lot of that is down to what I'd call The Microsoft Developer Problem.

Microsoft tends to develop programs with tools it already has - until recently they had a strong streak of Not Invented Here. This tends to lead to products that can be described as "designed by developers for ease of development", with less concern for users or administrators than those groups might like.

By contrast Lotus Notes was designed for collaboration and customisation from the ground up, and many of the decisions taken were taken (and boy will this be controversial!) for ease of use for the average user.

Lotus Notes had a form and view designer built in. Form design was simple, and the document-oriented database meant you didn't have to think about normalising data, foreign keys, and so forth. Much of the programming was done with a formula language similar to the Lotus 1-2-3 formulas, and later joined by a VB-like language. (Java and JavaScript were also added later too.) Views could do things like turning a column into an expanding category with the click of a checkbox. A lot of complex functionality was made quite simple and accessible.

Heck, Lotus Notes didn't get a dedicated design client until version 5, if I recall correctly. You could build a new database in the same client you used to access your email and databases, and assuming you have a friendly Administrator who's willing to put it on a server you can be up and running within a day or two... and as a Lotus Notes Administrator back in the day, I can confirm that I did see enthusiastic business colleagues outside of IT bring me their little databases that they'd developed to help their team work!

By contrast, Microsoft reached for what it had. The database was ESE, which is OK but didn't lend itself to the same kind of unstructured storage because it still has some notion of tables. That's a fundamental restriction when compared with Notes' proto-NoSQL approach.

Similarly, forms had to be designed using a Visual Basic client - which is kind of overkill and rather intimidating to the average user - and the distribution mechanism for Exchange Forms was complicated and annoying, even for administrators.

Exchange/Notes was much more capable in some ways - one of the flagship demonstrations at launch was a graphical chess game that sent moves via email, which Notes would have difficulty doing. But these complexities meant that creating a simple holiday approvals system or a sales opportunities tracker was an order of magnitude more work than for Lotus Notes.

It's hard not to conclude that Exchange was built with what was lying around, rather than looking at what people actually needed.

Ultimately none of this mattered as Groupware seems to have been a fad - albeit a decade long one. Integrating workflows within your email platform was effectively killed by the ability to send someone a hyperlink to a web page. Which, when you consider Notes had DocLinks from the start, is kind of ironic - apparently everything else Notes did was overkill.

The world moved to dumb email clients, and chose to move workflow and other specialised features into dedicated applications that send notifications.

This Microsoft Developer Problem extends to many of their products. Skype for Business (or whatever it's called this week) requires an SQL Server to store people's status. Their STATUS! That's overkill, right there - but companies dutifully add the databases to an SQL Server cluster so that their IM solution is highly available. SharePoint has a list of prerequisites that makes you wonder if its true purpose is collaboration or selling Windows Server licences. This design pattern runs through most of Microsoft's platforms.

So whilst in theory Outlook could do what Evernote does, in practice I have little faith in Microsoft's ability to deliver that. Their platform and tool choices would likely have made it difficult to port to other platforms, and cumbersome in use. And this was before Microsoft "opened up", so you know that there would have been a (poor) Windows Mobile client and nothing else...

By comparison, Evernote's technological choices are simple. They use SQLite on the client side. I can't easily discern what they use on the server side, but I'm guessing MySQL and Apache/nginx. I'm also guessing that it's mostly just a simple schema, with perhaps a type, tag, colour and so forth then a blob that gets full text search. The one thing we can be sure of is that they didn't have their own technology lying around, so they had no incentive to choose anything but that which was most suitable for whatever problem they had at the time.

And this is even before we get into the question of why Microsoft then chose to not develop the Notes feature of Outlook for fifteen years. Maybe they thought it was OK? Maybe they simply didn't want to put development resource onto that feature when they could instead be focusing on the Ribbon, or Sharepoint integration?

Evernote has no such problems with focus, because they have just one product. The closest they'll get is juggling the priority of business versus personal account features.

That's why Evernote has succeeded where Microsoft has failed. They're free to make choices that benefit the customer, rather than fit into a corporate platform strategy.

(Also, I think Microsoft's Evernote competitor is really OneNote. But this is already a very long post, so I'll let others talk about that.)

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Re: A note on the Exchange/Notes comparison...

(Also, I think Microsoft's Evernote competitor is really OneNote. But this is already a very long post, so I'll let others talk about that.)

Yes. Which is the point. As simple note taking and sharing programmes Evernote and OneNote are both pretty good for being what they are - a simple, free form information store that can share notes across platforms and users.

There are lots of complex programmes out there that can organise a company's stock list, or it's customer data. But not much that can allow a field worker to jot down a user's comments on a phone or tablet, then go back to the office ( and maybe see them on the main computer) ready to be written up into report. Or to keep track of expenses while at a site, and then paste them into an internal claim form when they get back to base. Or make a list of who's paid their tea money. Or the syndicate's lottery numbers.

i.e. simple, small scale note taking ( the clue's in the names). Stuff that happens in real work places - not in the mind of corporate CEOs.

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Russian/Udi computer scientist Stepan Pachikov

For the benefit of anyone else who, like me, googled it and couldn't work out if it meant Unique Device Identification, Unilateral Declaration of Independence, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, or Unexplained Drinking Injury:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udi_people

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Anonymous Coward

Agree on deficient QA

I actually pay for Pro but don't think I've ever used Pro features, beyond the ones that the free app used to have. And what's this "information management" ability of Evernote? It's news to me, beyond being able to find your notes easily.

I did find their self-touted ability to index and retrieve handwritten notes totally useless. It didn't work at all.

But what really drives me crazy is the occasional but significant appearance of bugs in basic functionality, such as printing (for quite a while, titles wouldn't print with the docs) and editing (on Android, any attempt to edit screwed up the doc completely).

It's hard to imagine that there's no way to automate QA and regression testing for this stuff. I mean, this is basic functionality.

But I still use Evernote, so I'm still putting my money where my mouth isn't.

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Coat

InfoCentral

Please can I have InfoCentral back? I use OneNote, but even with Outlook/Exchange integration it's no where near as powerful as InfoCentral was 20 years ago.

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Re: InfoCentral

Pretty please ... ?!

My useful data died when I had to move it from InfoCentral 7 to Outlook. Even after several years, I would be willing to find that data file and make aaall the updates from that point forward.

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OneNote is being folded into Microsoft Teams

OneNote always felt like it was a piece of Sharepoint hiding in a desktop app: similar controls, just a slightly different GUI. And useless for ideas management. But Microsoft's strategy has always been to provide just enough functionality, and promise more, so that CIOs decide to stick with them rather than go with the competition.

Skype, which is finally reasonably stable, is also due to be rolled into Teams in a (desperate?) attempt to stop companies switching to Slack (pretty meh in many respects). Presumably, the GitHub purchase is supposed to fit into this strategy as well.

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The announcement wasn't clumsy

"The clumsy announcement made users – including this one – fear the worst, and begin planning a migration away from the friendly green elephant."

The announcement wasn't clumsy, though, was it? It seem to me that it was the idea that was objectionable, not how they announced it. But I could be missing something.

In any case, that was what made me stop using EverNote. In the time between then and now, I've found other ways to accomplish the same thing without having to rely on a third party. That workflow is now well-established, so I doubt I'll use EverNote again no matter what their policies are.

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Anonymous Coward

Evernote - never heard of it, don't care

Google Keep is free and works just fine thanks.

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Have been an occasional user of Evernote for years, paying for the Pro version now.

But I'd still like to have Agenda back too. There are still thinks I could do with it that can't easily be done any other way.

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No mention of Springpad?

Springpad was the best alternative to Evernote. When they went under, they provided a data extraction tool to users for free. Classy exit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springpad

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