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Surviving an Evernote breakup – with 3 good replacement apps

Evernote alternatives for linuxThis day was supposed to never happen. We were on our way to our happily-ever-after, always in sync, always working together – Evernote, my devices and I. So what happened? And how do we move on?

Why Evernote rocked my world

This was an app made for someone like me. An app that did away with paper, helped me move effectively from one context to the next, and made sense of all the digital bits and bobs I was engaging with. It all worked, it all synchronized, and things moved on well. I got over a few false starts and actually got round to “feeding” the Elephant-themed app its preferred fare of information. It, in turn, stored it for me so I didn’t need to remember things.

Then, as I moved to a more travel-oriented, digitally-heavy working pattern, Evernote helped me dash from one meeting to another without panic. It served up useful bits of info where and when I needed it. It helped me cut down on admin – by allowing me to send an email to our office as well as graciously storing emailed notes. Things went well, and we were happy.

Why Evernote is no longer working for me

There is no official Evernote client for Linux. And a lot of my work is now on a pretty custom Linux machine. This is the first thing worth mentioning here. Since there was no official client, I tried a few “unofficial” ones and was very, very unimpressed. No sync, no effective way to manage and tweak notes – very poor attempts at what, on other machines, is a flawless experience. Given all that, I let my Premium account lapse without paying for it – only to discover that…

2-factor verification comes at a premium, if you want text messages. There was no way for me to set up text messaging notifications for 2-factor verification. This is important for me: I want my login attempts to be secure, and rely on text messages for this in other cases (Twitter, Google). Evernote isn’t getting this, and would make me download an Authenticator app. It’s a small thing, but it matters nonetheless.

Emailing notes is a Premium feature. See above. I get this one – it’s a perk, unlike security which should be standard and as automatic as you can make it. So I didn’t cry too much over this.

Encrypting note content doesn’t work online. I was still happy to work with Evernote, but this was a tiny straw that broke the camel’s (elephant’s?) back. On other machines, I was happily encrypting some crucial content – but I can’t do this on Linux now. Again, not a top concern, but it adds to the list of gripes.

Three alternatives to Evernote

So is there a good Evernote replacement for Linux? Could there be something worth mentioning to people who used to love Evernoting, and now find they need to start looking elsewhere?

I tried three note-taking apps, and found good things about each of them. Here they are, in my order of preference:

1. Zim Wiki. I am, in fact, writing this blog post using this program. It’s based on the way in which wiki pages function – if you want another note related to a note, just start typing a link to it – and presto! it’s created. If you want to organise, move or manage your notes and pages, it’s a piece of cake: you edit, store and save all of it offline. It’s perfect for simple text work, and lends itself well to things such as a GTD system (task lists, contexts, folders and all). No encryption, but since you decide where to store it, this can be fixed on your side (pick a secure Dropbox-like server and you’re good). Best of all, it’s free and open-source!

2. Simplenote. This comes from Automattic, the folks who gave you WordPress. I like the fact that recently it became available for many more machines and platforms – and that its web functionality is ridiculously simple and well-designed. It does less than Evernote ever did, but it’s free and doesn’t require much learning curve. I now use it to synchronize low-priority notes between machines – instead of emailing something back and forth, it’s easier to just work on it online until it’s done, then copy to Zim Wiki.

3. Draft. There are strange reasons for loving this online text version manager. One: it plays well with Beeminder, forcing you to commit to writing / editing a certain number of words each day (or paying the price in real money). Two: it’s simple and well-designed, but offers a great array of functions and publishing options. There’s more to that, but Draft has potential to be what you make it. It’s free in its basic form, but premium features are worth unlocking.

Got a good Evernote alternative? Something I missed in this quick review? Let me know. And if you think I should come back to Evernote – happy to discuss…

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