Evernote: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I'm facing a difficult decision. Ok, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't going to hit my life's Top 10 difficult choices. Regardless, it's something I've been thinking about quite a bit.

I'm thinking about ditching Evernote.

I have used Evernote for quite a long time. A year or so before I decided to move to the Mac, I wanted to find a good note-taking, web-clipping, catch-all app that would work on both platforms. Until then I was using Microsoft's OneNote. It was great, and (at least back then) I liked its UI more than Evernote's. The problem was that OneNote didn't have an iOS app, so I couldn't take my notes with me on my newly purchased iPhone 3G.

Since that initial experiment, I have had a love/hate relationship with Evernote. I went full immersion in the beginning. Every note, receipt, article, and miscellaneous bit of info I wanted to keep got tossed into Evernote. I created far too many notebooks, stacks, and tags. I learned how to use web app, the Windows app, the Mac app, and the iOS apps.

At its height I think I had just over 8,000 notes. I did a few big sweeps this year and got it down to a slim 6,000 notes. Over the years I'm sure I've gone back and referenced a few hundred of those at most. That's not to say having them wasn't incredibly valuable. I've got some really important information stored in Evernote...the kind of info I would be very sad to lose.

So, it's able to store thousands of important files, there are multiple ways to save data as you go, and apps spread across all of my favourite devices. Why exactly do I want to leave this behind?

It is SO slow.

I'm not sure if I can properly describe how frustratingly slow the apps are. In the beginning I thought it was me. I had an old(er) phone and a broken down Dell laptop. I figured the apps were slow because my hardware was slow. Then I got a new phone, and it was still slow. Well, I thought, mobile apps are always slower. Then I got a new MacBook Pro, and a year ago an iMac. With every upgrade the rest of my system got faster, and Evernote just stayed as slow as it was on Day 1.

In my opinion, the point of having all of these "important" notes synced across multiple devices is to have the ability to quickly pull up a note and reference the information. Trying to pull up a note on my iPhone felt like opening PhotoShop on a Commodore 64. It would slowly open the app, bring up the main screen, and then slowly sync. When it was finally done syncing I could start searching for the note I needed. Since a lot of my notes have images, loading the search results can be slow too.

Are there ways around this?

Sure. I'm not trying to slam Evernote without a good reason. I mean, I have thousands of notes in there, so it's in my best interest to make this work. With a premium account ($5/m or $45/yr) you can have certain notes or folders synced to your mobile device so you have offline access to them. That puts them front and centre, and I'm guessing the fact that they're stored locally would mean they'd open faster. The problem there is that I don't have a specific set of notes I need to reference regularly. I don't know what I'll need quick access to until I do.

It's also very possible the size of my collection is the problem. I have over 25,000 songs in my iTunes collection, which certainly slows down the Music app. Since I said earlier that I don't even reference most of the 6,000ish notes in my database, it's likely I'm shooting myself in the foot for no good reason. I'm sure loading up thumbnails and metadata for thousands of screenshots, PDF's, and images will slow any system down. Maybe I'm angry at a problem that has nothing to do with Evernote itself. It's very possible I'm shooting the messenger here, but unfortunately this realization hasn't made the app load any faster.

A couple months ago I signed up for a cloud service called CloudHQ.net. It lets you connect cloud services together to sync the data between multiple services. I haven't test out the full capabilities of the service. What I have done is connect Evernote with Dropbox. Automatically, whenever I add a new note to Evernote, this service flies into action and creates a PDF copy of the note in a folder in Dropbox. The backup copies are organized into folders based on the Evernote notebooks I have setup. If nothing else, this is a little peace of mind should Evernote ever lose my data or disappear.

What this also creates is the beginning of an experiment. I could now try to use the good old Finder to search through my notes. On my phone I could use the Dropbox app to access notes the way I used Evernote. Since I haven't tried this out yet...I can't tell you any results yet. Stay tuned on that front.

The point of this post (and so many others I write) is to periodically review the way I work. This might not go anywhere. I might never leave Evernote, or I might find a great alternative tomorrow. Either way, it's important to take some time (but not too much) to take a step back and look at the way you do your work. If I spend a few hours this week to review and revamp my system, that might save me 10 hours a month. Obviously the "if in ain't broke" mantra applies. Don't go looking for solutions to problems that don't exist. But, if you find yourself getting frustrated by something in your day to day work, write it down and come back to it when you've got time.

Any Evernote fans out there? Or, better yet, anyone out there who's had the same problem? What are you using now? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so reply in the comments or directly by email if you're reading the newsletter. I always love getting feedback from my amazing readers.