A look at cross-platform Evernote alternatives

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For years, Evernote was my go-to note taking application. Its versatility made it a useful place to store my ideas and notes, all organized in an easily accessible, notebook-like fashion. Unfortunately, changes to Evernote’s business model plus a few privacy concerns have made it less popular of late. Some users have opted to jump ship to a different service.

I’m one of those switchers as well. Below are some of the alternatives to Evernote that I’ve used. All of the services are cross-platform; they have web versions, and are available on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux.

OneNote

www.onenote.com

OneNote is Microsoft’s long-standing answer to Evernote. In use, it works a lot like a mix of Evernote (notebook organizing, etc.) and Microsoft Word (it uses the “ribbon,” plus Office-like colors and layout).

Traditionally, OneNote is the most full-featured answer to Evernote, and matches it feature for feature. Power users, or those who want niceties like text formatting, note organization, etc. will find OneNote appealing.

On the downside, the interface’s appeal depends on how much one likes/tolerates Word, and especially the ribbon, which I’ve never liked. The web version also lacks a few of the features in the desktop versions. OneNote (at least its web version) also sometimes feels a bit sluggish.

(Disclaimer: I work for a contract company that’s currently doing work with Microsoft.)

Google Keep

keep.google.com

Google Keep sample note
Google Keep note.

Google Keep is Google’s sticky note-like note keeping application. It allows one to write down notes in a simple fashion, though also comes with a few organizational features such as tagging. There’s also a checkbox feature, making Keep useful for things like grocery lists. Keep notes can also be transferred into Google Docs.

The downsides is that Keep’s pretty simplistic. There’s no text formatting…not even bullet points, which I do like to use.

Google Docs

docs.google.com

Google Docs is Google’s online word processor. As such, it comes with all the features of a basic word processor, including writing things like notes. Pretty much any type of text formatting’s available.

The downside is Docs is obviously a word processor first, and isn’t really an Evernote-style note keeping application. Organization is treated like any other word processing documents. One would probably want to create a “Notes” folder and save note documents to there.

Simplenote

simplenote.com

Simplenote note
Simplenote note.

SimpleNote is run by Automattic, the people who also handle WordPress. Its appeal is offering a very basic note taking system, with more in common with Google Keep than Evernote. Simplenote does offer tagging, and a “markdown” feature that allows saved text to display with basic formatting (URL links and bullet points).

Simplenote’s downside is its simplicity. Using markdown just to get basic formatting features might not appeal to some. It also doesn’t save pictures, making it a non-starter for those who use that feature in Evernote.

Conclusion

Initially, I switched from Evernote to a mix of Keep and Docs, primarily the former. Recently, I’ve decided to give OneNote a go, since it fits closer to Evernote’s setup and features than the Keep/Docs mix.

Fortunately, it’s easy to export text from Evernote, and switch services. Lifehacker has an article explaining how to switch.


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