Nearly a year to the day it dropped its unlimited storage offer, on June 28th, Evernote dropped a bombshell. It was not just hiking its subscription prices yet again but it was also doing away with its biggest selling point: synchronization of content (notes and other stuff) across multiple devices. Unless, of course, as a user, you are willing to part with at least $4 monthly for the cheapest subscription, the Plus option.
If that is not the case then you may start looking for a new note-taking application soon since Evernote will start limiting access for Basic accounts to just two devices. So if you have a tablet, smartphone and PC or several smartphones or PCs or more, read on.
Evernote is nice and all and heavy users may not be shopping for a solution any time soon since they will just gladly pay the $4 or get their companies to just pay for the enterprise-targeted version which, at $12 per person per month, remains unchanged. However, for the rest of us who do a lot of note-taking on the go but don’t need the extra features that Evernote offers like the ability to scan business cards, convert notes to PDFs, chat with colleagues etc, we are free to explore other options that won’t nag us from time to time to pay a subscription fee or lock us out when we need them the most.
There are quite a number of viable Evernote alternatives out there. However, my favourite three are Microsoft’s OneNote, the popular Simplenote and Google’s Keep.
These three note-taking apps are free, easy to use, some have a few extra features on top of the no-frills note-taking and best of all, are available on the two major mobile platforms: Android and iOS. They are there on Mac and PC too. Oh, and they will sync your notes across all your devices without ever threatening to limit you or something.
For those heavily invested in the Microsoft products ecosystem, using Microsoft’s note-taking app, OneNote, is a no-brainer. For everyone else, it is the next best thing to Evernote. You can take snaps, work on your to-do lists, annotate using a stylus (hey Galaxy Note users), doodle your ideas and clip stuff. Easy. For Microsoft Office users, the desktop OneNote which is part of the suite is fully featured and a pleasure to use with access to tools like a Thesaurus, a fully-fledged spell checker, a translator and the ability to password-protect notes and edit them in ways not possible on both Keep and Simplenote – bold, italicize, underline and more. Heck! You can even record video.
You will be hard-pressed to find a feature-packed note-taking app other than Evernote that rivals OneNote. Even with Evernote being my favourite note-taking app before recent happenings, I loved OneNote for one thing: it was not the bloated mess that Evernote had become.
My only qualm with OneNote that made me overlook it in favour of Evernote in the first place is that it tends to be way too complex. Or at least it gives that impression. Things change once you get the hang of it.
Microsoft has even made importing all your Evernote notes to OneNote easier with this tool.
2. Google Keep
Keep is small, lightweight and clean. Its approach to note-taking is basic and that is its biggest strength. You just open it and type your heart out. For proper organization, you can play around with the few colour options. You can doodle around, do voice notes, attach photos or take them, put together your grocery shopping list as well as set up reminders. It just works. And I love the search function. Then again, what is a Google product without proper search?
As the name insinuates, Simplenote thrives on its minimalism. If Google Keep is basic then Simplenote is barebones. It is not as barebones as Notepad on the PC but it is close albeit with some styling that makes it standout on mobile devices. It does nothing other than just aid you take notes either on your PC or on your mobile phone and it does that so well. The note tags are so on point and for people like me with over 400 notes taken over the last one year on Evernote and several hundred others on Keep, the tags make for easier searching. Tags are one of my favourite features on Evernote.
Simplenote is owned by Automattic, the makers of blogging and content management platform WordPress so now you know what inspires the emphasis on tagging or how excellent the feature has become.
You would never understand how big a deal Simplenote used to be back in the day if you were not around when it finally became available to Android users in September 2013 after years of being an iOS exclusive.
Unlike Keep and OneNote which will need you to have accounts with their overlords, Google and Microsoft respectively, if you are not into syncing your notes across devices, you can just type your heart out without ever being pestered to sign in or register an account. Simplicity.
If you just want to take notes and have them sync across your various devices and not much else, I don’t see why Simplenote won’t work for you. If you will also want to bring over some of the brilliant calendar feature of Evernote, integration with your calendar so that you can always start a note on your next appointment without having to specify the location as well as properly format your notes then OneNote is the best option. Google Keep? Well, it’s for the middle guy. You take one too many notes but also just want your notes and not much else other than setting a reminder every once in a while.