Monday, April 04, 2005

Evernote, A free OneNote Alternative

Evernote's a free notetaking program (for Windows) somewhat in the same vein as Microsoft's OneNote. It's not Open Source, but it's a free beta; the authors apparently intend to keep a basic level of the program as freeware while possibly charging for some more advanced feature. Free is good. But is the program itself good enough to replace OneNote?

For my needs, the answer is a qualified yes. It's less polished in some ways. The particulars are a bit hard to describe but I'd call it "rough around the edges." Things just don't necessarily work like you expect them to. Also, a number of features are still missing--notably, any export function besides basic cutting and pasting. It also lacks a lot of OneNote's more sophisticated Tablet PC and file sharing support, but that was fine with me.

Evernote does have some nice points. For one thing, if its user interface is still a bit rough, it also avoids OneNote levels of garishness. More importantly, it also lets you view your notes on a time axis (rather than the usual hierarchical organization). This is a very nice feature that should be a standard. After all, how many times do you know about when you took a note about something, but not where you put it.

However, at the end of the day, Evernote and OneNote are alike in a way that I've decided is probably a showstopper for me. They lock your notes up in a proprietary file format with no way to do a mass export to something more standardized. Maybe if I were to find a program that just blew my socks off and would automatically export all my notes to a hierarchical collection of Rich Text Format files or whatever I might change my mind. But, for now, I've shifted my focus to organizing standalone files in standard formats.
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