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.


Anonymous said...

I'm also trying to find a suitable replacement for Onenote that does not save its files in a nasty proprietary format with no luck.

I was wondering if you had found anything since writing this article? (Contact me on my URL I have supplied)

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said... a follow up; keep your eye on this project:

Gordon Haff said...

Short answer, not really. Evernote probably comes the closest. But I've actually largely switched to taking notes in Freemind, a free mind map application written in Java. (In part, this is because a new project tracking system (trac)that I've setup at our office means that I pretty much want individual files for each event, briefing, etc. anyway.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog while searching for a OneNote alternative. Thanks for your info on OneNote .vs EverNote!

Anonymous said...

Hi, please take a look at my alternative. (Actually, I need some beta-testers :-). Please send your comments to henkvantijen at gmail d0t c0m.



Anonymous said...

Thanks matt. is a blank page.


Anonymous said...

You are trying to recommend someting that doesn't even exist yet.

It's like saying "Yeah..we have the Blackberry killer..but it's still in our minds...we're still coding it"

Come on now... give us something real... and mind you...this is even open clunky this might be when it comes out.

Anonymous said...

Three words. Pirate a copy.

However much open source tries, it can never come close to replacing the paid product. It always comes off as rough around the edges; GIMP vs. Photoshop is a good example. Photoshop is tidy and polished, and has a gazillion features in neat little menus, GIMP sprawls all over your desktop like a lazy walrus and doesn't have half as many features.

OpenOffice vs MS Office (and iWork to a lesser extent): They have the same functionality, but OpenOffice seems three versions behind MS Office, and is clunky and slow to load, even with the utility that loads components on bootup.

Audacity is the exception, not the rule. Firefox doesn't count either, most browsers are free anyway. And I don't think anyone's finished a non-linux DAW like Reason or Ableton Live, or an animating program like Flash.

The truth is that however admirable one's motives, there's no substitute to professional training when it comes to programming software, no matter how much self-training you put in. Goodwill alone won't save the world.

ArgentLight said...

I am looking for a MS One note replacement that I can sync or use on line. I have used MS One note for 3 years and think it is great but sometimes the Open Source apps are even better; ie: Open Office.
Has anyone tried basket 1.0.3. It is important to me to have tight security on what ever replacement I may choose.
It always surprises me how few people know about One note and it's competitors. Everyone can make great useage of this type of software.

Andrew said...

Hi. I'm sure you could export your notes using one the advanced automated macro tools available. Just by copying and pasting all the details, like date stamp etc. I'm using evernote and find it just great. The interface may have improved since you reviewed? as it works smoothly for me. Just the right amount of features to make tracking down a note easy. Before that I used keynotes and DBnotes. Also - have you checked out xmind - it's better than freemind and a powerful version is now free! I'm sure you'll appreciate. Glad to help, Andrew.

Andrew said...

treedbnotes and xmind - are other key ones to look at. And people don't be put off by evernote - I find the interface and features spot on / very user friendly / fast / easy to find / organize notes. I have many hundreds of notes now and am very choosy about my prodcuts. The best free piece of software I've used. Lots of other bloggers love it too, inc. Tim Ferriss.

ArgentLight said...

I have come to make Evernote one of my favorite applications. If they just had a mobile app for blackberry it would be perfect. So far it looks like they are just supporting iPhones and Windows mobile devices. It would be nice to have a palm app as well. I would like to know what the "increased security" is when you pay the monthly fee. I am debating doing that because it is so great.

Andrew said...

I believe the paid security is high level encryption before it is send over the net (256 equivalent or higher).

Also i just checked and evernote now exports a highly portable xml format. more here :-

Gordon Haff said...

Evernote has indeed improved a great deal since I wrote my original post. That said, I generally use a text editor for most note-taking these days. I've also been using a program called Surfulater to save web pages for research purposes. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Evernote fit into my workflow in some way as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

A pretty simple program that just does text files, but it's very organized and keeps files in .txt (compatible with most things.)

Unknown said...

I have recently found free simple OneNote alternative - Pinoteo ( It'll be very useful for keeping your ideas in well-organized way and creating hot notes.

Serj said...

I use TreeDBNotes (free version). Very easy and compact program. Tree-structured note manager and some usefull tools.(

Previously, I used keynote. But there were problems and the old-style interface.

Alex said...

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Unknown said...

There have been quite a few blogs on a MS Onenote alternative and to be honest none of them look like or even come near to having some of the same features. Just inadvertently the other day I came across this app, and it's free.

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