Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant

evernotelogoTo say this post pains me would be an understatement. More than any other technology, Evernote is part of me, having evolved from habit to instinct over several years and nearly seven thousand notes. Every day ideas flit through my head, ideas for essays, for characters, for jokes. Just now I catch a glimpse of one, without thinking I am talking into my phone like a Star Trek Communicator, telling myself that maybe I should title this post Leaky Sync. Maybe not.

Because I use it so often, I am unusually familiar with the service’s warts. Evernote’s applications are glitchy to the extreme; they often feel as if they’re held together by the engineering equivalent of duct tape. Browser extensions crash, text cursors leap haphazardly across the screen — my copy of Evernote’s image editor Skitch silently failed to sync for months because I hadn’t updated to the new version. Most issues are benign enough, but the apps are so laden with quirks that I’ve long held a deep-seated fear that perhaps some of my data has not been saved, that through a syncing error, an accidental overwrite — some of these ideas have been forgotten.

As of last month, I am all but sure of it.

I’ve been learning how to write songs. It’s terrifying because I stink, so I trick myself, diddling around without actually intending to record anything. With any luck I reach a fugue state, vaguely listening for my fingers to do something interesting; sometimes instinct steers me toward the green elephant’s ‘record’ button and I play for a while.

And so I find myself on December 5, when a meandering session results in an 18 minute Evernote audio recording on my iPhone labeled “not bad halfway through” — high praise, for me. Some of the chord changes are sheer luck, no idea what I did but they sounded good the first time.

I decide to give it another listen with more discerning ears, self-loathing eagerly waiting in the wings.

And — nothing. Zero seconds out of zero seconds. It’s a blank file.

Alarmed, I tap record again, make another note. It won’t play, either.

Another. This one works.

One more. Zero out of zero.

I check the Wifi signal (fine). I let the phone sit for a while to sync, just in case. I head to the web app, which — thankfully — shows the note intact, with its attachment as an 8.7 megabyte .m4a file.

I try to open it in iTunes — it shrugs. Quicktime spits an error. Time to bust out the big guns. VLC.


Teeth grinding, I contact Evernote support. The process is slow and bumbling, but I’d like to think this has more to do with Evernote’s overly-structured ticket system than the people working there. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to learn what happened to my audio file, I discover another flaw in Evernote’s system.

As an apparently standard part of Evernote’s support process, it requests that users send over an Activity Log. This is a file generated by each Evernote application that records the myriad housekeeping events going on behind the scenes — “Sending preference changes…”, and so on.

For most services this log wouldn’t make me bat an eye, but in many ways my Evernote archive is more sensitive than my Gmail account. With email, there’s always the possibility that the guy on the other end will forward the message along, so I tend to behave accordingly. With Evernote it’s just me. I try not to filter myself because that’s how creativity dies.

I ask the support person to verify that he will not have access to my data. No, he assures me. Just the meta data, like note titles (why Evernote doesn’t believe note titles are potentially sensitive is beyond me, but in my case they’re usually blank anyway).

Still, out of habitual paranoia, I skim through the log before sending. Thousands of lines of gibberish, dates and upload counts and [ENSyncEngine] INFO: Sending search changes.

And then I come across something more legible. It’s a text note I left a few evenings ago, a stray thought about sex, if I’m being honest. Further down, another note, the entire contents of the text, broken up by some HTML tags. And another.

Turns out there’s a bug, this time compliments of Evernote for Mac’s ‘helper’ — an official mini app that’s meant for jotting down notes without having to switch to the hulking beast that is the desktop application. On my Macbook Pro, running the latest version of Evernote for Mac, this ‘helper’ app records the entirety of any text it saves into the log file.

Alarmed and not a little bit furious that I nearly sent him some deeply embarrassing musings, I tell the support person about the issue, noting that it is a serious breach of privacy (and an obvious one, given that I noticed it in all of ten seconds).

They say to file another ticket.

As for the audio file: even more bad news.

It’s been nearly a month and the most substantive thing Evernote has said is that it is “seeing multiple users who have created audio notes of all sizes where they will not play on any platform.” The company has given me no information on what’s wrong with the corrupted file, and no indication that they might find a way to get it working in the future.

Adding further insult, the up-to-date iOS application continues to create corrupted audio notes, despite receiving an update on December 17, twelve days after I reported the issue. The support team actually couldn’t tell me whether that update addressed the audio problem — they said I should check the App Store release notes, which routinely includes the ambiguous line “bug fixes”, so I had to figure it out for myself. Two more corrupted notes later, I can say with some authority that it’s still there (I’ve also encountered a new issue, where some audio files simply vanish).

Through it all, the support team has displayed a marked lack of urgency that has bordered on nonchalance. Maybe they’re trained that way, or maybe data loss on Evernote isn’t as rare as I’d hope.

None of this has been life shattering, but given how reliant I am on Evernote it is deeply unnerving — now each note I instinctively leave myself is tinged with anxiety. I’m concerned that as I dig through my Evernote archive I’ll encounter more corrupted audio notes, and, worse, my paranoia is increasingly convinced that there may have been notes that never were saved to the archive at all.

More than that, I am alarmed that Evernote seems to be playing fast and loose with the data entrusted to it. Instead of building a product that is secure, reliable, and fast, it has spread itself too thin, trying to build out its install base across as many platforms as possible in an attempt to fend off its inevitable competition.

This strategy is tolerable for a social network or messaging app (Facebook got away with atrociously buggy apps for years). But Evernote is literally aiming to be an extension of your brain, the place to store your most important ideas. Its slogan is “Remember Everything”. Presumably the integrity of its data should be of the utmost importance.

What’s worse, it isn’t consistently improving. When iOS7 launched, Evernote was one of the first applications to overhaul with a new, ‘flat’ design, and as a result benefitted from being featured prominently within the App Store. But functionally, it was clearly a downgrade from the old app, with extra dollops of sluggishness, crashes, and glitches — it may well have introduced the audio recording bug I fell prey to (I believe it dates back to at least October, when I encountered a similar audio issue that I chalked up to user error).

Evernote’s security track record has been similarly frustrating. Asked in October 2012 why the service had not implemented the increasingly-common two-factor authentication option already offered by companies like Google, Evernote’s CEO, Phil Libin, wrote “Finding an approach that gives you increased security without making Evernote harder to use is not just a matter of adding two-factor authentication…”, implying that something better was on the way.

Five months later the promised security upgrade was still MIA — until Evernote was hacked, its database of user passwords was compromised, and the service rushed to implement a two-factor system that didn’t look much different from the sort Libin was apparently aiming to leapfrog.

This is a company with over $250 million in funding and 80 million users. And unlike many web services that promise exhaustive security and reliability, it’s one I actually pay for.

Ironically, the same day I was told Evernote didn’t have a fix for my corrupted music recording, the New York Times published an article about Evernote titled, An App That Will Never Forget a File.

Update, 1/3: Evernote CEO Phil Libin contacted me and we spoke about the issues described. He apologized, saying the post rings true and that there is a lot of work to be done both on the application and service fronts. In the short-term the company will be implementing fixes for the issues above, with plans to focus on general quality improvements in the months ahead.

Update, 1/5: Libin has published a lengthy response to this post (and the ensuing uproar) on the Evernote Blog, outlining the company’s plans to remedy its quality issues by refocusing on the core product and its design:
On Software Quality and Building a Better Evernote in 2014

Comments (204)

  • Wow, this is very troubling to hear. Will have to re-think how or if I should discuss Evernote with my clients and students.

    • Read the CEO’S response to this post first though. It appears that he took Jason’s post to heart and that it’s “all hands on deck” to make improvements. Libin’s honesty has renewed my faith in Evernote.

    • Not mine, at least not yet. I’m thankful for Evernote and am dependent upon it. But I’ve been struggling with issues like these for years. A quick search on Evernote’s forum will turn up lots of bugs and painfully annoying usability issues in the Windows client, many with staff acknowledgements, but which have nevertheless been around for months, some for years.

      I’ve always assumed the issues with the Windows client persisted because everyone at Evernote used Macs, but the above suggests that the Apple clients have problems too.

      It’s great that this is getting press and that Libin has responded. Hopefully things will pick up.

    • I am not sure whether Libin / EN really knows what’s needed to improve the service. I’ve used EN from the start and experienced that re-designs often made it harder to use – functionality had changed or moved to a different location and I had to re-learn the tool. And it’s become slow. It takes about 5 secs each time I open a note in the browser before I can start editing. Delicious went a similar path, now I’m using a very simple, fast and not very slick looking bookmarking tool.

    • Feature bloat is a common path many software developers take to increase sales of the products, often at the risk of killing the base usage of the product. Look at Adobe Photoshop, I still could be using the version from 94′.

      I too used EN extensively 4 years back, esp travelling and noting work notes – important stuff – voice recordings to practice pitches and ideas. So much so that I killed my basecamp account because I had a tool that was free and simpler to use.

      Over time with every evernote update, I too have reduce using it. Everything from the poor login (I don’t remember passwords) over multiple devices, try re-syncing 4 devices when you lose a password. To UI changes that are a complete change.

      Its a pity because the core problem it solves is a good one and I have 100’s of notes on their system.

      Might give them a tinkle to see if they need a new product manager :)

  • This is, distressing, to say the least.

  • Yeah, I’m canceling my premium subscription also. The software quality has really gone downhill. I can barely create lists in evernote… the cursor never does the right thing. A sync conflicts are terrible.

  • I feel like I could have written this exact article. I love Evernote and use it a LOT. I am nervous for all the same reasons. Hoping the service grows up soon.

  • You have outlined every issue that I have with Evernote and I fully agree. While I don’t rely as much on it, I still store lot of important data in it.

    they often feel as if they’re held together by the engineering equivalent of duct tape.

    This sums up the apps. While I have had no major issues with Web Clipper, Skitch and iOS apps are not up to the mark. Windows Client works well, but is not well thought out.

    Skitch(Windows) has this big annoyance of putting everything in my “Private” notebook. They really need an option to select a notebook!

    Many times, web clipper just hands up and does not sync PDFs or images (I have to paste in Windows Client).

    While the features are good, they really need to improve a lot when it comes to the applications!

    • Thanks Ishan, sounds like we’ve had a lot of the same issues. Agreed, hope they improve!

  • Oh, don’t you just love proprietary software! Does anyone know of a FOSS evernote solution?

    • Yes, because open source software is always rock solid, extremely polished and free of bugs…

    • Did he say that? No, he didn’t.

    • None that are as well integrated with browser extensions and online backups. But you can live pretty well once you get into the habit of wiring your emacs org-mode with a private git/hg repo.

    • I do not think FOSS has anything to do with quality. SOme FOSS is amazing, some is buggy and terrible. Why not start a quality project for an Evernote replacement?

    • Read what he said which is nothing to do with quality but more to do with open access to your data instead of proprietary formats like Evernote uses.

    • Tomboy is an acceptable FOSS solution, but it’s not audio ready. Also, Tomboy is ugly and slow on OSX. There’s also cozy.io and maybe ownCloud has something a little weightier. And of course, there’s Emacs + Org-mode

      There is no FOSS option that offers the UI features of Evernote, however, the basics seem like low hanging fruit to me… perhaps I should give it a try.

  • Thx for the detailed post. I shall proceed with caution.

  • Any alternatives to Evernote anyone can recommend?

    • OneNote is the app I use in sync with SkyDrive. I don’t use it as heavily as some of you apparently use Evernote, but it has never failed me.

    • Google Keep.

    • Enjoy Google selling your data.

    • Yet Microsoft has decided not to make this application cross platform in a strange attempt to protect its massive Windows Desktop OS market share? For note taking apps to be successful they need to be cross platform. OneNote is not!

    • Not true. See details: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2043415
      Also, for what it’s worth, OneNote is a very high quality application. Once you are used to it, it becomes indispensable. Global search is awesome. Always available on Phone, Tablet, Laptop, Desktop, whatever.

    • Nonsense. Even the article you linked states it – OneNote is not available for OSX, no laptop, no desktop. If that is not about protecting the Desktop OS market (the subject of the original post) what is the reason?

      I have used OneNote at work (as a Microsoft consultant) ever since it came out and find it ridiculous that MS have never produced a OneNote I can use on my home Mac.

      If I wanted to use web apps all the time I’d still have a Chromebook…

    • Definitely not true. OneNote has native apps for basically every platform: Windows 8 (modern app), Windows desktop app, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. They also have a browser version you can access through Skydrive to edit within the browser.


    • OneNote may be great. I know a lot of people swear by it. Personally, I had it drop the ball and corrupt all my notes back in an attempt to try being on Windows that itself was a dismal failure. (Vista anyone?)

      I’m glad to see that they have made it cross-platform on mobile devices. But, IMHO, a product is not cross-platform without a Mac OS X version.

    • Good point about lack of Mac OSX client. I didn’t think of that since I’m on windows, iOS and Android only.

      btw, you can hardly keep judging windows by vista. Let’s not keep beating the vista horse dead :)

    • Huh? How can you say it’s not true when there is no OS X version!

    • Also the iOS version of One Note is terrible. Read the reviews.

    • Have you used it on iOS? I have. I have no complaints

    • OneNote is great if your workflow is Windows-centric (especially Windows 8, windows Phone), and I use it for work a lot; however, my _personal_ workflow is Apple-centric, and OneNote just isn’t very Apple-friendly. Given this HUGE privacy hole in Evernote, though, that may be what I end up going back to.

    • I use springpad, seems to do the job for me.

    • For the basic functionalities of Evernote, you can try TagSpaces. It is completely free, open source and runs offline…

  • I haven’t had any data loss, but I’ve also never created such a large audio file in Evernote. Have you noticed issues with text only notes?

    • I haven’t noticed any, but I think it’d also be harder for me to tell if a portion of a note didn’t get saved (the audio files simply won’t play).

  • I’ve been complaining for years about their editor. Numerous posts to the official Evernote forums and customer support all go without resolution. I’ve even used Jing to record reproducible bugs. Every new release of Evernote has me excited to check the “release notes” for something along the lines of “Editor FINALLY Fixed” =) Seriously, web based rich-text editors are more powerful and less buggy than Evernote. The crazy cursor issues, constant note conflicts despite no where near concurrent editing attempts, and unusable/unstable lists are some of the most annoying issues. I am still using Evernote on a daily basis because there aren’t any more powerful alternatives, but I wish Evernote would stop working on worthless products like “Hello” and would instead just focus on making their core product stable and reliable.

    • What would count as a powerful alternative?

    • Fair question. For me, that would involve the features I use on a daily basis. At a minimum, it would be native cross-platform apps (Mac/iOS/Windows/Android) with a comprehensive and functional rich text editor, Notebooks, Tags, Email address for injecting notes, OCR (on documents & images), Web clipper for Chrome/Firefox, shortcuts, note previews, versioning, and cloud sync capabilities. Of course, if there were a seamless way to jump-ship between products, that would make the switch easier.

      Some features that are not present in Evernote, but would be even more compelling arguments to switch:
      * Storage agnostic backend (e.g. iCloud, Dropbox) so that we do not have to use a single provider. Caveat: it would put more processing burden on the device.
      * Public key encryption of notebooks because we know now more than ever that our data is not private nor protected from the reaches of the US government.

    • I’ve hoped for similar release notes for years and have found the forums similarly unhelpful. Hopefully we’ll see some changes soon.

    • A thousand times this!

      Also, forget about copying a chunk out of Evernote and try to drop it into an email or some other destination. Rage every time.

    • Yes, I have had this problem too when trying to copy notes into an E-Mail. In a roundabout way, I’ve solved it by opening the note on evernote.com and copying the resultant HTML into an email. This is not an acceptable solution.

    • I do an extra step that helps versus issues with the editor, which is to select the content and then do “Simplify Formatting”.

  • Note that I’ve never been a premium user. I’ve had sync issues with Evernote in the past, but I haven’t had any issues for ~2 years. The Android version isn’t any better and I can’t even use it as my main note taking app because it just isn’t that great.

    I still use Evernote all the time to take notes or write up todo lists on desktop and read on mobile. The multimedia features suck in general, unfortunately. I really wish they would work on fixing the bugs instead of adding more “features”.

  • Where there are bugs, I assure you there are definate security issues as well..

  • Since the M4A file seems to have some content (considering it’s 8.7 MB), it may be possible to fix it yourself. I’ve never used the software, but I did find this post a few months ago that explains how the software ‘Synalyze It!’ was used to repair a WAV file:

    • Thanks Doz, really appreciate it. The tagline for that app made me laugh: “Reverse Engineering and Binary File Analysis made easy” — will report back here if I get it working.

  • Evernote is held together with duct tapes. I read somewhere they have different teams coding for different areas of evernote. Thus the duct tape feeling, because they’re literally taping codes together.

    But sadly, there is not powerful alternative to Evernote.

    • That is the standard for any large piece of software. Can you imagine a chef making a 5 dish mean for a banquet himself? No, he has teams that produce different dishes.

    • Uh, no. They may have different teams if you want to call them that but it is in managing the teams that determine the quality if a product. Microsoft is terrible at this. Apple is great at it.

    • I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I’m involved with a larger piece of software and we have one team that is involved in all areas of the product.

  • I had the same issue with recording on android (s3). In fact, i was also recording some noodling on the guitar. After that day, along with other major bugs with the android version, I decided to leave the service behind. It’s great that Phil got in touch with you, but the basic functionality of creating and saving notes (text or audio) needs to be rock solid. The fact that they are working on anything else while there are such major bugs in the system is the absolute worst thing they can do.

  • This and the Hacker News discussion has left me looking for an alternative to EverNote. I’ve been making do with the free account for several months. However on advice of numerous articles, I’ve been training myself to add more content into it. Protecting user data is by far the most important job software is entrusted with. I quit Windows and all Microsoft Software after too many near catastrophic data losses with Word and the rest. Its sad to hear EverNote cannot be trusted as well.

  • A similar issue happened to me. I was using the Android Evernote widget ‘Page Camera’ to snap photos of notes I had written – and automatically adjust the contrast / cropping to fit the page.

    Unfortunately the algorithm for doing so was also reducing the resolution of the image so much that the text was unreadable. At a thumbnail size it looked fine – so I didn’t notice the problem for a couple of weeks. But when I returned to my notes (that I had since trashed the paper copies of) – they were totally useless.

    I contacted Evernote support who told me that it was a known bug. I was very angry. If it is a known bug that the Page Camera doesn’t work then the Page Camera should not be included in the widget!

    I love Evernote when it works – but I agree that the company policies don’t seem to inspire as much trust as I’d like.

  • Wow, thanks for this article it confirms so much I was hoping just wasn’t true. I’ve always put them down as user errors or wonky internet connection etc. really breaks my heart :(

  • I’m the oldest 30 year old I know. I carry notepads and post-it pads around everywhere, even with my iPhone5 sitting in my pocket. Each day, I select a size of notepad according to how big I think my thoughts will be on a particular day. For me, the pen to paper is cathartic. My handwriting can change depending on the mood I’m in when I’m writing something, and it’s great to go back and see how it changes. My greatest ideas are usually in chicken scratch, and I can barely read it later. Although I keep most of the pads, I rip off sheets and stuff them an a copy feeder if I want to save them to a db.

    • I feel the same way but have slipped off to trying electronic notes more. One thing’s for sure; if I want to remember something, writing it down is the best way.

    • I use Penultimatte. Ironically owned by Evernote :)

  • Oh yes, this is perfectly written. About an year back, while I was on the verge of moving to a paid account and found a bug which erased a complete note.

    It was something on the lines of “certain special characters / formatting present in the note would not save it”. In my case, it was a huge list of books that I had to read (collected over several months) – When I added one item to it with some character/formatting that was unsupported, the whole note was lost :-( This was from the PC. I tried in the web version and even that was empty (sync had happened).

    I reached out to their customer support and it plainly said my complaint may never get taken up because they catered to premium customers first. I was furious and gave up the idea of going premium. As they had told, my complaint was never attended to. The note was lost completely.

    Having said that, I should mention that I still use Evernote (may be more than before) because I have not seen any other alternative (do not want to use purchase One Note). Google Keep was launched after my beloved Google Reader was killed so I feared to go to a Google service again.

    So Evernote it has been and I only pray that no such thing happens again. These days, whenever I paste some text into Evernote, I do a Ctrl+Shift+V to ensure only the paste happens without formatting.

  • You want to store ideas? Never heard of DEVONthink Pro? Its artificial intelligence (i.e. text mining) can increase random connections between all of your notes, so you make new ideas for free.
    Scalable: 50 GB library, no problems. Secure: password protection. Robust: never crashes. Extendable: all kind of scripts, browser extension.
    They could improve the mobile version, but it’s still usable.

    • Ryan, nice app, but it’s not cross-platform. Mac-only.

  • Did the CEO also say anything about the privacy bug and poor customer service?

  • I asked myself, ‘Do I really need markup and all that jazz?’. I abandoned Evernote (and the even worse OneNote) for Notepad++ and a bunch of plain text files. At least I know that in 5 years I’ll still be able to open them.

  • Time to make the move for me then.

  • They are definitely spreading themselves too thin. What happened to a simple notes application? Google’s Keep is actually pretty good and simple, easy sync.

    Good luck with support – at least you got some joy from it, as opposed to Dropbox’s support, which isn’t.

  • Exact same thing happened to me. I was at our pediatrician’s office listening to our doctor give us specific instructions for our 1 month old premie newborn. I open the EN iPhone app and hit record since I am never going to remember all of the instructions. The recording goes for like 5-7 minutes. At the end, I wait for a full sync and everything appears good. Later that day, I go to transcribe some of the notes to text and nothing. A blank audio file. 5.7 MB in size but won’t play on iPhone. I go to the desktop and nothing. Did the same thing as you and whipped out VLC, nothing. Support says they will forward to the engineers for correcting but that my audio is gone. Simply unacceptable.

  • Duct tape is a wonder of engineering and a poor analogy here, but the troubles you experience with evernote are expected to happen when you choose to rely on the hip and trendy “cloud services” for your data.

    There was a time in computing where such services would offer the option to take the matter in your own hands but now with the move to the closed world of mobile computing and the civil war on general purpose computing people are increasingly renouncing at staying in control in exchange for some comfort and convenience.

    This misadventure is the direct consequence of your own deliberate choice, deal with it.

    • The problem here is not the use of a cloud service, it is buggy software. What if he had used non-cloud software? Either his files would not be available on all of his devices, he would have to use alternate cloud software like Dropbox or equivalents, or install his own sharing mechanism on his own computer. The lack of availability on all devices is its own problem. Dropbox would likely be more reliable and they keep backups, but that would be the cloud. If he installs cloud software on his own computer then he would have to spend time managing it and there is no guarantee that it would not have bugs. Like local software, cloud software can be good or bad. Choosing a cloud service is like choosing any other product: you analyze the pluses and minuses and do comparisons with other products. To reject cloud services out of hand and blame the author for his data loss is not fair.

    • Yes it is fair, people need to take ownership of their own actions. it is easy to blame the software but at the end of the day no one held a gun to his head telling him to use the software. After the first time I would have lost a sound recording I would have chosen a different more reliable piece of sound recording software and then attach it to Evernote.

      People are aver to jump and criticize software when something goes wrong but don’t say anything for months or years when the software has been working great for them.

      I say, take your loss and learn from the lesson. Do you want to ditch Evernote? Fine, but see you again until the next piece of software fails you.

    • Wait, this makes no sense. The software offers a service, he pays for this service, however the service doesn’t work reliably. Why would that unreliable software be above criticism? Are you really suggesting we should be finding work-arounds for poor software we pay for? This discussion isn’t anti-Evernote, this is holding Evernote to a high standard. We should absolutely be complaining when software fails provide the service we pay for.

    • As someone who has a lot of stuff stored in Evernote and am otherwise happy with the software, if I found a problem I would act just like Jason Kincaid, except perhaps for the blog posting. I would try to get the problem resolved so that I could keep using the software and accompanying service and not have to switch to something else, which would take a lot of my time and might lack features I need.

      I’m not sure I understand your point about ditching Evernote. The comment I replied to was blaming Mr. Kincaid for using the product to begin with, and that’s what I was saying was wrong.

    • You really need to read his post again. You missed a lot.

    • The fact that you think “cloud services” are hip and trendy means you have no idea what you’re talking about.

      Server/Thin-Clients have been used since the 60s. Just because they have a different marketing name now doesn’t mean the technology isn’t valid.

      Stop being a Luddite and educate yourself please.

  • Anybody still remember Google notebook? I’ve tested Evernote occasionally through the years since the early beginnings, and it’s never been fast responsive intuitive easy enough for me to start using. It’s always felt like it’s some sort of mess and I was always surprised by its success. I have it installed on my ios and Android phones almost always but end up never using it, instead I mostly use color note or Google Keep and lately Our groceries. Such a pity for such potential to go unfulfilled. In a way I’m glad to have read this post only to reassure myself of my decisions.

  • It’s worth mentioning that the UI experience on iOS is not pleasant. I love Evernote feature set, but cringe anymore anytime I have to use it. Using it on my iPhone I feel like I am leaving iOS and using a completely different system. I do feel that the Mac OSX UI experience is a lot cleaner.

    Dare I suggest that maybe a ground up re-write of the app is needed? They could take a page from the design of Vesper. I like their approach, but need syncing for multiple devices. When Vesper releases syncing, I may wait a few months for the bugs to be worked out and then make then give it a try.

    • I will never understand why they released a Vesper without syncing. Makes it useless to me.

  • all daily users will agree with the duct tape comparison, its a great idea that was executed well but has gotten out of control over the past few years. as the comments show, there isnt really an equivalent alternative (notability, vesper, a few others come to mind).
    my other big complaint about evernote is how they seem to come up with a new user experience and interaction design for every new experience they come up with. the iOS app for example is just layers of who knows what and a new system to learn, which is very different from the browser extension and the mac app.
    frustrating all around. i want them to be better and i’m putting my trust and $$ behind them but with no drastic improvements in the next 6 months or so, i may have to make difficult choices and move on past evernote.

  • I recently lost some text data in evernote. I have suspected other text losses as we’ll but had just chalked it up to user error or poor sync. I have gotten many merge conflicts despite never using the app at the same time. I think I may just end up using Dropbox and a text editor for my notes. Dropbox seems rock solid as a file storage system. Plus if I have made some screw up I can always pickup an earlier version of the file through the web app. Thanks for this article, I think I am finally done fooling with evernote it just seems too buggy and the code base looks like it must be a mess.

  • I love using Evernote and Dropbox for it’s convenience. But for my important information, especially documents and records that I want kept safe yet shared with family members and my lawyer and accountant, I use SafelyFiled.com Everything stored there is encrypted both during uploads and in storage and I love the dual authentication feature for added security. They have some great checklists too!

    • Thanks for the suggestion of SafelyFiled.com. Ironically I have entered the link into Evernote for later investigation!

  • Can I also add that their newest web clipper extension simply sucks? Overly-complicated, and un-intuitive. Love the app, and I’m a fan… but yeah, they need to get back to basics: reliability, security, user-friendly.

    • Yeah it is terrible. I uninstalled it. I find it such a pain to use that I dump content in Pocket first and then send it to Evernote.

  • Yeah. I also think Evernote is not data security. There are times that notes duplicate themselves by themselves.

  • Thank you for this eyes-wide-open post. I’m an Evernote premium subscriber but have been annoyed with the buggy apps, managements attention on glossy new features in lieu of improved reliability, etc. My response has been to – gasp – move back to paper and pen for my note taking. As an incentive – I’ve “invested” in some nice fountain pens and great pads and notebooks – go Rhodia, Monteverde, TWSBI and Lamy!

    Evernote’s foray into this “feature” with their Moleskine notebook and digital note transcriptions was so dismaying let’s kindly call it vapor-ware.

    Also I find writing, shows my mood giving me a meta-check on my notes when I’m reviewing them. When I’m excited and inspired, my handwriting is chicken scratch and nearly unreadable. When wary and alert, I slow down and pen careful bullet points that are surprisingly succinct.

    Additionally it’s perceived as rude and at best geeky to take notes in a device when your in a meeting and expected to interact with others. Pen and pad are much more appropriate especially when dealing with executives.

    I’m not sure I’m going to renew my Evernote subscription, I feel as if I have a foot in two separate camps.

    Again, thanks for sharing this thoughts.

  • Four things keep me from returning to Evernote, after abandoning it several years ago:

    + The corporate arrogance continues. I remember when Evernote was first released, cut-and-paste was the only way to get existing data in, item by item. I complained on a board somewhere, and Phil Libin responded, literally, with “So what? Why’s that a problem?”

    + As when it first launched, you can export your data only as html or Evernote’s proprietary format. They trumpet portability, but if you can’t export your text notes as text files, wtf. It’s a data lock-in.

    + The text editor (Mac) has always been crap and bug-ridden. Cursor jumps around, paragraph breaks vanish. Mind you, these problems existed when Evernote was first released… And they still do.

    + Too big, don’t trust them. They lock in your data (exporting only as html and their proprietary format is not “portability”) and are careless with it, and somewhat slippery in how their terms of use have shifted over the years.

    I’ve been using NoteSuite on the Mac. Does nearly everything Evernote does that I need, uses iCloud for syncing (zero problems and I’m fine with iCloud), and there’s no corporate arrogance.

    • Interesting..I’m looking into it. I have a Premier Evernote account and am dumping it. The CEOs lame response is a day late and $45 short. It also shows he knows of these issues and is just doing damage control.

  • 1. Aren’t you backing up your data? Cloud services are WORSE than a hard disk: they’re SOMEBODY ELSE’S hard disk, in an unknown environment.

    I keep 7 weeks of independent whole-data backups of my thousands of Evernote entries. I run an export at weekly backup time. Cake, and I can move to something else if I need to.

    2. Evernote suckage started when they moved from system UI-supporting apps to some ghastly RIA crap that fights the system UI. How many other apps have trouble with the cursor, or with keeping up while you type? I stopped updating clients when I saw the first of those sorry clients, and Evernote works really smoothly for me, albeit without two-factor auth.

    • So when your house burns down and takes your backups with it?

  • Been Evernote Premium since I can remember. Use it daily. I love it because it is so ubiquitous. Any PC, any Phone/Tablet OS that I use.

    But there is no doubt that below the shiny exterior, it is a poorly run technical team. Always been buggy. Web interface only recently has made it to 2009 standards. Android and IOS apps are on different tracks that lead to user frustration based on what does what.

    Springpad is a much better UI on web and App, but has some flaws. It is not as universal and IMHO its killer flaw is that they have not created an Evernote importer (they point to a 3rd party one that kind of works)

  • I am an avid Evernote user but I wish they would stop adding superfluous features like presentation mode and fix the basics like editing of bullet and todo lists. I get weird formatting issues all the time trying to work with bullets.

    Also, shared note conflicts are absurdly common. There are better collaborative editing implementations than all or nothing.

    Come on Evernote! We want to love this thing, focus on the details please.

  • I don’t use Evernote, but I was just thinking about some other (zero-cost) software I’m using which has some annoying bugs, and wondering how reliable it is. (Then I burned a DVD of my current project, just in case.)

    If users want to send the message to developers that they like the product but would rather the developers focus on quality rather than simply adding new features, how can we do that? There’s software I use that cost me $0, but which I would gladly pay money for them to fix bugs in it. Instead, I’m sure that they’re adding features, and when we see the next release, it’ll have a lot of new features, some bug fixes, and a bunch of new bugs.

    For most software, we just don’t have a mechanism for this. The only axis upon which we as consumers can act is what we buy or use, but in some categories there are a very few serious options today, or it’s impractical to shift all our work between them with any frequency, or it wouldn’t help anyway because none of them is much better than the others.

    If Gmail were to suddenly start losing my email, hypothetically, it would be a huge pain to move to a competitor, and it would be virtually impossible to tell beforehand if they would be any better, and it would be a huge pain to move back in a month or two if Gmail got better. What are we to do?

    • Thanks for the thoughts Vincent. Definitely feel your pain. This is why having control of our data is so important, but even if we do, seems like the little things (e.g. metadata) often doesn’t work between services. Another issue is that a competitive product has to be A LOT better for people to go through the hassle of switching, so the incumbents have plenty of leeway to ignore little things.

  • This is why I’m using Springpad. The author of the article may give it a try ans share his thoughts on it.

  • Shinier interface with fewer features? Sounds exactly like what they did to Skitch when they bought it, pissing off a huge number of users. Like a lot of others, I didn’t upgrade for months until they added back in the features I use all the time.

  • Long time Evernote user. Actually since the very beginning before Phil and the current team. (Wish I could access that data, btw). This is troubling. My advice to the team, is temporarily hold the development iterations and fix this issue. All hands on deck.

    As a power user I have all the features I need for 2014 but wish:

    1. The iPad and iPhone apps wouldn’t crash
    2. That the search functionality on my PC didn’t hesitate EVERYTIME after two characters are typed in.
    3. The search functionality was more intuitive (instead having to remember shortcuts)

    And lastly, this terrible security issue and disappearing audio files that Jason writes about.

    Phil, this is serious and I’m sure you’ll get on it immediately!

  • Another thumb up for Springpad after losing my stuff 2x on Nevernote!

  • I’ve had so many problems, audio files included, that I’m not renewing. And their iOS7 update made it harder to use (and to read with the whole low-contrast thing).

    Too bad there’s no reasonable competition, which is why EN doesn’t have to fix anything. If someone came out with a product that would store on Google Drive, that’d be awesome.

    • See my posts below.

    • As long as you don’t mind Google selling your personal data to advertisers.

  • Premium user since 2008. This post rings true and so glad Phil paid attention. Its high time to stop adding ANY features. Maybe even take some away temporarily. The IOS7 app truly sucks. Frequent crashes and the worst interface redesign possible. The new post function often doesn’t work. The 5.0 desktop win app search is horrible interface and unreliable results.

    – ios 7 – stabilise and get it back to rock solid. Go back to simple non-green design and one that works when function is selected.
    – desktop – review search. Sometimes search comes back with no answer when I know the note is there. Trying later it works. Very frustrating.

    • Evernote has always had a bad UI. It’s cluttered an unintuitive. We’re stuck with it for now.

    • Agreed but it was acceptable before win v5/ ios7..

      As the other comments here note, part of the issue lies with how hard it is to create good UI on multi platform apps.

      But the UI is secondary to having faith that this elephant will remember my several thousand notes comprising research, tasks, work, pdf, text notes and some pics, will be there forever. This is the crux of how I read Jason’s post and while I don’t use audio, his comments resonate with me.

      I have faith in Libin and EN, and I hope this is a great level set for the EN team to re-focus on some fundamentals before expanding services. Personally if I was CTO I would place a freeze on 3rd party app connectivity until the base apps for win, mac and ios are rock solid for the 80 million of users and especially us premium users who before anything wish for reliability, stability and efficiency. The team need focus, focus, focus.

  • Hey Jason, Evernote employee here. Looks like Phil beat me to the punch, but still sorry to hear about your troubles.

    Out of curiosity, do you happen to use anything outside our Mac and iOS clients?

    • Hi Daniel, thanks for the comment. Yeah, I sometimes use the Android app (these days usually the Nexus 7; also on the Nexus 4 sometimes).

  • Thank you for calling out the elephant in the room. I wish your article didn’t resonate so much, but it’s spot on.

  • After months of months of waiting their Firefox Web Clipper is still broken. Nothing works. They come out with all those new tools, but nothing really works.

    Just a sign that a company is not focused anymore.

  • Excellent article, thanks for the heads up. I was actually within a click of subscribing to Evernote Premium service, but will hold off until they get their act together. Thought Evernote would be a highly reliable and cohesive system compared to my ragtag method of copy/pasting notes around ios Notes, Yahoo Notepad, and Gdocs. It’s as crappy as it gets, but (knock on wood) the memos/notes/ have remained intact for years and years.

  • This reinforces my decision to keep working on a Mac app that will have some overlapping functionality (link and web page storage), and sync with Evernote rather than commit everything I’m working on to something like Evernote. Evernote’s quickly becoming a hot mess, add to that, I’m sick of services that store your info just disappearing. Local storage of your own info with some sharing is still the safest, best route I think.

    • Try NoteSuite.

    • I bought Notesuite on Mac and iPad and moved most of my Evernote content to it. Not bad so far but not sure if it is a keeper. I wonder how long they will be around for one thing.

    • Another Mac/iPad note app is Outline. No iPhone app though.

  • Yes, yes,and amen to all of this. Sad to see that a post on a well-read blog gets so much attention from the CEO, while posts on their own user forum are really considered just noise. (I’m thinking specifically of all the Windows version 5 beta testers who said the product was buggy, ugly, and missing features, yet they pushed it anyway. Fortunately, as a forum reader, I knew not to “upgrade.”) I wonder if the EN corporate culture must be one where the messenger is shot, so the truth simply doesn’t reach a certain level of management.

  • I see your problem. You’re using a Mac. While it’s true that I’m not exactly much of a Mac fan, I also have a legitimate reason for saying it. Evernote isn’t Mac native. It probably has a smaller developer count, and probably doesn’t have as widespread testing as the PC Evernote does (just be sheer weight of users). If you are a Mac user who insists on using PC native programs, expect a few bugs. I know I expect a few when I use Mac native stuff on my PC (hello, Scrivener and FinalDraft).

    • That makes no sense at all. Evernote is of course Mac native.

  • I’ve tried Evernote multiple times, but its monstrous size and slow work always ruined the experience. After another failed attempt I’ve discovered OneNote, which is built into MS Office. I never really tried it, and I was really shocked that I’ve overlooked such a great program. It does sync to the cloud, works on multiple platforms including Android, and it is crazy fast.

    • +1 for OneNote. It’s basically on every platform and works great.

    • Again, no it isn’t. It’s not on OS X.

  • I understand why Evernote has it’s fans. After all, I’m a Mac fanboy, so I get it. I tried Evernote when it first came out and found it too kludgy to use. Also, their coding and metaphors seemed off to me. I hate bad code. Of course I filter most apps through the lens of a clean Apple aesthetic. As a real estate agent, I use Evernote, but grudgingly. As soon as NoteSuite comes out with an iPhone app, I’m gone.

    I have high hopes for NoteSuite. So far I like it and the learning curve is not as steep as Evernote. The downside to NoteSuite is that there is no iPhone app and it’s Mac only. The developer says there is an iPhone app on the way in the first half of 2014. Some people will not like their is no web version. So far though, I think it’s the best consumer level alternative to Evernote.

    • Thanks Roland, will keep watching NoteSuite keenly for iPhone/iPad versions.

  • Mediating complexity/extending toolsets /syncing data and UX in and across multiple platforms is a challenge for all software dev these days.
    Rapid iteration for mktg schedules without adequate QA doesn’t help.
    [Is adequate QA in current world even possible?]
    I can’t think of a single app on any of the platforms I use [Mac,Win,Android,Linux] that I can consider ‘bullet-proof’ reliable in any way like I could maybe 5-10 yrs ago.

    I use Evernote [Mac & Nexus 4/7] and it works ok.
    I don’t hammer it and also try to build in some redundant best practices if I’m working on mission critical stuff. To my mind, the dataloss/notetaking/formatting glitches & bugs mentioned are part of the continuum of flawed software tools we all routinely work with [the MSOffice suite and Exchange come to mind but Adobe has really been dropping the ball lately too]

    That said, Evernote team should do the right thing and take a long view; step back and focus on stability/usability and stop pushing more bells & whistles. Ultimately, I will stay with a stabile, useful toolset.

  • as someone who works on a very large web app for a living … oh man, if you could see what goes on in the kitchen you’d never eat again.

    if you care about your data at all, back yer stuff up, often. very very often. if the service doesn’t allow an export, or makes it too hard, don’t use ’em, (and certainly don’t give them money).

    • That’s why I don’t use Evernote (or any other note service) for critical file storage. Everything is on my Mac which is cloned daily. All my work files are on Dropbox and Google Drive which of course are backed up daily as part of my Mac clone.

      There are some real Evernote fanatics out there in the real estate industry that put everything in Evernote. Some have even made a cottage industry of selling you expensive how-to videos on how to use Evernote in real estate. They even suggest you are out of the loop if you don’t do things their way. These agents are really the ones out of the loop because they are stuck in biblical all or nothing proposition.

      There are apps that I absolutely love on my Mac and iDevices. But, I am always looking for new apps that do the same thing. I’m just a geek that way. There are also some really gifted coders out there that realize UI, performance and data portability are key to a great app.

  • Left the Evernote universum after their iOS7 client disaster.
    PANDOC is the software of choise to migrate your notes to something like Markdown

  • Two words: Google Keep.

    • And another walled garden …
      These are your important notes, why give them to someone else? Go open source and run your own infrastructure

    • Google Keep has its own problems…

    • Where Google will happily sell your contents to advertisers.

  • Same case here, I used Evernote for 1 whole year, than my most important file (the agenda of more than 6 months of meetings, with all the subjects and details) were gone.
    I was a free user, and after 15 days Evernote gave 1 week of the paid plan, so I could recover a file of 2 months of ago, so in the final I lost 8 weeks of work! Oh how I hated it.
    Never used it again, as as an alternative to Evernote I use Dropbox, create any file and save on it. Dropbox has been secure and reliable in the past 3 years.

  • Yeah, well, it’s just Evernote. I don’t use it for anything important.

  • Ditto. I use Evernote daily, and have for about 3 years. But only because it fills a critical need and there hasn’t been any serious competitors. The quality problem is not a recent thing, it’s been this way the whole time. The engineering organization there is just significantly sub-par (I say this as a long time software engineering manager). Period.

    I even once thought about writing a letter to their CEO in case he wasn’t aware of how bad it was, but I figured I’d just sound like a crank. Here’s a hint to him though if he ever reads this : If you want to build a 100-year company, having a solid foundation for your product is a good place to start.

  • I agree with most people here that Evernote needs to focus on stability/usability over pushing out more bells & whistles, but my main concern is that the tool can really only handle basic notes and lists at this moment. For anyone with more complex ideas and complicated issues to remember, there aren’t really any good alternatives. If anyone has heard of some other tools, please let me know.

  • This is very alarming. Thankfully I stopped using Evernote a while ago. I use plain text files saved in Dropbox. Obviously it doesn’t support anything other than text, but I have simple needs.

    • Plain text is the way to go. You may add a version controll system like git to your files (that even works with drop box)

    • What about use RTF (rich text format) files in Dropbox? They can at least include images. This is my current plan to move away from Evernote. I really don’t like the fact that Evernote stores in a proprietary format that can’t be exported easily.

  • Thanks for your detailed post and sharing your experience.

    It truly is interesting how the universe works! Yesterday, I engaged in trying Evernote/Skitch as an alternatives to a competitive product I’ve used for a decade to record notes, scribbles, audio, and video – now into the cloud.

    With my deep dive into Evernote, I was first taken back by the antiquated UX on the desktop version and limited capabilities of the tablet version. I gave up, but still respected Evernote to be a viable alternative, be it somewhat dated.

    I believe you put the final nail into the Evernote coffin.

    Lesson learned: sometimes it is better to be happy with what you have – the grass may look greener on the other side but the pesticides just aren’t worth it.

  • For me the clarion call was when the firefox clipper stopped working after the upgrade to FF26. There was no communication from evernote when it happened whatsoever.

    When I contacted supported I received hems and haws and suggestions to use chrome’s clipper… !!! Astonishing. Simply astonishing.

    If evernote can’t maintain a clipper for firefox, a top open sourced browser, then I’m not sure what the heck I’m paying them for.

  • I want to see good integration with Internet browser. So we can save and add notes about online contents and otherd

  • I use ColorNote for notes, and Box for files.

    The UI of Evernote is so cumbersome, that I couldn’t use it. Note taking is about “input speed”, not features.

  • sad but all feels true to me too. i believe i’ve lost hundreds of notes which i have no idea how to recover and over time i’ve gotten more frustrated vs. delighted by evernote which is a big bummer…

  • Dropbox with text editors that hold the files like notes is what I use and I’m on every platform except Mac.

    Resoph note for PC.
    Simple note for ios.
    Drafts for android,

    And they all sync up perfectly from Dropbox.

    • So this is all text only I presume? I don’t require audio recording for my notes (I can use a separate app if I need to do that.. I’m on Mac/iOS as it happens), but images/photos are a really useful part of my note taking.

  • I had and saw so many problems, bugs, glitches, strangeness, data lost, unsyncing periods that at some point I just stopped trying to get help from their inredibly sluggish support. Evernote should stop growing, no more users!, and start building better software. They didn’t realized that some peoples lives are stored in their databases and loosing one single note could be something as near as the end. Thanks for putting in a great article everything I thinking and experiencing with this App.

  • Augh, all so true, and so many of the comments fill in all the other pain points. Bizarre syncing, cumbersome input, and so many glitches I started thinking I was inventing them. Thanks for writing this.

  • Jason you bring up many excellent points. Many concern me… Some I have experienced, others I have not… either way, none of your experince is acceptable. Glad you heard from Phil… But, is it too late for you?

  • The iPad version of NoteSuite is superb, probably better than the desktop one.

    I’m liking NoteSuite a lot. Does everything I might want to do with Evernote (including web clipping, audio, and PDF annotation). There are still some UX issues, as with any new app, but they have a roadmap for fixing these.

  • I feel your pain, which is why I recently pretty much abandoned Evernote despite having 2 years Premium left on my account.

    I now use a combination of plain text notes and DevonTHINK for document storage.

  • Same as many before. I’m a paid user for years. To many problems last year. 1/1/14 I switched to notesuite: typed AND handwritte notes in one app. Great.

  • I used to use Catch (catch.com) which was excellent. Never had a problem. Unfortunately, they shut down the service in August (2013) as they were not making money.

  • Evernote Verifier. Is there something like it out there?
    Since getting ALL your data out of there is not possible, It would be great to have a crawler that would check your links, for empty audio,video, corrupt images, and the like.

    IFTTT : could it duplicate everything somewhere else(s). It would be preferable on my own hard drive. Or have everything duplicated on different cloud services. Could someone let me know if they a have a defined recipe list?

  • To quote another comment, shared note conflicts are absurdly common. There are better collaborative editing implementations than all or nothing. decided not to use Evernote for anything that needs to be updated, but only to store static stuff.

  • Just started to use Evernote, as I got 1 year of premium for free. So far, the windows app works fine. Now I really have to go deeper into the Android app and test it, before I move my data to Evernote.

    Anyway, I guess that the response of Phil Libin is a good sign. Keeping up with competitors – specialy on systems like ios and android – seems to cause a lot of trouble/bugs. Its like its more important to ship out a product right in time – instead of deliver a good and working product.

  • I have 13,000 notes in my Evernote database and i’m scared to death now after reading your blog post. :(((

  • I’ve experienced many issues with Evernote and I’m a paying Premium user. I’m always unpleasantly surprised when Evernote comes up with products such as Evernote Market or Evernote backpack, which are so tangential to their core technology.

  • I am Premium-User since back in 2010. Since then Evernote has let me down twice. I have around 8000 notes in my account but I cannot say this exactly, because on every device i own (a Mac, a PC and an iPhone) there are different numbers of notes (varying a few hundred notes). But a few days ago EN made me quitting my Premium subscription. I recorded two days of an important meeting as an audio note within Evernote on my iPhone5. On the first day i had no problems. Excellent audio quality and playing on every device i tried. On the second day the recording went well again. It was about 5 hours worth of audio. But when i saved the note in the iPhone-App it crashed and my audio file had gone to nirvana. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My premium subscription is still running until July so EN has a bit of time to gain back lost faith. We will see. Until then I changed back to textfiles and a audio recording app called “iProRecorder” that i used before Evernote. Although the app is not updated any longer, it has never let me down during any recording.

  • The problem is bigger than EverNote. The pendulum in the Web/App software industry has swung too far from ‘get it right’ towards ‘get it out the door’. There is a difference between releasing early and iterating to get your ‘design’ right, and releasing early and iterating to get your code debugged. Too many of today’s crop of developers think of QA as a burden, or someone else’s job.

    My opinion based on my experiences and observations. Even Apple and Google regularly release poor quality software.

  • Your update made it seem as if you had precipitated a change in EN’s game plan. They didn’t decide to refocus on account of your post… Phil Libin is simply letting us in on what was and is already in the pipeline. Clarifying things… Confirming what is to come. I think regardless, we would have been pleasantly surprised in due course without his disclosure.

  • I’m an premium Evernote user, mainly for syncing documents and text content, and the service has been my brain for a while now (it even drives my blog via postach.io). I’ve also been a user of Office 365, which I really loved, but going back to a Mac-centric workflow made the service less usable, so I went back to Evernote. I’ve had a much better experience that you’ve appeared to have, but the security issues you’ve exposed may drive me back to Office 365 (or at least just using Skydrive and a local document management app like Paperless or doo).

  • I should have posted a blog rather than a private email when I wrote a similar rant when the iOS 6 era client was unusable for typing.

    I use SoundEver on iPhone for recording sound partly because it is vastly safer when driving (big ugly buttons on the entire phone face).

    I think a lot of the trouble on iOS comes from a decision to use a nested web-based editor instead biting the bullet and writing a fully native iOS editor (it may be native now but I doubt it).

    The Surface RT version is, and always has been, a pretty disaster. It’s a nice example of trying to follow the Metro UI guidelines but proves they don’t scale and running on RT is horrendously fragile.

    Some defense:

    For people with issues such as:
    “For anyone with more complex ideas and complicated issues to remember, there aren’t really any good alternatives.” stop thinking of individual notes as needing to have a complex engine – I track very complex writing and software development ideas in Evernote by using multiple notes and note links. It can easily be used in “wiki style”. Some of the techniques I use, such as dragging a collection of notes into another to get a list of links, came from listening to Phil’s podcast.

    I have little sympathy for people who go on about how they have used the service for years, it’s vital to them, but have never paid for it.

    • How self righteous. Then don’t offer a freemium service and make everyone pay for it. Maybe Evernote would have turned out better, but I doubt it. Crappy code is crappy code.

  • Switched to One Note; happier!
    Yep! I had been losing stuff for some time but presumed it was me. Beside all the above, Evernote’s handling of Secure Notes is kludge at best. Finding an alternative has been on my medium to-do list for about 6 months. So today I spent like 2 hours setting up OneNote (2010) and copying about 8 notes over (manual cut and paste), and testing iPhone and browser access; secure notes; features, etc. Not bad, a touch slow to sync. But the ribbon and quick access toolbar which I hated when introduced, and with which I am now comfortable, is mostly the same as other MS Apps, it seems feature rich and processor light. I will keep it for a couple months and see how it works out. At moment I would rate it 8/10, Evernote would get a 4/10. Not perfect but much better especially if you are a power MS Officer. I had to tweak the config a lot. I bet 2013 is really good but haven’t yet a compelling reason to $$.

  • I have never had problems with corrupted or deleted files(thank god, but it might be because all my notes are text only), but Evernote crashes way too often on my Android tablet and I sit with my heart hammering in my throat every time, fearing I might have lost whatever I was working on.
    It’s bad for my health!

  • ‘Fail Libin’….. Clearly working hard on EN IPO or sale: pumping up user-numbers, bragging about the ‘user-experience’, but ignoring said ‘valued’ users completely – and consistently. Only a ‘VIP-blogger’ gets his attention…

    Have been using EN for years, having recommended it to several clients… No power-user, so have not really run into recurring errors. But one of the things repeatedly gave problems is/was the installer: it just stopped. And, it installed to a separate folder, not replacing the existing install, so I had to manually locate the database-file. It seems fixed now, but it took at least a year – if not longer… Seems basic but fundamental to me…. (however, EN is free – maybe that gives many of us here less leverage?)

    @ Jason Kincaid: try http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ (Windows only) to salvage that music file.

  • EDIT: Audacity for Mac: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

  • Thanks for the article. Many people have been complaining to Evernote about serious issues only to be ignored. One media article and suddenly they seem to care…I’m hardly encouraged, but I hope they “get it” finally. I looked at other note-taking software and unfortunately nothing had many of the must-haves on my list but owing to similar issues am on the fence as to whether I keep using Evernote.

  • Run your own service, on your own server. Accept no substitutes. Evernote has the keys to your kingdom.

  • I hope they change that awful new green color back to the old pleasant green color.

  • Hello,

    I have not noticed any of my notes vanish but I don’t use audio recording in EN.

    Given that Phil seems to care about what Jason thinks about EN, I’m going to post something I have already published in EN forums, as a response to Evernote customer support, and virtually in any place I’ve come to think it would go fit with the discussion.

    If Evernote continues to market they aim at being our external brains, when are they going to fully encrypt my ideas? And I’m not taking about their clumsy test encryption, I’m talking about full server side encryption. I have somewhat 1500 synced notes and about 400 local notes that I won’t be putting up on their servers unless they offer full server side encryption. And I can say it is a role hassle, and that is utterly annoying and inadequate for my purposes or rather for the average purposes of users.

    And please, don’t tell me it is not easy or even feasible. As long as I can be sure that my notes are safe from prying eyes, EN can’t be regarded as my external/reliable brain.

    Phil, stop adding features that are not being demanded and start adding full encryption and others. These shouldn’t even be considered features, they are MUSTs…

    For the record, I’m a premium users since 2008 and I always suggest your app when I’m asked how I keep track of my notes. But I always make sure they understand that their notes can be accessed if EN infrastructure gets compromised. While I think that the EN suite is extremely smart and catchy, I regret to not be able to trust it and be forced to fiddle around if I want to satisfy the average needs of every user who aims at managing a paperless setup.

    I really hope Phil gets to read this.

    • Yes, EN could do full encryption (to be fully secure, the encryption would have to be done on the client so the only thing that gets sent to the server is “random noise”). However, if they didn’t have the key to decrypt this “noise”, then they couldn’t index it, so the only indexing/searching would be limited to what could be done on the client – probably no OCR for example). I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it (it would be good to have it as an option), but we need to understand what we’re asking for

    • 100% understood. They could move the computing power to the thick clients like Mac or Win platforms and let mobile devices consume the contents

  • NoteSuite (mac only) is the word. It looks like Evernote is a NoteSuite wannabe. NS is robust, the extensions for safari and/ or chromium less demanding, way much better then EN. And it syncs through iCloud, so it does`t rises any privacy concerns.
    It does have an iPad app – which let you use a stylus, too. Notesuite is awesome.

  • I just signed up for a Medium Size Business account on Office 365 (so I can have access to MS Office and OneNote) and am moving everything out of Evernote to SkyDrive Pro and OneNote.

    I’ll probably end up also ditching OS X and letting Windows 8 use the entire hard drive on my Mac mini since the only remaining purpose I had to OS X was video editing, which I can do with other applications.

  • I think Phil cares that this blog post is getting wide viewing more than anything. if he really ares about the issues he would have already done something about them.

  • First of all, nice article. It’s important to explose the issues clearly. But, let’s be real: EN is still a great app. It’s just that they’re having some growing pains. All popular applications or services go through this. Yes, it may be a little buggy, but if they listen to their users, won’t they eventually resolve the problems?. I’ve been using Evernote since 2010 and it’s been good to me overall. I went from Android to iOS, from Windows to Mac OSX. All my notes survived. Evernote and Dropbox were instrumental for my paperless lifestyle. But I’m not going to jump ship just for a few bugs. What frustrates me is their inability to keep the UI the same accross the different platforms. I also find myself using the web version and mobile app versions interchangeably. Has it been buggy? Yes. But I still find great value in this cross-platform note taking application with its encrypted text option and two-factor authentication. I do agree with some here that more emphasis should be made on security. By the way, my brain is buggy too.

  • Thanks for posting this. My experience is a similar one, although with a series of completely different bugs and inconsistencies. If there was a worthy competitor app available I would jump ship in a heartbeat.

  • Alas… I totally agree with Jason.

    Please Evernote team, please Phil, get back to your core-business!

    Get rid of Hello, Food, Peek, Seek, Clearly, Penultimate, Skitch, (wow, how many are there!?) … and focus on Evernote. Just Evernote. The product we love.

    Fix and standardise the legendary painful text editor (you know, like adding the headers 1, 2, 3…), improve sync, and fix the bugs.

    That’s all what we need!

    • I disagree. Penultimate and ask itch are part of Evernote’s core business to me at least.

    • For you, yes, of course… but Food for someone else, Hello for another and so on…

      That’s why it’s not part of the core business when the main Evernote apps are so clumsy/buggy/unstable.

      Diversification only works on rock-solid core product.

      Also, I don’t understand why they do this because it’s against the logic of the API: let other companies build great (sub-) products on top of Evernote!

    • No no no. Skitch and Penultimate are way more a part of the core feature set than you’re recognizing. They’re both MASSIVELY, MASSIVELY popular. Also, Evernote acquired both, they didn’t build them from scratch, so your bit about the logic of the API is skewered.

  • Evernote and Bitrix24 are the best free productivity tools in the history of humanity. Bugs piss me off too, but I can live with them.

  • Thanks a lot for writing this Jason. I have experienced very unprofessional customer service, not big errors (knock on wood) but a lot of application crashing (iPad and iPhone) and I hope the CEO understands that this is a MAJOR issue, you have to have the customer TRUST when it comes to such an important app in your life (for me TSW and general information storage).
    Thanks again!!

    PS: I have to start back up my client files on my PC!

  • This is exactly why I ditched Evernote a year or so ago and went over to Simplenote – reliable to a fault, has not lost a single note. Evernote drove me crazy – I’d literally walk into meetings with my notes entered on my computer and they wouldn’t sync to my phone.. and look like I was unprepared. Simplenote saved the day and is lightening fast. If all you need is text notes – bingo.

  • This is all I needed to ditch Evernote for good! I have been a user since 2008 and have been let down several times. After being a premium user I downgraded after they eliminated the “clip to pdf” feature, which was essential to my work. They simply ignored thousands of users which contacted the forum and support asking for that feature to return. Complete arrogance and shortsighness. After that I endured the workflow getting slower and bloated untill now, when I simply cannot get the web clipper to clip anything at all. Again I went to the forum just to confirm that hundred of users have had experiencing the same problem while Evernote support doesn’t seem to care. Outrageous!

  • Thanks for sharing. I loved Evernote when I first got my iPhone and iPad (I was a late adopter) but have not used it as much, and no longer add new notes. I just found it too riddled with problems and bugs, had problems trying to access info when not on wifi, and when I tried to upgrade awhile back, I could not even make that happen. Unfortunate.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to put into words what many of us think, and thus creating the necessary force to hopefully bring change for the better for all of us.

  • I came across your article searching for “evernote 5 windows performance”. I’ve been using EN for several years at this point, and am a Premium user, and generally recommend it to everyone who needs help organizing. I don’t know how I functioned before EN.

    I’ve had some issues here and there as described with sync issues and such, but would just try to remember to close Evernote on computers I’m not actively using, or remember to not edit notes on my smartphone or risk wonky formatting on the desktop side later on, etc. some other issues here and there as well, but most recently, since the version 5 update on Windows, the client lag issue is absolutely killing me. I’ve been in touch with EN support on this and we’ve tried all sorts of things. nothing works. this issue is well documented on the EN forums. I’m fairly tolerant, but this issue has been ongoing for months without resolution, with frustration mounting. The response from Phil Libin sure sounds nice and promising, but without delivery of fixes, it’s all just disappointing customer service fluff talk – it’s a garbage response. this article was written in January. It’s May 2014. I’m still suffering through the client lag that’s apparently appeared in November 2013. how long does it take to get this stuff fixed? it’s become very frustrating dealing with this, going on several months now. I pay for this service.

    Mac client seems to work okay.

    (Wish WordPress offered a post acknowledgement system – my frustration mirrors that of many who’ve posted before me.)

  • July 2014 here. Came here because ios crashes, windows crashes of Evernote never get fixed. I lost drag and drop nearly 2 years ago on Windows. It never came back. I was about to get post-it notes, but now the post-it note camera crashes the app. Every single time. Stop making Evernote socks and start running QA.

  • Weird I have not had any problems with Evernote. I do hope for stronger text manage tools ( sorting, searching ) like Notepad++ has, but for it’s designed for – the storage and retrieval of text information – it does a great job.

  • Same problem. Started using Evernote, using Mac, iPad, and iPhone. All was fine until today. Mac app crashed twice. Now, sync doesn’t work. Thought I’d give Evernote a try again, now I’m done with it.

  • Its August 2014 and I still have problems syncing. Both when I setup a new computer and when its an existing one that upgrades to the next version. You can love the system and still say it has problems. I always love the comments that mine works and you never complained about the new features. Not helpful. Evernote has issues with syncing and some of us know it. I have contacted support both on a paid and free account. All times the experience with tech support was bad. They would rather blame me or the Internet speed. Never mind I might have tried syncing on multiple new computers and multiple Internet connections. Its frustrating.

  • To me the most inconvenient ‘ feature’ of Evernote is the Web Clipper. It is quirky when you use it from browser to browser and when you are not using it, it runs in the background hogging resources and slowing Internet access dramatically (I am situated poorly with respect to my incoming signal and I can’t move just because of that.). So I end up using Task Manager all the time to shut it down to get decent Internet speed.

    Add this to the lurking presence of a particular Evernote ‘expert’ in the online Help forums, who butts in rudely, basically telling everyone not to stop whining and go use something else, and you get a formula for mass product abandonment.

  • September 2014 and as anyone who has used evernote since this post knows, the software is still garbage. I use it on iOS, Mac, and windows. It’s junk, no matter how many times you reinstall it. I have show stopper bugs monthly. I don’t even contact support any more. All they say is reinstall. Reinstall evernote, it’s become the new reboot. I have had enough. Libin has proved himself a liar. Good luck with the socks and wallets.

  • 8 months later, and your blog post still rings true!

  • Guys, you just need to remember the actual development team is very small.
    I am building the 3rd version of my cloud based app and I also integrated Evernote, among others. The developer support response or general support or bug fixes is VERY big. Shit I ended up finding and solving 3 bugs in their PHP and Python sdks and api. So yeah…. to much hype and to little progress.

  • I agree 100% percent. I was just about to start a rant blog because Evernote forked one of my notes (again) into two divergent copies presumably due to spotty connectivity. And this is with no other device involved. It is high time that someone creates a note-taking app that doesn’t lose or garble your data.

  • 8 months later and Evernote is STILL FILLED with bugs too numerous to count. When the iOS version mysteriously and intrusively began adding extra space between lists with checkboxes I said “Enough” and ditched it for OneNote. With recent company projects using Evernote, I’ve reluctantly had to come back. Found this webpage searching for a solution to a bug — searches work differently on Windows and iOS, with intitle:WORD on the iOS returning intitle:WORD*. Geeez.

    Indent / outdent is STILL BROKEN on the iPad after a year. There’s STILL no font selection, size, or color or there either. There’s STILL no simple note title view in iOS.

    And forget about meaningful new features, such as intra-note links, which are completely necessary to use Evenote as a primary work environment.

    I had great hopes with the CEO’s January comments, and was even sent them by a tech support rep. But the new line spacing bug is evidence that Evernote has gotten worse, not better.

  • this is so strange, because I have had NO issues with Evernote in the years which I have been using it. I do in fact use it more now than ever before (the chaos in my brain was leaking into my work atmosphere) but I’ve never seen stuff like this.. I do however only use Evernote for text and a few photos from the web clippings which I try to remove in any case.

    EN for me is everything: my work’s tasks, personal tasks, projects of all sorts, work plans, blog posts in the making, a personal journal, literally, Evernote is my go-to for EVERYTHING. I’m just surprised to read this because I have never *knocks wood* had an issue with EN.

    I should also note that I have also never had an issue with hacks on EN. Generally, I don’t have an issue with hacks because nothing I work with is particularly earth-shatteringly sensitive. Banks get hacked all the time and it doesn’t worry me because it would be the bank’s fault, and any charges made during those time which I haven’t made would be paid back. Someone said this is a problem. I don’t think so. Privacy is subjective.

  • I share your overall experiences with Evernote. Evernote still feels like beta software, yet its been around for years. That’s not good. Glitches and bugs are frequent, and their support is ill-equipped to deal with bug reports. I tried reporting some bugs, and it was more frustrating dealing with their support people than it was worth.

    I got tired of losing notes and having notes corrupted. I could write an essay about all the glitches I found, but they have a wall between developers and users, so it is pointless.

    If I understand their CEO’s response to your blog, Evernote includes your note titles (which may contain private information) outside of the database, in logs. How can their CEO find that acceptable?

  • I have Evernote for Desktop. It has functioned well in about two years: one stability or synching problem after another. I haven’t renewed my Premium subscription.

    • Sorry. Should have been: “It HASN’T functioned well in about two years.”

  • I became a fan of Evernote 2yrs ago and a paid subscriber a year ago. I absolutely hate the Windows application and only have it so that I have a physical copy of my notes on my machines.

    Since your post, and Evernote’s reply, have you detected improvements to your issues? One of the things I hate is that the search functionality varies from platform to platform; from my Android phone to the web version to the Windows version, how it deals with boolean logic varies – there are times when I search one platform and get no hits for notes I know are there and can find on other platforms. And I find that utterly incredible.

    I had previously tried other note tools, and decided Evernote provided the most comprehensive note solution. If its best days are indeed behind it, what alternatives are recommendable these days?


  • Can’t agree more. I use Evernote’s basic feature, using copy/paste text, not even those webclip/other functions, and it fail to search text! I have multiple “Windows” in a note, and it can see some but not the other. “Evernote fail to search for text” google search brought me to this page.

    The only reason I haven’t switched to others (OneNote?) is Evernote has encryption feature. But that doesn’t even work on Mac!

    I am switching out soon.

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