Skepticism about Evernote’s new announcement

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As you probably know, I have been a huge advocate for Evernote in my book, clinics, and numerous podcasts. If you know that, you might also know that I have been looking for a replacement for it for years now. 

Evernote’s future has been unclear to me for a number of years now. While they have managed to keep their apps up to date with the latest iOS features, no major new features have been added to the platform in recent memory. Yet the company has raised prices, removed features from the free tier, and had some other small missteps. 

Yesterday, Evernote unveiled this post on their site. Its a followup to this post from earlier in the year. I thought the post from earlier in the year was a load of meaningless corporate and marketing speak, but today’s really takes the cake. And don’t even get me started on the post within today’s post that goes on and on for paragraphs about redesigning the app’s Elephant mascot, amongst other things. Dropbox tried this exact kind of thing earlier in the year where they make a huge rebrand announcement that is all graphic design and marketing fluff without any meat about how it will impact the user experience. And it hasn’t changed anything about how Dropbox is actually used other than making the user interface more difficult to understand in some places.

 Like, really, Dropbox. In this limited space, could you seriously not think of any more information I might want to see while playing back an audio file other than this dude dancing next to a disco ball? This particular page is even worse on the small screen of an iPhone.

Like, really, Dropbox. In this limited space, could you seriously not think of any more information I might want to see while playing back an audio file other than this dude dancing next to a disco ball? This particular page is even worse on the small screen of an iPhone.

To me, yesterday’s blog posts are further proof that Evernote does not have a clear vision for how to make their products better for users. The community has been very clear about what they want from the company. A better redesigned Mac app, markdown support, and code blocks, to name a few. But rather than disclose a roadmap of user facing product improvements, Evernote seems only committed to blowing steam through the use of fancy graphic design, photography, and web design. If only they put all of that time and money into actual features that would make users lives better. 

So I think this is the final straw. I am going to let my Evernote subscription lapse this fall when it comes to a close. The real challenge about this situation for me, and other Evernote users, is that it is the most fully featured note app on the market. Of all the things one might want from a note app, Evernote covers more of them than any of the competition. But unfortunately for Evernote, stock software like Apple Notes is good enough to do most of the things people need. And for those who want more, there is an emerging bunch of independent developers making note apps who show way more hustle, adding major features to their apps, annually (Bear, for example).

Apple Notes does such a nice job with simple text scraps, web clippings, and check lists, that the only primary use of Evernote I need to replace once my subscription lapses is the “everything bucket” use case. “Everything bucket” is the phrase I use to describe the dumping of PDFs, images, emails, and websites into a digital “drawer” so to speak, where I can later search these documents by the text within them. 

This summer I have been giving DEVONthink a try. It is a Mac and iOS app that is a one time paid purchase on each device. It is a document management app that has all of the “everything bucket" features of Evernote and more. I hope to write more on it soon. For now, I am pretty happy that I have an easy way to clip receipts, websites for later review, and emails, and have them made automatically text searchable. The DEVONthink app on Mac is hideous, and setting up iCloud sync took me a minute, but the utility of the app is worth it so far. I prefer something like this rather than to continue to support companies who string their customers along while they spend time and money on making their elephant mascot look more 2018. 

I may be wrong. Evernote could come out with a killer set of new features in the next 12 months, convincing me and the rest of the world to return to it. I’ll believe it when I see it. 


Featuring Percussionist, Ben Giroux!

This time last year my private student, Ben Giroux, was off to start his first year at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD. Today, his fantastic playing can be seen on the “Lessons” section of my website.

When I redesigned my website four years ago, my original intent was to feature all of the audition tapes I have recorded and produced for my college bound private students. For those entire four years only one of these videos has been posted while numerous others sit in untouched Final Cut Pro projects.

Well, no more! I am slowly working through these projects, and today you can check out Ben’s college audition tape on my Lessons page. Or just play the video below.

Recent Podcast Episodes - "Noteflight Marketplace" and "Going Paperless"

In case you do not subscribe to either of my podcasts, each had a new episode published this past week. They are good ones...


Going Paperless (Semester 1, Episode 8) | The Class Nerd - 

This week, The Class Nerd breaks down their paperless process. In this one, we cover scanning apps, file organization, PDF annotation apps, and handwritten note apps.


Noteflight Marketplace, with Friend John Mlynczak (Season 3, Episode 6) | Robby Burns + Friends -

This week Robby catches up with John Mlynczak, Managing Director of Noteflight, about their new Marketplace platform and the state of digital music publishing.

App of the Week: AirTable

I am becoming increasingly delighted by this web based spreadsheet app, AirTable. At first sight, AirTable was a little overwhelming to me and I could not quite see its use case in my life. Then I started playing with some of the prebuilt templates and things become clear.

AirTable allows users to create Worspaces which are little repositories of databases, which AirTable refers to as bases. A base is kind of like an Excel spreadsheet, only with very colorful, engaging, and customizable fields. Inside a base, you can have multiple databases (which kind of appear at first like sheets within an Excel doc). You can interact with the fields in your databases in a variety of methods beyond just simply typing text into them. You can create a place for an image, a place to add tags, check boxes, and more. One of the things I have been using AirTable to track is coffee that I like. Notice in the image below how colorful and interactive these documents are. 

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When I first started playing with this, I was floored when I noticed that one of the customizable fields can be set to mirror a record from another database. For example, in my coffee base I can have one database of roasters and another database of coffee. I can create a field in the coffee database called "roasters" that associates the coffee records with the roaster records that they correspond to. Upon this discovery, I realized- this is a relational database 1 for normal people! Cool stuff. 

 Cross referencing coffee databases.

Cross referencing coffee databases.

AirTable has unlimited possible use cases. Most of my bases right now are great for tracking information when I need just a little bit more data and organizational power than a note app can handle. Another example of how I am using it is to plan my familie’s travel. Check out my family travel base below. I have one database of cities to visit, another of places to see, and a field to associate the two together. The date, cost, photo, and tagging fields make this a far more interactive and media rich process than writing it down in a note. Not to mention I can keep way more data visible at a time, without being overwhelmed by the clinical style of an Excel style spreadsheet. Did I mention that AirTable is collaborative!? Notice that I share this travel planning base with my wife, who can also add records, edit fields, and more.

 Sharing the load of family trip planning is easy with AirTable’s collaborative features.

Sharing the load of family trip planning is easy with AirTable’s collaborative features.

My podcast host Craig McClellan has a fantastic overview of AirTable which features a far better description of how it functions conceptually than I am doing justice here. Craig is using this app to track certain elements of his students progress in the classroom, which you will get to hear all about on a coming episode of The Class Nerd podcast. It is really innovative and worth reading about if you want to get a better handle on the app or learn how to automate it.

Check out AirTable here for iOS and here for Android.



    1    For those of you unfamiliar, a relational database (like FileMaker) is software that allows you to create multiple Excel like spreadsheets that you can link data between. Once you have created meaningful relationships between these different records, you can use tools to build user interface tools overtop this data so that you can interact with it more like an app (with buttons and text fields) rather than like a spreadsheet. Filemaker used to make a simple version of this software for the Mac called Bento which for me struck the perfect balance of this idea. Obviously, not that many felt this way. It was discontinued in 2013.