On Evernote’s lack of manipulation tools

If you started using Evernote, it probably didn’t take long for you to feel like Evernote’s starting to cramp your style. You can only be so creative if your tools are basically what you can make with a rich text editor.  To make matters worse, Evernote has remarkably little interest in adding new, more flexible tools to what you can do with the note editor.

But it’s hard to fault Evernote for that. If you wanted to add a single new feature to the note editor as Evernote, you’d have to figure out how to represent it in Evernote’s HTML-like format. You’d have to develop tools in the native Evernote apps (which there are quite a few of), and every time you launch this new tool on one of the platforms, some asshole (usually I’m this asshole) is tweeting you saying how worthless you are that you haven’t brought feature parity to all your platforms.

So with that challenge in mind, don’t expect much from Evernote on this front. But if you find yourself wanting Evernote to have diagramming, advanced drawing, or outlining tools, you might need to approach what Evernote is to you with a new perspective.

Evernote is rigid in what you can edit in its native editor, but beyond that, it’s incredibly flexible. You can attach files of any type to your Evernote notes (even free users can do this now). If you want them to be searchable from Evernote, send a PDF of the file to Evernote and you’re golden.  This gives you the best feature of Evernote: the universal accessibility of a variety of document types.

Don’t sit here waiting for Evernote to get a set of tools as good as OmniGraffle’s, or OmniOutliner’s.  Evernote can’t and shouldn’t try to emulate these apps.  Save your files as PDFs an apps, then send those PDFs to Evernote.  In iOS, Evernote is registered as an app that can open PDFs so you’re golden. And bug your app developers to add support for sending to Evernote (it isn’t that hard).  Ideally I’d like to see some notetaking apps (like Taposé) gain true Evernote integration in which I natively was touching Evernote notes when I was taking notes in the app, but that’s quite an undertaking (though it didn’t stop HTC from making such an app for one of their tablets).

To quote Merlin Mann, don’t fault your hammer for not being a ham sandwich.

2 responses to “On Evernote’s lack of manipulation tools”

  1. Don Sakers says:

    It occurs to me the this is somewhat equivalent to an office worker in the 1950s complaining that his file cabinet won’t let him paint a picture.

  2. aaron says:

    Not really. Filing cabinets don’t provide the ability for you to create the documents you fill them with. They’re just filing cabinets. Evernote is marketed as an app that gives you a rich set of tools to make your notes too. But yes, I am expecting Evernote to offer more flexibility and expressiveness than it can feasibly offer (which is addressed in the post).

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