What Apple Notes Needs to Compete

I’ve been using Evernote for a few years, both as a repository of snippets and documents, and a tool for collaboration. It’s great for the latter, because you can share a notebook, which means that every note you add to that notebook is also shared automatically. And unlike, say, Google Docs, with Evernote, you can have all your content stored offline. (And you don’t need to use a web browser to access it.)

But reading this article on The Verge, it looks like Evernote may not last long. Perhaps the departure of “many executives” will lead to it being bought up by another company, and preventing its death, but it doesn’t look good, since they’re slashing their prices to get and retain users.

Apple notes

Apple Notes is a great tool – if you’re locked into the Apple platforms – but I can’t use it for what I want for several reasons. Apple could supercharge this app to make it more useful for “pro” users fairly easily, without turning it into the bloatware that is Microsoft OneNote. Here’s what they need to do:

  • They could add shared folders (the equivalent of notebooks in Evernote), allowing it to be more easily used for collaboration. Currently, you can share notes, and have to share each one individually with an email or iMessage.
  • They could provide some more advanced styling tools. Evernote essentially lets you style documents as you would in a word processor. Most people don’t need that many style options, but Notes is extremely simplistic, offering a half-dozen fixed styles and no easy way to apply alternate formatting. (You can select text and open the Font panel to change formatting, but that takes a lot longer than using Evernotes’ formatting bar.)
  • Evernote’s web clipper – a browser extension that lets you save a web page to Evernote with a couple of clicks – is one of the most powerful parts of the app. Notes only saves links. I find it more useful to have the full content of a page to be able to find things by searching for keywords.

I would like to be able to replace Evernote with Apple Notes; not because I don’t like Evernote, but because it doesn’t seem like a long-term solution, and because Notes is there on everything I use. But unfortunately, these three missing features make Notes too weak for me. And the lack of folder-level collaboration is a deal breaker. Let’s hope Apple sees the opening in the market and powers up Notes a bit more.

0 thoughts on “What Apple Notes Needs to Compete

  1. Not untypical of Apple to under develop what they actually offer. But one thing they really need to fix if it’s even going to work at all for sharing is re-allowing shared Notes when it’s not the main iCloud account.

    I used to be able to share notes via a shared iCloud account with my wife. Each of us have our own separate main iCloud account so this is a secondary account. Then a while ago there was the offer to upgrade to the ‘New Notes’ which I took as it seemed like a good idea, but suddenly we can no longer share the Notes in that account as Apple have removed that capability in the ‘upgraded’ app.

    It’s this sort of high-handed (and almost secretive) withdrawal of sometimes much needed functionality that aggravates me so much about Apple these days that I wish there was an alternative. A provider that actually cared about its customers, er, like the old Apple.

  2. Hello Kirk,

    I’m on the fence as well. Have been an Evernote user for a long time and it would be a shame if it went away. Where to go and how to port my notebooks will be a key decision maker as well. Finally, the part of Evernote I like is the Menu Bar tool to allow you to capture anything at anytime (screen shots, quick text blurbs, etc). That would be a fourth feature that I hope Apple would be able to add to Notes.

    Please keep us posted on what you decide.

    Thanks!

  3. I have used Evernote for six years. For the reasons you describe, Kirk, it is my main notebook: I an quickly capture and format notes. There are many features I don’t use or need.

    Although it is possible to share notebooks I don’t do it. Situations where I am working in a team require much more sharing and workflow functionality. No-one has the team space sewn up yet, although Slack have recently been growing at 90% p.a. There is Microsoft Teams, hoary old Sharepoint, and a range of other sharing products.

    I always think with Evernote that the decision to go after team sharing capabilities was only implemented half-heartedly. On reflection I suppose I wish they would stick with being the best notebook provider in the world. Full stop.

  4. Further to my note above, I went and read the Verge article and a linked one giving their top note taking apps.

    Here is their list:
    MS OneNote
    Apple Notes
    Ulysses
    Bear
    IA Writer
    SimpleNote
    Scrivener
    Notion
    Google Keep

    Evernote is also in their top ten list but it only scores 6 so it’s well down.

    I know that Kirk has talked about Scrivener and IA Writer in the past. But from memory this has been for larger scale writing projects than notes of, say, 1-3 pages per topic. As a pro writer I wonder if Kirk has a preferred recommendation?

    • Many of those “note-taking” apps are just for jotting things down. iA Writer is my text editor of choice; I use it every day. But it’s not a tool for organizing a lot of stuff. It does work with a sort of library, but that’s just to store text files. It isn’t really designed for lots of information, and it has no sharing at all. Same with Scrivener, which I use for large writing projects; its library is great, but you can’t share. And neither of them have the web clipper or anything in share sheets, plus their syncing is limited (they both use Dropbox or iCloud to store files, nothing more).

      Notion is too new, and I wouldn’t be sure how long it will last, and, again, no web clipper/share sheet access. And OneNote is evil.

  5. My biggest need, should an export to a new program become necessary, is that my tags travel over to the new platform—well, that and the simple full page capture (without webpage clutter). I’ve made Evernote my personal archive for all sorts of topics of interest as well as research. It would be a shame to lose all that, or to just have the raw files without my tag system.

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