Evernote or SimpleNote?

I got an iPad a few weeks ago, and I was a bit disappointed to find out that the notes application there doesn’t automatically synchronize over an IMAP mail box. Notes in Mail can be synchronized that way.

Some sort of “Cloud” is a must for me when it comes to most files, and especially to notes. I have a stationary computer at work and at home, a laptop when I’m traveling, and now an iPad that I plan to use when at meetings and such. If I have to manually synchronize these machines, it is a show stopper.

So, since it seems I cannot add iPad to the machines where I can just use Mail, I looked around after alternatives.

First, I tried SimpleNote.  There’s a website interface, apps for both iPad and iPhone, and several options for desktop applications (JustNotes, shown below, is the one I liked the most).

It’s a pretty simple service. Just text notes with some labels and such for categorizing notes. As far as I can see there aren’t any ways of formatting notes or adding files and such to them, but on the other hand, simple is sometimes just the right thing. Fewer things can go wrong, and there is really no learning curve.

I’m also trying out Evernote, though. Again, there are apps for iPad and iPhone and a desktop application for the Macs. I’m not sure about a web interface, but I don’t really need that if I have useful apps on every platform I’m on.

Evernote is in the complete opposite end of the feature scale. It looks like you can put just about anything in there as a note. There is rich formatting of notes and different ways of organizing them.

I doubt that I will ever use all the features of Evernote, but if I use enough of them to compensate for the more complex interface — and it doesn’t get much simpler than SimpleNote’s — then I am probably still going for that.

Haven’t quite decided yet, though.

Are there other note taking tools I should consider?

Author: Thomas Mailund

My name is Thomas Mailund and I am a research associate professor at the Bioinformatics Research Center, Uni Aarhus. Before this I did a postdoc at the Dept of Statistics, Uni Oxford, and got my PhD from the Dept of Computer Science, Uni Aarhus.

7 thoughts on “Evernote or SimpleNote?”

  1. I’m a huge fan of Evernote. I use it for almost everything (when I get a dead-wood letter, I scan it and put it in Evernote, I put all papers I read in evernote, and I use evernote for todo-management). A really important feature for me is the OCR, which works really well, and allows me to search all my notes (15000+) regardless of the source. I use Egretlist, which synchronizes with Evernote and picks out todo items, allowing me to just add todo boxes to any freeform document and get them listed traditionally. Evernote also allows you to share notes with others (you can allow them to update notes or just to read them). For me, Evernote is really the Dropbox of notes. Only downside of Evernote is that the iOS version does not really scale to handle 15000 notes. For 1000-2000 notes or so, it works like charm, though.

    I can also recommend Penultimate, which I use for free-form notes – it has replaced paper for me completely for drawing and making quick notes.

    I use iAnnotate for reading papers and adding notes – it’s very useful on places etc., where I don’t want to bring a huge stack of papers.

    I have heard nice things about Circus Ponies Notebook, which is a nice Mac application now also available on iPad. I’ve used the Mac version, but not the iOS one.

  2. I’m also quite happy with iAnnotate. I just wish it would integrate better with Mendeley, which is the tool I use for all my papers. I can export papers from Mendeley to iAnnotate, but getting the papers back is problematic. To get it to work I have to go through syncs on Aji or Dropbox, which is manageable if a little annoying, and the annotations are either not shown properly or Mendeley simply refuses to low the file. (Not to mention that the annotations in Mendeley are not the usual PDF annotations, so even if iAnnotate worked perfect with Mendeley for sharing files, it still wouldn’t be optimal).

    So I use iAnnotate to read PDFs and to comment on them, but for papers I still haven’t find a good solution. I’m thinking about Papers, but I really like the cloud-ness of Mendeley and that I can share paper collections, so…

    For todo-lists I use Toodledo. Nice apps for iPhone and iPad. Not so much for the desktop, but there I use the web interface through a Fluid app. I’ll have a look at Egretlist.

  3. The problem with simplenote as far as I can tell is that it is text only, meaning that it is a no-go for any sort of scientific notekeeping where plots and other files are needed. I’m not in love with Evernote, but at least these files can be attached,

  4. I’m actually agreeing with both Stephen and Jonathan here :)

    I usually really prefer the simple applications. If an application does one thing, but does that well, then that is the one I want to go with. If I use a lot of different simple applications, it is easy to replace the parts I don’t like with something I like better. With one big app, that is not an option.

    That being said, I do find it very useful to be able to include pictures (photos of whiteboards for example) and graphs with my notes. I’ve often solved that problem by just emailing myself notes with relevant files attached, but Evernote seems to be a better choice there…

    But for now, I’ll try out both and see where it goes. I’ve only been working with them a few days now, so it is too early to tell.

  5. Hi Thomas! Thanks for the feedback about annotations. We’re continuing to work on a means of annotations that works with external programs but also allows for collaborative annotations, which aren’t supported in many of the PDF annotation programs currently available. Keep checking back, we release updates frequently, or just subscribe to the Mendeley blog.

  6. Hi William, I do keep track of Mendeley and I really love the collaborative parts of it. For now, though, I think I’ll try out Papers on the iPad, but I look forward to getting annotations on Mendeley there.

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