On April 8, 2008, I started using Evernote as a place to store all my various notes. It would come to be a critical part of my daily workflow… so much so that I became a paying customer back in 2011 or so.
Today, March 13, 2023, I uninstalled it from my devices.
It’s been a long time coming. Way back in 2012 I was super frustrated with how they destroyed the Skitch application with its 2.0 release. And yet I kept using Evernote because it had become my central repository. And… I hung on long enough that many of the Skitch features I complained about in that post were brought back.
In fact, I basically stayed with Evernote BECAUSE of how easy Skitch made taking - and adjusting - screenshots. Do a quick screenshot, tweak it, adjust it, annotate it… and have the result live on inside of Evernote, where it could then be tagged and further annotated.
Pretty much every single screenshot I’ve taken across my blogs in the past 10+ years has been done with Skitch.
I stayed with Evernote through all their various pivots… getting more annoyed each time they did something new. No, I didn’t want Chat to be everywhere… no, I didn’t want collaboration pieces - I’m the only user of my Evernote account! No, I didn’t want any of the other features they kept adding. All I wanted to do was add simple notes and also screen captures! I also watched in concern as there were layoffs at various times.
Then yet another redesign happened in early 2021 that changed how the application operated! When you opened up the app, the notes were no longer instantly there. It seemed like you had to wait for them to download from the server.
It was at that point that I actively started looking at ALL THE MANY alternatives that had emerged… and getting into a bit of “analysis paralysis”.
Finally, what pushed me to end was their latest price increase this year that jumped the pricing I was on by about 40%. Combined with my continually growing dissatisfaction, and a concern about the uncertainty of the direction of the new owners… I migrated all my notes and canceled my subscription.
The good news, as I understand it, is that even with the free version all my data will still be intact inside the Evernote app. So if I missed anything in the migration I should be able to get it.
Switching to Obsidian
I chose to migrate to using Obsidian. I could probably write several posts about WHY, but the simplest answer is:
- I’M NOT LOCKED IN TO A PROPRIETARY FORMAT!
- I’m not LOCKED IN to a proprietary user interface.
- I’m not LOCKED IN to a proprietary server infrastructure.
The beauty of Obsidian is that it uses plain, old, regular Markdown files! They are just md files in a directory. You can edit them with ANY appropriate editor! You don’t need to use the actual Obsidian app. You can open them with other editors. You can move them around and re-organize them simply in Finder on a Mac.
And you can put those Markdown files wherever you want. In my case I’ve put them in a folder on my personal iCloud Drive. This enables me to easily access them across all my IOS devices and Macs. And I can do so without using a centralized architecture from the vendor. I mean, yes, iCloud is centralized… but that is needed for the sync between devices. I could have used Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive or even set up my own NextCloud instance.
I mean.. yes, the Obsidian developers do offer an “Obsidian Sync” service … and I might choose to use that if I see issues with syncing via iCloud. But the point is I HAVE CHOICES, which I didn’t have with Evernote. I was locked into whatever they were doing - and however they were changing the user interface - or the pricing.
With Obsidian I have the freedom that if I don’t like what they’re doing, I can just stop using the app. The “vault” is just a folder of markdown files. Easy enough to use with other apps.
Migrating from Evernote to Obsidian
The actual process of migrating was not terribly difficult. Douglas Muth, another frustrated long-time Evernote user, wrote out excellent instructions about his migration to Obsidian.
1. Export each Evernote notebook as an Evernote XML (“ENEX”) file. (Select notebook, Ctrl- or right-click to bring up menu, choose Export…)
2. Install YARLE and run it for every ENEX file. This will create folders full of markdown files and at lease one with attachments.
3. Move the folders of markdown files into your Obsidian vault (wherever you have stored it). Now Obsidian will show those notes there!
Now… it DID take a bit to figure out the various YARLE settings and what I wanted to do. If you install YARLE for the command line, Douglas Muth provides a script to help use the common configuration options. I opted to try the graphical version of YARLE which required some different tweaking. I also had an issue where the graphical YARLE was not putting images into an attachments folder inside each folder… no matter how many times I changed the options.
But in the end, it all worked.
I have the Obsidian app on all my devices, and, courtesy of iCloud Drive, they are all working off the same set of markdown files.
So… goodbye, Evernote! You were super helpful at different times… when you weren’t trying to get me to use whatever latest pivot you were making.
P.S. I’ll note that someone else did the migration by using Notion as an intermediary. That may perhaps work for you, but I wanted to keep all my files on my local computer and not give them to yet another service.
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I left Evernote the first time the rewrote the editor and slowed everything down. I switched to just plain ‘ol Apple Notes, but I also use Drafts. Did you consider either of these?
Posted by: Rich Ruh | 03/14/2023 at 08:16 PM
Rich - I looked at Apple Notes, but part of my desire was to make sure I was no longer locked into any proprietary file formats. A large part of why I decided to move to Obsidian was that it ultimately is just markdown files in a directory.
I did look at Drafts and I think it's also a very cool option. Ultimately I just liked Obsidian better. 😀
Posted by: Dan York | 03/15/2023 at 10:32 AM