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Evernote Is Dead, Long Live Notion

A detailed comparison Evernote vs. Notion

Last updated on Feb, 23, 2021

So I’ve been a longtime paying subscriber to Evernote, 7+ years I’d say. I’ve probably converted 100 people to using that software over the years. When I sink my teeth into a software solution, I’m all in and I become an evangelist. But for most of the time I’ve been using Evernote, I’ve referred to it as the Best of the Worst as far as note taking apps go.

I had tried dozens of solutions (OneNote, Keep, SimpleNote, Bear, etc.) but kept always coming back to Evernote. And even tho Evernote is the priciest of the lot at $7.99/month I stuck it out. I now have thousands of notes there so the switching cost has become very high for me. Every time I would see a new tool I tried it a bit, liked this and that better than Evernote, but just gave up because I couldn’t justify the effort to switch.

Enter Notion, the self proclaimed All-in-one workspace. I first discovered Notion a year ago on recommendation from a colleague. I signed up and started to play. My first thought was OMG, it’s bloated. The tool is deep.

It goes way beyond note taking as it attempts to replace a range of tools one might use. They have features comparable to Airtable. They have a lot of what you get with Asana and Trello. They even cover much of the uses cases for Jira. But without a doubt they handle everything Evernote does and way more. Even with that realization, it still seemed daunting to migrate from Evernote so I kinda just back burnered the idea.

About a month ago I started working on a project with some friends. The same colleague who introduced me to Notion in the first place put a stake in the ground and said we weren’t going to use Evernote to keep track of documents for this project. He pressed me to see this as an opportunity to start using Notion and maybe make the switch altogether. Of course I was resistant. But I agreed and began running the tools side by side, Notion for the startup and Evernote for everything else.

Caveat
Update 2/23/21 — I’m 100% a power user now over a year of daily use.

Original 1/14/20 — I’ve only been using Notion for a week, thus I won’t be covering everything and I don’t fully appreciate the architecture yet so I may get a few things wrong. I promise to update this article as I get a stronger handle. But I am an adopter type so you can count on this being fairly thorough for only using the software for a week.

Update — The One Missing Feature

I dropped this in the middle because it’s become increasingly important as I’ve continued to use Notion — and also because I’m building a way to solve it.

In 2011 Evernote bought Skitch and integrated image annotation directly into the application (see below).

Annotate Files in Evernote with Skitch

I didn’t realize how critical this turned out to be as part of my daily workflow. I had already been a screenshot and annotation power user, but the addition of annotations directly in Evernote was huge. Today I looked back at my old notes and realized at least 50% of them had some sort of annotated image or PDF.

This simply cannot be done in Notion and it’s a major oversight. In fact, this can’t be done in almost every SaaS application out there. From project management software like Monday.com and Asana to customer support tools like Zendesk and Intercom. If you want to annotate a file and attach it to a document, ticket, card or anything else, you have to do it outside the platform.

That makes no sense. And while Evernote failed in just about every other way to support their users’ growing needs, they nailed this one feature by integrating Skitch.

Enter my current side hustle, Markup Hero. I originally started developing this tool to solve my own problems with the dozens of screenshot and annotation tools I’ve used. All of them were missing this feature or that. So we built it. You can check that out here.

But then I realized maybe we could make the tool work as an API so other SaaS applications like Notion could just integrate file annotation directly within their application. Today we’re testing this feature with a handful of software applications and will release it publicly in a few months.

Markup Hero File and Image Annotation API

Learn more about our image and file annotation API and contact me on Intercom if you want to try it out.

Continue on to read the original Notion vs. Evernote comparison.

The Notion Philosophy

Notion is very different from Evernote philosophically and architecturally. The big difference is that Notion isn’t simply a list of folders with notes in it like Evernote and the rest of them. Incidentally, Evernote isn’t actually that either, they use Notebooks which are like folders, but don’t inherently operate the same which has been a pain point for me. Notion is largely organized in two different ways:

The “View”

Also called database, Notion offers 5 views: Table, Board, Calendar, List and Gallery. These views work against the same data set (i.e. database) and you can use any combination of views and each view can have it's own filters, sorting, etc. This is way more powerful than Evernote's tables and works a lot more like Airtable. With views, you can still have a range of documents, they will just be displayed and accessed from the various views. Views are pretty powerful because they allow for better organization of documents with settings unique to that view.

Markup Created with Markup Hero

The “Page”

Also called a note or document, Notion has this universal content container that can be created independently of views or as part of a view (as described above). A page can also become effective folders that contain other notes. This can be a little confusing but it's pretty powerful actually because a pages as folders have all the formatting power as a normal note, but can show other notes within the navigation tree.

Success
This initially made it hard for me to grasp the Notion philosophy, but once it clicked, I was able to start organizing documents in an intuitive and understandable way (which I love to do).

Get Markup Hero for Screenshots and Annotations

The Comparison — Where Notion Wins

In addition to the core architecture being way more powerful, there are a lot of aspects about Notion really beats Evernote, here is a list which I will update as I find them.

Numbered Lists

One of the most frustrating things about Evernote, and frankly every other note taking tool I’ve tried, is that when I have a numbered list and I attempt to put an image or some other object below a numbered item, the next numbered item in the list starts over at 1. I’ve tried every workaround I could imagine and nothing works. It always starts at 1. The solution I came to was using bullet points rather than numbers for most of my lists. This sucks of course if I’m actually trying to create an ordered list. Notion initially had this same issue, but there is an easy workaround. I suspect it’s just an accidental benefit of the software design vs. an intentional capability, but either way, it works. Watch the video below:

Tagging

Tagging is pretty standard in these solutions, but tags in Evernote are global. That means that I see all the same tags in every note and in every notebook. This is overwhelming and I pretty much decided NOT to use tags much. In fact, my workaround for this is pretty dumb. I basically put a tag in front of every note I created (see below).

Markup Created with Markup Hero

In Notion, tags are unique to views and pages so i don't need to enter the tag in front of the note title like I've been doing. This applies to other properties (described below) and tags can easily be removed, colored, renamed, etc.

Properties

Notion has this concept of properties which can be attached to documents and get shared between documents that are part of a view. Properties are analogous to database fields, very similar to how Airtable does it. Again, properties are unique to pages and views so you can fully customize your various types of notes that you're creating and organizing.

Markup Created with Markup Hero

Naming Conventions

Notion has no restriction on page names so you can easily organize and create even when two pages or views have the same name. This is a huge annoyance of Evernote and has required me to do some ugly formatting to handle the issue.

Markup Created with Markup Hero

Tables

I’ve mentioned how Notion views give you a lot more power with custom properties and property types. This is particularly evident in the table view which essentially works like Airtable, albeit slightly less powerful.

on Notion

Markup Created with Markup Hero

on Evernote

Markup Created with Markup Hero

Caveat
While Notion does offer way more powerful tables, there is a use case for non-powerful tables; that is specifically for formatting. Tables are useful in Evernote as ways to make columns, just like HTML. So if you want 4 images across on a page, you can’t really do this easily with Notion tables. Would be nice if they offered tables specifically for column formatting purposes only.

Page Formatting

Notion crushes Evernote here; they have what they call blocks which can be added for a variety of formatting options and also can be used to convert one block to another format style.

Markup Created with Markup Hero

The Comparison — Where Notion Falls Short

  • Images and text can’t be aligned, they are all automatically centered

Update
I just realized accidentally that Notion does have columns, it’s not clear, but if you drag objects to the right spots you can force a column to be created (see below).

Markup Created with Markup Hero
  • No underline in text formatting
  • No simple tables or other method to create formatting columns in pages
  • No font size options other than Text, H1, H2, H3

Caveat
I might be ok with this restriction as it keeps things cleaner and I’ve found Evernote to have issues with font sizes getting out of sync with documents, which is annoying

  • Can’t open notes in entirely new windows so you can’t look at two notes at the same time or navigate the tree while editing a note

Update
Just figured out how to do this, hold CMD + Click on a page and it opens a new window.

  • Doesn’t appear to keep my tree structure open to where I had it when switching workspaces or opening/closing the program

Conclusion

So there it is. While I’d consider myself an expert on everything Evernote, I’m still a novice on Notion. But just in the past few days I’ve really started to fall for their whole philosophy, architecture and design. I’ll keep updating this blog post as I learn more. Hopefully the Notion folks can keep tabs on my Falls Short section and knock out some of them too.

Clap and follow if you’re so inclined.

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Jeff Solomon

Jeff Solomon

Entrepreneur & 6x founder @velocify @amplifyla @markuphero @audiojoyapps @geekingapp | Teacher. Advisor. Content Creator. Product. Marketing. Startups. Dad.