Goodbye Evernote, Hello Simplenote

Simplenote launched a client for Linux at the end of March, 2016. As a longstanding Evernote premium user, frustrated initially by the fact there’s no Linux client, and then frustrated even more by the fact I could no longer get the Windows client to run under WINE, I thought I’d give it a look.

As the name implies, Simplenote is simpler than Evernote. No notebooks, no reminders, no support for pictures.

In fact the only thing Simplenote handles is text, and that’s its great strength. Sticking to tiny text files means that notes load and sync quickly. Also, the whole experience doesn’t seem as cluttered as Evernote has become with its "all things to all people" approach.

Sticking to text means that Simplenote does a few things extremely well. It has Markdown support built in, for example. I write most of my Evernote notes using markdown format, but Evernote has a habit of adding extra hidden formatting that only becomes obvious when those notes are opened in Draft or Stackedit (it also throws in odd whitespace characters when I copy notes across to Emacs)

Simplenote allows you to download a zip file of all your notes, and its at this point the advantage of sticking to text only really hits home: the files downloaded are text files. That sounds obvious, but it means that rather than picking your way through xml or whatever, you can open an individual note in your favourite text editor and start editing. It’s that simple.

Keeping things text also reduces memory usage, which in turn allows Simplenote to add a history feature – pull back a slider and see previous versions of your notes.

There are some things that aren’t quite there… For example, although you can tag notes in Simplenote, I’ve yet to find a way to filter multiple tags, something that is essential if you want to replicate Evernote’s notebook stacks, which I do.

In summary then, Simplenote does a lot of things better than Evernote, but it’s not a full Evernote replacement.

So which will I be using in future?

No question. Simplenote, for the sole reason that it has the Linux client. It’s not just a question of what to do when there’s no internet connection, it’s also a question of speed. Chrome is so big nowadays it takes an appreciable amount of time to load. Add to that the occasional hiccup when changing between notes on a web browser and the benefits of having a client become obvious.

I wrote this blog entry on Evernote. It may be the last one I do…

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