Evernote – The first freemium service I paid for (and still do)

If you’re anything like me, you process a ton of information throughout the day. I used to find that a lot of that stuff went in one ear and out the other. I was (and am still) pretty good at remembering the important stuff, and frankly some of the not-so-important stuff too, but there’s just way too much out there to remember all of the details after a quick glance. This is when I turn to Evernote.

Evernote is software that helps me capture notes (text, recorded audio, photos/scans, documents, web pages, etc.) and provides a service that lets me access them from any device using a great text search. It’s easy to capture notes and just as easy to find them later.

Every note sits in a “notebook” which is kind of like a simple folder that the notes sit in. Evernote lets you have as many notebooks as you want.

I started using Evernote as a free app back in the late 2000’s, then in 2010 I made the decision to start paying for their premium version to get a few more features. It’s the first time I was wooed by a freemium service and I have been extremely happy with my investment!

Evernote is the first app I install on my mobile devices

That's my actual home screen. Accept no substitutions.

That’s my actual home screen. Accept no substitutions.

Yup–the very first one. Before anything else. Not only that, but on my Android phone I set up their little widget so I can launch the app, capture a note, capture an image, or record some audio each with only a single click.

It’s a tool that frees me from having to carry a bunch of extra stuff around. I don’t have to save some little scrap of paper that I (or that a friend) scribbled an idea on. I don’t have to tear that ad or article out of a magazine. I don’t have to send an email to myself with that web page or quote I want to reference later. Instead I can send it to Evernote (when I’m on my phone or tablet) or use the desktop app or “web clipper” (when I’m in a browser on my laptop).

Evernote did a good complete reworking of their mobile apps a year or two ago which got rid of a lot of the issues that plague older apps.

The app itself is snappy even on older devices. I have an old phone from a few generations ago that I keep around as a media player and note-taking device which still does just fine running Evernote.

One thing that does cause me occasional issues is that, because I have so many notes in there, space can become an issue. While the app is smart enough to only download the contents of my notes when I need them, the amount of storage space used on the device grows as more and more notes are opened. I’ve dealt with this by clearing the downloaded files, but it’s something I’d like to see be a little more user friendly.

I’m a huge user of Microsoft OneNote, and yes I still use Evernote

It feels important to call this out. I’ve been a OneNote user since Office 2003 (embarrassingly long since it wasn’t that great in 2003). I use OneNote nearly every day and yes I use Evernote just as often. They both work well for different purposes, largely because of the way they are architected.

There are plenty of blog posts out there comparing the two services so I won’t bother with that here. Instead, I want to comment on a couple of the reasons that Evernote continues to be worth the investment even when compared to OneNote which wouldn’t have an incremental cost.

  1. Evernote notes are fantastic containers for all sorts of information. Evernote acts as a simple database for me, but it allows for unstructured data to live inside of these notes, as well as a limited amount of structured metadata like the title, dates, URL (source of a clipping) notebook, and tags.
  2. Evernote provides a more consistent experience across the various platforms (desktop, web, mobile). There’s a trade-off that both Microsoft and Evernote make when it comes to how rich the text/photos and complexity of the way they’re laid out in a note. Microsoft provides a richer experience on the desktop, but those don’t translate as well to a mobile device or to a pure web version. Evernote’s approach, while more limited in the layout features, provides a consistency that I really appreciate.

I got started with the free version, and you can too

I wrote a blog post back in 2010 where I talked about how they had a very compelling offering even with the free version. It wasn’t a crippled version of their product–in fact at the time they included just about every feature, but limited the total upload storage space I could consume each month.

The big feature I wanted when I started subscribing to the premium version was to be able to extend the search to return results inside of attachments like PDF files and pictures. So when I wanted to find a PDF file and the only thing I can remember is that Boba Fett was mentioned in it, I can search for his name and it’ll find the note and the PDF.

Since I became a user, they’ve added a ton of features to the premium offering, but the basic service still lets you create, save, and search notes from the web, a mobile device, or your desktop. When I tell friends/co-workers/random people about Evernote, I usually suggest they just try it out since the free version is so representative of what you get with the paid services.

evernoteversions-2016I grabbed a screenshot of their free vs. paid models. They’ve added a middle tier into the mix as well. The most important reasons I see for the paid versions are:

  • Text search inside of images (plus) and PDFs (premium) — like I said before, it’s a big part of what got me to move
  • Offline notebooks on mobile devices (plus or premium) — There are only a few notebooks I keep offline, but but when I do need it it’s invaluable.
  • Sync with more than 2 devices (plus or premium) — I have too many devices.
  • Remove upload limit of 60MB/mo. (1GB/mo plus, 10GB/mo premium)– This was a thing for me back in 2010 (when the free cap was an at-the-time-generous 40MB). 60MB will probably suit you just fine for text notes and the occasional web page or picture, consider that snapping a quick picture will take up 4MB…yeah that cap is just itching to come off

I could go on and on about how I use it…

…but I don’t want to bury my more detailed stories inside of this post (which feels kind of like unpaid advertising, but I really can’t say enough good things about their service).

In short, I’ve been using the premium subscription for over 6 years and I’m as satisfied now as I was when I started. There aren’t many services I’ve been that happy with–especially when it includes desktop apps, a cloud app, mobile apps, all connected with a cloud-based service. Seriously, when I think of how many freemium services have seemed great and then faded with subsequent releases, I’m really glad they’ve been such a solid team.

Do you use Evernote or perhaps know of something else that’s better? (I question whether the latter is possible…but I am curious) Leave a comment and let me know.

Matthew C. Anderson

I'm an enthusiastic speaker, creator, and problem-solver.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments