As a privacy-concerned user it can sometimes be very tricky to find alternatives to the most-used applications. Looking for the best alternative to the widely established note-taking application Evernote was one of those hard evaluations and it took me a while, but here is the result: Joplin. Read why.
I am using Evernote now since around 8 years for my personal and business-related notes. Everything that comes to my mind will be immediately captured in Evernote for further processing. Because in my opinion it is one of the best note-taking applications out there, in terms of usability, features and most important synchronization technology.
But in the last years the more notes you put into that great Evernote application the more confidential information also is saved in there. As there have already been some security issues I always had in mind to search for the best Evernote alternative. And not only since the great book “Permanent Record” by Edward Snowden everybody should be aware that everything that can be tracked and analysed, will finally be and most importantly saved forever. That’s why the only solution is end-to-end encryption.
As Evernote lately (after years of development) launched their new iOS app with lots of bugs, this was my final trigger to finally switch to an alternative.
First of all, let’s specify my requirements for a the best Evernote alternative that has a focus on privacy:
- End-to-End encryption
- macOS and iOS application
- Stable synchronization mechanism
- Import of my thousands of Evernote notes
- Solid search function
- Linking between notes (the real power of my notes)
- Printing of single notes should be possible
- Export of all notes
The Best Evernote Alternative
After researching and testing lots of tools, from Tumblr to Bear to Standard Notes, I finally found my best Evernote alternative: Joplin
Benefits of Joplin
Besides that Joplin has met all my requirements from above, there are also some additional benefits:
- Joplin was explicitly build as an Evernote replacement, so it has a great Evernote importer. Of course not all Evernote features are available in Joplin, but this is absolutely not necessary and even better because then the application is not so bloated.
- Joplin is an Open Source application
- You are free to choose any storage provider like Dropbox, WebDAV, etc. that you trust.
- What I also like in Joplin from a developer perspective is the fact that I can easily save beautifully formatted code snippets. This is definitely an improvement compared to Evernote!
- All content is stored as plain Markdown files (besides the encryption of course) and can therewith also be viewed with other applications, which is great for longevity. Also no HTML markup can mess your content.
- Mighty search functionality
- On all devices there is a history of the note editing
- Like in Evernote there is also a Web Clipper functionality for browsers to easily put content into Joplin
What could be improved in Joplin?
No single application is perfect of course, so here are some of the drawdowns in Joplin:
- Most important thing is the currently strange and old-school user interface (iOS app is a bit better but also far from perfect): it just not feels as an up-to-date application. But from the comments in the Joplin forum I saw that this is something that is already being worked on. In the meantime you can also customize the desktop application via CSS, because it is an Electron application.
- Joplin seems to be very much dependant on the single core developer, which must not be bad but of course is always a risk.
- While Markdown is great for longevity and formatting, it can sometimes be a bit tricky for non-experienced users e.g. to use it in the mobile applications.
- There is currently no possibility to search through embedded PDFs or images. This was an area where Evernote was very good at!
Quick Markdown Excursion
The more I work with Markdown formatting, the more I love it: simple text files that can be rendered into beautiful pages and at the same time easily be shared. Once you got the Markdown syntax into your head, you can write Markdown files very fast.
Joplin has even enhanced the default Markdown format with some really interesting features, e.g. to highlight text (
==mark==), to add internal note links or to insert math expressions.
All in all I am very excited with Joplin as my best Evernote alternative and I hope that the user interface will be refreshed soon. The daily usage will tell if the synchronization and editing experience in Joplin is as smooth as it was in Evernote. Let’s see! For now I have already put together some helpful Joplin tipps.
Which note-taking application do you use?