I started writing my own blog posts for ZDNET in Evernote back in 2012. With a few minor exceptions, every single one of these posts was written, and first edited, in Evernote.
I love so much Evernote And pay for a professional plan. One of the main benefits of Evernote (note the past tense) was that I could sync between computers. I usually write my articles on my MacBook Air. Once the article is finished, my wife (who has years of experience as a managing editor) does an editing pass with me from the couch, using a Mac mini connected to a large monitor in our family room. Then send the edited article to the ZDNET editors for review.
But then Evernote sync started failing regularly. Sometimes it doesn’t sync at all. Sometimes, the edited version will be reported as a conflict, and Evernote will create two versions of the article.
Arrived to Evernote Support Team, and was told to make sure I had the latest version of the app (I did). I was also told not to edit the same note on two devices simultaneously. My practice has always been to terminate the app on one device before editing on another. Support also directed me to check to see if the note was in sync with the web (which has already become an obsessive practice). Then I was told:
I can’t guarantee that this will fix the issues, but rest assured that we’re aware of these comments, and we’re doing everything we can to improve the sync process for the Evernote app.
It is not encouraged. Then, when Evernote decided to create three separate versions of an article, I knew it was time to find a different solution.
The need to import Evernote notes
The prerequisite, for any Evernote alternative I found, was that it had to be able to import Evernote notebooks. I have two primary writing notebooks that I use every day: Blogs complete and Blogs in progress.
Full blogs contain all of my posts as soon as they are published. It has 1,364 banknotes. It should be searchable, because I often refer to it to see what I said in a previous post.
Blogs in progress are the important notebook for the task. It contains not only the current blog post I’m writing, but ideas and notes for upcoming posts and projects. I often dig through this notebook for ideas for new posts if I don’t have a topic for the day. As I work on bigger projects, I keep track of the details of each project in its own note. Then I turn these notes into articles when the projects are complete. Blogs in progress have 406 notes.
A full suite of software imports Evernote, including Apple Notes, obsidianAnd the UlyssesAnd the Conceptopen source Joplin App note and up Microsoft OneNote. Since I’m a heavy user of Notion, I decided it would make sense to bring my notebooks to Notion.
This did not go smoothly. Part of it was Evernote’s fault. Part of it was Notion’s fault.
Evernote, as it turns out, has A published and authoritative export format called .enex. You can export a set of notes, or even a set of notebooks with notes, and Evernote will create an XML file that other programs can import.
So does Notion use this published and reliable export format to import Evernote notes? no. Why make anything easy?
Instead, Notion uses the Evernote API and becomes an application client for Evernote. This requires Evernote to authenticate into Notion, and grant Notion instance permission to access Evernote data from the cloud.
So I did this. I first tried importing the smaller notebook, but it only imported 350 out of 406 notes. I tried importing a larger notebook, but this just hangs. I let the import dialog sit there all night, but nothing happened.
So, I called Notion. Apparently, they know there is a problem because I was told this:
I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble importing content from Evernote. This has been happening to a small number of users and it’s on our to-do list to fix it, but we don’t currently have a timeline for when it will be fixed.
The support agent suggested that imports sometimes fail with large Evernote notes (such as notes with graphics on them). The agent also suggested splitting the notebooks into smaller batches and trying again.
Here we go down the rabbit hole. It starts with the problem of splitting laptops into smaller batches. There are three things you need to know about moving notes in Evernote:
- You can only select and drag multiple notes in the desktop app.
- You can only transfer 50 sheets at a time.
- Once you transfer notes from one notebook to another, you have to wait for this action to sync to the cloud so you can import them into Notion.
But, as we’ve established, Evernote has sync reliability issues. So the idea of putting up thousands of task-important notes in hopes of them syncing correctly and not breaking was a deal breaker. But this is the only way Notion can extract notes from Evernote.
How did you finally solve the problem?
- Evernote has a perfectly fine export format that doesn’t depend on sync, but Notion won’t use it.
- Evernote has several sync reliability issues, which Evernote acknowledges.
- To bring Evernote notes to Notion, we have to break up the notebooks and rely on Evernote syncs to work, and they often don’t.
The solution was to leave folders of in-progress blogs and entire blogs unchanged in Evernote. Instead, from the desktop application, I exported both of these notebooks separately and saved them in two enex files.
I’m still in the Evernote desktop app, then I imported these two enex files, creating a blog in progress (import) and a full blogging notebook (import). In this way, I passed the 50th note in a specific time of movement, and effectively cloned my notebooks into Evernote. My plan was to use these copies to trim and animate notes, leave my original unchanged and keep a backup in enex files.
I waited for the two copies of the notebooks to sync properly to the cloud. I kept checking the Evernote Web client. After about three hours, the sync was complete. Successful new and recent syncing of notebook clones without losing notes.
Back in the Evernote desktop app, I created a series of seven notebooks, called Part 1 to Part 7. My plan was to start with the completed blogging journal, and put 200 notes in each of the seven notebooks. Very carefully, I transferred four sets of 50 notes from my cloned notebook to the Part One notebook. I waited for this sync to work by making sure the notes arrived in the correct notebook in the Evernote web app. This took about 15-20 minutes per slide.
Once I verified that all 7 parts were correctly in the cloud, I went back to Notion and imported each one, one by one. Most came to Notion without problems, but a few failed. I checked Notion to see which note the import failed, then went back to the appropriate Evernote notebook to see if there was a problematic note.
On each of those occasions, there was a note with graphics on it, and it was that note that killed the import. Depending on how important the note was to my records or my business, I either deleted the failure note entirely, or removed the graphics from the failed note. Anyway, after dealing with the failed notes, I was able to complete the imports in Notion.
I followed the same process with my In Progress blog, but since there were fewer notes, it went faster. Finally, it took about six hours of tweaking and waiting for the sync to complete to transfer data from Evernote to Notion, but it eventually worked.
Some clear conclusions
First, a note to Evernote. When your service is a premium paid service that specifically promotes the idea of getting your information on any device you need, letting errors into sync execution is a mission failure. Telling customers, “We are aware of this feedback, and are doing everything we can to improve the sync process for the Evernote app” does not inspire confidence. Evernote, you need to make this work.
I’ve been a paid Evernote user for about a decade now, and wrote here on ZDNET about it How Evernote came to the rescue during a hurricane evacuation. But when a core feature frequently fails, it’s time to move on. I will continue to use Evernote as an archive of some old records, but I will not rely on it for everyday use.
Now, a note for Notion. Folks, you are obviously familiar with Evernote. In fact, you have A full page dedicated to getting people to switch from Evernote to Notion. You should be aware of the sync issues Evernote users face, because you highlight many users who have moved between services. So what can your engineering team have to use a not very reliable cloud sync option when there is a published and reliable export format?
I’m still finding new ways to use the idea, which goes a long way in proving how much of a help it is as a productivity and management tool. But Notion has a huge offer for the users of its competitors. It needs a better solution than the cloud import mechanism you’re currently using, and a better answer when it fails than “we don’t currently have a timeline for when to resolve it”.
Having said that, this article was written in Notion’s new In Progress blog, and edited on a different device with no sync issues. So, awesome!
Do you use Notion or Evernote? Have you moved away from Evernote to another app? Let us know in the comments below.
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