This Blog is originally posted on LinkedIn.
Taking digital notes is increasingly popular. Anything which offers a clean canvas to write is perfect for note-taking. However, when you want a place to keep your note tidy, there are many apps available in the market to choose from. All these apps come with a lot of features that create the urge to use them. They are not limited to note-taking rather offering options from Dashboard to task list. But the question is do you need all those features?
I divided this blog into two-part. The first part covers my hands-on experience with Notion and Evernote. The second part is why I use a dedicated app for a particular task since neither of them offers an all-in-one solution.
Let’s start with my timeline using Evernote and Notion note-taking apps.
Evernote – as a digital note-taking app
Back in January 2014, I started using Evernote as it was ruling the market at that time after its first release in 2008.
It’s a simple note-taking app with a clean interface and no distraction. Feels like just open a notebook and start writing. The navigation panel is simple yet powerful to browse different notes.
💪 Features that I like most are
- You can open your notes offline which is because it pulls/keeps data to your device, as a result, it’s fast and easily accessible.
- The search is also very powerful. It can detect text out of your image through Optical Character Recognition (OCR). For instance, if you scan business cards and keep copies in the note, it can search through the texts inside the images and show you the result.
- Mobile and tablet versions perform like smooth butter. (At least for me)
- Drawing or Audio recording are built-in features. So you can take handwritten notes or recording meetings.
I started to keep my daily notes of book and blog highlights, screenshots, bookmarks. One thing to mention is that the Evernote clip keeps the blog as it is. On the other hand, Notion keeps in their text format which I don’t like but maybe others prefer that way.
Even I think Evernote offers more options than Notion in their web extension.
Things I was missing in Evernote
- As a heavy user of productivity apps, I was missing… Emm.. 🤷♂️ well I wasn’t missing anything until I saw what notion allowing in their application.
Why switched to Notion?
To be honest, I always keen to use different applications to understand their usability. How they are solving users’ current problems? or What feature is creating market hype or highly impacting user to switch from 10 years old app Evernote to Notion.
In 2016 the notion era began. The productivity channels overflowed by “Why I switched from Evernote to Notion”, “Best note-taking App | Notion” or comparison videos. Most of these are biased to Notion’s features to tell you “why it is good”
I was supercharged after watching all those videos. It created a need inside me to migrate from Evernote.
The migration process of any note-taking app offers is pretty simple in theory but you will end up investing some time to reformat your notes in the new app. After transferring all my notes to Notion from Evernote, some of my notes needed manually editing.
I started doing in Notion app what I couldn’t do in Evernote. Things like making Food charts, Business card database, Design Library, Mood board, What book I have read with date, Health tracking, To-do’s, Highlights or My events, CV management, Project Management, what not!
After getting tons of features in notion, I thought there would be no need for a separate app like a to-do list or calendar but there is no all-in-one solution to compose and communicate. It took me 5 apps to ready this blog and serve on your plate.
💪 Things I like in the Notion app include
- Keep tracking of all my projects
- Collaborate with teams
- Manage timeline and get notification of reminders
- Built-in Kanban board (Like Trello)
After 16 months of usage, I started feeling my database getting overly complex and slowing me down while I needed to access particular information.
Here are some key problems I have faced so far.
Since this is a web-based platform, it performs very slow hence it is based on my internet speed. Switching one note to another takes a microsecond but when you are a heavy user, and going back and forth with your files, the slowness is very noticeable.
Moreover, if you want to use it as a to-do which means you will frequently open the mobile app to check a task or make an entry. As Notion behaves very sluggishly, using it for to-do is very irritating. But I must admit, its reminder notification works great.
Search query is not good as Evernote
After using Evernote for many years, I was missing that speed. In notion, it keeps loading when you search for something. The search result is not that satisfactory besides no image text recognize feature here like Evernote.
A less powerful browser extension
In Evernote, I used to download a lot of content for my note by web clipper to read later or take reference and I did the same in notion. But while you export content to your notion file does not feel like a readable blog anymore. Sometimes it can’t deal with font or image format and end up with a broken layout.
Here is an example of how both applications handle the same blog. Please note that in Evernote after making this web version editable it will break the text format and make it ugly. 🥲
Lag in Tablet or Mobile version
If your page is loaded with many databases, it lags while scrolling on a tablet or mobile phone. As a consequence, I use the “linked database” feature rarely.
I always being worried about security and that’s why I take backup twice a year to keep all the data in my backup drive. Just in case I lose my account, I still have a copy of my database.
Also, I would suggest not to it as a personal journal. 🙃
So how I solved all the problems?
Let’s summarize what I was looking for
- A productivity app
- A knowledge management system for study and research
- Simple to-do app
🗂 What productivity app I stick to?
Did I get back to Evernote? As I have mentioned earlier migration with a big database is not easy at all. I am still using notion for organizing my data or as a productivity tool. Information that I need to track, for example, tracking of my vehicle maintenance and getting a reminder to next servicing, or tracking down all my failure and achievement. In the end, I can’t avoid the powerful features of Data linking, dashboard building features notion is offering.
📚 A knowledge management system
For study or research, there are apps like Obsidian, Rem note, and Roam research. If you are a content creator or researcher, I would highly recommend checking these applications. The search functionality, linking building, flashcard features speed up your workflow.
I tested Rem Research and Obsidian. They are fast what I am missing in the Notion app, moreover, link-building and graph view are very useful features.
So how I deal with taking notes while on the go 🏃♂️? Or write down simple ideas instantly? Just using the default note that comes with my mobile and later I export my writing to a permanent note. Even when I am on the go and need to hold an idea, I write in the to-do app. So that I never miss working on that idea. The point is to get the job done not prioritize tools over comfort.
☑️ Simple to-do app
For the to-do list, I tried Google Keep, Any.do, Apple To-do app. Honestly, I was looking for something which offers useful features under a free account.
It needs to be very simple yet provide a static report of how many tasks I have completed, a time tracker, and also a procrastination report.
So far this Ticktick won the spot in the free category and they also have cool features in premium.
💡 key findings
- No matter which app you use, make sure they give you full backup access to your data.
- All-in-one app is great but they never perform like a dedicated service app.
- If you are taking tons of notes, search functionality is important for you. Not in the initial stage maybe, but in the future when you will have a large knowledge base, you will use the search feature very often.
To conclude, Notion is a good app if you need a ton of customization features but for simple note-taking, Evernote still takes the cake.
I believe a perfect app doesn’t exist. All applications have inadequacy and can’t offer everything I need. But a dedicated app for a specific task always performs better than the all-in-one app.
A UI/UX Designer with a background in Business Administration. He loves to explore complex problems and create experiences that work for both businesses and users.