Take note of this

Posted in Reviewson Apr 5, 2013

As I stated previously, I am evaluating different note taking systems. Here are my conclusions.

Google Keep really wasn’t impressive. Evernote and Springpad both did much better.

The fundamental difference between Evernote and Springpad comes down to the format of notes. Evernote treats all notes like small documents, while Springpad allows for various different types of notes.

Evernote‘s small documents are quite flexible. You can insert photos, audio, links, lists, and text formatting. Evernote makes it easy to turn things into documents with speech recognition from audio files and OCR (reading text) from image files. Evernote works like of like a person keeping a notebook (or many notebooks), occasionally taping pictures or business cards into the pages.

Springpad also allows document-type notes, but also supports notes about movies, music, books, places, recipes, products, TV shows, alarms, events, contacts, tasks, and check lists. Springpad works more like a bulletin board, with recipes cards, sticky notes, business cards, photos, and fliers all attached.

Since different people take notes differently, both Evernote and Springpad’s approaches are valid. When it comes time to look for something, such as someone’s contact information, the notebook user starts flipping through all their pages trying to find the information, while the bulletin board user starts looking at all the business cards for the right one.

But while supporting many different content types may seem like an advantage Springpad has over Evernote, Evernote’s simplicity is also its advantage. Since Evernote supports just small documents, it makes it really easy for third party developers to write tools and apps that interface with Evernote. Evernote has a very large ecosystem of mobile apps, desktop apps, and web apps. Springpad has considerably smaller ecosystem.

And now if you remember my criteria for judging note-taking systems, I will now give grades.

Platforms

  • Evernote: A because of the wide ecosystem of apps on just about every platform.
  • Springpad: C+ for covering the mobile/web platforms.
  • Google Keep: D because their Android app didn’t even run on my older Android phone.

Data Export

  • Evernote: A because it easily allowed exporting to HTML files.
  • Springpad: A- for also allowing exporting.
  • Google Keep: F because I couldn’t find any place to export my notes.

Bookmarks

  • Evernote: B because while it provided many good ways to capture webpages into notes, it lost the sense that it was saving a bookmark instead of a document.
  • Springpad: B because while it kept the bookmark well, sometimes I want a longer summary than the one it saved.
  • Google Keep: F.

Media Types

  • Evernote: C+ for saving pictures and audio, but only as documents.
  • Springpad: A for strong support of many media types.
  • Google Keep: D+ for supporting a few types, but only from its Android app.

Cost

  • Evernote: C for providing a basic free service.
  • Springpad: B+ for being completely free, but with some offers snuck in.
  • Google Keep: A

Organization

  • Evernote: B for categories, tags, geotagging, and searching.
  • Springpad: B for categories, some geotagging, searching, and content types.
  • Google Keep: C for color coding and searching.

User Experience

  • Evernote: B- for providing a lot of power, but lacking a little refinement.
  • Springpad: A- for a really clean and powerful interface.
  • Google Keep: C- for a clean interface, but lacking power.

Support

  • Evernote: A because it has a strong business model around note taking.
  • Springpad: B- for a reasonable business model, but may be lacking some adoption.
  • Google Keep: C- because Google likes to spring clean up things like this.

APIs

  • Evernote: A because it has a well used API.
  • Springpad: B- for a good API that needs better usage.
  • Google Keep: F for not providing a public API.

Alternatives: Since note-taking is not a really strict activity, there are many alternatives. One reasonable alternative is using a blog or wiki for note-taking. What you get with systems like Evernote or Springpad are powerful applications on various platforms, picture and audio recognition, auto categorization and content analysis.

4 Comments

blablablu

April 5th, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Nice but you missed a point: Truly saved. When you save a note in Evernote, all is saved on the server: text, link, images, files, … Springpad save text and files but do not save images(just embeded) when I clip the web. And it’s a huge difference… In 1-2 year when I will review old notes, all will be there in Evernote and not in Springpad… I’m an happy premium Evernote user 😉

Jacob

April 5th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

blablablu, you make a good point. A weakness behind Springpad’s content types is that they can actually limit the amount of information that can be saved as part of a note.

So whereas on Evernote, you can save the whole web page’s content, Springpad pretty much just limits you to just a pretty link.

blablablu

April 5th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Thanks for your reply. About the “media type” point in your good article, you can actually saved any type of files attached to a note and add extra information in the note. It’s a + for me.

About my first comment, many people think that their data are well saved in springpad. Actually, web sites, articles, videos and images are not permanent on the web. So embeded content is not a solution… If you want remember things and review it later, choose the right way…

Also, about the cost, what is the springpad business model? “Recommend” ads. Quid in 5 years? I’m truly satisfied with the evernote business model: you pay a little for your storage (it’s actually cheaper on long term) and as the evernote CEO said, it’s for 100 years !

Lovlesh Kishun

April 27th, 2013 at 6:24 am

blablablu, you made switch to evernote with your comment on the business model. It is true while Springpad is free right now, it might not be present in the future

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