This week I finally was able to check a todo item off my list that I had been procrastinating for over a month. I migrated tens of thousands of mostly PDF documents out of Evernote and overhauled my personal information management system. If you’re curious how I used to do things, I wrote that up a few years back. I had so much stuff in Evernote and had been using it for well over a decade, but it was time to revisit how I was storing and using digital stuff. It’s worth mentioning, that I didn’t take many actual notes in Evernote and as time went on I couldn’t stand using it for that purpose. The app had really become bloated and I didn’t enjoy writing in it. The kicker, at least for me, was also that it didn’t natively support Markdown. The other thing I used it for was to archiving everything I posted and favorited online. This was all done through a service called IFTTT (If This Then That), about which I could (and probably should) write something up as well. Another time, but I’ll touch on what I did with all those notes a little further down.
If Evernote was the center of my digital life, my trusty Fujitsu ScanSnap was the key that enabled it. I just purchased a new one this year after the original one I bought back in 2010 stopped working. I cannot recommend it enough. I scan everything – mail, receipts, bills, warranties, documentation, but not photos. I use the scanner for the vast majority of it but also use Scanbot Pro on my iPhone or iPad. For what its worth, I use Scan Cafe to scan my physical photos.
One of the main reasons I started using Evernote to begin with was for its incredible optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities, which is no longer a unique feature. Today, if you want to search through indexed PDFs, Google Drive and macOS both have this feature, which in my experience works just as well, if not better. What OCR allows me to do is search the text inside a PDF document. For example, if I want to gather all of my doctor bills to review , I simply search for my doctor’s name (or some other unique identifier that appears on all of his bills) and in a matter of a second, they’re gathered and ready for review. I cannot overstate what a tremendous timesaver being completely paperless is. It takes up no space, is completely affordable and allows you to be a digital hoarder with no shame whatsoever.
Evernote can export notes in their native format (.enex) or in HTML. Thankfully many note-taking apps can easily import Evernote files. You can do it one-by-one by simply dragging a note from Evernote to a folder on your computer (I did this all on my MacBook Pro, not on my iPad) or select multiple notes and drag them together. You can also select a single or multiple notes and export just the file attachments. This was particularly helpful to me since, again, most of what I had in Evernote were PDFs. I already pay for G Suite so I settled on using Google Drive to store PDFs. G Suite is Google’s paid service (I pay $5/month) and differs form their free services you probably use. The great thing about G Suite, aside from being able to use my own domain, is the lack of advertising and data collection by Google. They have no plans to change this in the future, which is great. According to them, they do not collect, scan or use data in G Suite Core Services for advertising purposes. While I don’t feel awesome about Google from a privacy standpoint, but I’m willing to give a little to get the convenience and interoperability with devices and other services I use. Once I moved all of my documents to Google Drive, I created a single folder on my iCloud Drive and dropped them all in there for redundancy. I also plan to back them up on a physical drive.
As I exported the documents, I deleted them from Evernote, which left me with my notes and backups of my posts and favorites from social networks. In Evernote I had a few notebooks that were shared with Laura, so I needed to put the notes somewhere I could continue doing this, so I migrated those notes to Apple Notes. For all other notes, I migrated them to my current note-taking app of choice, Bear. In both cases, the notes were easily migrated by simply selecting them and dragging them to a folder on my desktop. Each app has an importing function that handles Evernote files.
As I mentioned earlier, I used a service called IFTTT with Evernote. The service allows you to easily create if-then statements that move digital things around from one service to another. It does a bunch of other cool stuff, but I used it to gather tweets I posted and favorited on Twitter, photos I posted on Instagram, posts on tumblr (I haven’t used it in a long time), favorite articles and highlights from Instapaper and Pinboard bookmarks. I decided to delete all of this stuff and not migrate it. I’m no longer active on Twitter and I moved all my tumblr posts to my WordPress blog. Everything else, I can easily export whenever I want, which I do periodically and no longer feel the need to have it all contained in a single app or service. When I export stuff, I just throw it in a folder on Google Drive and back it up to a physical backup drive as well.
If you’re thinking about going paperless (you should!), get yourself a Fujitsu ScanSnap and keep your documents local on your Mac or put them on Google Drive where you can easily search them from any device. You could also store each document as a in individual note in Apple Notes, which I did consider, but the hassle of having to create a title for every note (I’m OCD like that and rarely took the time to do this in Evernote) and then attach the PDF to the note just felt like too much effort, especially considering the number of documents I was migrating. If I was starting over from scratch, I might consider it more seriously. Using Apple Notes for this purpose as well as taking notes has the added advantage of consolidating everything in one app. If only I weren’t so fussy and fickle with note-taking apps…
If you’ve been procrastinating migrating away from Evernote, I’m here to tell you it’s a pretty painless process. And in my case, since I was paying for Premium, it’ll save me $70 per year.