After More Than A Decade, I’m Done With Evernote

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.

How I Music

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This post originally appeared on Medium.

I think a lot about process. I pay attention to all of the steps that make up the journey from Point A to Point B and I often stress about them. When it comes to getting things done on computing devices like laptops, tablets and mobile phones I have spent perhaps too much time reflecting on how I’m doing things, how many steps are required and how many apps it’s taking me to get to a desired result. I’ve started documenting these things more because what I find is doing so helps other people who are struggling with the same problem, but maybe don’t know how to optimize what they’re doing.

I recently got into a discussion with Sean and Tara about managing music. Honestly, I spend less and less time managing it. Over the course of a few years, I’ve gone from managing terabytes of digital music to streaming pretty much everything. The only exceptions have been live shows, needle drops and the occassional album pre-release which I still manage in a folder structure in the cloud. I’ve moved any music files I care about to the cloud, both for playing and as a backup. Since Sean and Tara asked me about how I do it, I figured maybe there are a few other people that would be interested in reading through my somewhat convoluted setup and workflow.

Tools

It’s been a long time since I’ve ripped a CD and frankly, even though I hate iTunes, it’s probably the easiest and fastest way to rip CDs if that’s what you’re looking to do. I haven’t connected a drive to my MacBook Pro for years at this point, but maybe you still have some CDs laying around. Storage costs are so low there’s little reason to not use a lossless codec and if you’re using iTunes, I recommend encoding using Apple Lossless (ALAC). It’s worth noting that while the codec was developed by Apple and was initially proprietary, the codec is open source, royalty-free and widely supported by devices I use every day. Depending on who you talk to FLAC might be more widely recognized as the go-to lossless audio format, but it is not as widely supported by devices and it’s for that reason that I convert FLAC files to ALAC.

I use XLC (don’t let the “retro” website throw you) for file conversion. There are some other tools out there, but I’ve been using XLC for so long, it’s just what I’m comfortable with. It can rip, convert and decode which means you probably won’t need anything more. If you like it, donate to the developer so he keeps developing it.

Organizing

Most of the digital music files I download are meticulously tagged already. If they aren’t, I probably just kind of live with it simply being organized into a simple artist / album folder structure. Before I got wise to lossless, like most people I was working with MP3s and used a utility called ID3 Editor. If I were going to endeavor on a quest to manually clean up the metadata on my digital music collection, I might use something like MusicBrainz Picard or Metadatics, which people seem to like and looks to be in active development. There’s also TuneUp, which people seem to have nice things to say about. I’ve never tried it so YMMV.

Playing

Everything gets played through Sonos speakers in the house. Full disclosure: I work for Sonos, but I’d still have their products in my house regardless. Aside from using various streaming services like Beats Music (RIP soon), Spotify, Tidal and Google Play, I interface with all those services via the Sonos app at home. This allows me to search and play my own digital music collection, which increasingly lives in Google Play, along side everything I stream, which isn’t easily achievable using any other method. When I say easy, I mean easy enough for my mom to use. When I’m in the car, on a plane or on the go I just use the apps on my iPhone.

Sometimes I just want to hunker down with my laptop and some headphones at my desk or on the sofa and plow through stuff. In that case, I’ll use a combination of the Spotify desktop app for streaming and Vox for my own collection in full lossless fidelity. Vox is beautifully simple and generally speaking all I want to do is play music. I have only ever used their desktop app, though they do have a mobile app and a cloud service. I can’t imagine uploading my digital music anywhere else except Google, Apple or Amazon. I’ll talk more about that in a minute though.

Aside from the complete lack of cultural sensitivity when it came to naming their app, Tomahawk is a pretty awesome piece of software. I might even go so far as to say it’s the single best music app out there. I just wish they would pick another name. The product lead of the open source project, J is a super-talented guy who I like a lot. Having spent a good part of my career in music tech, I can say there are few devs like him that have been thinking about solving the problems he’s trying to solve with Tomahawk. I like supporting friends and have given the app a try over the time it has been in development, but for my own purposes it was overkill. I do use it from time to time, but I find the simplicity of Vox satisfies my needs most of the time.

I’ve been uploading my entire digital music collection to Dropbox for archiving and to Google Play to stream everything. The only significant to me drawback (for me) is that my lossless files are converted to 320 MP3s. The only time I care a lot is when I want to listen to my needle drops at full fidelity, otherwise the convenience wins out. I would think for most people, this isn’t going to be much of an issue. I have looked around at other solutions, but for the money and piece of mind that the company isn’t likley to go anywhere anytime soon, it’s tough to beat Google.

A Little Bit of Automation

Getting my music to Dropbox and Google Play is all handled automatically. I use a handy and amazing utility on my Mac called Hazel, which does a lot more than just help me with uploading music to my Dropbox. Another article perhaps. Hazel monitors a folder on my harddrive for music files and when it sees them, it moves those files to a specific Dropbox folder. The Google Play app also monitors folders that I define and uploads the music in the background, which is then accessible via Google Play on my Sonos.

Let me know if you have questions and by all means share how you manage your music. Also, If you enjoyed reading this and found it at all useful, please click on the little heart to recommend it to others and/or share it with people on your social network of choice.

Chapters often have page after page of paragraphs. It just seems such an awful lot of words to concentrate on, on their own, without something else happening. And once you’ve finished one chapter, you have to get through the another one. And usually a whole bunch more, before you can say finished, and get to the next. The next book. The next thing. The next possibility. Next next next.

There is more than one kind of thought. There are thoughts you cannot complete within a month, or a fiscal quarter, just as there are thoughts that can occupy less than a vacation period, a weekend, or a smoke break. Like the spectrum of photonic behavior, thoughts come in a nearly infinite range of lengths and frequencies, and always move at the exact pace of human life, wherever they are in the universe. Some thoughts are long, they can take years to think, or a lifetime. Some thoughts take many lifetimes, and we hand them off to the next generation like the batons in a relay race. Some of these are the best of thoughts, even if they can be the least productive. Lifetimes along, they shift the whole world, like a secret lever built and placed by the loving imaginations of thousands of unproductive stargazers.

Don’t write email that people can respond to.

If you ask questions in an email, people will respond. If you don’t answer their questions, they’ll ask again. If you write charming email, they will want more. Don’t do those things. Write an email that is impossible to respond to. Answer every question. Tie up every loose end. Write a complete and completely un-respondable email.