I’m predominantly an Apple system user (iPad, Mac Mini Desktop, MacBook Pro, iPhone).
I’ve been using Evernote for general note taking and document archiving since about 2012. Overall it’s been pretty good with a few integration features that really expanded its’ use case. Examples are IFTT and Gmail integration, the scannable app and the Skitch screen-grab app. The web clipper is also incredibly useful for storing your own copy of web content that may or may not be around for longer (e.g. news snippets, stock reviews).
I use google mail as a mail provider and have set up a number of rules to forward incoming emails to Evernote where I sort them into relevant folders on a monthly basis – Accounts/Income/Expenses/Receipts.
I use IFTTT (with varying degrees of success) to forward attachments from Gmail to Dropbox..although limited success over time as a result of inconsistency in billing providers.
I used to pay a subscription to Dropbox but stopped when they moved away from supporting encrypted Linux folders. I still have an account but it’s the free version used mainly for emergency transfers between myself and my family members.
Enter iPad 2018
I got a new iPad in late 2018 and have been using it as my main work tool since. I’ll log into the desktop or the laptop in the evenings or weekends, but predominantly use the iPad during the work day.
The problem (and the reason for this post) is the crappiness of the Evernote iPad app with no sign of a resolution on the horizon. The BIG BUG is where you’re in the middle of reading or writing a note (in the middle of a conference or webinar), you switch away from the note to another app, then back to the note, and guess what the note has scrolled to the top of the page. You then have to scroll down to the point you left off…which Is fine if that’s a scroll to the bottom. It’s a pain in the ass if it’s not. This is the same if you’re using a note to reference any online material, go back to the note and try to find where you were while reading…aaargh!!! This is friggin’ frustrating.
Another aspect of Evernote also causes a bit of grating is the lack of support for markdown syntax processing. Although not a biggie, it’s a limitation for cross application integration.
Trials and Tribulations
In attempting to overcome this situation and continue to take notes on the iPad, I tried a number of options. Here they are in chronological order.
The default apple app. It’s simple, provides very basic formatting capability with tables and checklist being about the extent of ‘additional’ functions. It doesn’t integrate with any apps other than via the ‘share’ option.
It does provide a richer nesting hierarchy than notes. There’s no tagging function, although in theory, you an use a hack workaround through inserting your own #tags and searching for these as text.
I’ve uploaded a subsection of my Evernotes collection to Apple Notes and it seems to cope ok with the volume (700) with a few speed glitches along the way.
I’ve opted for all my notes to be iCloud based with none stored locally – this is so I can access everything I need on the iPad and minimise risk of a storage split.
My plan for 2020 is to keep trying with Apple Notes and see if I can overcome limitations by simplifying my own approach to note taking and storage.
Drafts is a strange one and after about 3 months I’m still forgetting where it fits into my workflow. It’s a basic note editor with a bundle of integration feature and a growing list of integrations with an obvious dedicated and active following.
Drafts is the clutter collector.
The core modus operandi for Drafts is where you’re not sure what’s going to happen to the note you’re currently working on. Is it a code-snippet that you won’t care about tomorrow? Is is a copy of text from a document you’re translating?
The general rule is:If it’s an ephemeral ‘note’, start it in drafts. If it moves from ephemeral to longer-lasting, complete it in drafts and push it for longer term storage to Evernote, or Apple Notes.
Drafts supports a massive range of integrations where you can take your note and send it as an email, as a Dropbox or google drive file. The list is exhaustive.
From a workflow perspective, I have to keep reminding myself to open Drafts and tend to go straight to notes, then realise I’m collecting a bundle of snippets throughout the day in my main notes application that I should go back and delete as they’re just going to cause clutter.
The Drafts iPad app is simply fantastic. Consistent, easy to use, fast, efficient and reliable. I really should make this my go-to for initial content creation.
I got drawn into notion as a result of 2 prominent youtube proponents (Ali Abdaal and Francesco D’Alessio of ‘Keep Productive’ fame).
What it is?
Its a personal organisation tool that allows you to create both rich text pages and flexible databases in an all in one life-organising app.
It uses the concepts of blocks of content – each block can be of a specific type (web links, files, text, table, headings etc.)
Notion does offer a flexible and very attractive layout for organising everything from events, projects, study plans, course notes etc. you name it, there’s no reason it can’t get stored in Notion….except for one problem.
Notion also has its own web clipping tool. Much like Evernote although not as flexible.
The iPad afterthought:
The Notion app on the iPad is an afterthought. I raised a few limitations with Notion support and got responses back that said ‘we’re aware and looking into it’. I’m not sure if the responses were canned and written by a bot.
Changing the order of blocks on a page is not supported. Importing from other sources, no way. The waste of real estate because of misaligned side padding was just terrible.
So, if you want to organise your world and you work on a desktop or a reasonable sized laptop, Notion is pretty excellent. If, on the other hand you spend most of your day with tablet in hand. Fuggetaboutit.
I’ve been using Gmail as my mail exchange service for years. It’s pretty effective with readers that work across platforms consistently well.
I have a number of filter rules set up to streamline the sending of attachments to Evernote.
I must admit to wanting to move away from Gmail for sometime as a result of the prying eyes of the Google ecosystem. The only reason I haven’t moved is because of the hassle factor as both my wife and I have our own domain based email addresses being serviced. Migration to another service is on my todo list.
I run an Apple mail client on my mac mini which is always on. As you’ll see shortly, this has become a part of my proposed note/file management solution.
And the answer is…
Given each app has its strengths and weaknesses, I’ve decided to go hybrid.
- Apple Notes will replace Evernote as my main repository of Projects, Areas of interest, Resources and Archived info.
- I’ve set up rules in Apple mail to take incoming attachments and push them to a personal file storage server I use (not Dropbox).
- I’m making a call on moving away from storing large attachments (pdfs etc) as notes – whereas they’re really assets that I should link to from a notes application.
- Given the capability of Notion to provide a rich and flexible editing environment for ‘some’ material, I’ll be using that for managing some lists (podcasts, movies to watch, bookmarks etc).
- I’ll also use Notion as an organiser of training/tech education material – Ive found its ability to organise and deep link material very useful.
- I’m going to try and force myself to use drafts for its original purpose…yes to store ‘drafts’ of notes and only share with Apple Notes those notes I think need longer term storage – otherwise I can be diligent and delete the crap I collect in here on a regular basis.
- Apple Mail client – I’ve set up filter rules to examine incoming emails with attachments and send them on their merry way to a conceptual Inbox folder on my file server. This replaces the Evernote catch-all that was in place via Gmail filters.
- Use of Apple Mail client – this comes with the caveat that if I ever move from the Apple Mail client or if that device is turned/off, I’ll have to set up the filter rules somewhere else.
- Existing content is remaining in Evernote but flagging folders with a ‘README’ to remind me I’ve migrated content elsewhere. You never know if they fix the focus issue, I may return.
- Keeping an eye on Apple Notes performance – I think because I’ve gone ‘All iCloud’, I may regret this decision.
- Use of a file server for content – while perfectly acceptable for bills, invoices, receipts etc which I review at tax time, I’ need to be careful of other file content that doesn’t end up in a big information black hole for me to delete 5 years after collecting it. This is a self-discipline problem.
- Remembering the split and sticking to it. If i start adding movies to watch to Notes, or Evernote instead of Notion, the divide is not working.
- Below is my revised and simplified Notion home page. Must remember to keep it simple. The Work in Progress link is to any on-going study/learning work I happen to be doing.
- Lack of an Apple Web Clipper equivalent may also prove a challenge – The Evernote clipper is really good – esp when clipping content of simplified articles. It’s unproductive to be clipping to Evernote, or Notion, then doing an export and a subsequent import into Apple Notes. Let’s see how this goes.
This web page was created by me writing in Drafts – using Markdown – then copied and pasted into Notion so I could generate it as a HTML for for uploading to my website – I then imported the HTML version into Apple Notes for safe keeping – will delete it in Notion in due course.