When it comes to productivity, Evernote is often considered a must-have app and one’s digital brain. With 225 million users worldwide, Evernote has carved out a major reputation and not without a reason. The green elephant made the brand instantly recognizable and the Evernote web clipper revolutionized the market.
But time goes by and there’s a promising new candidate in the field: it’s Notion.
Is it time to say goodbye to Evernote and say hello to Notion, a new app that puts your workflow all in one place? In this post, I search for the answer. You’ll learn:
- How Notion aims to change the status quo
- What’s the major difference between Evernote and Notion in terms of their anatomy
- What are the main functions in Evernote and Notion
- How you might choose your weapon
Before we do that, however, we should take a step back to gain some perspective.
A little history
Evernote was founded in 2007 with the vision for “how technology could augment memory and how an app could change the way we relate to information at home and at work,” as Ian Small, the new CEO of Evernote phrased.
You probably have heard that over the last year, Evernote went through a crisis with multiple managers leaving the company. Recently, a new CEO has been nominated with the final aim to rebuild trust and renew Evernote.
The Notion app was born in 2016 with the aim of changing the status quo by providing a single workspace for your life. Although it’s a bold claim, the app and its webpage provide compelling evidence of that claim. Notion’s About page, for example, gives us a nice overview of how Notion wants to change how we work. You can experiment with the app without a registration (live demo) and testimonials are delivered in a very compelling form. The app itself is elegantly simple yet powerful.
In order to understand how these apps work, we should study their anatomy first.
Anatomy of Evernote and Notion
It’s important to note that Evernote and Notion have a different philosophy of how they approach work.
Notion works with LEGO-style building blocks: on any page, you can add a lot of blocks including but not limited to text, to-do list, bulleted list, code, numbered list, toggle list, link, file, date, reminder, table, board, gallery, and calendar.
Evernote operates with a more old-school approach, one that is similar to a word processor. The soul of Evernote lies in its hierarchical structure: you can make notes, that can be saved into notebooks, that further can be grouped into stacks. Each note can be labeled with multiple tags. What makes this system powerful is that it provides depth and detailed filtering options. Basically, it works the way our brain has been trained over the last 30 years―folders. It’s a large library of notes and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it has its own limitations.
Now that we have an overview, we can move on to see how Evernote and Notion work through some case studies…
To highlight key functions, below I provided two case studies on how one can use Evernote and Notion as a content calendar.
Case study No. 1 – Using Notion as a content calendar
Notion offers a bunch of viewing options (table, board, calendar, list, and gallery) and choosing the board view is a perfect choice for a content calendar. What’s the real magic, though, is that you can change the view with a single click and you get a nice calendar with your scheduled blog posts.
It goes without saying that you can drag-and-drop your cards across stages (Kanban method). To manage how your cards appear on the screen, click Properties and then display on your cards a lot of attributes (status, date, assignee, and special properties).
By clicking on a card, you can assign the given task to your colleague, indicate the status, and set other properties. Your properties can be anything you want from some text to a date to a colleague, and from select to multi-select to a checkbox. To make your properties stand out, there’s an option to choose a color you like.
You can add dates and reminders to your cards but that’s nothing new. What is a real plus, however, is that you might add an end date and then your task populates your calendar accordingly.
What I particularly liked was that you can add an icon from the built-in icon library or choose a cover to get it displayed on your card. There’re lots of covers in the Notion gallery, but you can upload your own images as well up to 5 MB individual file size for the free plan.
Notion blocks support markdown, so you have a lot of styling options.
Case study No. 2 – Using Evernote as a content calendar
Evernote also offers a bunch of viewing options but currently doesn’t support the calendar view. Though Evernote can display your notes as cards, you would miss the Kanban view to drag-and-drop your items across different stages. With some hacks, however, you can do the same.
You can create a separate notebook for your content calendar and tag your notes (blog posts) according to their status (Ideas, Drafting, In review, Publishing). Evernote also supports colored tags, reminders, and due dates, but currently lacks a built-in icon library or gallery. Also, don’t look for end dates, this function isn’t yet supported.
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Evernote has a long established web clipper for all major web browsers. By clicking on the green elephant, you can choose the format (article, simplified article, full page, bookmark, screenshot), add tags and remarks, and save your clip to the appropriate notebook.
Notion comes with its own web clipper, which works very well. It’s currently available to Google Chrome only, but Notion’s webpage claims that they’ll soon develop its counterparts for all major web browsers. On clipping a web page, you can choose the appropriate workplace only. Once you have your web page clipped, however, you get a lot of options from assigning due dates and tags to turn your clip into a task and assign it to your team.
Both Evernote and Notion deliver a smooth clipping experience, but I would prefer Notion in terms of how it displays clipped content.
You’ve learned how Notion aims to change the status quo, how Evernote and Notion differ in their approach, and what the main functions are.
Notion advocates that you move from Evernote by providing direct importing options into the Notion app. It also supports importing notes from Asana and MS Word, among others. I can say that the import works like magic with MS Word.
I think that you can’t go wrong with these apps. If you prefer to move all your stuff into a single space, you might go with Notion. I doubt, however, that it’s time to leave your old elephant. Evernote is still a very reliable and robust note-taking app with in-depth functionality and a long history.
When it comes to email, Evernote is hard to beat. You get a unique email address to pull your stuff right into Evernote. What’s more, Evernote has a nice clipper for MS Outlook (Outlook Clipper). If you want more, you can use smart syntax in the subject field to add a reminder, pull your email into the appropriate notebook, and assign tags to your content. You can even append an email to an existing note by simply putting “+” at the end of your subject field.
Notion doesn’t yet support forwarding emails to convert them into tasks or notes and that’s a major drawback, at least it’s to me.
Evernote has one more useful function that Notion lacks: this is the Evernote camera that captures handwritten notes, post-it notes, and business cards with your phone’s camera. Automatic edge detection and image optimization are part of the process. Once you captured your notes, they’ll be saved to Evernote and become highly searchable.
There’re two more things that you might consider before moving to Notion:
- What your personal preference is, or put it another way, how your brain is wired.
- Trust. We trust Evernote; it has evolved with us for many years. And we already trust Notion but, maybe, it takes years to build real trust.
One thing is for sure: Evernote must change gears to retain its customers. Who, then, will benefit from this fierce competition? Beyond question, this is we who use these apps on a daily basis.
If you want to learn more about Evernote, you might find this article helpful. If you find this post interesting, please share it with your friends.
Note: This review is not intended to cover all features and is based on data as of March 28, 2019.