Note Taking Applications

posted in: Digitizing Life | 0

Of all the solutions available for storing stuff in the cloud, I’ve found no other category that seems more “personal” than note-taking (and keeping). Using the wrong one is like wearing someone else’s sneakers.

There are so many solutions available that it boggles the mind (forgive me if I missed yours), so I quickly narrowed-down my potential providers to the big two:



Both Evernote & Springpad met the basic requirements of the Operation Cloud Manifesto at the time of my testing, but were quite different in many ways, too.

Practical Usefulness

With the goal of trying to “mimic life,” I looked at traditional note taking, and the kind of things I used to store on paper. Quickly, I realized that my #1 reason for having paper notes at all is to selectively share them, in a way that the people they’re shared with can alter them.

For example, in our home, a LOT of paper has been used over the years for shopping lists… “When you’re at the store, see if you can find any of these things….”

I was absolutely astonished that Springpad didn’t support our most basic use in any way, shape, or form.

I can share a list with “the world,” but not with my wife? At least not in a way that either of us can add-to, or check-off items.

Evernote supports that, but in a less-than-ideal way. For it to work, we must both have premium accounts (@ $5/mo), so it will cost us $120/year, but at least it’s possible.

When I quizzed the folks at Springpad about this most basic “missing requirement,” they acted like it was an absurd question.

I’m guessing Springpad has a lot of really, really young people, who aren’t yet in relationships, because in talking with my friends, sharing a list with their partner that both can edit, was the #1 feature they said they’d need to be able to move their lists off paper, and into the cloud (disclaimer: all the people participating in my informal survey were over 30).

Sure, there are a lot of pretty nice “list only” services out there, but in the interest of simplicity, I want just one note-taking/list-keeping app.


Springpad wins this one, hands-down. Evernote is the ugliest cloud service I’ve seen (someone please let these people know that there are colors other than green).

Overall, Springpad is much more visually appealing.


Here’s the category where Evernote leaves Springpad in the dust. While ugly (see above), the web, Windows, and Android versions of Evernote work predictably, as you’d expect them to. Search is consistent and reliable across platforms, and it “just works.”

Springpad, on the other hand, seems to be this odd (but better looking) collection of disparate apps that don’t work consistently. The Android app has been crashing for both my wife and I, on-and-off, for months, and there never seemed to be an update, or a fix?

And the Springpad Chrome app (which we used on the computers) was missing so many “basics,” that it became a headache to use.

For example, while the Springpad Android app lets you choose from existing tags when creating a new note, their Chrome app does not. If you make a mistake typing, you’re unknowingly creating a new tag!? Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to spot that, until it’s too late. Our automotive records, for example, ended-up being tagged, “Car,” and “Cars,” and even “Csr” (obviously, a typo).

The result was broken searches, and constantly saying to ourselves, “I know that I tagged that as ‘Car,’ but it’s not showing-up.”

As a web developer myself, I’d call that one a “showstopper,” and focus my full attention on getting it fixed right-away, yet as with the bugs in their Android app, they just seem to ignore it, and move-on to some new esoteric feature (integration with recipes?).

Overall, Springpad just “felt like” a disorganized company. I got the impression that their effort goes into projects that interest them at that moment, and that they get bored easily. Things are never really “finished.”

Engineering, however, is Evernote’s forte. I love the fact that they actually interpret and index (for searching) the content of images. If Springpad ever tried to tackle that, I’m afraid they’d get bored, and move-on before it was ever complete, and reliable.

In the end, if I had a magic wand, it would have been nice to see the two companies merge. Evernote clearly needs Springpad’s designers, and Springpad needs Evernote’s engineering discipline.

And The Winner Is…

While this wasn’t the easiest category to judge, in the end, Evernote won for us.

While it’s painful to look at their “everything green” designs, the system is rock-solid, predictable, and meets (or exceeds) all the requirements in the manifesto.