Why I’m Unhappy with Evernote 5

cryingelephantEvernote recently came out with a new version, Evernote 5, and there are some big changes.

I’m going to start by repeating what Evernote forum poster Rob Huzzey said to the Evernote team earlier this month: “First up, thanks for taking the time to update Evernote, I don’t like it, but you still deserve the thanks for the work.”  And I mean that. I don’t doubt that the design team had good reasons for doing what they did or that they felt they were doing the right thing.  I believe that they felt they were creating a product centered around meeting user needs.  Evernote is a good company with good people working hard to create and support a good product.  And some of the new features are really nice. But I *really* don’t like the new version on any platform (Mac, iPhone, and iPad) that I’ve used it on. And I’m not the only one.

New version. Big overhaul. I get that it will take a while to get used to, and I’m still learning it. Maybe I’ll even grow to love it.  Frankly, though, I shouldn’t have to get used to it.  I already was used to it. It worked great–minus a few annoyances here and there–and I used it constantly in many parts of my life.  I’ve talked many students and faculty–even some doctors over at the medical school–into using Evernote because I liked it so much and found it incredibly useful, not just in an academic environment, but in life in general.

I don’t want to list all of my individual gripes here (actually, I do want to, but I’m going to fight the urge because that’s not the point of this post. You can search the Evernote forum, twitter, and the general web for plenty of specific problems.) But most of them can be summed up in a single complaint: There are some huge changes to a product that I use(d) constantly, making me struggle to figure out how to do things that used to be simple, and there’s no way to revert to the old way of doing things–which worked just fine.

Right now my experiences with the new Evernote consist mainly of frustration and anger. I literally screamed out loud in the middle of a meeting yesterday while failing to figure out how to do something very basic on the new iPhone version. And I know my next door neighbors have heard me yelling at the new Mac client. I’m not a stupid person. I’m very comfortable with technology.  I run a digital media lab at an Ivy League university.  So I can only imagine what many less technically-oriented users are experiencing. Evernote is designed to let you quickly integrate it into whatever it use you do, to make your life easier.  If I’m spending more time learning to use features I already knew how to use than I am actually using the product, I find that problematic.

A lot of the comments on the Evernote forum I’ve read so far are “Give us back X” and “Why can’t I do X anymore?” and “I miss the X feature.”  Either useful features have either been removed, or it’s not at all clear to long-time users how to get to them anymore.  Frankly, neither is a positive thing.

One thing (in addition to more user testing) that Evernote could have done was to add lots of preferences in the preferences panel allowing users to put things back the way they were if they didn’t like the changes. Add new options but give people *choices* to let *them* decide the way they want their software to look and behave.

Apple made iMovie HD 6 available as a free download for iMovie 08 users when that new version was so badly received. GIMP has a skin called “GimpShop” for users who prefer a Photoshop-like interface. Many, many programs (or “apps” as we call them nowadays) let you customize your toolbars and keyboard shortcuts.  We all take for granted the ability to customize the ring tone on our mobile phones. This is because these companies realize that they can’t please all of the people all of the time, and although you can present users with good features and new ideas, ultimately the individual users themselves know what works best for them.

That’s really about all (!) I have to say.  I wrote this post for 3 reasons.  1) to vent.  (thank you for listening)  2) for the folks at Evernote to read, which I’m sure they will because they care what their users think, and 3) as an instructional and cautionary tale for the readers of this blog (many of whom will be in positions to affect the way people use and interact with various products and services at some point in the future).

I haven’t given up on Evernote.  (In fact, I composed this entire post within Evernote 5.)  And the company is starting to address some of the concerns out there so it looks like they haven’t given up on me either.

As always, we’re really interested in your feedback.  Please leave comments whether you agree, disagree, or you’re stuck somewhere in the middle.

5 thoughts on “Why I’m Unhappy with Evernote 5

  1. David,
    How’s your Evernote experience lately? I came across your post while I am doing some research on Evernote Alternatives for our beta promotion of a knowledge sharing platform we just developed. I hope to recommend it to you if you wish to switch from Evernote but it is still on beta (www.gemshelf.com) although you might want to check it out. Other platform available in the market is Springpad.(www.springpad.com) My company uses them instead of Evernote. more of a personal assistant and is excellent in managing different files.


  2. I totally agree with your analysis. I have uninstalled the latest version and installed version whis seems to be the last one before the current degradation of basic capabilities. It will be my last version, unless they come to their sense.
    three essential things I got back were:
    1) the horizontal quick access bar where you can put shortcuts to anything
    2) the ability to search on all notebooks in one stack
    3) customization of the menu bar, even though I have to redo it quite often

    I also regained more space on the left hand side,to display all my stacks .

    Paying customer with >4000 notes and heavy user, but no big files


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