Commentary: evernote 10 has undergone a disappointing makeover

Commentary: evernote 10 has undergone a disappointing makeover

When Ian Small took the helm of Evernote pretty much two years ago, he promised the multiplatform note-taking program’s many millions of users that in the future he would listen to them. The company wants to concentrate again on the further development of the program, which had been hoped for years, instead of selling paper notebooks, backpacks and socks with the well-known elephant logo. The next Evernote should be a quantum leap, filled with everything its loyal fans wished for.

A few weeks ago, after the iOS version, which caused little enthusiasm, finally came out the new Evernote for macOS and Windows. Confidently, they had skipped a few version numbers and had gone to 7.x let the version 10 follow.

Users threaten to leave

In the user forum of Evernote and on other influential websites there is an uproar since then. Long-time, paying power users, even those in the closest circle of sympathizers, are threatening to leave, for the second time after the abrupt price hike and restriction of the 2016 free offer.

Now it is not unusual that long-time users of an application have problems with changes in design and operation of a new version. Just think of the sometimes still ongoing criticism of Microsoft’s switch to ribbon menubanders with Office 2007.

In the case of Evernote, however, it is not just a matter of the changes to the user interface and operation that the switch to a new substructure has brought with it. Based on the Electron framework, it is intended to standardize the user experience and operation on all platforms and simplify program maintenance. The entire interface has become noticeably more bulky, many shortcuts no longer work. Instead of a free choice of native fonts, only four usable fonts are available plus two decorative fonts. Some actions now require several mouse clicks; there is no options menu with settings or context menus, notebooks can no longer be color-coded, and much more.

Deleted without replacement

Much worse is the fact that several functions have been completely omitted, not only in the free version, but also for paying users. Functions, on which at least those have built their workflow, who use Evernote not only for simple shopping lists or recipes, but partly organize their entire professional or private life with the program.

In Evernote 10, for example, it is no longer possible to monitor hard disk folders whose contents (e.g. scanned documents) are automatically transferred to notes. The option to save notebooks locally and not sync them to cloud storage (hosted by Google, by the way) has disappeared, as has the ability to search shared notebooks and export in HTML format.

Unripe bananas

It seems that for some reason the company was forced to release the new version of Evernote in a half-finished beta state. The manufacturer promises to add missing features soon.

Perhaps they also wanted to see which features were most important to users based on the loudness of the protests. It also fits with a remark that Phil Libin, Evernote’s previous CEO, made in 2013 during an interview with the Los Angeles Times, which his interviewee at the time, Chris O’Brien, later recalled: "A lot of users only use 5% of Evernote’s features; but it’s a different 5% for everybody. If it was the same ones, we could just throw the other 95% out.".

It is significant that Evernote support answers many user complaints with the suggestion to install an old "legacy" version (for Windows this is the 6.25) and use it in parallel with Evernote 10, if necessary. The company also makes this recommendation on its own website, along with the appropriate download link.

OneNote-Deja vu

Somehow, this development strongly resembles the events surrounding Microsoft’s competitor OneNote: The desktop version, formerly part of Microsoft Office until the 2016 version, was initially supplemented by a tablet-friendly and simplified UWP version in 2014, with the aim of completely replacing the "legacy" OneNote. After many user complaints about the significantly lower functionality of the new OneNote, Microsoft postponed the announced final end for the Office version. Who liked, can OneNote 2016(!) and use it alternatively or parallel – without active support and further development.

The main difference to Evernote: There is no direct financing model behind OneNote. The program is free (both the UWP version and OneNote 2016, if you only store notes in the cloud) and only requires an equally free Microsoft account.

OneNote wants to bind users to Microsoft’s oco-system and open up the interesting education market, especially in the USA. Evernote, on the other hand, depends directly on its users and their subscription payments (and, as it says, so far mainly on its investors).

In response to user displeasure, the two again resemble each other closely. Both of them are to work intensively to close the "feature gap" and to add the missing features of the previous versions quickly. Microsoft has been promising this for years, and has been very slow and inadequate in fulfilling this promise. Evernote should take this much more seriously in its own interest and be much faster.

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