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    Evernote Bites the Dust

    I’ve been a premium subscriber to Evernote since September of 2011, but I never really got the hang of it.  I used import folders, so everything I did was in there, but organizing it and quickly finding what I was looking for — I never managed that.  This year, about the time I was supposed to renew, it stopped syncing properly.  The installation on my work computer, and on my Android phone, worked fine, as far as I could tell.  But the one at home — the one I do all my work on — nope.  The sync kept failing.  After a week or two of messing with it, I finally contacted Customer Service and after a few exchanges back and forth they told me it was, apparently, a bug of some kind and hopefully it would be fixed in a subsequent release.

    A few weeks ago I checked and, sure enough, there’s a new version and the release notes indicate that the bugs that caused some sync problems were fixed.  Kewl.  Just in case, I did a completely new install, but it still wouldn’t sync and it was trying to access strangely named notes with weird Chinese characters in the names, or notes named “” or “Q”.  I don’t have anything like that.  I contacted Customer Service again on December 9th.  To date, other than the automated “we have received your inquiry” message, I have yet to hear from them — well except for their advertisements and promotions.  I get those.

    Determined to make this work, I exported my database from my work computer, did a clean install at home, imported the database and Voila!  It’s syncing again.  Kewl again!

    If you Google “evernote genealogy” you can find tons of examples of how people have organized their genealogy research with Evernote, and I set about trying out some of these systems.  Most of them rely heavily on tags, which I don’t really like — I prefer notebooks — but the notebook limit is 250 and I didn’t want to run into that.

    Unfortunately, using tags isn’t as easy as it might sound.  You can have a main tag of “Surnames” and sub-tags for each surname, but if you select “Surnames” it doesn’t show you anything, i.e., it doesn’t show the notes tagged in the Surname hierarchy.  So, if you want that, you have to tag each note with “Surname” and “Smith.”  And for each new surname, you have to drag and drop the name to the Surname tag to get them to line up.  Once you have a few dozen of these, it’s not easy, because as soon as you drag one to Surnames the list expands and you have to drag up or down through all of them to get to the main Surname tag.

    One neet thing I found is you can use characters, such as ! ~ * #, to name your notebooks and/or tags to get them to show up in the order you want them, without having to get creative with alpha character naming conventions.

    I’m also reminded, however, that with v.5 (if it did this in v.4 I sure don’t remember it) as you scroll through a note, the title scrolls also.  So you go down the page a bit, you can’t see or edit the title anymore.  This is an irritant when you’re looking for information contained in a note that takes up more than the screen to use in the title.  Then there’s the search feature, which keeps defaulting to “Search All Notes” even after it’s set to “Search Current Context.”

    So I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Evernote for a long time.  It’s cheap — $45 a year is cheap and free is even cheaper — storage capacity (4GB for premium members per month) is more than I’ll ever use.

    But I don’t understand the mindset — changing things just to be changing things and not fixing the stuff that doesn’t work.  They added annotations for images, but you can’t make changes to the basic configuration, such as which font to use, or whether or not to use the white background and drop shadow.  So yes, you can annotate your images if you want your comments to look like cartoons.

    (There’s more, but this thing is already too long.  But you can take a peek at the Evernote forums to learn about the long-standing issues that continue to plague users, and the new problems that are introduced with each update and acquisition.)

    I gave up on the forums a long time ago.  You won’t really find much in the way of solutions there.  Mostly, it’s people asking why does it do this or why doesn’t it do that or how do you do such and such and being told (1) it doesn’t do that and there are no plans for change and (2) it’s their program and they can do what they want, so quit complaining.

    It was comments like these that lead me to believe that the Evernote development team was a group of college buddies who thought they’d make a few dollars off their toy.  Boy, was I wrong — first time that’s ever happened!

    After a few days of successful syncing, Evernote starts failing again.  Only this time, it’s after a weekend of working on reorganizing my setup based on all the wonderful suggestions I found on the InterWebs.  So importing the database from the office won’t work, and now I’m thinking — if I have to keep exporting/importing my database with a flash drive, what’s the point?

    Back to Google, only this time I’m looking for “Evernote alternatives” — and that’s when I found this:  Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant by Jason Kincaid. Now, I don’t know who Jason Kincaid is, and not using audio I haven’t had the exact problems he has.  But he must be Somebody because he was actually personally contacted by Evernote CEO Phil Libin — the Great Unwashed can’t even get an answer from CS — who wrote a response on the Evernote blog.

    After perusing Jason’s post, the comments to it, and the response from the CEO, I made the decision to end my love/hate relationship with Evernote and ask for a refund.  Why?  Simple — Jason’s blog post is from almost a year ago, and the response to it from Evernote was immediate.  You can see from the comments back then that people were actually encouraged by the attention Jason’s missive received.

    And yet, here we are, a year later, and despite the fact that Evernote is, in fact a real business with a real CEO and over 150 developers — not the small group of nerdy friends I had envisioned — nothing’s changed.  Libin’s response was, indeed, simply damage control, prompted by the huge response to Kincaid’s article, and not a sincere promise of things to come.

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