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Anti-Everything Bucket: 5 Tasks Where Evernote is NOT The Best Solution

5 Tasks where Evernote is not the best solution

Evernote is an amazing app backed by an amazing company that’s turned something seemingly mundane (organizing our stuff) into a sexy brand.

Evernote’s power of an application is so strong, that it inspires intelligent articles like this one from Art of Manliness: 30 Ways Evernote Can Improve Your Life.

However, what I’d like to discuss with you today is the notion that while Evernote can be used as an everything bucket, there are quite few tasks where it’s worth considering using more specialized tools and containers.

Here are five tasks I would consider taking outside of Evernote.

Task: Journaling

Evernote Alternative: Day One

Benefits in using Day One for journaling:

  • Plain text: Day One uses plain text only which is a benefit because of this:
    Your great grandchild reads your entry from Evernote date March 2015 like this: “*&*&//it was a great day with kids45355” but the same entry in plain text, even a 100 years from now is: “It was a great day with the kids.”
  • Text Expander integration on iOS: Text Expander is so choice and you can do a lot of cool things with TE in Day One, for example tapping into MacSparky’s collection of media review templates. (Want to capture your thoughts on every time you see a movie with the kids? This is an excellent way to do that and more.) There’s also Michael Hyatt’s journal template
  • Date, time, and weather automatically: Evernote does all of this too except for the weather, but Day One does it a beautiful, traditional journal kind of way that makes it a blast to check out past entries and see the PASSAGE OF TIME. There’s a rad calendar view too that’s unique to Day One.
  • A singular focus: It’s easy to add photos, you can tag entries and there’s a gorgeous distraction free writing environment but these are true for Evernote too (especially with its recent redesign.)
    AND YET when you use Day One and see its writing prompts and its thoughtful design all going towards one purpose: giving you an opportunity to reflect and preserve memories, you’ll see the difference in using an app that’s pointed to a singular purpose.

Why You Still Might Want to Use Evernote for this task:

  • You like everything in the same place.
  • Evernote has robust tagging. You can tag journal entries as “journal” to separate them from other notes and then also tag them as “mediareview”, “awesomeday”, etc. 

Additional Resource: Day One and the Journaling Habit by Chris Gonzales.

Task: Reading, highlighting and storing your PDF eBook collection

Evernote Alternative: Readdle’s Documents

Benefits in using Readdle’s Documents for PDFs:

  • Easily highlight and annotate documents. Especially if paired with Readdle’s PDF Expert.
  • Bookmarks! No more losing your spot just because you’re not on your Kindle.
  • Dropbox and iCloud integration so that your collections can look the same across devices.

Why You Still Might Want to Use Evernote:

  • You like everything in the same place.
  • True, you can do quite a bit of annotations and mark-ups from within Evernote, but for a true Kindle-like reading experience try Documents.
  • Documents is iOS only. I’m fine with that because I do all my PDF reading/marking up on my iPad. If I do want to reference a PDF eBook on my Mac, I have a dedicated “Ebook” folder in Dropbox – which is where I’m pulling the Documents copies from anyway.

Additional Resource: My post: “The best way to read and mark PDF ebooks on iOS”

Task: Collecting and totaling business and personal receipts

Evernote Alternative: Expensify

Advantages over Evernote:

  • Totaling: This is the biggest advantage hands down to me: the ability to see exactly how much those receipts are adding up over a specific period of time. You can throw receipts into a digital shoebox like Evernote and tag them “2015” and “Dining” but you can’t then ask Evernote how much you spent on dining in 2015.
  • Categorizing: again, if you’re going through the trouble of tracking all your expenses it’s nice to have it in a “report” as opposed to just a notebook because you can easily see not only totals, but then rearrange that data and see it from different points: date, price, category, etc.
  • Exporting to spreadsheet format: Similar to above point, not only is Expensify giving you cloud storage for all your paper and emailed receipts but it’s putting it into data then can be played with in a way that makes sense for numbers. Like pushing it right into a spreadsheet so you can figure out why you’re spending $5,000 a year on Chipotle.
  • iPhone scanner integration: the powerful Genius Scan allows you to export to Expensify. (And yes, it also exports to Evernote and a number of other applications too.)
  • Bookkeeping software integration: I don’t need it yet in my business, but Expensify hooks right into Quickbooks and Xero.

Why You Still Might Want to Use Evernote:

  • You want to keep everything in the same place.
  • You can integrate Evernote with another financial tracking like app like Shoeboxed.
  • Pricing: I use Expensify for free and I believe that’s because I don’t have any reason to submit reports to anyone? (If you know more about this, comment below.) I have reports for 2 small businesses and my medical expenses for the year and I just add to them throughout the year and then save the PDF of that year around tax time. Otherwise, it’s 5 bucks a month for their basic plan.

Additional Resource: Video: Paperless Mobile Receipt Workflow With Expensify And Genius Scan

Task: Saving an online article to read it later.

Evernote Alternative: Instapaper or Pocket

Advantages over Evernote:

  • Takes the text of any website and puts in a beautiful easy to read text format. (A similar effect can be done with the Evernote web clipper and the Evernote extension Clearly.)
  • Easy offline access. (In Evernote you might need to put it an offline notebook for this to be true.)
  • Video captures are easier and the formatting preserved, especially with Pocket.
  • Won’t create a junk drawer in your Evernote system of articles that you want to read but won’t necessarily reference again in the future.

Why You Still Might Want to Use Evernote:

  • You want to keep everything in the same place.
  • You want to save articles that are specifically linked to projects that you are keeping in Evernote.

Additional Resource: Mac Power Users 247: The Onslaught Revisited

Task: Collecting awesome recipes to cook awesome food.

Evernote Alternative: Paprika

Advantages over Evernote:

  • Capturing online recipes from Paprika’s in-app browser is lightening fast and puts the data into clear listings (ie. title, ingredients, directions, etc.)
  • Makes meal planning and creating shopping lists snappy and automated in ways that just don’t exist in Evernote. (Even in the somewhat neglected Evernote Food.)
  • Cooking from this app offers great features like: crossing off ingredients as you go and setting timers right within the recipe in a single tap.

Why You Still Might Want to Use Evernote:

  • You want to keep everything in the same place.

Additional Resource: I have a forthcoming guest post that will cover meal planning with Paprika in-depth, I’ll post it here when it’s published. In the meantime, check out: The best recipe manager for iPhone, iPad, and Mac at The Sweet Setup.

What about you? Do you like using Evernote for everything or are there certain tasks you hand off to more specialized online or offline apps/tools? Let’s talk in the comments below.

photo by Kristina Ulmer//cc

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  • Chezaré Sievers

    Great tools! I just started using Expensify. I’m so glad that you recommended it. I track my mileage, receipts, and travel expenses.

    • Excellent! Expensify is really helpful in keeping paper receipt piles to a minimum and reducing stress come tax time. I’m planning on writing more about my Expensify workflow — stay tuned!

  • Hey there Deron! I have been using Xero to keep my business books for almost a year. Every time I book an expense I can scan the receipt with the Android app and attach it to ledger entry. And since it’s true bookkeeping, the expense gets classified by my Chart of Accounts, which then goes right to the tax accountant and onto the Schedule C. So it’s easy to see how much I spend on coffee networking dates, and I can always go run reports myself in Xero if I just want to get a total for Chipolte. I use Mint.com as my personal money manager and can also get reports there (although the receipt images are not there). I’ve always wondered why people who have a cloud-based accounting program also use some sort of receipt keeper (like Expensify), and then I think, ok maybe I’m missing something here. But maybe not. My only real concern is that if I ever defect from Xero how will I take my historical books and the scanned receipt images with me? They’re all saved to my camera roll in my phone but how ugly would that be to make sense of? Shudder. I think Xero, at $30 / mo , is expensive and I wish I would have tried Wave first (free) or QBO ($10/mo). At the time, I didn’t think QBO had enough reporting. I’m just starting to learn Evernote, so I really appreciate this post. Thank you!

    • Hey Ericka!

      Yeah, I think if you’re essentially doing the same receipt capture with Xero than probably not so much need for you to try Expensify. Curiously, I’m still using Google Sheets for my business accounting 2 1/2 years in because it works for me and I’m still looking to avoid that kind of $30 charge. (Although I’ve heard recommendations from a number of free Wave users.)

      On the personal side I used Mint for a number of years until I became so frustrated with reoccurring bugs that I walked away. I tried a few alternatives but nothing stuck. I’d like to change that but that’s a tricky category to get right I think.

      With Expensify I can export the annual reports as PDFs and so I know that it’s portable at the point when I leave it. I bet there’s some kind of option like that in Xero might be worth looking into.

      Glad you’re trying Evernote and this post was helpful towards that! Give me a shout with any questions about that or other stuff.

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