Menu Close

Note taking applications: Evernote vs Journler

I stopped doing GTD. And I totally shouldn’t have.

I have determined that the problem was the lack of an “always there” todo list and note taking device. I write too slowly and am not organized enough to use my moleskine (never mind that I also tend to forget it), and my lifestyle is too mobile to just use a laptop.

I tried iGTD and Omnifocus. Ominfocus was too heavy on the resources, though by now I should probably try it again (maybe when they come up with an iPhone rich client). I also used Circus Ponies’ Notebook, which was pretty nice but didn’t do spotlight with enough granularity. Then I tried Journler (for journaling, never used it for GTD) and now I’m trying out Evernote. So how does Evernote compare?

Well, it’s not as nice as Journler. But it syncs online and does OCR, which is pretty unique. But only kind of works out for me because it’s not ubiquitous.

The problem with syncing online is that sometimes you just don’t have access to the online component. For example, I have a shopping list. I go to it online using the iPhone. When I enter the supermarket, signal drops and I no longer have access to the stuff I’m shopping for! (this *has* happened to me). As soon as there’s an iPhone rich client that syncs locally, I’ll be much happier.

Having said that, I also like features. And the last program I tried, Journler, spoiled me with them. To the point that I keep comparing Evernote to Journler, and find Evernote lacking.
Both Evernote and Journler support full Spotlight searching which is nice. But Journler (probably because they only have to worry about the client app) is a lot more polished. For example, in Journler you can add multiple pieces of content on the same entry, and these can be audio, video, and photos (through the iSight). When taking a picture with evernote (the only thing that’s supported), it always creates a new entry. I can’t seem to drag images from one note to another, though it does suport dragging and dropping multiple images.
A big selling point for Evernote is the text recognition that happens on the server. But it seems like it’s only half a feature. For example, it recognizes the text and keeps it hidden, like an OCR’d PDF. It helpfully highlights the found words as it finds them during a search, but it doesn’t let me drag and select text inside the image, like an OCR PDF would do in something like Preview. I know there’s backing text being stored, and I would like to be able to select it to copy/paste, particularly for things like quickly updating my address book with information I photograph off a business card, or preparing a document based on some text that came in as a graphic.

Evernote Usenix Example.png

Journler supports real smart folder searches, categories and tags, which should make it possible to set up a GTD-like system based on what you write. Evernote only has tags, and saved searches, which let you save a textual search and a search that is only limited to a particular set of tags, except that multiple tags work like an AND instead of an OR (and you can’t change this), so it makes it less flexible that it could be in practice.

Search Sample.png

Evernote has one thing Journler can’t match however, and that is the syncing and the ubiquity. The browser client for evernote is excellent, and it has a reasonable iPhone-specific ajax client. I would much prefer it if there was a real iPhone client now that the SDK is (almost) formally out. Since Evernote has a full client for all other platforms, I’m confident they will come up with a full iPhone client (but I don’t know this for a fact).

I like Evernote, and I will probably continue to use it. I hope one day I can have an ubiquitous capture device. This one *almost* makes the cut.


  1. Alan

    I realize I’m responding to an old post, but I didn’t find an update. Your situation somewhat mirrors mine in seeking a Mac/iPhone full-featured GTD app. You probably know this already, but “THINGS” is looking promising in its beta form. And currently I have a (somewhat clumsy) workaround in Clip2Mobile beta for shorter notes (and more) from Desktop to iPhone app. And for transferring PDFs I’ve had some success with Stanza. Good luck in your search!

  2. Hackerdude

    Thanks Alan, I actually did not know about things I’ll check it out. As an update I can add that I am now using OmniFocus (my machine has 6GB RAM now so it can hold all the development stacks/vms for my projects as well as Mail and OF), and I’m also using it on the iPhone. It syncs using local wireless network or MobileMe so I don’t have to think about it much (I amusing local wireless since it’s much faster, though you do have to remember to run it once per day, not a big deal though).

    I am still using Evernote to this day for the notes, it’s very good and they also have a rich iPhone client that syncs. It’s been specially useful for traveling (paste your itinerary, open the iPhone version and mark it as favorite so it’s available offline in full rich text goodness; take pictures of people’s business cards so you can keep them for later, that kind of thing).

    I also use Stanza but mostly to convert simple PDFs to the Kindle – though I’ve found that the Kindle email service converts a lot better (though still not perfect).

    • David Martinez

      Thanks Michael! As I only used Journler for a little while I didn’t have a solution and it was easy enough to copy/paste. This looks good for people who already have a lot of notes. Since this post was written evernote has become my go-to place for notes of all kinds, and I’m using the paid version on all my devices. I think it’s fantastic..

Comments are closed.