Observations from an Evernote refugee

Operating system

macOS

Joplin version

12.14.22

Desktop version info

Joplin 2.14.22 (prod, darwin)

Client ID: a706934ea4084038974a42a6d291a37b
Sync Version: 3
Profile Version: 46
Keychain Supported: Yes

Revision: e579eb9

Backup: 1.4.0

What issue do you have?

Hi, Based on reviews Joplin seems like a perfect 1:1 replacement for Evernote - familiar layout, straightforward migration from EN, web-clipping, synching between devices. And that's to say nothing about security/privacy, backup, speed, cost. However, first impressions have been a bit disappointing, specifically...

  1. Importing/migrating into Joplin doesn't produce the carbon copy that seemed to be promised in the reviews I read. Simple text-only notes are fine (I can live with minor format and font changes) but notes produced with the EN web clipper, or any notes with web content (images, graphics, URLs), seem to lose something in migration and end up quite different to the EN version. Most troubling is the way URLs became un-clickable after migration. The same blue, underlined text string appears in the Joplin note, and the link icon on the toolbar is activated when the URL is selected, but I can't work out how to make links operational. Advice on how to get URLs and other links working most welcome. Likewise, any tips about migrating from Evernote. More generally, I'm wondering if these migration/importing results are in any way a function of platform or operating system? I'm on a 2014 MacBook Air with OS10.15 and pondering a new laptop running Windows and/or Linux as a replacement. Any chance I'll have better luck with that?

  2. As for new content created in Joplin, my note-taking is just that, so I have no need for elaborate formatting and can learn to live with quirks like double spacing. However, I do a lot of web-clipping and the Joplin version isn't as polished or user-friendly as Evernote's, and some of the options on the Clipper's drop-down menu are clunky. The Clip Selection option is trickiest: after some trial and error I figure you need to make the selection before starting the clipper?? I get it that clipping previews like those offered by Evernote might be beyond the means of this project but some instructions and/or explanation of what is clipped in each option would be helpful.

  3. Otherwise, and more generally, the Joplin experience is daunting for anyone who is not a developer or familiar with coding, and some of the features (eg. the absence of a trash can) are perplexing. I'm still wondering if I've joined a note-taking app or a group of markdown enthusiasts who happen to take a few notes. I know this sounds like a late-to-the-party newbie asking for room service, so apologies for that up front, but a plain-english page for non-developer/non-coding/non-markdown users would broaden the appeal of this project.

I'll persist and try to make it work.

3 Likes

Did you import as HTML or Markdown? The former will do a far more accurate rendition at the cost of making it harder to edit. The latter will use Joplin's "native" format but will lose some formatting due to limitations of Markdown itself.

If you are using the rich text editor rather than markdown then you need to ctrl+click it (possibly cmd+click on macOS?) as otherwise it wouldn't be easy to edit the text using your cursor. In a preview of the note it should be clickable like normal. This should be a similar metaphor as used in many word processor type applications.

This is coming in v3 - currently in pre-release

It is an open source project and yes, does probably tend to attract more people who are happier with markdown but I think saying that people who like Markdown aren't enthusiastic about note taking as much as others isn't a fair evaluation. I wouldn't be anywhere near as prolific or efficient in my notetaking without Markdown, using a richtext editor is just too slow and cumbersome for me.

3 Likes

I've been using Joplin for a number of years, and prior to that I used Evernote, OneNote for work, and several others. At first markdown seemed odd to me. But I decided to trudge through the learning curve. I do clip several web pages for future reference (I do a lot of electrical work on boats), so having this wealth of knowledge offline is invaluable. I'll admit the "plain" text of Joplin threw me off at first because I had painstakingly created my own text styles for different things (I'm also a programmer, so I have lots of code snippets saved as well). Joplin wrecked my styles because I couldn't change fonts, etc.

Well, several years later I appreciate the lack of text options because I spend more time taking notes and less time dealing with odd font issues that crop up. When I clip a web page, it goes from a cluttered mess of ads, a mix of fonts, pieces of text all over the page just because the web developer can, etc. to a nice easy to read top-to-bottom note. I also appreciate when I want to save code, I just wrap it in the code markdown syntax and move on rather than have to change the font, size, unbold sometimes, reset color sometimes, etc. Since markdown doesn't support all of that, it comes in "plain", which for a note is much simpler.

Sorry for the novel, just want to encourage you to let go, focus on the reason you're taking the note in the first place and once you learn markdown, you'll appreciate how easy it is to bold, italic, make headers, links, or whatever else right while you're typing. I never have to leave the keyboard if I don't want to. Once this clicks, I think you'll see why the markdown syntax is so popular and if you're anything like me, you'll wonder why you wasted so much time perfecting your notes in anything else.

2 Likes

If ctrl-click (or cmd-click on MacOS) does work to open imported links, this pull request may make this easier to discover.

One possible adjustment could be disabling the "clip selection" button when nothing is selected and/or showing a warning icon (similar to "clip simplified page"). For example,


Like the "clip simplified page" warning icon, hovering over "Clip selection" could show a tooltip with an explanation of why the button is disabled.

Thank you for the feedback!

Thanks for the quick response.

First up, my line about "markdown enthusiasts" wasn't meant to impugn the good people of this forum. I appreciate the work being undertaken here (and in other open source projects). Read it as my dawning recognition that I'm often going to be out of my depth in the forum. A bit like travelling through Africa with only English. Or diving into a swimming pool and finding there's no shallow end.

Second, thanks for the tip about URLs and advice about the upcoming trash can. Cmd-click works and can't wait to delete notes without feeling anxious.

As for the importing challenge, I'll experiment with both to see what works best. Of course, this problem only arises because I know what the originals look like in Evernote and I'm judging against that. If I was creating these notes for the first time in Joplin (rather than importing) I'd probably be happy as... (notwithstanding observations about the web clipper).

BTW, lest anyone think I'm getting misty-eyed about Evernote, don't get me started!

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Thanks for the encouragement. Unfortunately, I think the pros and cons of markdown vs rich text etc will remain lost on me. I just want to get my notes down and, so long as it's not onerous, how that happens doesn't really bother me. (I must seem like a troglodyte?!) However, as previously, if I was creating notes for the first time in Joplin, rather than migrating from Evernote, I'd probably be entirely happy. So, I'll try to take your advice.

To confirm my earlier assertions here that a) I'm out of my depth and b) there is a troglodyte loose in the forum : ), I have no idea what a "pull request" is. However, I can report, happily, that I'm now opening URLs with Cmd-click. Thanks.

As for the Webclipper, your proposal sounds fine to me but, as above, I'm not qualified to assess that course of action. While we're on the topic, however, one recent feature of Evernote that I do like (perhaps the only one) is its URL clipping option, which includes not just the URL but a title, a large thumbnail photo/image and the opening sentence or two of the article. Just an idea, not a dealbreaker. I expect I could cobble together something similar using Joplin's URL and Screenshot clipping options.

What does markdown mean? Have never heard of it.

A supplementary question on importing: a number of notes have come through without a title. The notes have/had a title in Evernote but in Joplin they appear as "Untitled Note". They appear in the same sort order as in Evernote but without the title. Any thoughts? Of course this might be a problem on the Evernote side (eg. font choice?) but I can't see anything obvious.

I believe this is normally an issue with the Evernote export. The .enex file you get out of evernote is actually an XML file you can open in a standard text editor - like TextEdit on macOS.

If you open that file and search for some of the content of one of these untitled notes you should find a <title> tag which for some reason Evernote sometimes exports with the value Untitled Note or similar - Joplin just imports the value that is present. People have had much better luck exporting with the old Evernote Legacy apps rather than the new ones which doesn't seem to have this bug.

It is a way of formatting text using plaintext characters rather than "hidden" data.

e.g. instead of highlighting a word to mark it as bold you instead surround it in * characters - e.g. **bold text**. It is used in a bunch of places now, this forum uses it for formatting and many instant messaging apps now support it to a degree.

The Joplin website has a section on it - Markdown Guide | Joplin

Markdown is actually Joplin's native format to store notes, if you use the richtext editor then it gets converted to Markdown anyway.

Thanks. Any idea where the legacy version/s of the Evernote app can be accessed? I looked for it about six months ago but Evernote seem to have banished it from their website.

It looks like you might be out of luck as of a couple of months ago - Saying goodbye to legacy versions of the Evernote app

I can relate to your troglodyte tendencies. While I am a software engineer by day, most of my favorite things have nothing to do with technology and I enjoy the simpler things of life. I took a different migration path than you. I went from Evernote to OneNote, then to Joplin. There is no import from OneNote to Joplin, so I just had to copy/paste each note and update them. As was mentioned in another reply in this thread, the markdown guide is a great resource and I had it bookmarked for the first 6 months. I started with the simple stuff, titles and bold. I've since built tables and all sorts of things in my Joplin notes, but start with the very basics that you'll need and don't think you need to learn everything all at once. Take some time to get your migrated notes over, or copy/paste if the migration doesn't work well. Figure out how to make your notes look meaningful to you, and if you're like me, this time is a good time to clear out some old notes that maybe you no longer need. I moved mine over one notebook at a time, then I'd go on with my life. Once I had some time to kill, I'd move over another notebook. But once I started to get comfortable with Joplin, I wound up being able to create notes much faster than anything before.

*sigh*, yes, yes.

Can concur. It's seems increasingly to be the case that older apps—even if a little bit out-of-date—can't access the Evernote online service anymore.

Fearing exactly what did happen would happen, I tried using an older version of the (Electron-based) app without a network connection, but I think the functionality for exporting whole notebooks requires a connection to their web service.

I have probably more than a thousand notes in Evernote, dating back to 2012, and it feels bad to kick them while they're down, but I'm still sad things turned out this way.

This would be a great idea for Joplin on mobile where (in contrast to Evernote) we don't have a web clipper at all, i.e. sharing a website into Joplin results in a note with a link in it. There are browser addons like ToMarkdown (iOS) which can convert content and make it ready to be copy-pasted into Joplin, however.

I think the forum is only a small fraction of users. And of course tech people are going to be the ones to want to tinker. But plenty of non techy people get help here too.

Just create a temp folder and move things there in the mean time.

Yeah, reviewers can write anything and not have to deal with disgruntled users, lol.

What I have found with note taking apps is that there are almost as many use cases and workflows as there are users. So, for example, if a reviewer never used the EN clipper, then they won't have had the problem you did.

BTW,

About pull requests

A pull request is a proposal to merge a set of changes from one branch into another. In a pull request, collaborators can review and discuss the proposed set of changes before they integrate the changes into the main codebase. Pull requests display the differences, or diffs, between the content in the source branch and the content in the target branch.

Thanks for those comments and the very common-sense trash can workaround suggestion. I might even name the temp folder... 'trash can'.

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Yes, a cull is probably in order.

The term is a counter-point to a "markup" language, such as in "Hyper Text Markup Language" (HTML). That said, technically "markdown" is a type of markup language as is, for example, TeX. A markup language includes embedded "tags" in a plain text document to describe how the document is to be displayed when rendered. That is, you "mark up" plain text with rendering tags.