I made a serious effort starting late last year to switch to Joplin, but after much frustration I’m returning to, ugh, Evernote. Despite the wonderful advantages of Joplin, notably its enthusiastic developers and regular updates, I concluded that the Joplin isn’t quite where it needs to be to completely replace my Evernote-based workflow. Before I leave, I owe everyone a little explanation.
By far my biggest requirement for note-taking software is what I call “Get out of Dodge”. You must be able to painlessly abandon ship at any time, leave the platform and take your notes elsewhere.
Ironically, I’m finding that for my purposes Evernote does a better job at that than Joplin.
- Thanks to the large Evernote community, there are many excellent open-source tools to wrangle the Evernote ENEX format.
- Evernote (web) links can be read from Joplin, but not vice versa. When switching to Joplin, it’s either all or nothing.
Joplin, despite being mostly Markdown, betrays my Get Out of Dodge requirement:
- Tags and other metadata are always separate from the note. Even the title is kept, not in the note itself, but in the Joplin database.
- Resources are kept in one giant folder, with inscrutable Joplin-generated IDs as names.
- Images and attachments, besides having those proprietary names, are specified with a non-standard Markdown code. Instead of [photo](path/to/photo), Joplin requires [photo](:weirdlongsequenceofnumbersandletters)
Although Joplin lets you export to both markdown and html, metadata like tags and dates are missing, and the title is simply appended to the top without indication that it’s a title. There are probably workarounds to these limitations, and of course I always have the option of writing my own extension or post-processor to make it fit my workflow. Or — for now at least — I conclude that the extra effort isn’t yet worth the trouble.
No note-taking software is perfect for everyone, and I realize that some of what I call a limitation may be thought by others to be a feature. Ultimately it always comes down to a personal choice that inevitably includes tradeoffs. I’m still excited about Joplin more than other Evernote alternatives, so I’ll continue to watch the community, ready to undergo the painful switch when/if Evernote finally becomes completely intolerable. Until then, rather than silently disappear on you, I hope this feedback will offer some useful perspective on what I still believe is the best open source note-taking software out there.