Evernote Comments

Evernote's lack of encryption should make you think twice about giving them your data.

Comment by JohnFastman
about Evernote and Facebook, Dropbox, SpiderOak · Jan 2017 · Helpful Not helpful 13 Helpful
THE PROBLEM WITH EVERNOTE-TYPE CLOUD SERVICES

Bookmarks, notes, pictures, scanned documents and other data placed in Evernote are analyzed and indexed to help you organize and search through them later. Evernote even applies hand-writing recognition algorithms, e.g. to scanned notes, so the text can be indexed and searched.

This is possible because the data you send to Evernote is not encryped. It's perfectly readable to anyone with access. This has awful security and privacy implications most people don't worry nearly enough about.

For example, it makes you vulnerable in these ways:

  • Hackers & Security: If hackers gain access to your Evernote stuff (they've been hacked before, even recently), they can obtain all of it in a form readable to them. Which means they know just about everything about you that you shared with Evernote. Moreover, companies make mistakes with security (one very popular company managed to accidentally disable the requirement for any password protection on people's accounts at one point.)

  • Mass Surveillance: If the NSA ask Evernote for your data using a National Security Letter, Evernote can be compelled to give them your data and can even be prevented from telling you that they did this. The Snowden leaks show the NSA have targeted data hosted by many other companies, including Google, Microsoft (inc. Skype), Facebook, Yahoo and Dropbox. Each of these companies also store their users' data in a readable form. By the way, we're not talking here about the NSA targeting criminal suspects. We're talking about mass surveillance. (Trump's incoming administration includes strong supporters of indiscriminate surveillance of this type.) National Security Letters mean the NSA can gain access to your data and the company, e.g. Evernote, Google, whatever, can be banned from telling you about it. (If you're one of the "I have nothing to hide" people, "read this". The bottom line is you have the right to privacy, which you should be interested in protecting, and you don't know who will have your data in 5, 10 or 20 years time, how they might use it to incriminate you or other people it might refer to or implicate, or even in what legal jurisdiction that might be happening.)

  • Rogue employees: Not much stops company employees behaving unethically if they access to your data. You can't predict what this would lead to. The employees of other companies have done unethical things with people's data before.

Evernote's privacy policy doesn't protect you against any of the above. It's just a policy, which is - at best - upheld when everything is going well. But even that's not something to rely on. Recently, Evernote wanted to change its privacy policy in a way that would have given employees routine access to users' data. They backed out of the change due to the consequent public uproar. However, it shows just how easy it would have been to do: there is no obstacle; your data is there to be read - it's just a question of policy. In a month, or a year from now, they could try something like that again. Who knows.

All these considerations also apply to Evernote's largest competitors, OneNote (by Microsoft) and Google Keep. And 95% of other companies that offer you cloud storage, including Dropbox, Box.com, SugarSync, Facebook, Twitter, Slack and Skype. I've singled out Evernote here because they have a service that collects not "just" your chat or contacts, or "just" your shared documents... but, in principle, everything.


YOUR ONLY FRIEND IS ENCRYPTION

Your only friend in this context, to protect your data in the cloud, is end-to-end encryption. Tried and tested algorithms which encrypt your data with a password only you keep. That way, data is encrypted on your computer before being stored online. If you have that setup, the company storing the data cannot interpret what the content is. With a strong enough algorithm (e.g. AES-256) and a complex enough password, your data should be safe from all of the eventualities I described above.
It's worth being aware that many companies claim to be a) secure and even b) use encryption. But it needs to be specifically end-to-end encryption, or "zero-knowledge". If it's not encrypted, encrypted "server-side" or "at rest" only, and if they don't say they don't keep the keys for themselves, then you're not protected and others can read your data.

For reference, here is a list of apps and services that do use end-to-end encryption (or zero-knowledge):


SO WHAT'S THE BEST PRIVACY-FRIENDLY EVERNOTE ALTERNATIVE?

Sadly, this area is lagging behind.

Option 1: Something that does what Evernote does and includes encryption

If you only need simple notes and don't need mobile, try Laverna. It's open source, supports simple text notes and html and uses markdown for formating. (It's also free.)

If you need something closer to Evernote functionality, there's Turtl. I think this is an excellent potential Evernote killer. Still in beta (so don't expect everything to be perfect), but it already does the following:

  • End-to-end encryption, hosted in Germany.
  • Windows, Mac and Linux compatible (Evernote doesn't have a Linux client; you need the slightly inferior NixNotes for that)
  • Has an Android app (iOS on the way).
  • Can store and sync bookmarks, files (pdf, images, etc.) and simple notes.
  • You can share what you store with other users and still do it encrypted.
  • You can use markdown to have formating in your notes.
  • Good seach and tagging functionality.
  • Has a web browser extension that allows you to clip content.
  • It's open source and free! It's VERY worthy of financial support, though.

Option 2: Store & organize your data on your computer, encrypt it on your computer and sync however you wish

For this, probably the best option is Tagspaces to organize your notes and files. Supports note taking, markdown, tagging, search and has browser plugins. There's a free version which is very functional and it works on Linux, Mac and Windows. The idea is you would use it on your computer to organize your notes, files and tags, etc. The folder(s) in which the data is sitting could easily be encrypted with Cryptomator. The encrypted version can be sent to the cloud without (too many) privacy worries. This doesn't solve everything, like taking notes on a mobile, but it is a good solution and I use this for my work files.

For mobile: take your notes on a mobile and sync with and end-to-end encrypted service (see "File Backup/Sync" suggestions above, or with the excellent service from Seafile.de, which has the option of encrypting file contents, even if not the file name.

If you need an encrypted note-taking app but you don't need the integration of uploaded pdf files, for example, try - in a manner similar to my TagSpaces suggestion - an app called Zim, which quite a lot of people seem to like (for my purposes TagSpaces and Turtl serve me better).

[Edited by JohnFastman, January 04]

[Edited by JohnFastman, January 04]

In light of the above, it's interesting to read Evernote's privacy policy reversal announcement. The announcement mentions weak changes like the CEO's personal oversight, and a range of new consultations with privacy experts. None of this will secure users' data against hackers or three letter agencies. As mentioned above, the answer is technological and it's called end-to-end encryption. Evernote fails even to mention encryption in their announcement. Heartening is the fact that quite a large portion of users call for it in the comments section (click above link to see).

One concern is whether end-to-end encryption would prevent notes from being searchable. The answer is no, if it was done right. It's possible in Turtl, the alternative app I recommended above. If Turtl can do it, Evernote can do it. The only question is whether they want to. Which is like asking whether they want to properly protect users' privacy. Time will tell. I predict they won't implement it because it would mean a significant code re-write and because it won't directly translate to larger profits given quite large portion of the customer base and potential customer base would have to be informed about the advantages.

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I prefer Maxnote more

Comment by lizziezhang
about Evernote · Jun 2017 · Helpful Not helpful

I use Evernote for four years so far.
The latest update indeed pulls me back a little bit, while the iOS version is still far from satisfying.
So I begin my long term odyssey to find a better alternative to Evernote.
I tried a lot of products including Youdao, Weizhi, Dropbox, NoeNote, and Maxnote.
They all have something attracting me while cannot fully fulfill my needs.
Until I meet Maxnote, which is an inbuilt feature in Maxthon5 browser. It's a product from a company focus on browser developing for 13 years.
So I believe their profession and skills.
Maxnote is available on several platforms, including PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. That perfect suits me since I have a Mac at home, a PC in the office, and use iPhone and Android tablet. So you can imagine Maxthon5 is what an angle to me. I can use it anywhere, anytime; both online and offline.
Happy to share it with you guys!

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Comment by CicelyChen
about Evernote · May 2017 · Helpful Not helpful

It is very convenient to sync my data among different devices. Makes my life easy. I've used it for several years already.

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A good alternative - Dropbox plus "Save as file"

Comment by maxrempel
about Evernote · Feb 2017 · Helpful Not helpful

"Save as file" is a good alternative - you can take screenshots and save them as JPGs in dropbox or you can copy text and paste it as text or html in dropbox.

Hi,everyone,I would like to recommend you this awesome note app-MixNote! If you don’t want other people to view a note, it can help you lock and hide it. enjoy ;)

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A good alternative - Dropbox plus "Save as file"

Comment by maxrempel
about Evernote · Feb 2017 · Helpful Not helpful

"Save as file" is a good alternative - you can take screenshots and save them as JPGs in dropbox or you can copy text and paste it as text or html in dropbox.

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Great app!

Comment by JamesJoyce
about Evernote · Jan 2016 · Helpful Not helpful

What I like most is the constant improvement, rapid correction of minor errors and great custom support! From my point of view, one of the best apps in productivity segment!

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like it but..

Comment by robertmu
about Evernote · Jan 2016 · Helpful Not helpful

i like it but i definitely think it needs to some improvements.

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I am looking for an alternative to Evernote that supports Markdown (or even better MultiMarkdown)

Comment by behrangsa
about Evernote and Day One · Nov 2015 · Helpful Not helpful

There's DayOne, but it misses some features that I need:

Also even better would be to allow the user choose what format (Markdown, RTF, etc.) each one of its posts should be in.

  1. A web-based interface apart from native apps
  2. Cross-platform (available on OS X and Windows and +1 if it is also available for Linux as well as iOS and Android)
  3. Beautiful UI (there are some cross-platform apps that are way too ugly)
  4. Syntax highlighting code
  5. Folders, tagging, uploading images, etc.

I think that's basically it.

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Evernote's making "mail to" functionality premium, so I'm looking at alternatives

Comment by pollyq
about Evernote · Jun 2015 · Helpful Not helpful

I like a lot of things about Evernotes functionality, but I got an email today saying that the ability to email something into a notebook is going to be premium functionality, and I'm just not willing to spend $50 a year for that, so looking for alternatives.

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MustHave for notes

Comment by sunshinelove
about Evernote · Jun 2013 · Helpful Not helpful

I use it for everything! You can never imaging how much you need until you start using it.

yeah, you're right,
what have you tried?

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Comment by Maeldun
about Evernote · Jun 2011 · Helpful Not helpful

It's nice in terms of features and synchronicity, but 4 major versions later it's still got some of the most nagging formatting and viewing bugs - maybe because of my windows7 x64 ?

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The desktop application is a piece of crap.

Comment by masterperas
about Evernote · Jun 2011 · Helpful Not helpful

The concept behind Evernote is very good, and the phone apps are great. On the other hand the desktop application is a piece of crap. Super bloated. Taking notes should be something easy and i end up giving up before even starting to type. I wish this site had a dont like button

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Comment by mostwanted
about Evernote · Jun 2011 · Helpful Not helpful

Hogs a lot of memory, not sure if it still does since my last use. Anyone care to elaborate?

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Evernote haven't Linux support.

Comment by UncleNinja
about Evernote and NixNote, Tomboy · Jun 2011 · Helpful Not helpful

Removed the part about "all devices on all platforms" in the description because that isn't possible. Does it have Solaris or Linux support? No. You can use a browser extension in Linux, sure, but that's not the same as a desktop application.
It's even more impossible to support "any device". There are so many devices out there - it would take years to do that.

Since I use Linux, I can't use Evernote. I would recommend Tomboy Notes. It's really nice.

+1

Just edit the application and remove it :) Everyone can edit most things on AlternativeTo even though if you don't have edited a lot before it may first be reviewed by an admin!

This post is over a year old.

And I did edit it before I posted that.

Upps, sorry. I missed that :)

Not strictly true though since you can use Nixnote (formally nevernote) on Linux. Small NixNote iconNixNote

I realise that it is not an official Evernote application so in strict application terms this entry should not have Linux listed as a supported platform. However when you talk about Evernote as a service and the fact that it provides an API for access by any client on any platform, the original description of "all devices on all platforms" is completely correct.

Why are we still talking about this?

Firstly because this is the top comment in Evernote and you stated:

Since I use Linux, I can't use evernote.

Therefore I thought I would simply state that there is a desktop application available for Linux and then follow up by pointing out that the constraints of this website doesn't account for Evernote providing a service with API that allows access for any platform via 3rd party applications.

xkcd #386 "What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!"

I must have meant official. I don't know. I've slept since then.

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