Getting Things Done: from Evernote to Google

I have been an Evernote user for 7 years – just one less year than it has been around. It was my tool of choice for school notes, for personal writing, capturing articles for later reading, and once for a big move to catalogue the contents of boxes with photos and descriptions. At some point I read about and adopted David Allen’s GTD method which made Evernote central to everything I wanted to do or think about. Evernote is an excellent tool and together with the Chrome extension, Android app and widget, and web app, I have always felt able to capture and interact with the pieces of the world around me that are important at the time.

part of my Evernote archive

For reasons I won’t go into here, I have spent the last three years migrating my main computer from an Apple laptop to one with Windows, then to one running Ubuntu, which I am using now. The workflow I refined over the years managed to stayed the same through the change from Apple to Windows: intake anything of interest as I come across it during my day into an “INBOX” notebook in Evernote, with dedicated review times at the start and end of my day to sort through the inbox. I schedule meetings, continue research, aggregate notes to their associated projects notebooks or other notebooks dedicated to topics like learning, reading or recipes.

Unfortunately with the final move to Ubuntu I found that there was no official Evernote client for Linux, nor was there a good or regularly maintained unofficial client. I managed to get by for a few months with the Evernote web app but it was never as powerful as either of the official clients I’d used before, and it was missing a crucial feature – the ability to edit notebook stacks.

Moving to other platforms has been at the back of my mind for a few years, nudged by an interest in owning my own data, and data security. I even prototyped and planned my own web app tied into the command line at one point. Google Keep was the only other tool I have used regularly besides Evernote for capturing quick notes, but I’d set it aside once I wanted to go full GTD with Evernote. Now I’ve decided to adopt it, along with Google Drive, for my GTD workflow.

Screenshot from 2016-11-16 23-38-02.png
current Google Keep inbox



Screenshot from 2016-11-16 23-39-47.png
mostly organized Google Drive so far

I’ve spent a couple of days migrating my notes over to Google Drive, and replaced the Chrome extension and Android app and widget with ones from Google Keep. Here are the differences that I’ve noticed so far:

Evernote pros & cons:

✓ pane preview for all notes (can’t do that in google docs)
✓ excellent desktop apps for OSX and Windows
✓ I’ve always been a fan of their brand
✗ no desktop app for Linux (the kicker)
✗ time selection UX for reminders is not the best, for all apps
✗ web app doesn’t let you manage stacks

Google Drive + Keep pros & cons:

✓ I like the material design of Keep
✓ Chrome Keep app behaves like a desktop app on any platform
✓ Keep has a “extract text from image” feature!
✗ no pane view for docs like Evernote ( I really like that feature )
✗ no shared search between Keep + Google Drive, but strangely, there is one in Calendar that includes Drive

My plan for using Keep and Google Drive is as follows: intake everything into Keep, it is the catch-all, my GTD inbox. Daily reflection and absorption start there, then notes get archived (for tasks and reminders) and anything that needs more fleshing out or becomes an actual project gets saved to Google Drive as a document in a folder. Actual work happens in Google Drive, like writing and project planning. So far it has been a pretty smooth flow. The only thing that I think will be a minor issue for me will be retrieving something that I’ve saved. Since the search functions in Keep and Google Drive are separate, I’ll have two places to go when I want to find something. Pretty minor though, and I’m willing to give the new workflow a real chance for now, and review and revise as I find things that need it.

Anyways Evernote, it’s been real. I’ll miss looking for that familiar green icon every time I want to record something to use later. Who knows, if I have a reason to switch back to Windows, or if you release an official Linux client, maybe we can start anew.


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