5 reasons I let Evernote Premium expire

My Evernote Premium service expired this past December.  I decided against renewing the subscription. Evernote is a fantastic free product, but when deciding whether to pay a yearly subscription fee, previously small shortcomings may become deal-breakers. 

While free users get 60MB free upload monthly with no maximum storage cap, Evernote’s premium version provides additional key features.  For an affordable $45 per year, (among other things) you get 1GB of upload per month, priority OCR of scanned documents, and ability to synchronize notes to an offline mobile device.

Here are the five reasons why I made that decision.

1. Outlines, Tables, Formats

Evernote is a great note-keeping service but only a passable word processor This is fine because it is not trying to be a word processor, unless – of course – certain formatting features are critical to note-keeping as well.

If you have used Evernote for outlining, you will have noted its inconsistency.  Hitting return after entering a bullet point sometimes results in a different bullet, sometimes the cursor returns to a different indentation level, sometimes it escapes the outline system altogether.  Copying and pasting outlines in Evernote can sometimes decimate any previous formatting you created.

Furthermore, it is difficult to keep a table in Evernote.  The Desktop client supports creation of a table, but does not allow you to add or subtract rows/columns once a table has been created.  The mobile apps simply do not support tables at all.

While these are not deal-breakers for Evernote, they do make the user think twice before starting a new note in Evernote if they will be recording a somewhat organized collection of thoughts.

2. Encryption

Evernote never claims to be fully secure – that is it does not try to be HIPAA complaint for healthcare professionals, nor does it claim to meet the FIPS.  Therefore, it is to Evernote’s credit to allow any note encryption at all.  Evernote supports encryption at the line level – allowing the user to mix secure versus nonsecure information in the same note.  However, the feature is only available on desktop clients.  On the mobile app, passwords can be entered to review the encrypted lines, but editing and creating new portions are not supported.  Evernote also does not allow encryption of the entire note or notebook.

3. Competitors Are Catching Up

Evernote’s value proposition is “your external brain,” the ability to capture nearly everything from digital formats like web pages, voice memos, videos, to snapshots of real-life documents.  Although the free version remains an incredible value, Evernote is no longer the only product capable of delivering premium service.

Microsoft’s OneNote began with the goals of creating a digital notebook.  With its 2013 incarnation, inclusion into all Office 2013 offerings, one-time cost of $49, and the ability of multiple collaborators to edit the same notebook simultaneous (a la Google Docs) make it a serious consideration for those needing “premium” note-keeping services.

Although Microsoft’s offering is best for those with a Windows machine, Google’s Keep is quickly becoming the external brain for those with Android devices.  While Evernote’s web app is powerful, the full arsenal of features is only available on the desktop client (encryption, capture screenshot, etc).  Google Keep focuses on its web app and Android app, providing a consistent experience across multiple devices.  And with integration into Google Drive, its storage space beats the 60MB monthly offering from Evernote at the same price.

4. Losing Notes

The business model of Evernote is that it allows the user to not forget anything, which is why it must provide a robust defense against data loss.  Unfortunately, Evernote’s mobile apps do not support periodic autosave, meaning that the user has to periodically remember to save the note.  It is worth pointing out that saving a note in Evernote’s iOS or Android app automatically exits the note, requiring an extra step and seconds of time to resume editing.

This really is not a problem with software if it is stable and the user not forced to rely on frequent saves for a peace of mind about his/her data.  The Evernote Android app, incidentally suffers from occasional crashes.  These are not truly important issues because reloading the app takes only seconds.  However, when it does happen during a note-taking session without the benefit of auto-saving, on several occasions I have lost 10-15 minutes’ worth of meeting records to an inopportune crash.


5. No Linux Support

Truthfully, this problem only affects the minority (1.7% of all desktop users as of December 2013).  One may argue that Linux users comprise a larger portion of all Evernote users than the overall statistics suggest because those willing to invest time in learning Linux are likely to also use note-taking tools.  Nevertheless, Evernote probably has good business sense in ignoring Linux.

But if you are one of these users, then you must use Wine, Crossover Linux, or install a virtual machine.  Otherwise you will settle with the web app, missing out on features such as screen clipping, note encryption, and some advanced editing features.


At the end of the day, Evernote is a fantastic product for what it is capable of accomplishing for free.  However, when one contemplates spending $45 a year for premium service, minor disadvantages become important considerations, particularly when several important competitions are closing in.

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Howard Chen
Vice Chair for Artificial Intelligence at Cleveland Clinic Diagnostics Institute
Howard is passionate about making diagnostic tests more accurate, expedient, and affordable through disciplined implementation of advanced technology. He previously served as Chief Informatics Officer for Imaging, where he led teams deploying and unifying radiology applications and AI in a multi-state, multi-hospital environment. Blog opinions are his own and in no way reflect those of the employer.

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