What comes after Evernote? A QOwnNotes review.

Back in 2016 when Evernote changed some policies and pricing there was a flurry of articles about how to get your data out of Evernote and start using an alternative. I, like many others, started looking at the options and auditioning candidates to replace Evernote.


“QOwnNotes is the open source (GPL) plain-text file notepad with markdown support and todo list manager for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Windows by Patrizio Bekerle, that (optionally) works together with the notes application of ownCloud (or Nextcloud).”

I use Linux and Mac desktops, and my phone is an unlocked Android running an alternative ROM. I wanted something that was cross platform and didn’t require me to register yet another username and password. I also wanted a solution that didn’t save my notes in a proprietary format. Many of the mainstream options were quickly ruled out. The idea of a personal wiki or a heirarchical organizer was appealing, but those options (zim, cherrytree) didn’t install natively on the Mac. I could deal with that, but it seemed like the answer should be more straightforward.

Eventually I came across QOwnNotes. It was open source; it could handle images (albeit not inline); it was being actively developed (check out the pace of updates here). It saves notes in either plain text files or markdown format – which means you can access the notes from Android or IOS by using Dropbox and a good text or markdown editor (as discussed in the wiki).

The best part might be that QOwnNotes has an Evernote enex file import tool. You end up with your notes as txt files in whatever directory QOwnNotes is using as its base. Images are linked and moved to a “media” subfolder. You can reorganize the notes into nested folders as you wish (I did this in Finder on a Macbook and QOwnNotes kept track).

Even if I don’t end up using QOwnNotes long term, my data has been liberated from Evernote and saved in an easily accessible format.

My initial impression of the interface was that it was somehow plain and cluttered all at once – but, I ended up being impressed by its simplicity and the options for customizing.

I’m not accustomed to using markdown, so the preview pane seemed extraneous at first. I discovered that you could unlock the “panels” and rearrange the elements of the display. I quickly figured out how to add a toolbar button to toggle the preview panel on and off. (note from a recent update’s changlog: after installing QOwnNotes now only a minimal set of panels will be shown to reduce complexity in the beginning – a second workspace with a full set of panels can be chosen in the workspace selector). As I said, the pace of updates has been pretty quick lately.

Other notable features include a distraction-free writing mode, and the ability to encrypt notes.

I like this software more and more – it is very capable in an unassuming matter-of-fact way. I believe I’ve found an Evernote successor that works for me.

(and I haven’t even talked about how you can use QOwnNotes with host-your-own-cloud software like OwnCloud)

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