I've been a proponent of Evernote for quite some time now, I use it on my Mac, my iPhone and iPad as well as using the online version when accessing from my clients windows machines. Being able to instantly share data between all of my machines has been an excellent boon to my productivity, and being able to find information fast means that I am never caught short in meetings or whilst out in the field. Well at least that's how it used to be before the latest Evernote 5 update.

The new version of Evernote has been vastly prettyfied, so much so in fact, that instead of being the leading GTD app (GTD = getting things done), it has now entered to realms of bloatware. The new update is visually very different, and a considerable amount of time would have appear to have been spent on creating new fancy graphics and swipe actions. Unfortunately this is at the expense of usability. 

Heres my lowdown on why you should NOT update...


iPhone version. Epic fail!

Notebook list is so cluttered with pretty graphics that there is hardly any room left for the notebook title, surely the point of the notebook screen is to view a list of notebooks not bedazzle me with faux embossed cardboard. If like me you use title prefixes to keep similar notebooks listed together to make them easier to find, you might just find that all you can see is a list of notebooks that have the same name.

The note preview now ignores carraige returns in the note making the snippet look untidy and hard to read.

Sliding tabs are hard to use and also coincide with iOS swipe down alert summary. I constantly swipe down my alerts screen instead of swiping the current view down to return back to the main screen.

Main screen and app in general is now bloated with unnecessary graphics that do nothing to improve functionality, the tabs are hard to use with my fingers and take up valuable space where they could have placed shortcuts to more useful features.

I have no idea why I need to have the premium features tab ‘above the fold’ as the most important thing in my view. I couldn’t care a less about it. I know I am a premium member as I pay the $’s for the privilege. A small insignificant ‘settings’ icon is all that it needed. I used this screen approximately zero times in the old app, why is it now so important?

Ipad app. Epic fail #2

Same useless slide up / down tabs as iPhone app. Same issue with iOS alerts screen.

Still no list view for notebooks or notes. I have previously griped about this, as have many others unfortunately to no avail. Tying to find what you need by browsing though an endless list of similar looking squares is not the most productive way of displaying information. Again, so much display estate is unneccesarily wasted with faux cardboard.

Same issue as iphone app with note previews ignoring returns, making notes hard to read.

The stupid animated window for displaying notes now means that I can see less of my note. Why? Who could possibly have thought that reducing the size would be a good idea?

Generally the screen layout is a waste of space, so much more could have been done with this app. Fortunately the web version displays everything in a manner which makes much more sense, three columns - notebook list + note list + note preview. Unfortunately the stupid drag drop rearranging of notebooks on the web version means that if I try to use it on the ipad I cannot scroll the list of notebooks, all I end up doing is making a mess of my notebook list. Havent these guys heard of drag handles???!!!

No list view was my gripe about the previous version; I abhor icons in a productive environment. Now I find with the latest version that everything is icon driven, Evernote have completely embraced the useless icon view. Arrrrggh. The worst thing is that there is not even any way to disable it. :(

Still no way to create a notebook in a notebook, and the 'send to' button on the edit notebook screen just results in a 404 error that locks the app up. Good testing there guys.

Icons and thumbnails

Icons are a pet hate of mine. I have never viewed windows or OSX or Linux or any other flavour of OS in icon view. It's perfect for images, but not for files. Icons are slow to use, they are not intuitive. Consider this; if you sort a list alphabetically or by date you can easily and quickly find what you are looking for by scrolling up or down. However, no matter how you sort a page of icons it is not easy to find non image like information quickly. Unlike lists, icons do not read in up / down order, they read left to right; down a row; left to right; down a row and so on ... It’s is not intuitive. It’s very hard to find info quickly! Perfect for images or galleries, useless for everything else!

I can understand evernote wanting to ‘pretty up’ the app, but not at the expense of functionality. It’s almost as if they have forgotten the app is mostly used as a GTD app, a genre where productivity is key and speed and ease of use are what makes for a productive app. This latest update is a big step backwards in my opinion. I feel that it is ill conceived, poorly tested and so far different in basic functionality from that last version that it might as well be a different product.

It is like the update has been written by someone with no idea of what Evernote is, that they cannot possible be an Evernote user. They have also not done any beta testing, not stopped to ask what the power users want, or need, not read the requests for items like list views. The update seems to be compłetely driven by aesthetics; functionality has apparently  taken a back seat. They have effectively ruined a capable and professional app by turning it into a kindergarten toy. 

When I think about the designer who penned this update I get a mental picture of someone with bad hand eye coordination using a mouse to chase a pointer around the screen like a child chases peas around a plate. Like when you get asked to help someone with a computer issue at work and then get subjected to having waste an inordinate amount of time watch them use the mouse to do things you can do instantly with simple keyboard shortcuts*. Someone who NEEDS icons and thumbnails to be able to navigate. 

Embracing icon type views has effectively dumbed down the app, it has taken a productive workflow improving piece of software and reduced its usability so that it can be driven by the lowest common demographic: those of us who waste 30% of their days chasing mouse pointers around screens and typing with one (or possibly two) fingers.

(*Unfortunately It seems that nowadays computer literacy is no longer a prerequisite for being given a job in front of a computer.)

Well here's some news for you Evernote. Icons and thumbnails have their place, but it is not here. Icons work REALLY well on the ipad home screens, so much so that my one year old has no trouble at all using the ipad. Icons and thumbnails work REALLY well in image galleries, in fact nothing else works quite as well in gallery apps, but they do NOT work for note taking apps. Think of all of the real world and virtual world ways of organising text type data and they alł have one thing in common, a list or index, or arrangement in order of data or by title. Libraries, address books, encyclopaedias, email applicàtions, in fact any kind of filing system, they all organise information in list type arrangements. 

Why try to reinvent the wheel?

Do not try to fix that which is not broken!

I hate to say it but I am now looking other apps. I use Evernote for my day to day business and this latest update has made a massive hit on my productivity, one that I cannot afford. If I am going to have to learn to reuse an app, I might as well learn to use one that works for me, unfortunately with Evernote in its current form it longer fits the bill, And due to my recently deceàsed laptop I havent even had a chance to take a really good look at the OSX version yet, but my quick peek did not like what it saw: more icons :(  

Evernote need to make some big changes and make them quickly or I am sure that many other users will soon be doing as I am and jumping ship, as this new version is almost unusable.