Evernote’s recent change to its privacy policies have alarmed some users. According to the new user agreement, Evernote employees will now be able to sift through any user’s notes in an effort to improve the company’s machine learning algorithm. While personal information will be obfuscated, security-conscious users are careful eyeing the doorways and planning their exit from the service. If you’re one of them, you can encrypt your notes on a one-off basis to hide the most sensitive information, or explore some of the Evernote alternatives below.
Encrypting Evernote Notes
If you want to stick with the service, but you’d like to obscure some of your more sensitive data from prying eyes, you can encrypt the contents of notes on a one-off basis.
1. Open a note and select the text or images you’d like to encrypt.
2. Right-click and choose “Encrypt Selected Text.”
3. The first time you do this, you’ll be asked to set up an encryption password. This password will be used for each following encryption, so make it both strong and memorable. A passphrase is a great choice here.
This works on text and images, but it won’t work on PDFs or other embedded documents. Fortunately, you can encrypt these separately.
1. To encrypt an uploaded PDF file, first open the PDF file in Evernote.
2. Click the download button to save the file to your computer.
3. Open the PDF in Preview.
4. Choose File > Export as PDF… from the menu bar.
5. Click the “Show Details” button.
6. Tick the “Encrypt” box and enter a secure password. Then, save the file.
7. You’ll now see the PDF’s icon turn into a padlock to indicate the file is encrypted.
8. Re-upload the file to Evernote. The contents are now locked, but you can still view the file’s contents in the application by entering your password.
Evernote Alternatives and Replacements
If a stranger looking over your anonymized shoulder is a total turn-off, you might find some of these Evernote alternatives useful. That said, there’s no one application that will completely replace Evernote’s sprawling functionality. But if you only use some of the features, or you can combine several apps together, you can replace at least the primary functionality.
This is an obvious recommendation, but it’s worth remembering. Apple Notes is a fairly simple note-taking app, but it’s bundled with the OS and tightly integrated with Siri. Rich text features are much the same as Evernote, with to-do and numbered lists available, and notes can include links and images. You can also share notes between different users to collaborate, but you might find this to be more than a little buggy. And the organizational structure of Evernote is largely absent: you can only file your notes by folder. But for light, OS-integrated note-taking, Apple Notes works.
Bear, which was just selected as one of the best iOS apps of 2016, is a more attractive and powerful version of Apple Notes. One big difference is Markdown support, which allows you to apply a full range of formatting options to your notes using only text-based codes. Images and links can be added on the fly, and you can even publish notes from the app. Notes are sorted by folders or in-note hashtags, and you can important export notes from the application smoothly. The absence of an off-the-rack syncing feature feels like a loss, but paid users can sync notes between their devices for $1.49 per month of $14.99 per year.
While macOS ports of Microsoft software haven’t always had the best reputation, Microsoft OneNote is a stable and powerful note-taking platform that will sync across all your devices. It allows you to store files as well as notes, and organize material into notebooks, sections, and tabs. There’s a strong focus on academic-style note-taking, so students making the switch from Evernote will appreciate that. OneNote handles rich text smoothing, sharing a lot of functionality with Word. The system isn’t really designed for one-off notes, though it’s perfect for class- or project-based structures.
Simplenote might have few features, but it touts the ultimate sophistication: simplicity. It’s a text-only note-taking application that works everywhere and syncs effortlessly. You can organize notes by hashtag or folder and apply simple formatting. And if a machine can run a browser (or Doom II) it can run Simplenote. If you only ever used Evernote for quick “note to self” missives, Simplenote is a lightweight replacement.
Pinboard – $11/year
The Evernote feature I find most useful is the Web Clipper. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, there’s not a ton of available alternatives for saving whole webpages to a note. While Pinboard doesn’t completely replace that functionality, it gives you a different way to capture the same magic.
Billed as a fast, no-frill bookmarking app, Pinboard is a pay-to-play bookmarking service in the mold of del.icio.us. You install a browser extension or use a third-party client to save URLs while you’re browsing, organizing your notes with tags and brief summaries. IFTTT support offers cross-application integration, and the service has a devoted fan base.
To replicate Evernote’s Web Clipper functionality completely, you’ll want to pay $25 per year for the archiving service, which caches a local copy of the web page on Pinboard’s servers. You can also view other users’ popular bookmarks, which is cool for seeing what the Pinboard hive-mind is in to today.
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Standard Notes (https://standardnotes.org) is also a good option. Cross-platform end-to-end encrypted with web and offline access.