Update: iCloud Notes's CloudKit got corrupted after moving a few hundred notes from Evernote - I contacted Apple on September 29th & have been promised that I will hear back from their engineering team within 10 business days. On October 5th, Apple support called me to let me know that they hadn't yet heard back. I will update this post when I get a response.

When iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan were announced, I, like many, was excited about their updated Notes App. I was looking forward to moving my digital brain to iCloud. I'd read that Evernote is going to be the first Unicorn to perish which made me really question whether it is a good idea to trust my important data to a business with such poor underlying fundamentals. I also really like Apple's privacy policy and want to minimize the number of companies I have to trust. It's also getting tiring sorting through the random features Evernote adds to its app that have nothing to do with notes.

Notes now in iCloud
I can now store my beautiful drawings in iCloud. If only I could draw!

I decided I'd take the plunge, write an AppleScript to move notes from Evernote to Apple Notes and migrate my 2000+ Evernote notes over to iCloud to help us all answer the question:

Can Apple Notes replace Evernote?

Follow along with my clear and descriptive vague and not very informative screenshots as I find out...

Hmm. This isn't a great way to start.
Umm. Web apps can freeze?
Is this a new Jony Ive design? Black is the new white!
Wait. Web apps can crash just like Mac apps?!?
My iPhone's Notes app made the phone really hot and then crashed after a few hundred notes & won't sync anymore. Maybe toggling this will solve it!
Or maybe not...
Ummm. I already migrated to the new Notes! That's how we got into this mess!
Migrated a few hundred notes, iCloud Notes web app and iOS Notes both broke. Called support and they had no idea what to do.

Can Apple Notes replace Evernote?

So what really happened?

I originally tried writing out a play-by-play of the problems I encountered trying to move
my small collection of ~2200 notes[1], but it came off sounding whiny and complaining.
Not much went smoothly. It was frustrating.

Instead of re-living the experience nightmare in blog narrative form, here's a list of the Apple Notes problems I encountered:

  • There is very little documentation for the Notes AppleScript
    API and Apple Notes HTML converter seems to throw away most HTML styling. Specifically,
    there's no documentation for adding attachment. There is however a hidden work around
    that I discovered by trial and error: you can link to a file stored in the Note's HTML
    Converter sandbox using an HTML image tag and Notes will add it as an attachment.
  • Apple's Mac, iOS and web Notes become incredibly slow and crash with only
    a few hundred notes. Their developers apparently couldn't be bothered to do resource intensive things
    in the background so that it doesn't make the user interface unresponsive or at
    least add a progress indicator.
  • The syncing process seems to designed in a non-scalable way that
    syncs your entire history of note creations and deletions instead of syncing the
    current state. When I created 100 notes and deleted them 5 times in a row on Mac,
    opening the iOS app a half hour later resulted in it freezing up while creating and deleting 100 notes
    5 times in a row instead of simply syncing the 100 that were currently stored in iCloud.
  • The syncing process corrupted the data on my iOS Notes app in such a way that
    the app would no longer sync. Logging in and out of iCloud, toggling Notes, deleting
    notes data and restoring from a backup wouldn't solve it. If this was a 3rd party app,
    one could fix the problem by deleting the app. Since Apple doesn't let us delete
    built-in apps, the only way to fix the app, is to restore my iPhone as a new phone
    losing months of HealthKit and other years of other data that can't be migrated
    independently of the backup/restore process.
  • Folders deleted in iCloud Notes via the Mac app periodically reappear whack-a-mole style.

Now what?

I really like the minimalism of Apple Notes. The small feature set has everything I need
to replace Evernote. Unfortunately, I need those features to actually work for them to be
useful. Let's hope someone at Apple tries to use their own Notes product and it
gets fixed.

Want to try for yourself? Grab my Evernote to Apple Notes migration scripts and get started!.

Tweet me at @larrysalibra and let me know how Apple Notes is working out for you!

  1. I've only used Evernote for about 2 year and am a light user. I know hardcore Evernote users that have bought special scanners to digitize their entire lives and have tens of thousands of notes. ↩︎