Evernote might be in trouble, so here's how to get your notes out of it completely and saf...

in Mac Software edited October 2020
We wish the company well -- but while there's any chance it's in trouble, we at least want a backup of our information, and we want it accessible in one of the firm's rivals. There's much more to backing up than copying notes, though, so AppleInsider shows you how to be certain you save everything.


It seems as if the Evernote company has always been in trouble but this month we've learned that it's shed several key people. That includes its Chief Technology Officer, Anirban Kundu and its Chief Financial Officer Vincent Toolan.

Given that this is a software company that is also trying to raise investment money, these are two crucial roles to be vacated. Hopefully the company will be fine and in which case regard the following as sensible advice for just backing up your data.

If the firm ever isn't okay, though, then you may need to get your notes out of Evernote and potentially in a hurry. Officially that's easy. Evernote has long made it simple to export your notes.

Only, there are devils in many different details and to get all of the data both out of Evernote and into somewhere else that you can actually use it is a bigger task than the company suggests.

You have to use Evernote for the Mac to export your notes, not the online or iOS versions

Two things. You're going to have to do this on a Mac. The iOS version of Evernote is not able to export notes en masse, Nor is the online version at evernote.com. Also, you're going to need somewhere to put all these notes.

We'll show you how to move all of your notes to Apple Notes, Bear and DEVONthink and only partly because all three are excellent. There's also the fact that between them they demonstrate the different ways you can expect to import Evernote data into any app.

The theory

The odds are that the great majority of your notes in Evernote are short pieces of text. Draft letters. Shopping lists. Notes you made when someone phoned. In theory, all of these can immediately go over to any other note taking app.

Don't do this yet, but the idea is that you can open Evernote on your Mac, then click on All Notes toward the bottom of the left-hand navigation column. Then click in a blank space in the All Notes column that appears. Choose Select All from the Edit menu or press Command-A on your keyboard.

When you select all or many notes, Evernote offers you options to do with moving them to different notebooks

If you do this then Evernote tells you how many notes you've got and offers several options in a series of buttons such as Save Attachments or Move Notes To. Ignore it all. Instead, go to File and choose Export Notes.

This takes you to a regular Save dialog and you need to pick somewhere on your Mac that you can export all the notes to. They will be saved as a single file, you're not going to suddenly find -- in our case -- 7,068 individual note documents filling up our desktop.

Actually, you're not going to suddenly find anything: this is a slow job.

That's one reason we're saying you shouldn't do this yet, but when you do, you end up with a single file in Evernote's .enex format. Then according to all Evernote's support documentation, you just import that file into your notes app of choice and you're done.

The practice

Doing it in this official way is very slow and that .enex format has some serious omissions. Evernote lets you create notes that you put into a notebook, for instance, and you can then have a stack that contains notebooks. None of that organization survives the export.

So you may end up with just one Evernote .enex file but within it is every note and no notebook or stack.

That means the slowness of exporting it all may be equalled by the slowness of importing that lot into another app -- and both will be dwarfed by the time it takes you sort out the mess.

For that reason, and more, do your export from Evernote piecemeal. Rather than clicking on All Notes, choose Notebooks instead.

Export your Evernote notes one notebook at a time

You get a list of all your notebooks with title, number of notes and the date you last created or modified a note in there. Right click anywhere on that line and choose Export Notes from. The first one we did, for instance, was our folder called Invoices so the right-click menu item was Export Notes from "Invoices."

Then do the saving of the .enex format file to somewhere on your Mac.

This is probably going to be quite quick as any one notebook is only going to contain a fraction of the notes you have in total.

However, while it's exporting, open up your alternative app and create a folder in there with the same name as the notebook.

The three different ways of importing

Apple Notes has perhaps the simplest approach: you choose File, Import to Notes and then just point the app at your saved .enex file.

Apple Notes is on every Mac so it may be best place to move to

Yet again, though, the practice is different to the theory. We would like to be able to click on our new Invoices folder and have Apple Notes import the Evernote data into there. It even looks as if that's what is going to happen, but it isn't.

Instead, once you've chosen the .enex file, Apple Notes creates a folder called Imported Notes and brings everything into that.

You don't have a choice about this but you do have a choice about then ending up with Imported Notes 1, Imported Notes 2 and so on. Let it it finish importing your notebook into this folder, then Select All and drag everything to where you want it to be. In our case, we dragged from Imported Notes to Invoices.

And then we deleted the empty Imported Notes folder.

Next you move on to another Evernote notebook and go through the same process.

Bear is unusual

Bear Notes does things differently. In Bear, you choose File, Import Notes, but this time you get many more options. Some are important, too.

Bear is a very different beast to Evernote but also stores notes and can import all of your data

The first is a tick box saying Bear should keep the original creation and modification date of the notes. Give us a reason, any reason, why you'd want your 7,068 notes to all be changed to today's date instead. Apple Notes takes it for granted that you want to keep the original datestamp but you have to be sure Bear has this option ticked.

Also, make sure you tick an option called Escape involuntary tags. Bear works on tagging, that's how its entire structure is formed, and a tag is anything you write that has a # symbol in front of it. So if you happen to work in social media and have accrued notes about yours and other people's campaigns, Bear would take every single hash symbol as meaning you want to create a new tag.

The tagging also means that you can't import into a folder in Bear -- because there aren't any. Instead there are collections of tags. So you could import all your Evernote notes and then schlep through them adding Bear tags.

This all sounds like a long job and yet we found Bear was fast at importing notes and it felt that we could very soon get on with organizing all of them.

DEVONthink is smart

So far we've been using the Evernote .enex format file and it's good to have that as it's one document you can also store away on a backup. There is one notes app that doesn't need it, though, and that's DEVONthink.

It's practically insulting to call DEVONthink a notes app as it's really a way of researching and storing masses of information. It is more than capable of handling all that Evernote does, though, so it's a good option for moving data en masse.

DEVONthink has the best Evernote importer of them all

Especially as in this case DEVONthink effectively plucks the data straight out of Evernote. In DEVONthink Personal or Pro for Mac, you can go to File, Import and then choose Import from Evernote.

After a moment, DEVONthink displays a list of all the notebooks in your Evernote. Click on one, shift or option-click to choose many -- or press Command-A to select the lot. This time you can afford to that because when you click on OK, DEVONthink imports everything and arranges it all into folders that match your Evernote structure.

That's tremendous and we practically applauded when we saw what DEVONthink does with Evernote notes that have audio recordings in. It creates a new folder with the name of the note and within it there's a document with the text plus each audio recording separately saved and playable.

Wait, there's a problem

Bear seemed the fastest to us and DEVONthink was easily the best -- but only Apple Notes warned us of an issue. Before choosing to import from the .enex file, it warned that what we bring in "may look different in Notes".

Apple Notes warns you that notes may look different after importing

No matter what app you move your Evernote notes to and no matter how many thousands of notes you've got, check them. If we ever lose access to Evernote for any reason, you might still have the .enex file but won't have any way to recreate the structure of the notebooks. You will end up with notes you aren't sure where to save them now or find them later.

Plus, this is probably going to be your sole copy of all this data and it's important. Back when Apple Notes first became the Evernote competitor it now is, we found that the import could mangle some notes.

We haven't seen this since and don't want to tarnish Apple Notes with a long-fixed issue, but we'd see the title of the note and assume it was imported correctly. Then only when we came to read it would we find that it was an unreadable string of data.

Again, we haven't seen this in some years and we didn't see it a lot even then. However your notes data is so important that you can't risk it.

This is the other reason we say to do the move notebook by notebook. Take your time, do it over some weeks, and skim through every note as you go.

And there's still more

If you do all of this then every note you've ever created in Evernote is now safely in Apple Notes, Bear, DEVONthink or anywhere else you wanted.

However, Evernote isn't just somewhere you'd go to jot things down. It is a comprehensive tool for amassing information and you may very well have workflows or systems on your Mac that use it without you.

Mac utility Hazel making use of Evernote to automatically save downloaded PDFs to it

For instance, every time we download a PDF on our Mac, a copy is saved into a PDF notebook in Evernote. That's done by the utility Hazel and you can have similar things happen via Drafts actions, IFTTT steps or Workflow/Siri Shortcuts.

If these are as embedded in your Mac as ours are, you're only going to notice them when something goes wrong. Should Evernote disappear off our Macs then Hazel would display an error notification, for instance. That's not so immediately likely with the online tool IFTTT which might or might email you a warning depending on how you've set it up.

So as you're watching Evernote export each notebook one by one, take the time to think through your work and how you may be using Evernote in unexpected ways.

Nobody said it would be quick. Well, maybe Evernote's support documentation implied that it would. When there are so many notes and the data in them is irreplaceable, you need to take your time.

Apple Notes is free and already on your Mac. Bear is also free but to synchronise notes across Mac and iOS devices you need a subscription of $1.49 per month or $14.99 per year.

DEVONthink comes in several versions with a basic one costing $49.99 in the Mac App Store. However, makers DEVONtechnologies have pointed out to us that the Mac App Store edition is not the same as the one available direct from the official site. Specifically, it does not include the Evernote importer.

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  • Reply 1 of 27
    Ulysses (which is my preferred notes app) also supports importing Evernote notes: https://ulysses.app/blog/2017/01/evernote-importer-ulysses/
    douglas baileywatto_cobrachasm
  • Reply 2 of 27
    Is it just me, but isn't OneNote a valid option also, assuming you own a business and need Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, backing up, etc. All for one price, so a guide to migrate to OneNote would be nice.

    Sidenite: I'm note a huge M$ fan either but for once, they are actually making decent software and for what they charge, isn't that bad.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    That's really disappointing news. :-(
  • Reply 4 of 27
    netling said:
    Is it just me, but isn't OneNote a valid option also, assuming you own a business and need Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, backing up, etc. All for one price, so a guide to migrate to OneNote would be nice.

    Sidenite: I'm note a huge M$ fan either but for once, they are actually making decent software and for what they charge, isn't that bad.
    I moved everything out of Evernote 3 months ago (to OneNote).  OneNote is OK and doesn't have broken basic text formatting (dot points and indents) that Evernote has had for about 12 months.  Searching in OneNote though is abysmal.  Just one example (there are many) is doing a search on the text string "000001" (including the quotes) returns all number 1's ... pathetic.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    anomeanome Posts: 1,493member
    Great, another thing I have to pull everything out of. And I was thinking about getting Pro again, to deal with some business stuff I need to keep track of. (This does explain why they keep offering me 40% off, though.)
  • Reply 6 of 27
    I've been with Evernote since early on, I was like one of the first 100,000 users. I've tried in vain to replace it, over and over again, but for me the simple truth is that while some products do some things better than EN, it's usually at the cost of doing other things much, much worse or not doing them at all. EN is the only piece of software that does everything I want, across every platform that I use, ever single day. So, I'm hoping that this is just another unwarranted scare. But even if it's not, I'm not worried about my notes. There would be plenty of notice if they were shutting down and if they went offline suddenly, all those notes are synced to my computer. I won't lose them, and I can migrate them at my leisure. Here's hoping it's nothing all the same.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,928member
    Plain text documents.
    I've been on this merry-go-round too many times over the decades.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    I used to use DEVONThink Office Pro and man is it a great app. I’ve not used it much lately because my needs for it no longer exist but it was well worth the money.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    Good article. I exported 15,500 records from Evernote last year, imported them into Apple Notes, and immediately bogged down Notes’ synchronization over iCloud for the next 10 months. To recover, I had to clean out these imports almost note by note, which was difficult because Notes had mostly ground to a halt trying to synchronize (it wouldn’t delete more than a few notes at a time). Also, syncing lost integrity across my several devices, and it was bogging down iOS & OSX for unrelated activities. So the article’s recommendation to transfer small numbers of files at a time is critical.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    I only have a few dozen notes so exporting was easy. I tried OneNote and didn't like the interface so I moved everything to Notes. I did one notebook at a time and moved each into an equivalent Notes folder. A few notes didn't import so I had to repeat each one individually but that was only a handful.
    Syncing did bog down but everything finally caught up.
    I like the way Notes works so I am a happy camper. If my needs exceed the capacity of Notes I will probably switch to a dedicated app but it will have to work with iCloud so I don't have to be concerned about another 3rd party biting the big one.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    hagarhagar Posts: 126member
    I’m not a Evernote user anymore ever since they started charging for sync (never take away crucial features, as it will turn users against you)j. Still, all this news on the internet about the possible end of Evernote may well start an exodus of their remaining customers and seal the deal. The rumour mill is dangerous. 
    edited September 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 27
    As a systems analyst covering some large enterprises, I always rejected any solution that used any form of a proprietary database or one that only provided access to the data from their own interface.

    I'm more likely to do something like that with Apple, but still, I am hesitant to rely on ANY third party cloud for my data.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    Great article. I also wonder about OneNote as an alternative.

    You didn't get into Evernote tags. I use them very extensively. I don't see that Apple Notes has that functionality. 
  • Reply 14 of 27
    Good article and I've gotten very concerned about the security of my Evernote data the last several weeks -- actually since they forgot about their customers during last year's ill-advised subscription re-pricing and then screwed up interface.  The recent departure of several top executives should give every user worry about its ability to survive.  Something about rats and a sinking ship... ;-(((
    Hence, I'm exploring DEVONthink and really appreciate the helpful advice. Most important will be the ease of transfer of thousands of documents, webpages, and invoices etc., etc. and searching and finding once downloaded. Six years of accumulated data in Evernote is at stake and I simply can't afford to lose it.

  • Reply 15 of 27
    I miss Sidenote. That was free, very convenient with the way it slid out of the side of the screen, and better still, it stored each note as a separate RTF file, so you would always have access to those notes even if Sidenote itself stopped working for some reason. Too bad it's no longer updated or supported. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it needed you to click on a floppy button to save notes manually (I liked to save after each edit on the off chance my system crashed and there's no opportunity for the program to save automatically on exit) rather than accepting the standard command-S shortcut.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    People leave companies all the time for various reasons. That doesn’t mean the company is going belly up. They recently completed moving everything to Google cloud. They’ve outsourced a major department, and maybe that has something to do with personnel changes. They just unveiled a major update. From everything I see, they look strong and ready for the future. I’ve tried DEVONthink and lots of others, and none of them comes close to Evernote. I backup my Evernote material, although I’m probably not as diligent as I should be. This is a nice article about alternatives, but it’s too bad AI had to sell it with an unwarranted, alarmist headline.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    hagar said:
    I’m not a Evernote user anymore ever since they started charging for sync (never take away crucial features, as it will turn users against you)j. Still, all this news on the internet about the possible end of Evernote may well start an exodus of their remaining customers and seal the deal. The rumour mill is dangerous. 
    Likewise, when they stopped allowing more than two devices without paying, that's when I dropped. During my more extensive use of Evernote, I paid for a premium account. But when Apple started syncing Notes through iCloud I found a large part of my need for Evernote faded away. I used Evernote for two things - syncing simple text between devices (which Notes has replaced) and for keeping other items (such as receipts and documents) organized, and for that I switched to Devonthink Pro.

    If Evernote fades away, I will be sorry to see them go. But I also won't be entirely surprised.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    This is why I hate any company that relies on a non-standard file format to handle critical information.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,124member
    Which should teach everyone the lesson why cloud services and proprietary data formats suck: your data is held hostage, and you pay the price.
    Same goes for subscription software, e.g. try to update and print your resume when you’re broke and out of a job, and can’t keep up with the monthly service charges...
  • Reply 20 of 27
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    This is why I hate any company that relies on a non-standard file format to handle critical information.
    Yep!   Even IF they don't hold your data hostage, you are still their hostage and you only get YOUR data back if and when they say you get back. 

    I don't mind using Apple's Cloud simply because they are not making money from holding my data.  Yes, it is held in an enclave that I have limited access to (I can only access it in ways that they approve),  But there is a fine, but definite line between protecting the safety, security and integrity of data versus holding it hostage.

    As an aside, I chuckle how things have changed over the past 30 years.   In the 90's there was a raging debate over mainframe vs personal systems -- and the heart of that debate was over central control vs individual control.  Now, those who advocated for the personal, individual control are flocking to the centralized control -- otherwise known as "The Cloud".

    The cloud is essentially no different from old mainframe concept where you store your data on their server and use software running on their machines to get to it.  Steve Jobs' held IBM as the enemy of the people.   Now, his company is the IBM of the future.
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