Evernote 3: When Good Software Goes Bad

EvernoteDoes anyone have a favorite notes program? All purpose note-taker, note-organizer thingamabob? I tried for the fourth time to upgrade to Evernote 3 and I still can’t get my mind around it. I don’t know what they’re imagining over there for the future but the way the recent past has been going it’s not looking good.

EverNote 3

First of all, I don’t like the grayed-out menu that I can barely see with my aging eyes. A category only turns black when you click on it. Problem is I have to be able to see it first. I could also do without the “0 of” in the numbers. Is that supposed to be helpful?  Some programmers don’t know when to quit.

Generally speaking, I don’t like the visuals.  I mentioned that before.  The colors, the lines.  My beloved EverNote 2 looks like a roll of toilet paper with the perforated edges and maybe I’m just quirky but it suits me to a T. This Evernote 3 thing with the dark gray background between the carefully separated notes is … I don’t know … It leaves me wondering Why? It was so good the way it was before.

EverNote 3

But the part that does me in entirely is that, although they said that EverNote would be free forever, and they do supposedly have a free version of Evernote 3, they’ve set things up so that it’s impossible to carry on without paying them $45 USD every single year until you die, or until computers become obsolete. Which do you think will come first?

The main reason, as it was originally presented, for this recurring fee is so that you can keep all your notes online and send things to yourself and your friends from all over.  And I can see that would suit some people. Me, I have no use for it. I don’t have a PDA. I don’t have a cell-phone. I don’t need to be text-messaging myself from the grocery store or emailing photos from a pocket-gadget.  I’m too old for this stuff.  Facebook scares me.  But if that’s all there was to it, that would be fine.  Either you want to pay for it or you don’t.

EverNote 3

But, no, they threw in a couple of other pay-only features. First of all, there’s the ever-present large advertisement in the bottom of the categories column, prime real estate, and you don’t get to turn it off unless you pay them forever. For some reason that doesn’t inspire me to fork over my money. Nope, it just pisses me right off.

Even worse than that, and it takes some doing, is that when I imported 1300 notes from EverNote 2, it missed 79 of them. Which 79 I wonder because if you don’t pay them they skip notes of a certain format. I can’t remember exactly what that means. There’s a little box that came up during the import telling me about the Free Version limitations.  What it should really be saying is, “Why you are being forced to upgrade to the Premium version of Evernote 3“.  This isn’t an upgrade; it’s evil incarnate or, at the very least, unbelievable arrogance.

EverNote 2 is no longer available for download or purchase. I still have the installer for the last version of EverNote 2. And I’m hanging on for dear life.

58 thoughts on “Evernote 3: When Good Software Goes Bad

  1. JL

    The installer is about 56MB so I can’t email it, but I’m thinking of putting it into a public folder in My Dropbox. I’m running between 18 different projects right now, but I’ll put up the link to it when I get a chance.

  2. Renee Zamora

    I was distraught when Google dropped Google Notebook. It was my second brain. Now I am back to using TreePad, there is a freeware version. You can install it on a flashdrive and run the program off it. I just love it.

  3. geogray

    EverNote 2.2 was awesome. You could create templates and mold the notes to your liking. I created my own templates and used the ones that came with it. There were templates for phone conversations, source code, time management, etc. Search was better and the way it categorized things was useful. Evernote 3, with its Mac/iPhone and web emphasis is nowhere near as useful. OneNote from Microsoft is far and away the better choice now.

  4. Gary North

    I was an early supporter of EverNote:


    I agree entirely with your assessment of Evernote 3. “The first one’s free, kid. Try it. You’ll like it.”

    Addicted, are you? What happens when you upgrade your computer? Can’t transfer the old 2.2 desktop version? Got years of data in there? Hundreds of hours of research? Valuable, you say? Gotcha!

    Think trust. EverNote is no longer Evertrust in my book.

    Installer? I hope so. Let me know, if and when….

  5. JL Post author

    Gary, there’s a link to the Installer in one of my comments above. And here’s the link to the Clipper button.

    EverNote 2.2. Clipper Button

    I doubt if it’s the latest version, but Firefox offered an auto-update to it a couple weeks ago. I was surprised but delighted.

    As far as EN2 not being compatible with a computer upgrade, I think that might be a long ways away.

    I know EN3 can import the Microsoft OneNote database. I wonder if it works the other way around. Anyone know?

  6. Jason

    I installed Evernote today, and as soon as I did my computer froze then completely crashed and I had to restart 5 times before my computer would boot normally, possibly a “Vista” problem? Once I realized you had to create an “online account” I decided to uninstall it. First I won’t pay for this service, and second, if corporations as large and seemingly loyal as AT&T will volunteer to hand over all information about you and offer to tap your phone, against your constitutional rights, I refuse to trust online storage solutions.

  7. JL Post author

    I can’t speak to the combination of EverNote 3 and Vista because I don’t use either one of them. Presently, I have 1,100 notes in EN2, whittled down recently from about 1,600. I try to clean it out periodically. If I had kept all my notes from the beginning of time it would be in the many tens of thousands. I can see how dependent I’ve become and I’m not sure if this bodes well for the future. I think we’re OK for a few more years.

    For collecting information from the net, there’s Zotero and another Firefox extension called Scrapbook. There are multiple ways around and for free if you’re strapped for cash as many of us are.

    I think we left the world of personal privacy a long time ago, but that’s another subject. We can certainly try to hang onto what small shreds we have left.

  8. JL Post author

    As of Firefox v.3.5.1, the EverNote 2 clipper button no longer works. I still have it working in Thunderbird where I use it the most but I fear that’s also about to go due to Thunderbird v.3 coming out soon. Distraught doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling.

    There is some comfort in the Universal Clipper, which takes either text with the Win+A shortcut. Or graphics with Win+Prt Sc. Alas, not both together.

  9. PM

    Thanks for providing a download link to I stumbled upon your blog while doing a Google search for an update to version 2.1.327. I am puzzled as to the huge difference in file sizes between 2.1.327 and (~15mb vs. ~56mg). There didn’t seem to be that many new features added.

    The EverNote 2 clipper can be made to work by simply editing a file called ‘install.rdf’ contained in the XPI. Here’s how:

    1. Change the file extension from .XPI to .ZIP
    2. Open the ZIP file and find the install.rdf file
    3. Edit the install.rdf file with a text editor e.g. Notepad — find the Firefox section
    and change the ‘maxversion’ to something like 3.5* or 3.7 so it covers what version
    of Firefox you have. Save the modified ‘install.rdf’
    4. Update the ZIP file with the modified version of ‘install.rdf’
    5. Change the file extension of the ZIP file back to XPI
    6 Update Firefox add-ons with this modified web clipper XPI

  10. JL

    I can’t speak to the file-size. If you tried installing it and it works, that’s good.

    I’m so distressed with the abandonment of EverNote 2. All I can hope is that enough other people feel the same way that they’ll bring it back. If they don’t, I’m still hanging onto it for as long as I can.

    Thanks so much for the instructions for the clipper button. I’ll try that when I get some time here. I’ve really been missing it.

  11. JL

    By the looks of the comments there, we’re not alone in trying to stick with EN2! Maybe this will turn into a major movement, placards on the street and all that.

    I got the download but don’t know how to get it installed in Firefox. There’s only a browse button that goes straight to Firefox add-ons. What do I do with the xpi that’s now in My Documents?

  12. Andrew Peacock

    THANK YOU!!!!

    After a lot of searching, I now have an EverNote 2.2 installer, thanks to the link above. I foolishly installed v3, uninstalled v2.2, realized my error, couldn’t find the installer.

    Now to “downgrade” my Evernote 3 back to 2.2

    Nice 2.2. Good doggy 🙂

    Many, many thanks indeed.


  13. Juno

    I’m also a huge fan of EverNote 2 and not at all keen on switching to Evernote 3 … however, due to a new computer, I’m now on Windows 7. Does anyone know if EverNote 2 works on Windows 7? Any hint would be much appreciated!

  14. Juno

    I figured I’d just try it, what the heck. Worst that can happen is that I have to start from scratch. So. Good news. EverNote works just fine for me on Windows 7. *knocks on wood* And I got the web clipper that someone linked to up above working with the version PM linked to. Everything is working fine, and I’m so happy!

  15. JL Post author

    Sorry to have taken so long to answer you. I’m glad it’s working out for you. I’ve got the portable version going now and I’m over the Moon about it.

    I read some really nasty reviews about EN3 yesterday. I’d think if EverNote was listening, they’d bring version 2 back. But then, some people really like version 3.

  16. Andy1618

    Thank you very much for the info about tuning the EN2 Web Clipper for recent Firefox versions!!!

    Today I’ve spent about 8 hours(!) trying to transfer the Web Clipper version from old existing installation of EN into my new computer – that was hard even for obsolete Firefox versions, that “officially” support EN2.
    And now it appeared that it’s possible just to modify the RDF file – that’s really cool!!!

  17. Doug

    I, too, am a little put off by the sudden increase in file size. I was also using, and agree that it is 56Mb. I guess that means, in addition to making the product less useful over time, EverNote Corp was also adding unjustifiable bloat.

    Fortunately, the web clipper button add-on you have here works with the older version of EverNote, too.

  18. Barbara

    I’m still grumpy about Evernote 1, which was perfect, suited me down to the ground, and is no longer supported or available or even acknowledged by Evernote as having been a predecessor of Evernote 2, 3, etc. I had everything I needed in Evernote 1, could never get the hang of Evernote 2, which seemed to sort things counter-intuitively to me (plus it told me I didn’t exist, which I didn’t like, either, whenever I tried to access the website). It also corrupted my Evernote 1 files so I can’t access them anymore (actually ‘grumpy’ isn’t the word). So I have not even tried Evernote 3. I don’t think I will ever try anything Evernote again. And if they are charging for it, even less likely.

    I’m glad you are “back” because I enjoyed reading your columns and I learned a lot.

    1. JL Post author

      Doug, I think what might have made the increase in size is when they added syncing options to EverNote 2. I could never get it working so I just ignore it. I think EverNote only got ‘less useful’ when it went to version 3. Then it left me in the dust and, by the sound of their own blog, it gets worse daily. Last I heard, they’d dispensed with ‘notes’ and gone to thumbnails for everything. Because it’s now a photo-collecting app? There seems to be an assumption there that if you have a cell-phone or other wired gadget with a camera you don’t need another thing in your life. Just take a picture.

      Barb, I’m pretty sure I was around when EverNote v.1 was happening, and I don’t remember it being ‘all that’. Just a program that was getting off the ground. If you find something you like better than EverNote 2, please tell the rest of us.

  19. Barbara

    JL, maybe it was the sheer simplicity of Evernote I that appeals. It was a long strip of ‘cyberpaper’ that just kept scrolling. You could add anything to it (I had shopping lists next to cut and pasted references from A2A in the National Archives, followed by clothing sizes for family. But it was all ‘sortable’ any way I chose to sort it, using ‘tags’ and, if I wanted, folders. It was brilliant in its simplicity. It sounded weird, but it worked. Then when 2 came along it kept wanting me to ‘sign in’ and access my stuff from elsewhere and carry it on a flash drive, which I might have done, except that every time I went to sign in, it said I didn’t exist. And it made stacks of stuff instead of the long strip. And finally I gave up on it.

    Sadly, I don’t know of any replacement. I have OneNote now because it came with my Microsoft Office, but I don’t use it much. Haven’t spent the time with it to know what it can and can’t do. I guess I tend to save stuff by emailing it to myself and then tagging it in gmail. I can always sort via the tags (or labels) and I can search any word. That isn’t as ‘elegant’ as the simple strip, but it seems to work.

    1. JL Post author

      Barbara, I’m confused by your problems with version 2. There’s no place to ‘sign in’ as far as I know. The web-based option only came along with version 3. Have a look at the small image on my EN version 2 download page and see if you recognize it.

  20. Barbara

    Sorry I didn’t get back to you quicker. The 2.2 version you have a link to download is quite similar to the one I lost. I am delighted to have it back again (couldn’t download it yesterday for some reason, but today it downloaded fine). This one operates on the same principle I was used to. But when I brought it up, it said I could ‘sign in’ for an account. That is where I made my mistake last time. I did — and then it wouldn’t recognize me. This time I just canceled. Also this one is still blue and the one I had the most trouble with — and which seemed to pile things in thumbnails — is green and has an elephant logo (at least I think it was an elephant. I deleted the rotten thing after I fought with it for too long to make it worthwhile).

    Anyway, this is brilliant, having EverNote (the REAL version) back again. Thank you so much. I won’t have all my old notes which got corrupted by my installation of whatever version had the green elephant, but I’m delighted to have this one to start over. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Was it version 3 that went to the green elephant instead of the blue wavy gizmo? If so, then I misspoke and version 2 was fine, it was version 3 that killed EN for me.

    The web clipper won’t open on my computer. Says “Windows doesn’t recognize the file format (xpi).” Suggestions?

    Thanks again, Barbara

  21. JL Post author

    Yes, the green elephant was when it went to Version 3 and ‘screwed everything up’. Before that is the version 2 that you’ve now been able to download from here. It’s your lucky day! Your earlier database file (if you still have it) should be compatible with this version. Once you have it running, shut off the message box that might pop up periodically and ask you to upgrade. Or just ignore it. It’s trying to take you forward to the green elephant again.

    The .xpi file is the clipper button. It’s compatible with Firefox, Flock and Thunderbird. If you’re using Firefox, just drag and drop it onto an open browser window. It will probably throw up a message that needs you to click ‘Allow’ and then Install. If you’re using Thunderbird mail, open the program and install as you would any other add-on. I don’t have a clipper button compatible with Internet Explorer.

    If you have any more problems, just ask and I’ll do what I can to get you up and running.

  22. Barbara

    You solved my webclipper issue (for which, thanks), so here’s what I hope will be my last question about installing Evernote 2.2:

    Do you think that installing Evernote inside Dropbox would work? There are times when I’m in England that I wouldn’t mind having access to my notes, but I DO NOT want to use EN’s version 3 and the green elephant and yet another bit of the cloud. I prefer a single cloud.

    Thanks, Barbara

    1. JL Post author

      Putting EverNote 2 in my Dropbox is exactly what I did. But you can’t install the desktop version. You can add the portable version of EverNote 2 to it though. It works exactly the same as the desktop version, with one exception and I’ve forgotten what that was. (What an idiot.) But having the desktop version installed on your hard-drive somehow makes it work better.

      So, first install the desktop version which I think you already have. Then ‘install’ the portable version to a folder in your Dropbox. Then make sure, when you open EverNote, you’re using the portable version, not the desktop one. Then, under Options, click “Open last used database upon program start” and/or put a shortcut to it on your desktop.

      Since you’re starting from scratch with EverNote 2, this would be a good time to do it, since you won’t even have to bother moving your desktop database to the portable EN folder.

      That’s pretty well it. If you want to know about other portable apps, check out this post: PortableApps Update. I’ve got around 40 portable apps running from my Dropbox. And I carry a backup of my Dropbox on a flash-drive. Never know when I might need to do some computing away from home!

      If portable EverNote will not run on other computers without the desktop version also installed that might be a problem for you, but you could try carrying the installer around with you for those emergencies.

  23. Barbara

    Me again. My Dropbox folder is on my desktop. There is no way to get at it to put the portable Evernote in it (I can browse for folders or drives, but there is nothing outside of “My Computer” and no way to access “Desktop.” Should I move the folder until I install it or am I going to screw things up?

    By the way, when I put the regular version on my old desktop computer it found an earlier uncorrupted version of my first Evernote material. Not the whole old one, but at least a part of it. Amazing.


    1. JL Post author

      I think I might be confused again. [Your Dropbox folder is on your desktop.] I’m assuming that’s where you installed it. Um… Can’t you just double-click on the icon and open it? Let me know.

      On installing EverNote Portable into it: It depends if you’re also interested in installing other portable apps. I made a folder inside My Dropbox called PA, and installed all my portable apps into that including EverNote. Anywhere inside your Dropbox will do; just make a folder for it inside the Dropbox so the bits aren’t floating around loose.

      As far as ‘browsing for Desktop’ look all the way down at the bottom of your folder tree. It might be the last item there. Or look under Local Disk (C:)/Documents and Settings/username/. There’s no way your Desktop has gone missing. Again, let me know.

  24. Barbara

    Hi, There was no way to access Dropbox on the Desktop to put the portable version of Evernote in it. Desktop wasn’t an option. There was nothing beyond “My computer.” It hadn’t gone ‘missing’ so much as it was simply ‘inaccessible’ from that screen. So I moved Dropbox into My Documents, then installed Portable Evernote in it in its own folder. Then I moved Dropbox back to the Desktop again. Stupid to have to do it that way, but it seems to work. So far so good anyway.

    Now maybe I’ll stop having questions!! (I hope).

    1. JL Post author

      That sounds like it might work.

      As you know, and tried, to install portable EverNote you had to browse to the folder location of the Dropbox. Your Desktop is in your folder tree ‘somewhere’. It can’t not-exist. It’s part of My Computer.

  25. Barbara

    Oh, I knew it existed. But the way the screen was set up — with the options it provided — it wouldn’t let me get at the Desktop. So moving it solved that problem. And I think it works. We lost internet service here in our city for about 7 hours today, so I haven’t had much chance to try it out. And now I’m going to sleep. Time enough tomorrow. Thanks for your help!

    1. JL Post author

      Barbara, this is the kind of thing that can keep me awake all night. Could you please email me a screenshot of “There was nothing beyond My Computer”?

    1. JL Post author

      First of all, your Firefox is way out-of-date, but that’s neither here nor there, it may be how you choose it. But, you may need to update the clipper button. Just drag and drop it onto your browser window and Firefox will install it. Watch below the menu bar for a message asking you to ‘Allow’.

      (A link to the clipper button can be found in this Comments thread, or look at the menu at the top of this blog.)

      If it doesn’t show up on the menu bar after that, it’s just hiding. To find it, right-click in a blank space at the top of your Firefox, next to the menu that says File, Edit, View, History, Bookmarks, etc and click “Customize”. Scroll through there until you find the EverNote button and drag it onto your menu bar wherever you want it.

  26. florin

    I was also horrified by the evernote3.

    First, the clipper was a desktop experience – the data would go to the local db and later synched. In v3, the clipper will send the info first to the web and then bring it to the desktop. Imagine that!? Data formatting was lost due to the desire to create this web dependency.

    Second, the easy scroll of the v2 was fabulous. Now, they switched to this pane view, which in my opinion is an absolute loss of screen real estate.

    I have many complaints. What I did was to use the old installed files (not an installer, just cut and paste) and it works to this day.

    The changes with EverNote are not for the benefit of the user – paying or not. The changes are calculated to create dependency. This insidious desire to trick users is disgusting.

    I am still looking for alternatives.

    1. JL Post author

      I think you’re absolutely right about ‘dependency’. I read an interview done with the CEO a couple years ago and he plainly stated it was the business model they were pursuing; get people hooked, offer something more for a recurring fee and they’ve got an income forever. There’s nothing unusual about this approach but it seems they’ve sacrificed everything for it and it’s not really working out for them.

      Stupidly, they put a unique and twisted twist on an old marketing tactic. When they launched EN3, they removed 90% of the EN2 functionality and thought people would be thrilled by the new option to have their notes on the web instead. Watching the relentless deterioration of what was once a brilliant product has been a study in how not to do things.

      I haven’t tried EN3 since I wrote the above post in March 2009. But I catch a whiff here and there, including from comments left here, that it’s an ongoing disaster.

      Right from the beginning they had the logo of ‘all your notes everywhere’. But it seems to have proved itself out that they bit off more than they could chew when they tried to move into the ‘everywhere’ part.

      I still use EverNote v.2 daily.

  27. End of EN 2 for FF?

    I’m also still using EN 2 ! EN 3 misses many useful features EN 2 has! It sucks!
    Anyhoo, the web clipper doesn’t work on Firefox 4.0!
    They (Evernote Co.) removed the download link of the web clipper for EN 2 from their webpage about a year ago. So, I assume that they ditched EN 2 and won’t develop the new version of the web clipper.
    I tried another FF extension called “ViewSourceWith” but it makes non-alphabetical characters unreadable and misses to clip some images.
    So, I wonder if there would be some alternatives for this. If not, it would be the end of EN 2 for me. Sad…

  28. Barbara

    I’m just saying what it said to me. I tried the drag and drop method AND the download and ‘install’ method and both netted me the same reply. Got another way?

  29. Barbara

    I don’t know when you updated it, but I tried it a few days ago. It didn’t work then. Tonight — for reasons unknown to me — I tried it again. Did exactly the same thing. This time it worked. Thank you for whatever you did that made the 3rd time a charm.

  30. Erica

    I am so happy to have found this site!!! I use EN at work and since my latest latop have been stuck with EN3. I contacted evernote and begged for version 2 back but was told it wasn’t supported and that EN3 was it.
    So so so so so happy to have EN2 back!!

    Now..I haven’t tried installing EN2 yet (currently FTP’ing huge files – don’t want to rock the boat) but, can I export my EN3 notebooks into EN2?? How?

    Thank you again. I am beyond delighted to have EN2 back.

    1. JL Post author

      I don’t use EN3 so I don’t know how it goes. EN2 does not use ‘notebooks’. See if you can export your EN3 file, the .enx I think, and then import into EN2. Hopefully, you’ll get at least your notes.

  31. Doug

    Well, this worked great until I was forced to upgrade Firefox to version 4 (actually they wanted me to upgrade to v10, but I don’t need the bloat and 4.0 is sufficiently advanced to get the websites that weren’t working to work again). Unfortunately, I can’t get the Web Clipper to work. I used the trick above to edit the install.rdf to 4.1.*, dragged the file into the browser window, accepted the install, restarted the browser, found the button and moved it back onto the toolbar, but all I get is the error message “exception: TypeError: clazz is undefined”. Apparently something major changed in the code between the last iteration of FF 3 and 4.0.0. Anyone find a workaround?


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