Categories
Applications

Exploring Notion as an Evernote alternative

I found myself exploring Notion as an Evernote alernative again, yesterday. I looked at it briefly about a year ago, and it didn’t seem like something that was worth switching to at the time. After all, I’ve been using Evernote for years, and given how much I was using Evernote, I wasn’t sure that investing in a new service was worth it.

My prompt to explore Notion originated in my thoughts about my Dungeons and Dragons adventure notes, and my curiosity about it as a possible replacement for my handwritten notes (handwritten notes leave me feeling a little twitchy because there aren’t any backups).

An example of my adventure notes

I found a couple great discussions online about the tools that other DMs use for their adventures. Popular options include OneNote, Evernote, a number of services designed for role-playing games, and Google Drive.

I found a couple discussions about Notion as an option, too. One reddit user posted an intriguing Notion page template that they use for their adventure notes.

What I like about Notion

There’s a lot to like about Notion. It uses blocks, much like the WordPress Editor, to insert different types of content into your pages. Evernote supports some options, but my inability to add media from other sources (or even, in some cases, directly), feels somewhat limiting when I want to create richer notes.

For example, my options for adding content in the Evernote Web editor (probably on the leading edge of where the editor is going) look like this:

By contrast, I can embed a YouTube video in Notion much like I can do this in WordPress:

I keep mentioning the WordPress editor. The reason for the comparisons is that I really like using the block editor to add different types of content to my posts and pages. It’s a remarkably flexible editor that gives anyone the ability to create some really interesting, and complex layouts, pretty easily.

Some of the other Notion features that I enjoy, and that I’d love to see in Evernote (or any similar service I use) include –

  • Support for Markdown;
  • The ability to link to individual blocks on a page;
  • The option to create a wide variety of page types, including simpler databases that I could refer back to later in other pages; and
  • Frankly, Notion is cheaper than Evernote (almost $20 a year cheaper relative to the Evernote Premium plan that I’m on).

I also like how easy it is to import my notebooks from Evernote into Notion. I ran a test import of my DnD notebook, and it generated a really handy index page with links to the individual “notes” (or sub-pages):

Room for improvement

All that said, moving to Notion isn’t an easy decision. For one thing, Notion lacks the powerful search features that Evernote has. Evernote will not only search your notes’ text, it also does OCR-based searches on your note attachments.

This is an extremely useful feature because it means that all of those PDFs, and images containing some sort of text, become searchable. This isn’t the case with Notion, currently. They are working on improving search, but OCR is probably a way off:

I also use the Evernote add-on for Gmail to quickly archive emails that I want to refer to down the line. I don’t see a similar option for Notion, or even an email address that I can forward emails to.

A small issue that I noticed is that I also can’t change the storage location for Notion on my Android device. I made the mistake of buying a phone with 32GB of storage, so space on the device is at a premium.

Not being able to move the app’s storage to the SD card on the phone is a challenge.

Can Notion replace Evernote (for me)?

Currently, I’m not sure. I still want to spend more time experimenting with Notion, and may use it to create my next DnD adventure as a sort of “real life” test.

The search feature limitation is, well, a limitation. I add PDFs to my notes because I want to reference them later. Many of them are already searchable, so not being able to tap into the text that’s there already isn’t ideal.

For now, though, I like what I see, and it’s certainly worth exploring further. If the search feature is updated to at least include PDFs with searchable text, Notion starts to become a pretty compelling alternative to Evernote.

My Evernote Premium subscription is up for renewal in June, so I have a little time to decide whether to continue.

If anything, the (sneaky) credit that Notion gives users switching from Evernote makes a Personal plan that much more affordable, so switching is pretty easy, once I make the decision (on a related note, here’s a helpful perspective: Switching From Evernote To Notion – Alex Svanevik – Medium).

Categories
Education Mindsets

If the coronavirus doesn’t kill us, distance learning just might

The speed at which many schools have closed, and kids and educators have had to switch to distance learning platforms have caused quite a bit of frustration, especially for parents overwhelmed with the sudden influx of messages.

Here’s a funny (and true) rant from an Israeli mother who found herself overwhelmed by the flood of messages on WhatsApp, and expectations from teachers that she (and we) be able to fill the gap left by in-person learning.

The Internet can be a tremendous distance learning platform. It just takes some planning to deliver a more rational, and accessible distance learning system.

On a related note, my wife and I are compiling distance learning resources over at our Stuff to Teach Your Kids site. So head over there to see what’s available to your kids:

Categories
Education Wellbeing

Why soap is the nemesis of the coronavirus

You already know that we should wash our hands (frequently) for at least 20 seconds, but do you know why soap is so effective against the coronavirus? Here’s a great explanation from Vox:

On a related note, it’s also worth watching this video:

A quote from the video that stands out for me is this one:

To slow the virus down, you need to act as if you already have it …

Why fighting the coronavirus depends on you

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Giorgio Trovato
Categories
Applications

Brave browser seems to protect our privacy the most

Brave browser logo

I’ve been curious about the Brave browser for a little while now, and I’ve switched to Brave for any Chromium-based browser stuff I do (testing, browsing on sites that don’t support Firefox, and so on).

I found this Ars Technica post interesting. They summarise a study into browsers and privacy, and found that Brave probably protects our privacy the most:

Specifically, the study examined the browsers’ sending of data—including unique identifiers and details related to typed URLs—that could be used to track users over time. The findings put the browsers into three categories with Brave getting the highest ranking, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari receiving a medium ranking, and Edge and Yandex lagging behind the rest.

Study ranks the privacy of major browsers. Here are the findings | Ars Technica

I still default to Firefox (specifically Firefox Developer Edition). At the same time, I’m happy to keep exploring the Brave alternative.

Categories
Business and work Events and Life Mindsets Useful stuff

Tips for remote work newbies

One of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is that more people find themselves needing to work remotely after having worked in a more conventional office environment for most of their careers.

Shifting to remote work can be a little disconcerting. Fortunately there are substantial resources to help you work productively, remotely.

Automattic is a totally distributed company, and we have some expertise in how to make this work. As a starting point, take a look at these posts from members of our team:

Of course, we’re not the only ones who know how to make remote work work. Here are more resources:

If you find yourself totally confused about the fundamentals, this may help (or amuse you, which also helps): I Work from Home | The New Yorker.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Austin Distel
Categories
Applications Music

Spotify recommendations are spot on today

I’ve been listening to one of my Spotify Daily Mixes that comprises instrumental movie and TV soundtracks. It has been giving me some excellent choices, many of which I haven’t heard before.

I’m really impressed! Here are a couple tracks that have become new favourites:

If only my YouTube recommendations for videos were as accurate!

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web Useful stuff

How to send a Webmention in comments?

I’ve had Webmentions enabled on this site for some time now. Sending a Webmention is pretty straightforward thanks to plugins like Webmention for WordPress and Semantic-Linkbacks. The question is how to send Webmentions in comments when someone replies to one of my posts? 🤔

I reached out to Chris Aldrich on Twitter, and he pointed me to a few resources in response. I did some testing between two test sites, and sent a couple replies to the initial Webmention (that came through as a comment), like these:

Unfortunately, the Webmentions appear like this on the post I’m replying to:

That’s not especially informative, though.

I’m aiming for a more substantive mention/comment like this:

Chris’ reply originated from his post on his site, here:

I’m pretty sure I’m missing something on my side. I’ll keep digging, and update this post when I find a solution.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Mathyas Kurmann
Categories
Applications Useful stuff

Exploring the Brave browser

A few of my colleagues have been raving about the relatively new, Chromium-based Brave browser lately, so I decided to try it out.

I initially didn’t pay much attention because I’m pretty happy using Firefox as my primary browser. That said, I like a browser that blocks tracker crud on the Web, so I thought I’d try it out.

The biggest plus for me is that the browser blocks trackers out of the box. It’s one of the reasons I’m a big Firefox fan – pretty robust tracker blocking from the start.

Brave puts performance, and security at the forefront, literally, with indicators of how much the browser is blocking as you journey across the Web, and how much time it seems to be saving as your browse:

I haven’t really compared Brave’s blocking stats with Firefox’s (I’m not sure if I can really compare them directly given that I just see totals, not a breakdown), but it is gratifying to see that value go up.

In Firefox, I set my start page as about:protections so I see this data each time I start up my browser, too:

If anything, these values are great reminders of how much cruft is on the Web, degrading our browsing experience.

Another aspect of the Brave model is how it uses Basic Attention Tokens as a way to reward us consumers for visiting participating content creators’ sites.

I don’t fully understand how Brave Rewards work, but I like this idea of enabling consumers to make micro-contributions to content creators, and help support them. It’s a bit like Recurring Payments on WordPress.com.

That said, I intend doing some more research. The model intrigues me!


If you’re interested in trying the Brave browser out, here are a couple things I’ve discovered so far that may help you make the move from Chrome, if you’re a Chrome user:

  • Brave is Chromium-based, so it actually looks and feels a lot like Chrome;
  • You can install Chrome extensions in Brave, just like you do with Chrome;
  • Instead of using Google sync to sync between Brave browsers on different browsers, Brave has its own sync tool. This may be appealing if you don’t want Google at the heart of your browsing experience.

I’ve enjoyed using Brave so far. I’m not switching away from Firefox just yet, but I’m using Brave as my preferred Chromium-based browser, and it’s working well for me.

In the meantime, here are a couple posts that I’m going to read for broader perspectives on Brave:

Featured image by Jack Sloop