The new Dropbox is a compelling alternative to both Evernote and Google Drive

Why thoughts about switching

All of what I’ve explored below is premised on me wanting to migrate away from Evernote and Google Drive. I don’t have a particularly strong desire to move away from either service, although there are reasons for me to have a Plan B in mind if it becomes necessary to make the moves:

  • Evernote seems to be struggling to maintain momentum, and although recent Behind the Scenes videos show some encouraging directions, I have invested a lot in Evernote and want to make sure I have another option for my data if the company runs into major trouble;
  • Google is, well, Google. I’m mostly comfortable entrusting Google with my data, and practically everything I do in some form or another, but who knows what lies ahead in the future.
  • Lastly, and totally superficially, I like cool new things. The new Dropbox looks pretty interesting, and I’ve been using it (albeit passively) for quite some time. Moving to Dropbox would simplify some workflows for me.

How I’ve been using Dropbox and Google Drive

I haven’t actively used Dropbox for managing my files for many years. At the same time, I have a number of background processes, mostly using IFTTT, that capture things like tweets, app data, and so on into my Dropbox folders.

For the most part, I’ve been using Google Drive as my shared file system. I keep various documents there that I share with my wife, and access using various devices. I recently upgraded my personal Drive account to the Google One account where I have just over 200GB of storage space for about $3.50 a month. Before that, I was paying for a 100GB upgrade.

The idea was to make this space available to my family to use, too, but they’re using G Suite addresses on two domains I own, so they can’t join my Google One profile. 😳

Still an Evernote user

I also still use Evernote to capture stuff. “Stuff” is a pretty broad category. I’ve been capturing information that I may want to reference into Evernote for about 11 years, and I have almost 28,500 notes. Most of those notes are containers for documents, photos of interesting things, and other documents.

I don’t really use Evernote for plain text notes. For that I create, well, plain text notes with Markdown syntax, and my personal directory for those notes is a synced folder on Dropbox. I then sync that with another folder on my laptop that I push to GitHub to a private repo. I’m all about the multiple, redundant backups.

I’m using the Evernote Premium plan that costs me $69.90 a year (about $5.84 a month).

The new Dropbox

I saw an announcement that Dropbox has been updated with some interesting collaboration features. Here’s the announcement video:

It was interesting, but more of a curiosity for me until I watched the video from the launch event, here:

The event is pretty similar to any other launch event these days (“I’m excited to announce the new <insert name>. It’s the best <insert name> we’ve ever made …”), but it’s worth watching the demos in the second half of the event.

What makes the new Dropbox pretty compelling for me is how I can still use Drive documents, add in integrations with Zoom and Slack, and add shortcuts to other links that may be helpful. It looks like new Dropbox is using a white labelled version of Google Drive to enable users to create Docs, Sheets, and Slides that use the Google Drive apps, but save on Dropbox.

Microsoft Office users will also be able to use the Google Drive apps to view and edit their docs on Dropbox too. In this sense, the experience is probably pretty similar to just using Google Drive natively.

One of the areas in which Evernote has an edge, at least for me, is that I can use Evernote notes to add a combination of text, media, and documents to a single note. This enables me to maintain a coherent context for my information that relates to that particular topic.

You can create a Google Doc, but the format isn’t that easy to use, and there isn’t a convenient Web Clipper like you have with Evernote to capture stuff on the Web into a Google Doc. I poked around in Dropbox Paper, and it’s the closest I’ve seen to what Evernote can do, and surpasses Evernote in some respects. Here’s a demo where I added a couple items to a Dropbox Paper document:

What I didn’t demonstrate here is that you can also add a YouTube preview to your note that plays inline. I was a little disappointed that this isn’t possible with Evernote, and then realised that Evernote needs to take into account offline and mobile screens too. That said, if I view a Dropbox Paper document with embedded videos on my Android phone, the embed is available there.

What I don’t see just yet is something like the Evernote Web Clipper for Dropbox, so capturing stuff from the Web isn’t as easy with Dropbox.

Switching costs

Leaving aside the Evernote Web Clipper, I can see the new Dropbox being a pretty effective replacement for both Google Drive and Evernote (well, you’d still potentially be using the Google Drive apps to access many of your documents, just not on Google Drive itself). The Dropbox Plus plan is $11.99 a month (if you pay monthly), and you receive 2TB of storage space. The equivalent Google One plan costs about $11 (converting from my local currency).

If I compare the costs of a Dropbox Plus plan ($11.99 if I pay monthly) with the combined costs of my Google One and Evernote Premium plans (about $9.34, although this is a blend of annual pricing for Evernote, and monthly for Google One), it’s not far off.

If I paid for an annual Dropbox Plus plan, the monthly breakdown is around $9.99.

Worth switching to Dropbox?

At a fairly high level, it may be worthwhile switching to the new Dropbox from Evernote and Google One. That said, there are a couple challenges to resolve:

  • Can I coherently migrate my Evernote notes to Dropbox? Sure, I can export all of my content, but how accessible will it all be when exported into HTML documents with attachments in folders?
  • Can I migrate my Google Drive documents across to Dropbox? More specifically, if I move them across to Dropbox, will they open on Drive, or in Dropbox? I suppose this may not matter as Google Drive documents aren’t factored into Drive storage, as far as I remember. Also, it looks like this type of migration is possible.
  • Moving away from Evernote means giving up the Web Clipper. Is there an alternative for Dropbox? I’m not sure about that.
  • Another disadvantage of moving away from Evernote is that you lose OCR for your documents. That option is only available with the Dropbox Professional plan that costs $16.58 a month, if you opt for annual billing (so you’re paying about $198 upfront). Google Drive and Evernote both provide OCR for your documents, in varying degrees.
unsplash-logoFeatured image by chuttersnap

We can be more considerate towards each other in prayer too

Shoshanna shared this tweet about her friend who went to shul to say Kaddish for a parent:

It’s a reminder that there’s always room to be more considerate towards each other, especially in prayer. I’m not particularly religious, but when something means so much to someone, we can slow down a bit, and be more compassionate.

Nice to know that Keanu Reeves is a genuinely nice person

I stumbled across this post on Kottke.org about how “Keanu Reeves Keeps His Hands to Himself“, and linked through to another story about how he’s a genuinely nice, and generous person. This second story is based on a Reddit thread that includes anecdotes from people who have met Reeves, and is worth reading.

What I really like about these stories is that they highlight a person we wouldn’t expect to be considerate because of his fame, and the stereotypical celebrity persona. We’re confronted with high profile people who actively behave like douches because they believe that this how they can have an impact.

It’s wonderful to know there are other people like Keanu Reeves who are quietly making a meaningful difference to the lives of us “ordinary” people. I really like this anecdote from gfixler on the Reddit thread:

There are no bad stories about Keanu. I live in LA and work in North Hollywood, and everyone I’ve ever heard out here tell a story about Keanu says nothing but great things. Everyone loves that guy. It’s made me love his movies. I don’t care how great they are. I love to see him, because he makes me happy. I like to know there’s someone like that.

gfixler writing on Reddit

We need more stories like these, I think.

Image credit: Keanu Reeves by Josh Jensen, licensed CC BY SA 2.0

Facebook-fed blog someday?

Chris’ reference to a means of linking his site to Facebook touches on something I thinking about this morning.

Even though you can export your Facebook data into what seems like a nicely presented, local site of sorts, I’d like to be able to basically parse my Facebook timeline, and somehow migrate it to a WordPress blog.

This may be possible using an extension of the Keyring plugin for WordPress. I’d like to test this out, even though I’ve never really been able to get the Keyring plugin to work on my site.

I’d need to first configure a private WordPress site first though in case it works, and the site populates with private updates.

Shoe polish and noodles – retail merchandising decisions

One of our local supermarkets is reorganising their shelf space. Placing shoe polish under Chinese noodles is a curious merchandising decision.

I’d love to know the thinking behind that one. 🤔

Penguins on ice

We’re at the tail end of our Australian visit. I have a pretty large collection of photos from our trip which I’ll probably share soonish.

In the meantime, here’s a fun photo of penguins at the Sea Life Aquarium in Melbourne.

Storm rolling over the Hong Kong airport

I’m travelling to Australia with our soon for a family event. We’re travelling through Hong Kong, and this storm had rolled over the airport. It’s pretty spectacular!

Your journey into the Personal-Website-Verse

I really enjoyed reading Matthias Ott’s post titled Into the Personal-Website-Verse. It’s an essay about why it’s so important to have your own space on the Web, and why IndieWeb is a great way to get there. It’s well worth the read.

There are many reasons to have your own site, at your own domain, that you control. Aside from retaining effective control over your content, the risk of entrusting our stories, and our content to centralised services like social networks is arguably greater:

One day, Twitter and other publishing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Medium will indeed die, like so many sites before them. And every time this happens, we lose most of the content we created and with it a fair amount of our collective cultural history.

Matthias Ott

There are so many options for creating a personal site including WordPress.com*, Micro.blog, GitHub Pages, Squarespace, and many more. I prefer platforms that let me take my content out, and move it to another platform if I decide to. I think you should too.

*And yes, as you know, I’m partial to WordPress as a long-time user, and because I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Caleb Jones
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