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:

https://twitter.com/NotionHQ/status/1245123301694779393?s=20

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
Blogs and blogging People Publishing

On Manton Reece’s thoughts about WordPress, and the new Editor (formerly known as Gutenberg)

I just read Manton Reece’s thoughts about the new WordPress Editor (formerly known as Gutenberg), and I don’t really agree:

As I test Gutenberg, I keep coming back to one question: is it good for blogging? The goal with Micro.blog is to make blogging easier so that more people will have their own site instead of delegating their web identity to a social network. Gutenberg is more flexible than today’s WordPress, but it’s also more complex for someone who just wants to type in a few sentences and hit publish.

The new editor is available to both WordPress.com and self-hosted sites ahead of the WordPress 5.0 release. I’ve been using it on this site for a couple weeks, and in a couple test sites so I can anticipate or troubleshoot issues that our users may encounter.

I think there’s some merit in Reece’s perception of Gutenberg. I also think I fall more into the category of bloggers who like to open a simple editor and start typing into a text box.

A lot of WordPress users don’t want this simpler experience. I come across many people who want a very visual editor where you can create pretty dynamic layouts on the fly.

The new editor may be more for those people, but it can work pretty well for someone who wants to open a blank editor window and start typing, too.

Put another way, as WordPress matures I think it moves further away from the ideal blogging interface for someone who wants to write every day. Even as we add features to Micro.blog — domain names, themes, full-length posts, photos, podcasting — the core platform will always be rooted in the simple idea of a text box and a timeline.

Granted I’m a little biased because I work for Automattic, and I believe in what we’re doing. At the same time, I was a blogger long before I joined this company, and WordPress has been synonymous with “blogging” for me for almost 14 years.

I’m still deciding whether the new WordPress Editor is going to be the default on my personal site. It’s still early days for Gutenberg, and I think it has an exciting future.

That said, I like my simpler text windows, Markdown, and monospace fonts when I write (thank goodness for MarsEdit). Not everyone does, and WordPress is still flexible enough to accommodate almost all of us.

(Now, if I could just configure this blog to play nicely with all its IndieWeb cousins again, that would be great.)

Categories
Applications Mindsets

VS Code has a little too much of the old Microsoft

Update (2018-09-18): I had this wrong. I was able to disable the Live Share and Azure extensions in VS Code. I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to the error messages I highlighted below.

You can disable the both the Azure and Live Share extensions by first disabling their dependencies. In the case of Live Share, I first had to disable the Live Share Audio extension. In the case of the Azure extension, I had to disable the Azure Functions extension first.


I like VS Code. That, in itself, still surprises me a little given which company created it. I still remember the Old Days when Microsoft took every opportunity to coerce users to use its solutions, often using pretty aggressive tactics.

Many have said that we’re dealing with a new Microsoft, friend to the FOSS community, trusted custodian of critical platforms like GitHub. That may well be true. At the same time, I still see a little of the old Microsoft seeping through now and then.

I opened VS Code today, to take a look at some code I’ve been meaning to continue working on. I noticed that Live Share updated when I open the app, and then seemed to start running for some reason.

I don’t use Live Share (although the functionality is interesting).

Rather than have extensions running that I don’t use, I thought I’d disable Live Share, along with the Azure extensions that seem to be installed and activated by default. That didn’t quite work out for me.

Can’t uninstall or deactivate Live Share

I can’t uninstall or deactivate VS Code’s Azure extensions either.

As good as VS Code is, I don’t like being required to keep Microsoft’s extensions installed when I don’t make use of them. I’d expect that from an application that doesn’t hold itself out as “extensible and customizable”.

This just taints the progress the company has made, to a degree. It also leaves me wondering what else is running in VS Code when I use it, that I didn’t enable?

Categories
Blogs and blogging

Easier mobile blogging with the WordPress Aztec editor

Automattic recently released a beta version if its new editor for mobile WordPress apps.

Now that so many of us carry around tiny pocket-size computers, more and more of our Internet time happens on phones and tablets — not just browsing, but creating. You’ve been asking for a better publishing experience in the WordPress app to make mobile publishing smoother. Today we’re introducing a new editor for iOS and Android, codenamed “Aztec.” It’s speedy and reliable, works with posts and pages, and is ready for beta testing!

Given how much time we spend using our mobile devices, a great mobile blogging experience is increasingly valuable.

I still need to play around with this a bit more but I’m pretty excited to see what I can do with the mobile app.

Read more: “A Brand New Editor for the WordPress Mobile Apps

About the featured image: If you are curious, this was part of a very cool display at the Eretz Israel Museum called “On the Edge: Israeli Paper” that features some of the incredible things artists have done with paper. The exhibit runs until the end of October 2017.