Evernote has become the undisputed king of digital note-taking. It’s as ubiquitous as it gets, with an app for nearly every platform, and it has perhaps the most robust ecosystem in the digital sphere.
That ecosystem can be a valuable tool in creating a database of interconnectivity. Those advantages, though, can also become a hindrance. Notes are, after all, a very simple proposition: at their core, notes are simply words, and words tend to be at their most powerful when they’re unencumbered, when they can stand on their own. Evernote takes quite the opposite approach: let the words interact with as many outlets as possible to give them context.
But what if you wanted to drop the context? No images, no links, no articles. What if you wanted your words, your notes to exist in a vacuum? It seems counterintuitive, but consider the words of Craig Mod in a recent issue of the Roden Explorer’s Club. Craig speaks of Susan Sontag’s decision to sequester herself in a small room:
[It is] in this tiny room where books are forbidden, where I try better to hear my own voice and discover what I really think and really feel.
Mod is fascinated:
Books! The enemy! Excise them to go: Offline!
This is such a great description of why one needs an internet diet every now and then: to better hear your own voice and discover what you really think and really feel.
By removing context, by placing your own mind in a vacuum, you give it room to breathe, to grow.
The same concept can be applied to our notes. Ideas can exist of their own accord, can stand on their own two feet, if given the chance.
Dropbox allows your notes to do just that. The notes can be saved in plain text format, which is perhaps the most ubiquitous of all file formats. Every platform has a built-in text editor, and if the default app is not to your liking, you’re free to choose your own. This has the added benefit of giving your notes a tailored environment: if you’d like a wiki-like list of your notes in a sidebar, you can find an app that gives you that. If you’d like to eliminate all distractions, there’s an app for that, too. By using Dropbox for your notes, you’re allowing yourself the freedom to create your own flow.
Since Dropbox is, essentially, a filesystem, it uses the folder/ file paradigm, which makes creating notebooks and sub-notebooks a breeze: folders are notebooks and sub-notebooks, and your notes are simply standalone files. An advantage of that structure is your platform’s built-in file search: whether on Android or iPad, Windows or Mac, there exists a built-in function to search for individual files (notes). Your system doesn’t have to adapt to a particular ecosystem to give you ubiquitous search for your notes.
The cherry on top is, of course, the superiority of Dropbox’s sync. Everything is synchronized immediately (even better if you use an text editor that has auto-save), and all of your notes are accessible via Dropbox’s website, so you can get to them even if you don’t have one of your own devices on hand.
There are quite a few other benefits, but for now, we’ll leave it at that. (Yes, there are disadvantages, too, but the vast majority have to do with your notes interacting with other entities, which is precisely what we’re trying to avoid.)
If you’re thinking of making the switch, there’s one catch: your Evernote data isn’t all that portable — which is another huge advantage of using Dropbox and plain text files — meaning that getting your existing notes out of Evernote isn’t all that easy. There is an option to export each individual note as HTML, which you could then convert to plain text (or whatever your preferred format happens to be), but few will be willing to go through all that trouble. If anyone figures out a way to do this easily, please let me know.
If you’d like to give Dropbox a try for your note-taking needs, here are a few of our favorite Dropbox-syncing apps for each platform:
Windows: Resoph Notes
Mac: NV Alt
iOS: Plain Text
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