Finally Kicking the Tires on Evernote

I joined Evernote back in 2008, but despite recommendations from several smart people, Paul (@ppedrazzi), Rich (@rmanalan), Matt (@topperge) and most recently Jeremy, I never gave it a go.

Until today, when I got the crazy idea that Evernote would be a great place to store and search the 5,698 Google Reader shared items I accumulated before Google yanked that feature last year.

Semi-related, a few weeks ago, Chet (@oraclenerd) mailed me an interesting post about Reader as Google’s lost social network, worth a read.

Why Evernote?

Aside from other people’s positive reviews and the desire to test drive the service, Evernote has search and is portable across all my devices. Plus, even though there is a free option, you can pay for Evernote Premium. Part of the reason I’m doing this at all is because I over-invested in a free service, and from experience, with Posterous and Delicious, I know that getting data out of a free service can be difficult.

So, I’m starting out with free Evernote, but as I consolidate the myriad of stuff that interests me into one place, I’m likely to need an upgrade. Paying should get me better data portability if I need it, right?

I should note that what follows is a consolidation of work done by others that you could find by searching. I’m documenting it here for my own use later and to provide some link love to the people who helped. Thanks people.

Maybe someday I’ll do some real work myself.

The Process

Since Google recently added Reader to its Takeout data portability project, I had a 28 MB JSON file as a starting point.

As a quick caveat, one reason I put off joining Evernote so long is that it’s a very fully-featured service, and it’s very possible that I overlooked some great feature that could have saved me effort. Feel free to share anything I missed in the comments.

After some digging, it became apparent that the process wouldn’t be as easy as an import into Evernote, whose desktop client only supports a proprietary .enex file format.

I decided to start by creating a bookmarks-style HTML page for the Reader Shares, something I’d been planning to do anyway to give me a quick list for searching. It was pretty clear that Evernote wouldn’t be able to do anything with JSON, so converting to HTML seemed like a step in the right direction.

I found a PHP script written by Josh Fraser (@joshfraser) to do this. Now, I had a nice, formatted HTML file, which I put on Dropbox so I can find it on all my device.

Evernote can import an HTML file as a note, but it won’t create individual notes for each link, which is what I wanted.

After quite a bit more digging, I found a Perl script written by Thomas Schädler that takes a bookmarks file and converts it to the .enex file format for import into Evernote. Bueno.

After installing ActivePerl, I used Thomas’ script and poof, I had a file ready for Evernote import. I successfully imported the file and all 5,700 links (somehow I think I gained two extra, but meh), then synced them to Evernote, and now, I can finally close the book on Google Reader Shared Items.

Bonus, if Google pulls the plug on Reader Starred Items, I’ll know where to put them.


Now that I have a home for all my Reader Shares, the next step will be to move my Chrome browser bookmarks over and reclaim my Delicious links, assuming I can do that. With Twitter finally rolling out an archive feature, maybe I’ll add all my tweets too.

I’ve been using Pocket, formerly Read It Later, a lot lately as a replacement store for all the links I find. I love the ease it provides, and happily, Evernote and Pocket provide an integration between the two services.

So, it looks like I’ll be sticking with Evernote, given that it’s become the home for all my links and such. Frankly, this is the best way to force myself to use something new, i.e. make it very necessary.

Find the comments with any Evernote tips and tricks or any general thoughts you’d like to add.




  1. I like Evernote, used it for a couple of years on recommendation, but I don’t love it. I found it hard to build a routine around using it. It’s kinda like sticky notes, it’s a guerilla context of use for me. For pure list making, RealMac clear has killed it for me. Of course, thats iOs only. However, I still use Evernote for longer thoughts, blogs, links. I had a nice LiveScribe Pen upload feature for pencasts I used too – but it was premium service and I now use dropbox once the free period expired. Be interested to know how you feel about it after a few months of use. I’ve used it from desktop, BB, Android, iOs phone and tablet. Evernote V Stickynote, now there’s a faceoff!

  2. The final push was to find a home for my Reader Shares, so Evernote has become a home for all the stuff I find in the browser that might interest me later. In addition to Reader Shares and new Stars, I imported Pocket, Delicious and browser bookmarks, just to have all that in one location.

    Although I like Pocket, its search isn’t as robust, and I’m liking the Web Clipper’s ability to surface note results in a Google search.

    So, I’m getting used to it, and I’ll probably go premium at some point. No complaints so far.

  3. Two of my favorite features with Evernote are the email to Evernote and the web clipper.

    I’ve added the web clipper to my iPhone using iCloud. Now I can easily bookmark content to Evernote from the mobile Safari app.

  4. @Lorenzo: Haven’t yet tired email to Evernote, but I used the Web Clipper every day. I ponied up for a paid account, great and useful service.

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