Evernote is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best app for avid note-takers. Since you’re here, I’m going to assume that you—just like me—are one of them.
I don’t give compliments lightly and Evernote has its ups and downs (though I’ll let that be the topic of another post). When it came out in 2004, I became one of its early adopters, and have been taking and organizing my notes with it ever since that day.
Like everyone else, I tried a few alternatives over the years out of curiosity. Some got acquired by bigger companies and got merged into their ugly apps, others ran out of funding and closed down, and a select few, like Bear App for the fans of Markdown syntax among you, stayed.
No matter which note-taking app I tried, it just couldn’t compete with the convenience that I get from some of Evernote’s features that I’m so fond of. Features like offline use and effortless sync when I’m back online.
Which is what I’m going to tell you more about in today’s post.
Can you use Evernote offline?
Yes, you can use Evernote even when you’re not connected to the Internet. Once you go back online, you can sync the changes to one more device on its free plan, and an unlimited number of devices on the premium plan, which starts at $7.99/month.
In fact, one of the things that I absolutely love about Evernote is its note sync.
As long as you have installed and are logged into Evernote’s desktop app on your computer (they have one for macOS, Linux, and Windows), all of your notes will automatically get synced to a local database.
If you get disconnected from the Internet while you’re using Evernote’s desktop app, you can still access all of your notes freely—and any new notes you create, changes you make to existing notes, and attachments you make will get synced to Evernote Web and the rest of your devices as soon as you’re back online.
The picture for phone users is a little different.
To save space on your mobile device, Evernote only stores titles, tags, and a small excerpt of text on it. So, if you happen to be offline and are using Evernote on your phone or tablet, you can only access your notes if:
- You created them on that device in the first place
- You recently viewed them (this can be tricky; don’t rely on it)
- You’re subscribed to Evernote’s premium plan and are using an offline notebook
Offline notebooks are a premium feature that comes in really handy if you commute by train to work, and the train frequently passes through tunnels where you lose your mobile connection. Or if you’re a frequent flyer and you like to take the time you have at cruising altitude to focus on getting work done.
But I also find it useful when I’m working from home.
One thing I like to do is keep my iPhone and iPad in Airplane Mode to protect myself from distractions. If I’ve used Evernote during that time, and I often do, I don’t have to worry about my notes not getting synced to my MacBook Air.
Can I Use Evernote for Free?
Some of you may be asking as you’re reading this, “can I use Evernote for free if I don’t plan to use offline notebooks?”
When it comes to the difference between Evernote’s free and premium plans, here’s what you need to know.
Evernote’s free plan allows you to use the app offline—with a few limitations when it comes to the number of devices that you can sync and the size of files you can attach to your notes.
Here are the key differences:
- Evernote’s “Free” plan allows you to sync to 2 devices, attach files no bigger than 25 MB to one note, and upload no more than 60 MB of attachments to all of your notes per month.
- Evernote’s “Premium” plan, which costs $7.99/month, allows you to sync an unlimited number of devices, attach up to 200 MB of files to each note, and upload 10 GB of attachments to all of your notes per month.
There’s also a “Business” plan for those of you who want to use Evernote in their teams, but I’ll intentionally skip it since it’s not all that relevant to the topic of this post.
Unless you work only on a computer (and who does nowadays), the number of devices that you’re going to use Evernote on is something you’ll want to consider.
If you don’t travel much, work on a stationary computer, and only occasionally take notes on your phone, you could probably try Evernote and stay on its free plan forever in case you like it. Unless, of course, you come across the per-note or per-month file size limit for attachment, and that turns into a pain point big enough for you to subscribe.
If you’re like me and have an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air, you’ll probably want to think about going premium from day one. Otherwise, you’ll have to choose between using Evernote on 2 devices at a time. A minor nuisance for some, a complete no-go for others; your call.
Evernote Alternatives With Offline Support
Let’s say that, for one reason or another, you don’t want to use Evernote. What are some good alternatives that you can still work with, even when offline?
Closest Evernote Substitute: Simplenote
In terms of features and user experience, Simplenote comes closest to Evernote.
As its name suggests, it’s a simple and lightweight note-taking app that you can use from your browser and on any of your devices. And it’s made by Automattic, the company behind WordPress, so you can be sure that it’s going to stick around.
Compared to Evernote, Simplenote is very inexpensive. A premium subscription costs only $10/year (that’s right, per year) and it gives you a number of additional features, including smart note merging when you edit the same note from two places, the ability to create notes by emailing a dedicated email address, and premium support.
The downside to Simplenote is that, if you want text formatting, like bold or italic words, you can’t use a visual editor. Instead, you’ll have to use Markdown.
Best Free Evernote Substitute: Google Keep
If you’re looking for a free note-taking app to substitute Evernote, you should definitely consider Google Keep.
Google Keep is completely free to use. All you need to get started with it is a Google account (Nowadays, who doesn’t?). It has a web app that you can use from your web browser, as well as mobile apps that you can install on your Android or iOS device.
Those of you who like Evernote for its clean user interface should consider Simplenote. As you can expect from any Google service that’s not Google Search, Google Keep is on the clunky and colorful side instead of being minimalist and functional.
Yet those of you who use note-taking apps primarily for grocery lists, shopping lists, and capturing ideas will LOVE it. Try it out and let me know in the comments below if that was truly the case for you.
Best Evernote Substitute on iOS: Apple Notes
When it comes to the best Evernote substitutes that you can use offline, let’s not forget Apple’s own Notes app.
Notes is as easy to use as a note-taking app gets. And, unless you’re using the web app at icloud.com, it’s made first and foremost for Mac, MacBook, iPhone, and iPad device owners. Then again, if you’re a PC and Android user, you probably wouldn’t be looking at Notes in the first place.
If you own Apple devices and like the look and feel of their software as a whole, the Notes app can be a good alternative to Evernote. The only drawback is that keeping your notes organized in Notes can get harder than in Evernote over time, especially when you accumulate hundreds or even thousands of them.
You can use Evernote offline on your computer and, with some limitations, on your mobile phone. In the free plan, you can see and edit all the notes that you’ve created on your phone. A premium plan subscription gives you offline notebooks, where notes that you take on other devices will be synced to your mobile device for offline use.