The past ten years or so has transformed the way we take notes and organize information. It is no longer sufficient to jot down notes on desktop sticky notes; we now need to access notes, bookmarks, clips, and tasks on our mobile devices as well as our computers, and make them accessible to others that could collaborate by viewing or editing them.
Evernote is a cloud-based note taking software which aspires to manage all of your information in one place. And although it is the most successful and well known, we believe that Springpad, a relative newcomer, is the better candidate for a number of reasons.
It certainly is the platform that we are now using here at Freewaregenius after a long search for the best information management and collaboration platform.
Springpad and Evernote are very similar: they both let you clip any content you want from the web via browser extensions and store your clips in the cloud, and grant access to your information across multiple devices and mobile apps. They both aspire to collect every bit of information that you might possibly want to keep, from written notes to voice notes to URLs, contacts, business addresses, and so on. And they both support hierarchical and non-hierarchical taxonomies (i.e. categories, and tags, respectively). But they are also different in many ways, which we discuss here. Note that we are comparing the FREE versions of these services in this article.
Six reasons why Springpad is the better choice:
1. Team collaboration in the free version: which is to say the ability to give others access to your notebooks so that they can both read and edit. While Evernote supports this, the free version only allows other people read-only access your notes and information, without being able to edit or change. For us, this was a deal breaker, and the reason we set out looking for an alternative in the first place.
2. The look and feel: Springpad can look like a magazine/Pinterest style web page full of thumbnails, and gives you multiple viewing styles to choose from. Evernote, on the other hand, looks like an email client or RSS feed reader. To us, this aesthetic aspect really matters. See below for some Springpad stylistic variations.
You can even drag and drop your notes into piles, much as you would organize icons on a desktop. Although this was very exciting and we hope they develop it further, we found that it doesn’t really work very well when you have a lot of notes in a Notebook).
3. Social-media style engagement: both Evernote and Springpad allow for private or public sharing of Notebooks, but Springpad goes further in that it allows comments, in the manner of a blog or of Facebook. This can potentially be very useful for collaboration or for using Springpad as a publishing platform for curated content (see screenshot below).
4. Springpad does not restrict your bandwidth: while Evernote restricts you to 60 megs of bandwidth in the free version, Springpad has no restrictions. Although 60 megs is a lot and probably well over the needs of 90%+ of users, we like that we don’t have to think about this issue with the other service. We use Springpad so extensively that for us, this would have been a problem if using Evernote.
5. With Springpad, your information can belong to multiple categories: i.e. multiple notebooks at the same time, as well as multiple tags. In Evernote, by comparison, entries can belong to multiple tags but not multiple categories. This may seem to makes more sense, but when you consider that you can only share Notebooks with other people (and not tags), this might matter a lot.
6. Every addition or edit is documented in Springpad: it records everything that happens to an entry, from the person and date it was created to any changes in tagging or attaching images or media. It also sends emails that documents what your collaborators have added, which is simply very cool.
- There are other things we like about Springpad, such as bulk edit mode and advanced filtering, which allow you to manage your notes, tag them and organize them into Notebooks quite efficiently. We didn’t mention these in the list above because Evernote also lets you do this quite well.
Areas where Evernote has the advantage:
Yes, there are a number of these where Evernote has the edge.
1. No offline mode for Springpad: which is rather annoying. There is a paid desktop client released by a third party developer, but it is still in it’s infancy and I didn’t like the user experience it provides very much. Evernote, in contrast, offers a free desktop client that can work offline.
2. Springpad has a lot of quirks that need ironing out: such as insisting on displaying thumbnails even after you remove them, and NOT displaying the tags that your collaborators have added to notes, for example, even when they are there. The support forums report all of these but the Springpad developers do not seem to be very responsive. Evernote, in contrast, seems to be behave more reliably.
2. Third party support: because Evernote is a lot older and more well known, it is a lot more likely to be supported by browser extensions and other information management services. But we found this to be a relatively minor issue, though, as Springpad itself provides browser exensions, mobile apps, and the like.
4. Evernote gives various options for page clipping: including the ability to clip the entire page, which some users will like.
We’ve been using Springpad extensively for weeks, and it may be the best cloud service out there for managing your information for free. It performs well even after we added more than 2000 notes and bookmarks, and can very well as a platform to publish curated information from all over the internet, with integrated social media functionality.
We wanted to publish this comparison in order to demonstrate what we found out after looking for a long time: that Evernote is not the best tool for managing a lot of information despite its dominance on the internet. Hopefully the advantages (and disadvantages) listed above make it reasonably clear why we think Springpad is the better of the two, and significantly better at that.
Thoughts? Issues? Ideas? Please share them below.