Why Springpad is better than Evernote for managing your information

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.

Pedestal with Springpad and Evernote2

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.

SpringPad Screenshot1SpringPad Screenshot2SpringPad Screenshot3

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).

SpringPad Screenshot4 - comments

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.

The verdict:

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.

‘Status Snapper’ provides a quick way to ANONYMOUSLY share Facebook Statuses
Mix and share playlists on the go with 'Party Cloud'
Feb 27, 2013
Samer Kurdi
flattr this!
  • Hans

    Hi Samer,
    you do a good job in comparing these apps. Why didn’t you include Diigo?
    I think both of them are very good.
    pro Evernote: Clearly is a beautiful lighting fast clipper that comes with readability options and highlighting options, which I need badly. If they add note capabilities to this one, it’s gonna be a killer app!
    pro Springpad: Both apps allow for feeds of your notes, Springpad shows full text of your notes in RSS, Evernote truncates the notes and you have to spend some time until the heavily scripted app loads the complete note.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ Hans: I must admit I never considered Diigo to be in the same league, although looking at it now it may be worth looking into.

      Great point about RSS feeds. I did not try the RSS functionality for either one so I am glad you provide a comparison. As for highlighting clips, what I am doing with Springpad is copy and pasting the content I want into the bookmark entry, to the exclusion of everything else . Not as elegant as highlighting but I prefer not clipping all the text from the page myself. Thanks for your input.

      • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

        Be careful, Samer, about getting sucked-in to this kind of debate. The bottom line is that such as Diigo and even Evernote are not really freeware because there’s a more powerful either more feature-rich, or with more capacity premium/fee-based version; and whatever are the “free” version’s limitations by comparision make such as Springpad, even if it had half its features, categorically better.

        You correctly picked the right tool, as I’ll discuss in my other posting, here, which is a reply to your article, and not merely your reply to @Hans.

        Gregg DesElms
        Napa, California USA
        gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Warspite

    I have tried both and find both lacking in key areas. The deal breaker for me with Springpad is the lack of offline mode. I use these cloud note takers to document meetings with clients and then share with my colleagues. It is very rare to be connected in these meetings so offline mode is essential.

  • tony

    For me it’s simple. I stared with Evernote. I expected it to do something and it didn’t do that something. Tried Springpad and it did the job I expected. I”m always willing to give Evernote another chance, but for now, it’s Springpad.

  • Samer Kurdi

    @ Warspite: I do understand not having an offline mode is a drag. If you really want it there’s a $30 third party desktop client called Deskpad that does it. They have a free trial.

    @ tony: exactly how I feel ;)

  • http://www.tedxrochester.org Tony Karakashian

    While offline is a huge disadvantage, it’s really the 3rd party integration that was most primary in my decision to stay with Evernote. Thanks to services like IFTTT.com and Zapier, a large portion of what I store in my Evernote is added automatically, making the job of information gathering easier on me. That being said, the ONE feature Springpad offers that Evernote doesn’t that I’d love to have is the ability to set reminders on to-do type lists. Having that one minor feature would seal the deal against Springpad forever.

    It’s interesting, though, how similar they are and how the decision to use one or the other is typically based on one item that’s specific to the end user as being the most important.

    • Peter Wills

      Evernote now has reminders as you are probably already aware.

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

    Thank you, Samer, for choosing the right tool. Last year, I went through a rigorous comparison of what, back then, were (and I think they’re still, today) the top three players in Evernote-like tools: Evernote, Springpad and Catch.com; and Springpad was — and remains — the hands-down winner.

    For starters, only Springpad offers its FULL featureset entirely for free, which it’s able to do because of the contextual way it operates and recommeds… something I feared, at first, would feel like intrusive advertising, but that was before I fully grasped how it all works. Both Evernote and Catch, on the other hand, offer their “free” services in some kind of feature- or capacity-crippled way, and then, in order to generate revenues, offer a pro, or premier, or premium, or whatever-it-happens-to-be-called-this-week fee-based/commercial version in order to get the full and unlimited both feature-set and/or capacity.

    Of course, money wasn’t my only criteria. Another was my irritation with that Evernote and Catch see virtue — as do so many in the freeware (but moreso in the open source) world(s) — in add-ons. As a computer geek of nearly 40 years, I once thought that was cool, too; however, as I age and every minute I have remaining on this spinning rock seems both shorter and fewer, and as I have increasingly-less time to fiddle with things, I just want all-inclusiveness, simplicity and elegance: and Springpad provides that, in spades. The add-ons, and add-ons, and add-ons eventually just wear one out… especially with Catch, two of whose add-ons actually crashed my Android Infuse 4G phone.

    Plus — and this is key — in some ways, it’s not really even appropriate to compare Springpad with such as Evernote or Catch because what Springpad does, and precisely how it does it, is a bit different than either of those others. Yes, they’re essentially the same when it comes to capturing the information, but it ends there. And here’s the thing: Once you fully understand that, and then begin to really leverage Springpad’s differences, it starts to become painfully clear that Springpad is just plain superior, across the boad.

    I really and truly believe that the market for tools of this kind suffers from the kind of brand name recognition, popularity and maybe even arrogance, in the case of Evernote, that results from uncareful product reviewers not having the time to dig sufficiently deeply to really and truly understand the differences and subtleties; and also pressure on them to go with the, in this case Evernote, popularity and brand name recognition flow. Evernote — and especially Catch — is/are by no means better, all things considered, than Springpad… not by a longshot. Evernote blind loyalists, will, of course, disagree, as we see in a few comments, here.

    And, yes, I admit/concede that there’s something to be said for Evernote’s integration with more stuff — like IFTTT, for example — which Springpad doesn’t, at least for the moment, have. I’ll give Evernote that, and I’m suggesting, when I finish writing this, that Springpad think more about that sort of thing.

    I invite the reader, here, to hunt around Youtube for videos about Springpad, especially interviews with Jeff Janer, Springpad’s co-founder and CEO, to both more fully understand the product, and also to see, from listening to Janer, how smart and reasonable he is, and how well-thought-out is his both product and are his plans for it. This video, for example…


    …is, yes, a bit slow and plodding — especially to a world of young people who want everything in sound bytes and who think the world can be covered in 140-character texts and/or tweets — but it’s quite thorough; and, most of all, the real power and subtleties (and differences from Evernote) of Springpad begin to become more clear.

    Another thing that begins to become clear from that video is how Springpad is financially self-sustaining, and so doesn’t need to offer commercial/fee-based versions. Watch and listen carefully.

    Finally, for me, at least, that video made me like and trust Janer; I can just tell he’s a decent guy, with a really good idea — and good plans for it — and an appropriate sense of humility about it. That is just so palpably clear from the video.

    For me, it’s Springpad over Evernote and, especially, Catch. Springpad’s potential and self-sustainability, because of its basic, simple and elegant capabilities, is difficult, at first, to fully grasp; and I think that has hurt Springpad in a marketplace where the brand name recognition of Evernote carries so much sway, and it’s so in vogue to recommend it. I cannot adequately articulate how happy I am, then, that the Freeware Genius chooses Springpad. It’s the right choice for equally-difficult to articulate, but nevertheless rock-solid reasons. Again, watch the various videos on Youtube about it.

    Hope that helps.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    • Nate

      Samer, thanks for great article.

      Gregg thanks for the thoughtful input. One “caveat emptor” about Springpad’s completely free model that i would have never considered until it happened is they seem to feel much more freedom to make significant product direction and feature changes without much user input. I’ve used Springpad for several years now and they started out really focused on being a personal productivity tool. 12 months or so ago they released a major update (from “v2″ to “v3″) that removed major features (they used to have offline support for example). Data went missing, the UI changed so significantly that basic features were missing (like search). There were horror stories in the support forums about the upgrade completely breaking accounts and in some cases causing significant disruption of work. To their credit, Springpad apologized for causing the problems and over the next month or so rectified those they considered bugs. Though disappointingly they indicated the product was now going in a different direction and no longer had features like offline mode in their roadmap (which at the time seemed crazy since the feature was in V2 of their product). I still use and generally recommend their product, but I’m a bit more reserved in my praise because I’m not sure if I can truly trust them not to make major product changes without consent from the userbase (which I think a paying model company would be more inclined to do). Anyhow, I thought I’d give my perspective FWIW.

      • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

        Good points, Nate. I remember the changes, of course, but the worst thing I experienced was the disappearance of something when in a Windows browser, or the Chrome plugin, when appeared in the Android app. Though that still hasn’t been resolved properly, one of Springpad’s support people helped me figure-out how to end-run it. She was quite helpful and responsive… though I admit only after she responded in an unhelpful way, and then followed-up with an apologetic email explaining that she misunderstood, at first, what I was trying to explain to her had happened. No harm, no foul on that one.

        Since I’ve never used Springpad offline — nor would even consider demanding it in a cloud-based paradigm (it’s in the cloud, for godsake; one can’t have one’s cake and eat it, too) — I’ve never used that feature, and so didn’t miss it.

        Nothing else in my account, from what I could tell, was damaged.

        But I get your point. Still, expecting a company to obtain consent from its userbase before making changes is asking a bit much. Expecting a warning isn’t asking too much, but consent? I think not. This is especially true, I think, from companies providing completely free services. I’d much sooner expect a company that’s taking my money to seek something what at least roughly approximates… well… I guess I still don’t know about consent. But at least input, I would think, if the company’s taking my money.

        Anyway, your points are both interesting and valid, and I don’t mean to suggest, by anything I’ve written here, otherwise. The other direction the company’s taking obviously has to do with revenues and profitability. I’m guessing that it was venture-capital funded, and those guys tend to be impatient. One change I just noticed today, after I posted my above, is that Jeff Janer is no longer CEO; that co-founder Jeff Chow is now CEO, and Janer is VP of Business Development… a change which has all the earmarks of pressure from the funders. These business models must somehow be profitable, and quickly. Hi-tech venture capitalists got burned, big time, in the dot com crash of 2000; and so their patience is now understandably short.

        Sadly, the way these things tend to workout, I’ve noticed in my nearly six decades on the planet, is that the less-popular, but nevertheless superior products, and their companies, often end-up on the scrap heap. In my IT career, I’ve discovered no end of superior, but less-popular products, only to have them go away, and their companies go out of business, at which point I have egg on my face.

        End-users often do not care about the very kinds of subtleties about which I earlier herein wrote. They just want it to work, to comply with standards, to interconnect with as much stuff as possible, and to still be around years after standardizing on it. Given those standards, Evernote has the clear advantage; and Springpad and Catch, both, are statistically more likely to go away in time. That’s, in part, why, as I entered the 8th or 9th year of my consulting work, I finally just gave-in to what was most popular and held the lion’s share of the market — even though I knew of much better and more technologically superior stuff out there — with most of my clients. It took a long time to stop feeling like I was selling-out. And it also robbed me, I at least thought at first, of some of my competitive edge since I could usually outperform the mainstream products with some of the much cooler stuff I had discovered, and felt more like an also-ran when using the mainstream stuff that everyone else was using. Fortunately, I figured-out, shortly thereafter, that it’s all about service and support, and not about the product-in-chief.

        In the end — and it’s a pity — Evernote is likely to win this battle. Springpad knows that, and so has been quick, of late, to implement that which is most profitable for it, else its comparatively small (compared with Evernote) marketshare would be insufficient to support it over time. Who knows what the future holds for it. Evernote, like it or not, is the hands-down leader in this market; and I’ve been around just long enough to see stronger companies — and products — than Springpad succumb to its likes.

        Capitalism, both sadly and gratefully, has casualties.

        Gregg L. DesElms
        Napa, California USA
        gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Chief Examiner

    I moved away from Springpad last year, since many of their much-touted features are unavailable / broken outside the US. This issue was raised over three years ago, and looking at the relevant support page, it seems there’s still been absolutely no effort made to address the problem:
    I also prefer the simplicity of Evernote over the wannabe Pinterestism of Springpad – if you just want to make notes for later and don’t care about social stuff / collaboration, it’s easily the better option.

  • http://www.blogisch.nl Joel de Bruijn

    For me THE annoying thing about evernote is the crappy texteditor. I’m spending a lot of time fighting inconsistancy among bulletlist, indenting and text ‘markup’. Because edit/view modes differ in showing your text layout. Also the same text looks different on a tablet compared to a desktop.
    Sometimes the texteditor behaves completely unpredictable after inserting a new line. Mostly in notes with bulletlists.
    The offline mode by the way is my main reason to stay.

  • http://aldayinthesheets.com cgplenty

    I registered with Evernote many years ago, but migrated to Springpad via my smartphone when looking for an all around notetaker. Springpad was right away easier to use, more intuitive for me than Evernote, and the fact that it doesn’t have offline access has never been a problem, I use it on all my devices (phone, laptop, desktop, and tablet). I love how it has evolved over the years, and that I can share notebooks when team brainstorming.

  • tirlipipi

    I complete disagree and another article titled “Why evernote is better than Springpad for managing your information” could be written.

    Springpad impose useless categories/collections making me losing time.

    Springpad is free. What is the business model? See you in 5 years.

    The desktop application is a key point if you are serious about working with your data. It’s more responsive, all the time available and work with all your apps together. With Evernote, I can saved my illustrative project, review it, change it, merge it, share it, modifie it, save it again. With springpad, I have to upload my file, review it, download it if I want modification, all in a web browser. Not very productive.

    If it’s just to store recipes and some web page and share it with your friend, springpad is great ! But if you are a serious and effective user who store, managed, create, analyse: choose Evernote.

    Springpad is for mommies and make housewifes happy.
    Evernote is more geeky and made for creatives and thinkers.

    • Samer Kurdi

      I didn’t set out to write this article. I set out to find the best tool to manage an increasing load of information that was a huge problem. Despite the fact that we started out in earnest using Evernote, Springpad turned out to be the most effective. The fact that a free desktop client is not available did not turn out to be a huge issue. I tried the paid, third party desktop client but didn’t actually end up using it.

      Note that Springpad is in fact several years old and not a new product. We now have almost 4,000 entries on Springpad and it performs well. I am sure a ‘why Evernote is better than Springpad’ article could be written, but I cannot write it, at least not in good faith.

      • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

        Well said, Samer.

        And, by the way, @tirlipipi, I’m a geek, and creative, and a thinker — a serious and effective user who stores, manages, creates and analyzes — and I, for one, don’t appreciate being characterized, by an obviously-English-challenged and Neaderthalish Evernote shill (that would be you, in this case) as a “mommie” or a “housewife”…

        …neither thing, incidentally, deserving of misogynistic derision from the obviously woman-hating likes of you. Your entire posting was disrespectful and offensive from its start, yet, in your clueless arrogance, I’ll bet you thought it was actually convincing.

        You’re free to disagree with Samer and the others, here, who agree with his conclusions regarding Springpad versus Evernote. Next time, though, you might want to try not entering the room like a bull in a China shop; and offending an entire human gender (and those from the opposite gender who have… you know… empathy — something clearly foreign to you — and so are also offended). Try making your points without offending, in fact, even those who read them at whom you aimed no words. Some behavior is just outrageous, by definition; and tends to make those exhibiting it seem immature and mean-spirited. Thanks for reminding us, here, what that looks like.

        I’m sure Evernote’s makers are none-too-happy, either, about others interpreting what we’ve seen, here, of you as evidencing what kind of person is a typical Evernote user. Nothing makes a product maker more proud than one of its endorsers using woman hating, and I’m-smarter-than-you geekism, to make his feckless points. The offense-just-for-its-sake that your likes tend to wreak is usually the sort of thing that product makers don’t want associated with their brands. So, then, nice job of likely ticking-off the makers of the very product you endorse, as well…

        …and making those of us who prefer Springpad even MORE convinced that it’s the right choice. We’ll leave Evernote for the use of those out there who are far smarter and more creative than are we; and who are doing the manly man’s work that REALLY matters, like you.

        Gregg L. DesElms
        Napa, California USA
        gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • http://D A
    • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

      Thank you, @A. As NCIS:LA’s “Hetty” character once replied to “Callen’s” character when he complained that she never calls him “G”: “It’s not a name. It’s a letter.”

      For the reader’s benefit, @A has linked us to the new “OrganizeMe!” Chrome app which allows access to Springpad data even when offline.

      And so, then, yet another thing which Evernote users cite as something Evernote can do which Springpad can’t falls by the wayside… at least for Chrome (and pretty much identical Chromium) users.

      That said, it would be nice if Springpad’s regular Chrome, as well as Android apps, did what “OrganizeMe!” does; or if Springpad could release an Android version of “OrganizeMe!” too. The fewer apps/plug-ins/extensions, the better, though. Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate, I say! [grin]

      Everything’s a process, though, of course.

      Gregg L. DesElms
      Napa, California USA
      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

    Springpad 4.0 has now been released, I see (’cause I just got an email about it), for whatever that’s worth.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com