Online Notebook Smackdown: Evernote Vs. Springpad

4/16/10Follow @wroush

I’m a digital pack rat, which means I tend to get unreasonably excited about online notekeeping systems. I’m driven by the conviction that there’s got to be one best way to use the Internet to save and retrieve every bit of information I might want to look at later, whether that means Web clippings, important e-mails, voice memos, receipts, photos, maps, shopping lists, restaurant reviews, instruction manuals, or whatever. Of course, you could just store all this stuff on a single hard drive—but then you’d have to carry that drive with you everywhere. Putting it in the cloud means it’s available from anywhere, including your mobile devices.

I thought I’d found the beginnings of an answer back in 1999, when a developer at the Silicon Valley startup where I was working created, in his spare time, one of the most elegant content management and publishing systems I’ve ever seen. It was intended as the custom backend for the news website I was managing, and the beautiful thing about it was that you could easily create categories for articles, and categories-within-categories, and categories-within-categories-within-categories, then post stories to as many categories as you liked and navigate to them using a nifty system of nested links. It was like one of those cubby hole racks for your closet, only infinitely expandable. I thought it would make a great product on its own, but alas, the startup was in a different business (e-books) and when it eventually died, so did the publishing system.

I’ve been searching for a replacement ever since. Right now I think there are two main contenders for the title of best online notes application: Evernote and Springpad. I signed up for Evernote—created by the Mountain View, CA, startup of the same name—shortly after the Web version of the service was launched in June 2008, and I’ve stored just over 2,100 items there, averaging about three per day. And I’ve been following Springpad closely since Charlestown, MA-based Spring Partners opened their service to the public in November 2008. You can read my review of Evernote here and my news articles about Springpad here, here, and here.

If you’re the kind of computer user who spends a lot of time grazing for information online, or if you’re just a busy person juggling a lot of plans and commitments, a cloud notekeeper would probably be helpful. Both Evernote and Springpad let you capture information in multiple ways—whether you’re at your computer using a Web browser or you’re out and about with your mobile device—and they both make stored notes easy to find it later. But when it comes to what you can do with your notes, and how the companies earn money, the two services couldn’t be more at odds. Today I thought I’d compare the two tools, with a focus on the major similarities and differences rather than the specific features (which are many; Evernote’s product overview page is here and Springpad’s intro video is here).

SpringPad's Web interfaceIf I were forced to cut to the chase, I’d have to say that Evernote is great for geeks and serious info-hoarders while Springpad is better for shoppers, cooks, soccer moms, and other average folks doing everyday stuff. But for the details, read on.

1. Evernote costs money if you use it a lot; Springpad is free forever. You can sign up to use Evernote for free, but non-paying users have a file upload limit of 40 megabytes per month. That might be enough if you’re only saving Web clips, but if you’re uploading stuff like Word documents or Powerpoint presentations, you’re going to exceed it fast. A premium Evernote subscription, which raises the ceiling to 500 megabytes per month, costs $5 per month or $45 per year. Springpad, by contrast, is totally free and solely advertising-supported. Spring Partners makes money through lead generation—for example, by … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.nookl.com noklpopl

    I have tested both and must say, that they are not very user friendly. It has to be easier since most of the internet users are idiots.. :-)

  • Maxwell Jones

    You forgot Evernote’s terms of condition that states you give them your content basically. Springpad’s is more reasonable.

    In section 5:
    “Accordingly, by using the Service and posting Content, you grant Evernote a license to display, perform and distribute your Content, and to modify and reproduce such Content to enable Evernote to operate and promote the Service. (You also agree that Evernote has the right to elect not to accept, post, store, display, publish or transmit any Content in our sole discretion.) You agree that these rights and licenses are royalty free, irrevocable and worldwide, and include a right for Evernote to make such Content available to, and pass these rights along to, others with whom Evernote has contractual relationships related to the provision of the Evernote Service, solely for the purpose of providing such services, and to otherwise permit access to your Content to third parties if Evernote determines such access is necessary to comply with its legal obligations.”

    • Jonathan Hernandez

      Wow this is a Huge deal breaker. Thank you for piinting thus out. I put some personal stuff and ideas on there.

  • michael

    I like both and trying to figure out how to keep them separate, for example, Evernote for snap shots and SpringPad for text. However, Evernote has a big advantage, in my opinion, in the desktop app. There are many times I do not have internet access. We just moved to a new house and would have been dead in the water had it not been for Evernote’s desktop app. The OCR and voice recording capabilities are also a plus. Springpad has a plus (in addition to its smart content) in that it also handles tasks. But both need a way to DUMP the data for printing.

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  • James

    “Springpad is free forever” Don’t overlook that there’s a big “beta” symbol when you sign in. Like Skitch, the revenue scheme might prove surprising down the road.

  • mike012003

    I recently started using Evernote and its “free” storage space is severely limited. I have over 4000 pics on my iphone and have used only half the iphone capacity. I uploaded 166 pics from the iphone to Evernote, used 99% of Evernote upload capacity and recieved a warning notice that Evernote utilization would be restricted until the next cycle. From a practical standpoint Evernotes data restriction allows only 2% utilization of my iphones capacity per month. With this strict data limitation, it is more functional to use my iphone, ipad, and laptops and “Forget Evernote”.

  • Hassayampa_Slim

    mike012003 doesn’t say how long it took him to get the 4000 pics on his iPhone… Now, he expects to upload all of them to the cloud. He should have been using and uploading as he went along and not wait until he has an unreasonable amount of data. He’s also using the “free” version, which has a lower monthly upload limit. Use it for what it’s designed, and pay for premium service if you have large data needs, and I think you’ll find both Evernote and Springpad usable programs.

  • http://dangoldesq.wordpress.com Daniel Gold

    Wade – great post! I’m sure you’ve seen that Springpad has really amped up their services since the date of your review. I completely agree with you, as the question really becomes: what do I need a “remember everything” digital filing cabinet for anyway? Is it to have as a reference file to go back to later and quickly find it because of tags or do I need my notes to “do something” – like link with 3rd party websites like Amazon, etc? I recently put together a comparison on my site and would love to get your feedback! http://wp.me/ptgV6-bf. Thanks!!

  • http://www.zukmo.com/ Chris Jones

    Wade, thanks for this article! You’ve provided a terrific, very well thought-out comparison of Evernote and Springpad which clearly explains why both products have the ability to coexist (they’re both actually targeting quite different market segments).

    I actually work for a company called Zukmo (http://www.zukmo.com/) and we’re developing a cloud based app that’s really gaining some traction in the same broad market (http://www.zukmo.com). It already has a lot of features as an alpha release, but in a few months it’s slated to be a fully fledged information management app with mobile platforms and content management/collaborative features unlike anything currently available on the market. We love hearing from people with a high level of exposure to the information management industry, so if you were to pick a few features, specific or general, which make an cloud-based information management tool an absolute must-have, what would they be and why? We would really love to hear what you have to say!

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