When you use a tool, you gain an understanding of its plusses and minuses. When our system starts to bog down, we often blame the tool. What we need to do is clean up the system we have. I’ve talked about that before.
When you watch a video of someone using a tool with which you’re unfamiliar, the tool can look awfully good, especially in the hands of someone who is experienced with it. So, should you change?
Lately, I’ve heard rumblings from people looking for alternatives to Evernote, particularly people looking at Notion. After all, it’s a newer tool. I well remember when Evernote came on the scene. It was the “shiny new object.” For many of us, it’s still shining. Let’s see how things shake out in this Evernote vs. Notion challenge.
So I created a Notion account
So, I created a Notion account and started to kick the tires. Today, we’re going to take a scenario and look at it through the lens of each platform.
I’m calling on my own background as someone who started his career as a band director. I was a dedicated notetaker during my college years and during the 12 years in that field. There was so much to know about teaching each instrument, administration of the program, and even issues related to school law.
Notetaking “back then”
Back then, the tool was a collection of notecards, several thousand of them each tagged with a subject and organized alphabetically by subject. I have made no attempt to digitize that collection because that’s not the work I’m doing on a daily basis. But for new information, however, I enter it in Evernote in a notebook called “Band.”
So let’s explore what the same information collection would look like today in Evernote and in Notion.
The “Band” notebook
I go into Evernote and click on the band notebook. I can now scroll through the 153 notes in that notebook. I see a little preview of the text in the preview pane along with images for many of the notes. Evernote creates these images from within the note without me doing anything. The student or young band director today would quickly accumulate far more notes than that. Again, I had over 3,000 note cards. Each Evernote note is the equivalent of a note card from yesteryear.
We’ll explore just the first five notes in the notebook. They happen to be arranged chronologically by the last note changed. So often, the information we need right now is the same information we recently worked with. While alphabetizing the notes might seem logical, trust me, organizing chronologically works.
When the cursor is on a note in the preview pane, the note displays to the right. I’m looking at an example, a note all about a legendary marching band from a small high school.
The next note is a poem honoring a particular junior high school band director from generations past. The next is a saved article on trombone playing followed by a note related to trumpet embouchure. In that note, we see the ability to embed a YouTube video right in Evernote simply by pasting the link to the video. After that is a note outlining my method for teaching cut time to beginners. Each one of these notes is very much like a digital note card.
Now what would this look like in Notion?
In Notion, I would create a new database. In Evernote, I called my notebook “Band.” In Notion, I’ll name the database “Band.” Each line or record in Notion is like a note in Evernote.
When I create a sample database in Notion, one of the columns created is called “Tags.” I add a list of the tags I’ll be using. That way, I can filter the database down to whatever topic I’m interested in seeing.
To compare, I copied several notes from Evernote and pasted the information into Notion. There were similarities. But, there were also differences.
I took the note about the Handley High School Band and pasted the title into Notion. Clicking beside that title opened a place to paste and later view the body of that record.
Next, I clicked on the Evernote note about trombone tips and created a similar record in Notion. I did the same with a note about beginning trumpet embouchure. In Notion, I can also embed a YouTube video.
Now that I had some data in Notion, l compared the look of what I saw in Notion versus what I see in Evernote. With Evernote vs. Notion, I much prefer what I see in Evernote.
Filtering using tags
Let’s go back to Evernote and my “Band” notebook of 153 notes. What if I want to see only the notes that deal with flute, intonation, or band history? I need some way to filter the notes.
The same is true in Notion. Let’s see how we could do that. Each record needs one or more tags. When I click in the “Tags” column, I’m able to start typing a tag and Notion returns suggestions based on the list of tags I already entered. I type three letters, and I see the tag I need and click on it. The note about the Handley High School Band fits into two categories. First, it deals with band history. Secondly, it deals with marching bands. I’m going to give this record both tags.
I continue this process with the other records.
How can I narrow the long list of records I would eventually have down to the records for the topic I need? In Notion, I add a filter and will filter by “tags.”
I click on “Tags,” and choose the tag I’m interested in. Notion returns a list of all of the records that contain that tag. Pretty neat, huh?
And if you watch videos about Notion you’ll see this sort of thing being created. So, you need Notion, right?
Well, if you’re an Evernote user you can do exactly the same thing.
At the bottom of the Handley High School Band note, I’m going to click and start typing the name of a tag. Whenever Evernote displays the tag I want, I click on it. I have tagged this note “Band-History” and “Band-Marching.”
I’m happy to share a list of all the tags that I’m using in my “Band” notebook.
One tag, “Band-Percussion,” has a little drop-down beside it. I’m able to nest tags under other tags. I click the drop-down and I see that there are three subtags related to percussion.
How can I create a tag in Evernote? Glad you asked. In the left sidebar, I simply scroll down to “Tags” and click on the little plus sign. A box appears where I type the name of a new tag. That’s all there is to it.
I talked about filtering records in Notion. I can easily do the same thing in Evernote. At the top of the preview column, I click the “Add Filters” icon.
I click the drop-down beside “Tags ” and click on the “History” tag.
The list immediately shrinks to only the notes that have that tag.
Let’s say I’m interested in marching band history. In addition to the “History” tag, I also click the “Marching” tag, and I am left with one note.
I compare what the results look like in Evernote and what they look like in Notion. There’s no question in my mind which looks better and is easier to use.
Oh, and what if we had only wanted to filter by one tag? It’s even easier. Let’s say I want to see all of the notes related to the flute. I click on the “Flute” tag. Evernote returns 13 notes.
Which one looks better? Which one seems easier to navigate? The more I learn about other software, the more I like Evernote.
Next week I’m going to give you more insight into my method for using notebooks and tags. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
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