Evernote has long been a useful tool for genealogists. Indeed, I have written several times about the use of Evernote in genealogy research. It is one of my favorite programs. I use Evernote more often than I use a genealogy program although I have to add that I use Evernote for all sorts of things, not just for genealogy purposes. (See https://goo.gl/RXq5Ez for a list of my past articles about Evernote.)
Evernote disappointed many of its users a couple of weeks ago when the company announced a price hike and also a reduction in service for free users. (See my earlier article at https://goo.gl/iBShNp for details.) Even though the price hike is modest, a number of Evernote users are now looking for alternative programs that perform the same tasks as Evernote but are either more powerful or else free of charge or both. One product from a little-known company appears to meet the needs of many Evernote users although perhaps it is not a 100% replacement. Then again, a price tag of FREE and the ability to use it on as many computing devices as you wish is very attractive.
Zoho is a company that offers all sorts of cloud-based applications for both personal and business use. Available applications include word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, note-taking, wikis, web conferencing, customer relationship management (CRM), project management, invoicing, social networking applications, surveys, online meetings, online chat rooms, expense report management, inventory management, human resources applications, and other applications. The California-based company was founded in 1996 as AdventNet Inc. and changed the name to Zoho Corporation in 2009 to reflect the focus on its online suite of office applications.
While Zoho’s many applications are a direct competitor to Google Docs and other Google Apps for use in the workplace, many of Zoho’s applications also integrate nicely with Google Apps. If you or your employer use Google Apps, you can add extra functionality to those apps by using Zoho’s supplemental services. Details may be found at https://www.zoho.com/google-apps.html.
I have used Zoho Writer for years and love it. (I am also using it to write this article.) Many of the articles in this newsletter were written with Zoho Writer; most of them were created from my Chromebook laptop. Zoho Writer is part of the Zoho Docs suite of programs that includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, and more. It is an online, or cloud-based, word processor that is a competitor to Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and all other word processors. It runs in the cloud, so no software installation is necessary in your computer. After creating a free account on Zoho.com, you simply open a web browser, go to the Zoho.com web site, click on the DOCS icon (or go to https://docs.zoho.com), and start using Zoho Writer in essentially the same manner as any other word processor.
I find that Zoho Writer has many more features than does Google Docs and other online office productivity programs. I occasionally use Zoho Sheet, a rather powerful spreadsheet program. Best of all, Zoho Writer and almost all the other Zoho applications work equally well on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and even on Android and Apple iOS systems. In short, Zoho applications are solid competitors to their counterparts that sometimes cost money.
Zoho also offers Zoho Notebook, a direct competitor to Evernote. Zoho Notebook is FREE and has no advertisements. Unlike the free version of Evernote, the free Zoho Notebook has no restriction on the number of devices you use to store and retrieve notes. Not bad for a program that has no advertisements! However, see the note below about the lack of Windows and Macintosh applications for Zoho Notebook.
To be blunt, Zoho Notebook doesn’t include all the features found in Evernote. However, it does include most of the features and also has a great price tag: free.
When you go to https://www.zoho.com/notebook/evernote-alternative.html a large banner at the top of the page suggests:
“Looking for an alternative to Evernote?
“We can’t blame you.
“Perhaps we could interest you in your very own Notebook. We’ll be honest: Notebook doesn’t have all the features of Evernote. Yet we still believe Notebook is a much better app. Below is a visual comparison. See for yourself.”
The most obvious difference in Zoho Notebook is the user interface. It is a lot nicer and more modern looking than Evernote’s rather archaic user interface. Instead of employing drop-down lists and categories, Notebook uses a more stylish grid of colorful elements. For example, look at the images below, showing the iPhone versions of Zoho Notebook on the left and Evernote on the right.
With Zoho Notebook, you can create text notes, checklists, audio notes, pictures and other images. Once stored in Zoho Notebook, all notes are synchronized and available on your other computing devices such as your desktop, laptop, smartphone, and tablet devices.
Zoho includes 1 gigabyte of online file storage space at no charge. That’s enough to store tens of thousands of notes. I doubt if any individual will ever need more space for notes. However, business users or anyone using additional services from Zoho might need more space. Users can purchase an additional 5 gigabytes for $3 per user per month.
For users with security concerns, Zoho also offers encrypted data communications for all its applications, including Zoho Notebook. All data transmissions to Zoho services are encrypted using TLS 1.2 protocols and use certificates issued by SHA 256 based CA, ensuring that Zoho users have a secure connection from their browsers to the Zoho service. Zoho uses the latest and strong ciphers like AES_CBC/AES_GCM 256 bit/128 bit keys for encryption, SHA2 for message authentication, and ECDHE_RSA as the key exchange mechanism.
Once stored on the servers, your data is protected by SOC 2, an evaluation of the design and operating effectiveness of controls that meet an industry-standard Trust Services Principles criteria. In short, your information stored on Zoho’s services is probably more secure than the information stored in your desktop computer’s hard drive at home.
You can read more in the Zoho Security Practices, Policies & Infrastructure document at https://www.zoho.com/security.html.
While Zoho Notebook is a serious contender in the note-taking marketplace, you do need to realize it is missing several things. The biggest shortcoming is that Zoho Notebook presently is available only for Android and Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). There is no Zoho Notebook app for Windows or Macintosh, at least not yet. The Zoho web site says, “Since we’re the new kids on the note-taking block, we don’t have a web app, desktop versions, or browser extensions. At least not yet. But rest assured, we feel confident we’ll do those things better too.”
Obviously, a version for Windows and for Macintosh is in the works.
Next, I can find no method of exporting notes from Evernote to Zoho Notebook, other than copying-and-pasting one note at a time. If you have 25 or 50 notes presently stored in Evernote, that is not a huge task. However, if you need to export 10,000 notes, the lack of an export/import capability is a show stopper!
Another area where Zoho falls short is collaboration. Zoho Notebook does not offer sharing of notes with other people, and there is no collaboration between users.
Again, I have used Zoho Writer for years and love it. I have not used Zoho Notebook for more than a few minutes before writing this article. Instead I have been using Evernote. However, with Evernote’s recent price change and reduction in services offered to free users, I am now reconsidering Zoho Notebook.
When Zoho announces its web app for Windows and Macintosh systems, I will test it and write about it in this newsletter. In the meantime, if you primarily need note taking on your tablet and smartphone devices, Zoho Notebook might meet your needs. As for me, I think I will wait for the desktop versions.
Zoho Notebook is available from the Android Play Store as well as the iTunes App Store. As mentioned above, it’s completely free across all devices, and it’s ad-free as well.
If you are interested in finding a free alternative to Evernote, I suggest you check out Zoho Notebook. Start at https://www.zoho.com/notebook/evernote-alternative.html.
Also check out Zoho’s home page at https://www.zoho.com/. I suspect you will be impressed with all the services offered by Zoho, many of them available free of charge.
NOTE: This article was written in Zoho Writer, part of Zoho Docs.