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Springpad Beats Evernote – At Least on Android

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A few months ago, we compared Springpad to Evernote.  In that post, we highlighted Springpad's many great features, but discussed why we weren't ready to give up Evernote in favor of Springpad.  One of Springpad's drawbacks is its lack of a desktop app.  What about on Android, though?  As it turns out, Evernote's lead on the desktop evaporates on an Android device.  

Regular readers know that we're not afraid to profess our undying love for Evernote.  Kosmo, you can tease about it being required software to write for 40Tech, but Evernote's image and PDF OCR function alone is worth the premium account.  The recent Voice2Note add-on from the Trunk is just icing on the cake.  I, like others, was a little disappointed with Evernote's Trunk offerings, with the exception of Voice2Note.  Perhaps the hype leading up to the announcement was just too built-up.  I was really hoping for task management and some other goodies, but regardless of any disappointment, Evernote has been, and continues to be, the one place where I put every piece of information in my life.

It's no surprise, then, that when I transitioned from Apple to Android, Evernote was the first app I installed, even before Paper Toss.  I had high hopes!  What I found was a great deal of disappointment with Evernote on Android. 

The problem with Evernote for Android involves getting to your notes, which is kind of a big deal in a note taking app.  As many of you probably know, the Evernote iPhone app allows you to scroll through notes by folder, tag, saved searches and a ton of other ways.  The Android Evernote client, however, does not.  It consists of a search box and a way to create new notes.

The Evernote blog indicates that iPhone-like features, and more, are coming to Android, but the Evernote folks have been saying that for a while.  I can't wait for my external brain to catch up with my internal one.  My whole reason for using Evernote for everything is that I have a terrible memory.  If I had a better memory I would remember the name of the book I’m trying to find, or the tag or folder I put it in.  While I’m standing in a bookstore with Evernote for Android, my internal dialog goes something like: “OK brain, it had a picture of a man on the cover, it was a Russian author I think, or at least his name may have sounded Russian, my mom suggested it, did I tag it as 'books,' 'stuff to buy,' 'stuff to check out' or something else, or did I even tag it at all..what was that search trick to search for untagged notes that I have as a saved search…?" 

As you can see the only difference between having Evernote for Android and not using Evernote at all is that I wouldn’t have to wonder how I tagged the mystery book.  The result is the same- I buy a hot chocolate and head home with no book.  Yes, this problem could be fixed if I took the time to reduce the number of tags I have, and better organized my tags and folders and stuck more strictly to it (in fact, we've written a post on doing just that with Evernote).  However, my life is controlled chaos, so that is never happening.  So I panicked and turned to Springpad.

I have to admit I tried Springpad about 8 months ago, and abruptly stopped.  In fact upon signing in recently, I looked at the Springs I had made back then and they included things like "To Do: Stop using Springpad forever," and "WTF, no desktop client?"  However, Springpad has been under furious development and is a totally different app from the one I used before, and even much improved from the overall positive review Bobby wrote in April.  So with the combination of improvements made and my new desperation to find a program that is Evernote-like and usable on an Android device, I decided to give Springpad another try.

I want to stress from the outset that Springpad is not perfect.  Aside from the shortcomings easily recognized, like the fact that I can’t rearrange, add or modify categories available, or change the category of an existing Spring, there are other issues.  The Springpad app will periodically close without explanation, and occasionally will not be able to reach the server.  To be fair, I have experienced similar events on my iPod Touch with Evernote, but with Evernote there is an offline copy of the notes for those times, whereas Springpad does not offer such comforts.  However, if you are willing to deal with these rare inconveniences, what you get is in a lot of ways what I wish Evernote would be.  For now, I’ll just quickly touch on three.

 

PERSONAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT

Our previous review covered all of Springpad's task and event capabilities, so I won’t go into it more than to ask, why can’t this be done in Evernote?  I want to be able to store everything in one place.  “Everything” includes tasks, reminders, and a calendar that syncs with Google calendar.  Springpad can, Evernote can’t. 

 

PERSONAL SHOPPER

Like most people, I research on-line what I think I want to buy, but I often learn when I get to a store that there is another product that I like better, or I find something totally different that seems pretty cool.  For instance, if I need to buy a computer, by the time I get to the store I will generally know which one I want and where the best price is.  I wasn’t counting on a one-day manager’s special on a different computer and an external hard-drive for half-off sitting right next to it, but are these good deals?  Springpad can tell me.

There are a ton of barcode scanner apps for Android, but Springpad is the only one I’ve seen that finds the product, tells you who else is selling it and for how much, stores the information in a program I already use everyday, tracks the price, notifies me of price changes, and suggests coupons.  To make it a truly comprehensive shopping tool it would be great to see some reviews scraped from Amazon or CNET to tell me if the computer and hard-drive are being sold inexpensively or are just cheap, but short of that it really does make me almost tolerate shopping.  Almost.

 

MEDIA

The Springpad WOW moment came when I saw a video on Big Think's website that I really liked.  I clipped the site into Evernote and assigned a tag.  I then tried it with Springpad.  I clicked on Springpad's bookmarklet and added a bookmark to the page (same as Evernote) but with Springpad after two more mouse clicks, I embedded the video into the Spring and could watch it on my phone.  To do the same with Evernote, I would have had to find a program that could grab the video from the site, install it, restart my computer, run the program, save the resulting file and then upload it to my note.  Evernote is great at storage and search, but Springpad just blew my mind. 

As I said, these are just some of the benefits of Springpad.  They are rolling out new features all the time, and keep improving on the technical side.  Until Springpad gets OCR technology for pictures and PDF's, the ability to import Evernote notes, and some added flexibility around how the information is stored and displayed, it won't be replacing my Evernote account.  To be honest, if Evernote just gave me on my Droid what I had on my iPod Touch, I would probably drop Springpad altogether and continue to hope that Evernote would pick up the above features.  Until Evernote improves their Android app, though, I’ll have to use both.  This leaves the door open for Springpad to completely pull me away from Evernote.

 

Springpad for Android

Pros: Cons:
  • Has full functionality on Android devices with an active development team
  • Limits the number and type of categories
  • Has tasks and events that sync with Google calendar
  • Communication errors with the servers and unexplained app closures will happen
  • Has a lot of ways to be reminded of what you have upcoming
  • No off-line capabilities on desktop or phone
  • A lot of unique features that will make your lists and items smart including tie-ins for shopping
 

 

Have you tried Springpad or Evernote on Android?  What was your take?

 

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20 Responses to Springpad Beats Evernote – At Least on Android

  1. I can only assume that Evernote people read 40Tech and were prompted to action! Still saying that offline access is coming though… http://blog.evernote.com/2010/08/11/evernote-for-android-update/

  2. The big reason I left Evernote for SpringPad is the fact that SP DOES offer offline storage of notes on the phone. You state in the table above it does not which is incorrect. I rarely have not been able to connect via desktop to SP and when I have a problem it has never lasted longer than a minute or so. For those rare moments, I have my phone with all my SP data on it. Thus, offline storage on desktop is not a big deal to me, but I MUST have it on my phone, which SP already does.

    • Steve, indeed you are correct. Thank you for pointing that out. It makes me nervous not to have offline access on my computer, but as you point out it is available on Android. Yet another benefit that Springpad for Android offers that Evernote lacks.

  3. A big issue for me with SpringPad is that it only uses HTTPS when logging in, so when I’m uploading a note to their server, it’s sent in an unsecured format which anybody listening to packets on the Wifi network I’m connected to could intercept and read. I’ve read that Evernote has a much better security policy and makes much more extended use of HTTPS connections.

    • Zaid, I believe that is correct. I know for sure Evernote’s site is HTTPS and Springpad’s is not.

      Actually since I wrote this article Evernote has done a lot to improve their Android platform. They have implemented most of what I was used to in iOS, and went even further by adding widgets.

      More importantly though, while I was waiting for Evernote to catch up, I had some information lost that was stored in Springpad. I find this to be totally unacceptable in an archiving platform and have completely stopped using it as a result.

      It’s unfortunate, Springpad does offer a lot of unique features (to do lists, scanning capabilities, price alerts and more) but it is just not good yet on the basic stuff, like secure sign-ins as you pointed out.

      Thanks Zaid.

      • Hi Josh,

        I’m wondering if you contacted Springpad support about the missing information and what the outcome was?

        Are you still NOT using Springpad because of that situation? How did your colleagues (especially Bobby) to the data loss?

        I was thinking of putting my Evernotes into Springpad and perhaps converting when the Springpad Desktop client appears, but now I think I have to find an Evernote+Springpad workflow instead (I use Android too).

        Thanks for any feedback on this comment,
        Chase.

      • Hey Josh,

        I have another interview scheduled with the Springpad CEO next week, to talk about their new features and such. Anything you want me to ask regarding this?

  4. Chase,

    I didn’t contact them, though I should have at the time. It was just a grocery list I had put in for testing purposes.

    That is a more difficult question to answer. I still have the app on my phone and do use it every once in awhile, but really I am using it now to fill in the blanks that Evernote still doesn’t address (scanning a bar code to find an item and some of the other advantages above). I would assume as the app has developed they have eliminated whatever bugs resulted in my data loss, it has REALLY come along just in the last couple of months.

    As for the Evernotes into Springpad, it’s hard for me to say you shouldn’t, once they have a desktop app. The organization it offers really is unique and very useful, especially since they added more functionality around guessing what type of item you are putting in, another recent addition. They seem to have a really active and creative group of developers that keep rolling out innovative improvements.

    If you do convert, or utilize some mixture of the two I’d love to hear how it’s working for you. I am still somewhere between the two but still lean toward Evernote right now.

    Josh

    • Hey Josh, I came up with a plan today actually of using the two together and posted it onto the first review by Bobby.

      I have to say that I’m really happy with process so far … it has only been 1 day though so I’ll let you know after a couple of weeks how it’s going.

      So here’s the workflow I’m trying:

      Step #1 Sort Gmail-email with ActiveInbox, forwarding actionable items to Evernote Notebook @Inbox & Scheduling G-Calendar items;

      Step #2 Sort Evernote Notebook @Inbox and assign Next Action tags, Ticklers, Lists, Somedays, References;

      Step #3 All Projects get a Springpad Project Notebook created for them where I can create the project’s mood-board, add tags, add tasks, add & link G-Calendar items, share files & ideas with clients and vice/versa;

      Step #4 When Actions & Projects are finished, remove unnecessary tags and put into Evernote Notebook & Springpad Project Notebook @Archives

      I’d love to know if anyone else tries my workflow and get feedback on it from them.

      Cheers,
      Chase.

  5. Hey Bobby,

    I’d love to know when they are going to offer an offline client. I’m still a little nervous about relying on their servers completely without an archived version available on my desktop (ala Evernote). Also, if they could bring Evernote’s ability to search PDFs and add the ability to search MS Office documents it would be hard not to consider them the top option for my personal database (with their current slate of features and adding the desktop archive of course).

    It would also be pretty sweet if the user could set up their own types, even if they are simply in addition to those predetermined ones, maybe this would make a good premium feature?

    Also please tell him the new board feature is really awesome.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes.

  6. Hey Josh & Bobby, like I mentioned before, I’m not that into GTD. I’ve tried numerous times but always had the same experience of Bobby where it seemed like I became more “spread out” than “organized”. Following Bobby’s method was the first time it “clicked” and I got it and think it will work for me.

    But Google, being the smarties that they are put an ad at the top of my Gmail account for this new app that actually looks pretty darn good.

    Since you guys have more GTD experience, would one of you consider kicking it’s tires for a week and reporting back to us? :-)

    It’s called Smarty Task http://www.smartytask.com/

    • I swear I’ve tried Smartytask before… or that I looked at it, anyway. Maybe it used to have a different name? It’s possible I ran away from the pricing… Either way, I’ll take a look at it sometime soon — you’ve got me curious.

      By the by, Chase, check your junk mail — I sent you an email the other day with some links I thought you would find valuable on your quest. :)

  7. Hey Bobby, could you resend the links? I’ve been out of the habit of actually looking through my junk mail, but I know good emails get into periodically and I emptied it without looking as part of my “zero inbox” refresh … Gmail only has 21 unprocessed emails that I need to worry about today :-) Feels Great!

    I really scoured the info today on SmartyTasks and I don’t think it allows attachments in anyway, but I could be wrong.

    If I have to use Gmail +another program, I’d prefer to stick with Evernote :-)

    You should check out http://www.activeinboxhq.com for Gmail if you haven’t … I love it.

    I’m not a huge fan of Springpad so far … it’s alright but get me all googly-eyed.

    • Re-sent from me @ 40Tech.com.

      I hear you on the zero inbox thing. Makes me much happy! Springpad does have a lot going on, but I have high hopes for it. I can’t wait to see what their CEO says about their coming rollouts.

      Thanks for the link to Active Inbox, I’ll check them out!

  8. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I’ve just made an Evernote to springpad exporter available:

    http://e-springpad.appspot.com/

  9. Springpad added offline support to users of the Chrome browser. A new Springpad Chrome Web app will automatically save your data locally and allow you to access it offline with some limitations.
    Isn’t it great

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. GTD in Springpad | 40Tech - November 22, 2011

    [...] Reminders – Great way to set up an alert for a time-sensitive item. These can be configured to send to multiple email addresses and SMS. At this time, however, reminders can only be set in the web app, and on Android devices. [...]

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