Nimbus Note v. Evernote: The Review #amwriting

Nimbus Notes logo
versus

Evernote Logo

Overview

Nimbus Note is a serious competitor to Evernote, particularly the latest (as of 21 November 2020) versions of Evernote’s clients. It is faster, and has 90-95% of Evernote’s feature set available. However, it does not possess nearly as many integrations as Evernote, neither to web apps nor to Mac/iOS apps. If a stand-alone note database works for you, Nimbus may be your Evernote replacement. If you depend heavily on Evernote’s many integrations, however, you may need to search further.

Feature Comparison between Nimbus Notes and Evernote:

(Reference: Nimbus v. Evernote Comparison on the Nimbus website, as well as Compare Plans, from the Evernote site. I’ve left off business plans and free plans—the free plans are closely comparable, save Nimbus has no device limits, preferring to limit the total number of notes in its free plan. So this table compares individual paid plans—apples to apples, as it were.)

Executive Summary: Nimbus has clearly built its feature set around competing with Evernote. Its table has an exhaustive list of tiny features which it has but Evernote does not, but unaccountably misses some features Evernote has that it lacks. (I’ve dropped a vast number of lines from the table that simply said Evernote-Y, Nimbus-Y.) Here are the high points:

  • Nimbus doesn’t support handwriting indexing. This is a bummer for me, but Evernote’s handwriting indexing is hardly of any use if I can’t use Evernote.
  • Nimbus does not yet support PDF annotation. Of course, that’s why you have Evernote Skitch…
  • Nimbus has more restrictive upload/traffic limits than Evernote, but then it’s also cheaper.
  • Nimbus has more table support than Evernote, and table-based database capabilities which Evernote lacks.
  • Nimbus “folders” are equivalent to Evernote “notebooks.” Nimbus can nest folders, but Evernote can’t nest notebooks.
  • If you want to share a thing that was a notebook in Evernote without sharing your entire database, you’ll have to put it into a separate workspace in Nimbus.
  • “Nimbus Capture” is a browser-based technology. At least on Mac, the equivalent is “Evernote Helper” which is accessed via the menu bar. Evernote Helper is easier to access, but is more limited in what it can capture.
  • Nimbus can embed video in a note, which Evernote can do only by attachment.
  • In general, even at the individual paid level, Nimbus is more oriented towards collaboration than Evernote. Collaboration features that in Evernote are reserved to Business accounts are available in the Nimbus Pro Plan.
  • The editor differences boil down to “Nimbus has block editing and Evernote doesn’t.” This is no longer true with the new Evernote clients, but since those clients are unusable as of this writing, who cares?
  • I find the web clipper browser extensions comparable, despite Nimbus’s bragging about how theirs are better.
  • The “Sharing and Security” differences add up to some of those collaboration features I mentioned above.
  • Nimbus’s table to the contrary, Evernote has many key integrations in the Apple and Web universes that Nimbus simply lacks.
  • Nimbus supports several education privacy compliance standards that Evernote evidently does not.
Nimbus Note v. Evernote Features Table
Premium Plan (Evernote) Pro Plan (Nimbus)
Pricing
Monthly Pricing (USD) $7.99 $4.99
Annual Pricing (USD) $69.96 $24.99
General Features
Team Members (Including Owner) Unlimited Up to 5
Total Notes You Can Store Unlimited Unlimited
Monthly Upload/Traffic Size 10GB (upload) 5GB (traffic)
Total Workspaces 1 Only in business version 5
Support Access 2 Email and Live Chat Priority Support
Note Taking and Complementary Products
Image Capture 3 Y Y (Nimbus Capture)
Video Capture N Y (Nimbus Capture)
Screenshots Y Y (Nimbus Capture)
Screen Recording N Y (Nimbus Capture)
Folder and Subfolder Hierarchies Only folders Y (Unlimited Nesting Levels)
Workspaces N Y
Color Coding N Y
Commenting N Y
Spreadsheets N Y
Databases N Y
Password Protected Public Sharing N Y
Note Editor Capabilities
Outliner / Table Of Contents N Y
Insert Quotes N Y
Convert Table Into A Simple Database N Y
Insert Date and Date Edit (Calendar) N Y
Insert Date Reminders In A Note N Y
Tables and Database Features
Create Rows and Columns Y Y
Duplicate Tables N Y
Duplicate Columns N Y
Hide/Show Row Numbers N Y
Set Column Names N Y
Sort Columns N Y
Insert Dates And Edit (Calendar) N Y
Insert Ratings N Y
Web Clipper Capabilities
Clip Page Fragments N Y
Clip Images Only N Y
Save Yahoo Emails N Y
Edit Clipped Content Before Sending To Note-Taking Service N Y
Create Tasks N Y
One-Click Page Saving N Y
Sharing and Security
Access Permissions N Y
Sharing Permissions N Y
Editing Permissions N Y
Real-Time Editing N Y
Real-Time Collaboration N Y
Server Backup and Restore N Y
Education Compliance
FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) N Y
COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection) N Y
CSPC (California’s Student Privacy Certified) N Y
iKeepSafe (Privacy Compliance Organization) N Y
Integrations
i(Pad)OS Shortcuts app Y N
i(Pad)OS Widget 4 Y N
WatchOS App Y N
Zapier.com Y N
iOS URL scheme Y N
Many iOS, PC, Mac, Android, and Web apps including but not limited to Noteshelf, Daily Notes, and Spark Mail. See the Evernote App Center for a somewhat complete list. Y N
Google Drive 5 Y Y (Embed)
YouTube Y Y (Embed)
Vimeo N Y (Embed)
Github N Y (Embed)
Google Map N Y (Embed)
Typeform N Y (Embed)
Figma N Y (Embed)
Twitter N Y (Embed)
Invision N Y (Embed)
Other Features
Live Chat Y N
PDF Annotation Y N
Screen-to-Text Recognition (OCR) 6 Y Y
Document Search and Image Recognition Search for text inside images, PDFs, and Documents

  1. Individual Evernote doesn’t need workspaces, because you can share a folder with someone else. The smallest thing you can share in Nimbus is a workspace. 
  2. I can’t see the difference between Evernote’s “Email and Live Chat” and Nimbus’s “Priority Support”. On the other hand, Nimbus’s support is astonishingly prompt. 
  3. Nimbus Capture is browser based. 
  4. Okay, Evernote lost its widgets and Watch app with the update. But if you haven’t updated, these features are still in Evernote. They might return to the new clients! And Nisus doesn’t have them at all. 
  5. Nimbus will embed a lot of file types that Evernote will add as note attachments. 
  6. Nisus doesn’t support handwriting recognition and indexing, which Evernote does. 

The Results Are In: Bear Wins the Evernote Replacement Race #amwriting

Bear app logo
The winner—Bear!

I wrote about considering Nimbus Note as an Evernote (EN) replacement in my last post, and you’ll get the detailed review I promised in my next post. I gave it a thorough trial, but I didn’t neglect to test other possibilities. I tested Ulysses, OneNote, and Bear as well. Somewhat to my own surprise, I’ve settled on Bear.

As an ADHD non-student adult, I have some different needs for a notes app.

  • My primary need in a notes app is not writing-related. As long as typing doesn’t suck, I’m fine. But everything—everything—goes into my notes. Research. Project planning. Grocery lists. I take photos. I scan documents. I clip from the web. I use Siri dictation. I handwrite and scan the images. I seldom actually type a note. In short, I need a lot of different ways to get information in, plus fast, legible retrieval.
  • I’m poor at categorising. I use big obvious buckets—”Recipes” “Writing” “Everything else”—yet sometimes I still miscategorise (I found a chapter outline in my Recipes folder yesterday.) Search needs to “just find it,” fast, no matter where I put it.
  • I have vast amounts of data—2,200 notes and counting, a total of about 2.5 Gb.
  • I need it all the time.

With these priorities in mind, here’s how the candidates stacked up:

  • Nimbus Notes: Web, Mac, PC, Android, iOS. This is the one I ought to have liked best, based on my research prior to testing. Its editor is not bad for a block editor. And it was fast (or faster than EN is now—a pretty low bar). Its price point was apparently lower than Evernote. Nonetheless,
    1. Its pricing is based on total traffic rather than simply on upload traffic. With 2.5 Gb data and three devices to sync, I blew through 5 Gb of traffic fast.
    2. Several of my transferred notes clipped from Wikipedia were illegible, with images overlapping text. I don’t have time to pretty it up just so as to read my research.
    3. Getting stuff into Nimbus Notes was a pain. Its client apps are just not well-integrated into either the Apple universe or the Web app universe. I could have dealt with one, but not both.
  • OneNote: Web, Mac, PC, Android, iOS, and probably others. I gave it a go. It does have handwriting indexing, after all.
    1. It connects well, but only to the Microsoft universe. I visit Microsoft Universe as little as I can.
    2. OMG, its editor sucks! You tap or click accidentally in the middle of the page, and you start typing right there. This is the crap I left Microsoft Word about. Not an editor for someone who prefers Markdown.
    3. Complex Web clippings were also not legible.
    4. It’s very hierarchical. My system of big buckets with minimal differentiation would be hard to implement there.
  • Ulysses: Mac, iOS. I already pay for a subscription, and it’s often mentioned in note apps lists. It will use Dropbox, to which I also subscribe. I love its writing environment. But…
    1. Ulysses is very writing-focused. Getting anything other than writing into it is a pain.
    2. It’s pretty darn hierarchical, for all its tag system.
    3. It’s less well connected to the Apple universe than you’d think. In particular, it has no Shortcuts actions pre-supplied.

Bear (Mac, iOS):

I didn’t want to like it because it uses iCloud sync, which I despise. Yes, I’m an Apple customer and was an Apple developer off and on for 25 years and I loathe iCloud. There, I said it. Not sorry.

  • Yet, Bear uses a real database back-end. Wow! The Bear folks don’t try to roll their own. Further, they don’t try to hide their technology from the Unwashed Masses. Already I’m impressed.
  • Its editor… is nicer in some ways than Ulysses’ editor, mostly because it sticks closer to Markdown. It could be a bit more flexible about colour and font, but overall a B+.
  • All my old notes are perfectly legible (even though tables I use a lot will get some cleanup.)
  • Its tag system is more flexible and less hierarchical than even Evernote’s.
  • Retrieval is fast and accurate. It slows down some on my iPhone, but that’s understandable with 3 Gb of data to troll through.
  • It’s well connected to the Apple universe. I’ve had no problem getting stuff in.

Is Bear perfect for me? No. Nothing’s perfect. Old Working Evernote would be closer (because I’ve spent 7 years leveraging it) but I’m not likely to get it. Given that, Here’s my Bear wish list:

  • An alternate cloud service, either their own or Dropbox. Probably not practical, but if iCloud stops working (as it did last year for a few weeks when Catalina was released) there’s nothing the folks at Bear can do about it except try to keep the customers calm and wait for Apple to… uh, stop being distracted and fix it.
  • Search inside images and PDFs.
  • Index handwriting.
  • iOS search inside notes. My web clippings are often l-o-n-g. Mac Bear does this already.
  • Connection to web automation services like IFTTT and Zapier.
  • Just a smidgen of collaboration. The ability to share a single tag with one other person would do.

But overall, I’m happy with my choice.

A Rant About Block Editors: WordPress, Evernote, Nimbus Note, et.al. #amwriting

What is this obsession with block editors recently?

Everybody and their sibling is rolling out a block editor with great fanfare. They slice, they dice, they make julienne fries…

They deny the concept of plain text, nor do they use OS-level rich text support, so they’re slow. (Nimbus Note concedes the possibility of plain text, but puts it in a code block. Seriously.) They purport to be rich text but severely limit the options of rich text, which doesn’t seem to make them any faster. You can move blocks around by dragging, which… what? Saves you the step of selecting before dragging? And like any modern rich text system I’m familiar with, the formatting codes (Which are there behind the scenes. Believe me.) are hidden, making it difficult to control what formatting I want to use.

I’m sorry. Give me Markdown in whatever flavour instead.