Evernote 5 for Mac: First impressions

The Elephant Evernote Logo

As consumers I think it’s easy for us to take improvement cycles for granted – “If they want me to continue to pay out they’ll keep improving their product…” – but given the amount of poorly conceived and poorly executed applications I wade through on a daily basis I think it’s appropriate when your “go-to” applications get a refresh to take the time to thank the creative process, and the creative minds, at work coming up with ways of making your user experience more intuitive and enjoyable. So thank you Evernote team!

I’ve been using the updated version of Evernote 5 for a little over a week now, so I’ve been able to familiarise myself with some of the new widgets that have been introduced. This is not intended to be a full-blown review; it’s more of a distilled set of my own observations about the changes that I’ve found to be most (and least) useful for my personal productivity.

What I like

  • Cards view: This is the stand-out improvement for me. Essentially a total refresh of how your notes are displayed, you are now treated to a set of thumbnails with note titles superimposed onto them. It’s incredibly easy to use and I like the fact that you can play around with the width to have a view that is one, two, three or more thumbnails wide.
  • Simplified sidebar: Evernote have effectively put the power of the sidebar in your hands by allowing you to remove the list of notebooks and tags and replace it with a hand-picked selection of your favourite notebooks, notes and/or tags. And if you get stuck a right click will restore one or all of the default list views from Evernote 4.
  • Improved tags: I wrote in my previous post about the power of tagging; Tags have had an overhaul in Evernote 5 and I have found the result to be much improved. The way you can ‘build’ a filtered list of notes by clicking multiple tags is much more intuitive than previously, and each tag displays the number of notes containing that particular tag (did it use to do this? I don’t think so)
  • Type-ahead search: Akin to how your Spotlight search works, typing into the Evernote search bar will now return a predictive list of results that changes as you type. I put this feature in the ‘not essential, but cool’ category.


What I don’t like

  • ‘Leather look’ notepads: I have stuck in my mind a Wired magazine comment about departing Apple iOS head Scott Forstall’s “silly skeuomorphic design” tendencies for fake stitching and leather look apps…for some unfathomable reason Evernote have gone the same way and in my opinion it looks awful. But when your biggest complaint is something as minor as an aesthetic design choice you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
  • Offline notebook bug: Evernote 5 contains a known bug that won’t let you create offline notebooks from the standard view. There is a workaround, but it’s jarring that such a fundamental issue didn’t come out in testing.


What I’m indifferent about (but is worth a mention)

  • Atlas: Evernote have introduced a feature that enables you to see your notes overlaid on geographic maps of where they were created. If I were a travel writer, or a high-flying jet setter then I could see the merit (or just general coolness) of this. But my Atlas view just serves to highlight that I rarely venture outside of my own county and risks sending me into a depressive state of self-reflection about why I’m such a dull individual.


My experience of the updated Evernote is one of things being ‘generally easier, better thought through and a marked improvement’. I have no real ‘wow’ moments with it but it feels like a solid step forward. The visual enhancements make the User Interface better, there are a few functional tweaks that will speed up how you use it and there appears to be a general theme of putting more power and customisation in the hands of the user, which I like.
So it’s a big thumbs up from me! But I’m interested in hearing what you think and any big improvements or issues that I have overlooked, so please feel free to comment.



  1. Excellent review. My experiences are pretty much the same as yours.
    I can’t see the point of the atlas view – this works to some extent when using a mobile device, but not so much on a desktop.
    A number of my colleagues and associates have reported crashes, but this is not something I’ve experienced – I wondered if you’ve suffered since upgrading?
    All-in-all, it’s a worthwhile upgrade and I’m finding it a much more efficient experience (which, for a GTDer is always a shoe-in).


    1. Hi Ady,

      Thanks for your feedback. I’ve not experienced any crashes, nor read about it as an issue. Perhaps your colleagues have been unlucky!

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