Migrating from Evernote to Notion

Migrating from Evernote to Notion

Tags
Software Development
Lifestyle
Published
November 19, 2022
Author
Randall Hand
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I’ve been a fan of Evernote for a long time. I think I got my first paid subscription back in 2008, and I’ve maintained it for the last 14 years religiously. I have automations setup so that ever facebook status, tweet, and foursquare checkin gets logged. I have emails that automagically get forwarded there for receipts and important events. I have my scanners configured so that I can scan documents directly into EverNote with 1-button. Everyone who knows me knows that usually within about 60s I can pull everything from old vision prescriptions to tax paperwork out of evernote with Ease.

The Demise of Evernote

Unfortunately, Evernote has been falling apart the last few years. Starting with the Evernote 10 update, which they switched away from Native Apps and instead into an Electron web app, things have gone downhill. It started with basic stability and usability problems, notes wouldn’t sync or they would just appear Blank for no reason until a restart. As they tried to work on it, more and more functionality was found “missing” because they removed all of their OS integrations. As a mac user, that meant I could no longer automate Evernote with AppleScript or Automator, and I could no longer search it with Spotlight.
Then a month ago I realized that the “Context” feature had stopped working. One key of my workflow had always been to open a note for a discussion with a person or a vendor, then use the Context feature to find previous conversions for reference. I thought it was a bug, but then I found out they actually removed it.. Silently. An exclusive feature only available to paid members, and they removed it. So time to find a new alternative.
Of course, now it’s been bought by “Bending Spoon”. I was already on my way out before this, but now it’s certain that I won’t be re-upping my subscription.

Notion

Notion wasn’t my first choice. At first, I honestly didn’t like it. It’s basically a Wiki in a box, which sounds neat but isn’t exactly what I was looking for. I used evernote as a “Haystack system”, meaning I threw anything and everything into it with minimal structure and used their OCR and Search features to find things easily. Notion doesn’t have OCR features, and doesn’t even allow API Image uploads (which means things like Rocketbook don’t work either).
I looked at Obsidian, which seemed closer to what I wanted and had a great ecosystem of plugins and tools. I set it up and played with it a bit, but for some reason it just didn’t fit into my workflow.
After a bit of fighting with Notion, the way they separate Spaces and manage Databases takes a bit of learning as an Evernote fan, I finally started to get into it. Which then begged the big question: How can I get my mountain of Evernote data into Notion?

My Evernote

My evernote system covers:
  • 11,724 notes
  • across 20 notebooks
  • A few hundred tags
I have notes of all types:
  • Forwarded emails
  • Scanned Documents, Scientific & Magazine articles - as PDFs
  • Audio and Video clips of various meetings
  • Tons of web bookmarks and clippings
 
So how can I get this into Notion and keep it usable?

3 Steps

Fundamentally, it’s a 3 step process:
  1. Triage what’s in Evernote Now
  1. Export Evernote into something useful
  1. Import that into Notion
 

Triage what’s in Evernote

At first I wanted to get “Everything”, and honestly I do have a full backup of everything saved on my NAS just in case I need it. However, I realized that part of the value of an “external brain” is in keeping it relevant and up-to-date.
  • Notes about a job I resigned from 15 years ago aren’t useful.
  • A full Twitter or Foursquare export isn’t useful.
  • Video and Audio recording of events 5+ years ago probably aren’t useful, because mainly they aren’t searchable.
So the first thing I did was a big of organization in Evernote. I deleted some obviously pointless things, and then created a few temporary notebooks and moved things into them. This meant where I started with a “Home” notebook, I wound up with a “Home” and a “Home Archive” notebook.

Exporting Evernote

This is where things start to get tricky. The main evernote app doesn’t really have any good export features. It limits you to either a single notebook or just 50 notes.
If you roll back to the “Evernote Legacy” app (still available from Evernote’s website), you can export everything in 1 click. It generates an ENEX file per notebook, sitting on disk and ready for use.

Importing into Notion

Once you have your ENEX files, you have some options. The main 2 I used were:
evernote2md
wormi4okUpdated Nov 23, 2022
  • Using enex2notion, you can import an entire ENEX file into a single Notion document list.
  • Using evernote2mdyou can export an ENEX file into a collection of markdown files suitable for offline viewing, or use with tools like Obsidian.
 
Some tips on using enex2notion:
  • Make sure you use --done-file when uploading. Due to how Notion internally manages documents, each paragraph will be individually uploaded as a “block” onto a document, so if you have large multi-line documents (like a list of every Tweet or Foursquare checkin) they can take an hour or more to upload.
  • You can run multiple imports in parallel. I ran 3 at a time in parallel, in different notebooks. Don’t try to actively use notion while you’re doing this, however, since the updates will be interfering with your actual work.
  • The tool will create a folder in notion called “Evernote ENEX Import”, and then a folder in there with your ENEX filename. All of your files will wind up there.
From what I’ve seen so far, all attachments and labels came through with ease! Some complex formatting got mangled, especially from webclips and forwarded emails, but the content is all there.

After the Import

After the import is finished (it took me about 2 days in total to get the parts I cared about), then I could start rearranging things. The real power in Notion is not in the raw storage, but in the organization and formatting features. Converting things into Databases with custom fields and formula is when things get really good. I was able to quickly craft filters on my imports to pull, for example, all of my tag:vision Vision Prescriptions and then copy them into a more useful place in my other Notion spaces and manually add the extra fields. This is an ongoing process, but I can take comfort in the fact that all of the data is somewhere in Notion, and now it’s up to me to decide if I’m happy leaving it in “the pile” or moving it into a structured location.

Conclusion

So far, I absolutely love Notion. My favorite things so far:
  • Templates - such a simple feature I’m amazed Evernote never did. I now have a standard set of templates for Meetings I regularly hold (Daily standup, 1:1, weekly update, etc) and they’re integrated with a set of Macros and Formulas to create things like Action Items.
  • Views - More than just filtering the list down to a subset, but instead rendering a set of items as a Scrum Board by status.. Or on a Calendar by a Date field.
  • Integrations - Post a Jira link and it automagically pulls the Jira status.. Post a github PR link and it shows the PR name and merge status. Post almost any web URL and it creates a nice little website.
So I’m loving it so far, and it feels like every week I learn a new trick or two.