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How to switch from Evernote to Joplin

I have switched all my notes from Evernote to Joplin. While it was an astonishingly straightforward process in the beginning, unfortunately, I encountered several severe problems within the next couple of weeks. Many errors took birth from a wrong import and setup. To prevent users from repeating my mistakes, I decided to write this tutorial.

I hope this article helps you to switch your workflow to Joplin easily. If you have any questions or I forgot to mention something, feel free to ask me about it in a comment section.

  1. What to expect from Joplin
  2. Prepare your data in Evernote
  3. Export your data from Evernote
  4. Install Joplin and set up it
  5. Import data into Joplin
  6. Sync data with cloud
  7. Add other clients one by one
  8. Install the supplemental apps
  9. Conclusion

What to expect from Joplin

Firstly, Joplin can not replace Evernote in all use cases, do not expect that. I was misled by many articles where Joplin was mentioned as "the closest," "the best," "the most intuitive" alternative for Evernote. They do not lie; it is the closest and robust solution, but I expected more than Joplin offers after reading these articles. Do not expect Joplin to be Evernote. All other note-taking apps have additional functionality to Evernote, but no one has all Evernote functions. If you feel that Joplin is not your piece of cake, I encourage you to try other options from Evernote alternatives. For example, Nimbus Note and Amplenote might be better for you, or Keep it if you are a Mac user, or maybe Roam and Obsidian will change the way you make notes.

Let me list some Evernote functions Joplin does not have, so you could decide if that deal-breaker for you:

  • Import folder, when you can drop files into some folder, and it automatically creates a note.
  • Complex queries like "notebook:A AND ((tag:B AND tag:C) OR (tag:D AND date:E)). Mostly you could expect it is searching for all attributes in the query with AND logic or for all attributes in the query with OR logic.
  • Imperseptibal synchronization between devices. With Joplin, you usually should press "Sync" after finishing your writing, and before start writing on another machine, you should wait till synchronization is completed. Ordinary, it takes 5-15 seconds when you open the app.
  • Synchronization without "conflicts." After using several devices, you can end up with "conflicts." Nothing dangerous, and you can delete all conflicting notes quickly, but the app does not do it for you as Evernote.
  • All your information will be transformed into Markdown format. If you do not like it, maybe Joplin is not the best solution for you. There is a possibility to import .enex as HTML, but I read about many errors users had after importing as HTML.
  • Searching inside PDF and OCR for pictures. I do not expect this feature soon.
  • Sharing your notes with others. There is a possibility to use WebDAV for sharing, but from my point of view, it is not the best and easiest solution. Joplin doesn't have a server where your notes might be exposed to the community.
  • It has limitations on syncing big databases. Joplin uses third solutions for syncing (e.g. Dropbox, Nextcloud), and you should understand that these services have limits on the number of files in one folder or on files' size. If you have more than 150k files, you will experience problems in synchronization. It isn't easy to achieve this threshold, but still, if you love web-clipping sites, it might be your case.
  • Joplin downloads all your note data on mobile devices. If you do not have enough space on your phone, this might be a problem.

But of course, do not forget that all listed functions the only old Evernote Legacy has which is unsupported now, and the new Evernote most likely will not have these functions because it will have the same Electron limitations.

In exchange, Joplin offers better performance; it is swift. Another option is privacy when data is stored in your device or encrypted inside the app before sending data to the cloud. You have many options to leave Joplin, as it offers you many opportunities to export your data. Do not forget that it is open-sourced, so you can check code, write your addons or monitor all bugs the app has and how developers solve them. There were two security audits, which is vital these days when companies try to sell your data.


Prepare your data in Evernote

Well, you read the previous paragraph and decided to give Joplin a chance. I recommend starting with cleaning your data inside Evernote before doing something. But as it is a complicated procedure, you can skip this step and go straight to the next paragraph.

But I recommend doing at least minor preparations inside Evernote because it helps you in importing your data in other apps, which do not have such an elaborate importer as Joplin.

First of all, look at your notes. Do you need all of them, or you can easily sacrifice some old notebooks or notes older than six years? If you can get rid of some unnecessary notes, it shortened the next task.

The next task is to reduce notes bigger than 10MB. To do so, you should download Evernote Legacy, open the tab view and sort your notes by size. Most often big notes contain some attachments (e.g. .pdf, .zip, .mov). This is the most tricky part of the whole process. You should upload these documents in some cloud and replace these files with links.

It is better if, after this process, you have notes smaller than 4MB, but if it is an impossible task, try to achieve a 10MB limit. It is a bad habit to store files inside the database, but Evernote spoiled us long ago.


Export your data from Evernote

Joplin uses .enex files to upload notes from Evernote. One .enex file, one Joplin notebook. If you have no more than ten notebooks, it is worth to export them from Evernote by Right-Mouse-Click on the notebook and choosing export as .enex. Each notebook to separated .enex file.

If you have many notebooks, it is wise to give temporary tags for notes in each notebook by this notebook's name. After that, export the whole base from the Evernote menu as one .enex file. After importing it into Joplin, you should create all notebooks manually and move notes according to the temporary tags.


Install Joplin and set up it

It is easy to set up Joplin. Therefore I recommend doing this before importing anything from .enex files.

First of all, read and delete after that Welcome notes and notebook. We do not need them; everything we can find on the Joplin Home page.

Go to Joplin Preferences and set up time, appearance and encryption. Save your encryption password in a safe place. Do not touch Synchronization preferences! And do not touch the Synchronization button! We do not need it before importing our .enex files.


Import data into Joplin

Select in Joplin menu Import .enex as Markdown. I do not recommend using the HTML import due to the variety of bugs I read about in the Joplin Forum.

Markdown importer simplifies your notes to one font, one alignment, absents of font colours and highlighting. If you need these, you should choose HTML import, but as I said, it is buggy. As for me, I was happy to see more clean formatting after a little messy Evernote's formatting.

Wait until import is ready. You can use your computer and do something else. For every 1000 notes, Joplin needs around 2-5 minutes to import.

After syncing is ready, check the result by comparing the number of notes in Joplin and Evernote. Change notebooks if needed, check tags, browse your notes a little. See the result. Do you like it? I was impressed by the results. I lost only two notes from 5000. There is no way to see which notes I lost, but they were from an unimportant notebook, so I forget them.


Sync data with cloud

Now it is time to decide whether you need synchronization between devices. Evernote users usually chose it in the past considering its flawless synchronization between all platforms. But do you need it? You will have all your data stored on your phone. Think twice. Ok, now let's see how to implement it.

First of all, export your data into a .jex file if you changed anything after importing .enex files. Yes, do it right now. If you have some issues with the first synchronization, you will not lose all changes you have done with rearranging your data.

Go to Synchronization Preferences, and choose the cloud you want to use:

  • Dropbox (preferable)
  • Nextcloud
  • WebDAV
  • OneDrive (not recommended)

I strongly recommend avoiding OneDrive. Even if you like it and have 1TB of free space due to Office 365 subscription, avoid this option. Joplin has a very poor OneDrive synchronization, leading to synchronization errors. It can even corrupt your data. There are an endless array of posts on the forum about OneDrive synchronization problems.

Do not chose WebDAV if you are going to sync notes with mobile.

After choosing your options, click on the "Synchronization" button. It shows you a screen with instructions on connecting Joplin with the selected Cloud (target).

Wait until the sync is finished. Sometimes due to connection problems app can stop syncing and write, "Sync is finished." Do not believe it, and click "Synchronization" again. You can check whether synchronization is finished by checking Synchronization Status in the menu. You should see the same numbers in "Total." Please do not close the app; leave it for the night; prevent your computer from sleep. It would be a lengthy task, and Joplin does it only when the window is open and the PC is awake.

For every 1000 notes, it can take 2-5 hours for full synchronization. Do not be afraid; it is only the first time. After this, each synchronization takes 5-15 seconds and does not interfere with your work.


Add other clients one by one

When you have the main client synced with the Cloud, you should download and install the app on other devices.

Set up everything except synchronization. Use the same encryption password you used for the main client. Delete Welcome notes and notebook.

Now set up synchronization and wait until it is finished. It might be tricky for mobile devices due to power optimization. You should prevent the display from switching off and do not close Joplin. The best time for it is nights when your phone is charging, and you can use it to set up "do not switch off the display while charging."

The same is here, your app will write to you about finished synchronization, but you should press the sync button again to be sure.


Install the supplemental apps

For a better experience, I recommend installing some programs which can return Evernote functions you lose in Joplin.

First of all, Typora. Joplin can open notes in an "external editor." This editor might be any program, even MS Word, but I prefer Typora to others due to simplicity and clean design. By using an external editor, you can open as many notes at once as you need. Sometimes I need three notes on one screen. All corrections you make in Typora will be synced with Joplin.

As far as Joplin does not have a snipping tool, I recommend installing ShareX. It is an open-source and lightweight application for screenshotting. Do not change PrnScr shortcuts to Alt+Ctrl+S as it was in Evernote because this shortcut is reserved for Jopling sorting.

And the last app I recommend is Drawboard PDF. I get used to PDF annotations with Evernote, so this app is an excellent alternative to this function. Just do not forget to close the document after changing (document, not Drawboard itself). Otherwise, your corrections would not be saved in Joplin.


Conclusion

I hope this experience helps you if you decided to switch from Evernote. Joplin import is considered as a very robust solution. Some note-taking apps even recommend to use it for Evernote-Markdown transfer for their transition. I made several mistakes in this process that led to many hours of fixing occurred errors. By publishing my experience, I hope to prevent other users from making these mistakes. Feel free to ask me any questions if you have some.

3 thoughts on “How to switch from Evernote to Joplin

  1. Just wondering – why avoid WebDav for sync with mobile (sorry if that’s obvious)?

    Despite the warnings, I tried OneDrive and regret it now.

    Not willing to pay for £95pa for Dropbox storage, so now looking at NextCloud

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