Exporting your stuff from Evernote

I really like Evernote. I suggest it to a lot of people, especially anyone who owns an iPhone. Evernote makes it so easy to take a picture, write a note, or record some audio on your iPhone and retreive it later on your Mac, PC, or even online. This has so many potential uses from comparison shopping to simple reminders. However, as I was using Evernote the other day I realized one fatal flaw in the system. Evernote only exports “notes” as Evernote-compatible files. Why is this a bad thing? Let me share my experience…

evernote2

Right now Shaun is in song-writing mode preparing for a new album and a new round of completely free songs. While at a church in Iowa the other day Shaun was messing around on the church’s piano and wrote this beautiful melody. A few hours later before the concert, it was completely gone from his head. In his own word, “I’m not too old to write music, just too old to remember it.” Hoping it would return to him I told him I would record it with my handy-dandy iPhone and then send it to him later. Sure enough, the following morning Shaun woke up and the melody had returned. I immediately opened up Evernote for iPhone, started a new audio note, and within a few seconds the melody was captured and sync’d up Evernote online. So far so good, but that was only the first step.

When we returned home I opened up Evernote on my Mac to snag the audio file and e-mail it over to Shaun. I started in standard Mac fashion by trying to simply drag the recording out of Evernote onto my desktop… nothing. Strike one. So, I selected the audio note and chose “Export…” from the File menu. The only format I could export to is a proprietary XML format that only Evernote can read. Strike two. I scoured the Evernote forums, knowledgebase, and Google and didn’t find an alternate export option. Then I read that Evernote stores a copy of all media files used as standard files on my computer (not in some secret secure database). If I could find the media file on my system I could send it to Shaun.

So, I popped open Finder and went to my home folder (the one named for your user name). From there I went to:
Library -> Application Support -> Evernote -> data

Inside that data folder were sub-folders for each “notebook” I have in Evernote. Of course, they are not named after those notebooks but instead use numbers so I had to look through each one to find the folder that corresponded to the right notebook. Each of these numbered folders contains a file called Evernote.sql (the database info. for that notebook) and yet another sub-folder called content. These content folders are where Evernote stores everything it needs to keep up with the notes inside that notebook.

Each content folder contains sub-folders for each item within that notebook. These folder names each start with the letter “p” which is followed by a number. Thankfully, these folders are in order. Since the audio file I was searching for was the last item I had created, it was in the last folder. Each of these “p” folders contains the thumbnails Evernote creates for your note along with the HTML it uses to display your note and all media attached to your note. The media files are named with long strings of numbers and letters, but at least they are there and they retain their proper filename extention (my audio file was a WAV file and images are often JPG files).

The full location of my file ended up being something like (“Home” will be your short user name):
Home -> Library -> Application Support -> Evernote -> data -> 40147 -> content -> p141 -> 2286a189e0225a887e3495cd50f6d912.wav

Once I found the audio file I simply copied (not moved but copied… hold down ALT while you drag) the file from this location to my Desktop. Then I renamed it something human-readable and attached it in an email to Shaun.

While I did find a solution to my problem, I find it hard to believe that I am the only person who has ever wanted to export media I have caputred with Evernote for use in some application other than Evernote. This seems to be something that would be easy for the Everntoe developers to incorporate since the original media files exist in the file system. So I suppose the big question is: Why is this not already a feature in Evernote? Are they afraid to give us control over our own content? Do they think we will stop using the service? Is locking users into their system really the answer?