Why I no longer use Evernote for my writing (How to find your lost Evernote notes in Android)

Frustrated and confused

I had an issue the other day that frightened the hell out of me. I spend a lot of time on the train these days and when I am not on official ‘work’ business (i.e. earning a crust), I like to write on the train journeys.

*NOTE* If you have found this post through a search engine and you want to know how to get your lost ‘Evernote’ note back, please feel free to skip my ramblings and go to the end of the post, where hopefully the solution awaits you 🙂

In a previous post I have outlined my writing tools and I thought it was important to provide an update. You see the other day on the train I decided I wanted a break from writing and editing the ‘Adarna chronicles’. To be fair I was getting a little tired of the first novella ‘Empire under siege’ (for those who have read previous posts, the project used to be called ‘Hope’, but I realised that the name meant nothing to anyone…. Now I know some of you will think ‘What the hell, if Hugh Howey can sell a book called ‘Wool’ then why not have an abstract name that has little meaning until you have read the book?’ But I just wasn’t convinced, so the name has changed).

Anyway, back to the point. I was a little tired of ‘Empire under siege’ and when this happens I tend to work on a short story (which is how my first published work ‘Paradise’ came in to existence) to get over the writer’s block. I have a long list of short story synopses that I hold as ‘Evernote’ ‘notes’, and I will continue to use Evernote for this purpose. The mistake I made was to use ‘Evernote’ as a cut down word processor.

You see I started writing a short story called ‘The hunger’ on the train in Evernote as it seemed easier than trying to use a word processor on my Android tablet. I’ve done this before with great success.

On the day I hit a seam of inspiration that enabled me to polish off the first draft of the story (5,000 words or so) on the journey to London and back. I was ecstatic. Rarely have I been able to finish something in a day, and although there are many rewrites ahead for the story before it goes to the editor, I have to say that I was very, very pleased with it (which, to be fair, probably means it is the worst thing I have ever written!).

I finished the story just as the train got in to my home station and I didn’t have time to sync ‘Evernote’ to the cloud, so I closed my Android tablet and went home, secure in the knowledge that the work would be preserved (I had pressed ‘save’ quite a few times) until I got home and could sync to the cloud and transfer the story to ‘Scrivener’ (which is my writing platform of choice).

Sadly, when I got home and opened Evernote on my iMac, only the first half of the story was there. I didn’t panic, going instead to the Android tablet and checking the ‘note’ on it (surely, I thought, it must still be on the tablet?). Sadly, only half of the story was on the tablet too.

Any writer, I think, will sympathise with my plight. I had been hit by a moment of inspiration and hurled words onto the page in a frenzy. There was no way that I could recapture the lost words. I knew the story, sure, but it would never be the same (plus it would be a pain in the arse to write it all down again). I was utterly, completely, dejected.

I scoured the internet for a solution (after moping around for an hour or so), but couldn’t find anything. To make matters worse, the Evernote website help section was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

After much head scratching (and cursing), I reasoned that because I had pressed ‘save’ in Evernote the file must be on my Android somewhere. It turns out, thankfully, that I was right.

Here’s what I did:-

1) I opened up my Android tablet and went to the file manager app.

2) In the file manager app (there are many available, all you need is something that will let you browse the files on your Android) I located the ‘Android’ folder (if you have an SD card or similar inserted you will have to search this too).

3) Within the ‘Android’ folder I opened ‘data’ and scrolled down until I found a folder called ‘com.evernote’ and within this a folder called ‘files’

4) Within files I opened a folder called ‘unsaved notes’ (be aware that the structure of the file system in Evernote is such that you may have folders with these names on any storage device connected to your Android and they may have different content. So make sure you look through them all). It did strike me as a little bizarre that my saved files would be in a folder called ‘unsaved notes’ but I found them, so who really cares?

5) I found some ‘.enml’ files that had a date and time stamp that coincided with my train journey.

6) I emailed one of the .enml files (the latest) to my iMac.

7) I tried to open the .enml file. It opened but was mostly nonsense.

8) I did a search on the internet and found out that if you rename a .enml file to .html then it can be opened. So I did this and then opened the .html file in my browser.

9) Hey presto! My entire story popped up in my browser. I copied and pasted it into ‘Scrivener’ and the job was done! I slept soundly that night.

So that, dear reader, is why I will never write anything (other than notes) in Evernote again. I have to state that  there is a function on their website that allows you to ask for support. I did send them a request for help but by the time they got back to me I had solved the problem myself.  I should also note (pardon the pun…) that Evernote is an extremely handy and powerful tool if used correctly and I will continue to use it in the future for many other things.

So, that’s the end of a rather different blog post for me. I hope that someone out there finds it useful at some stage. At the very least, I hope that it will help others avoid the mistakes that I made.

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2 thoughts on “Why I no longer use Evernote for my writing (How to find your lost Evernote notes in Android)

  1. Dan Forth

    I don’t use Evernote anywhere near as much as I would – it lacks a “within-note” find feature, and that’s absolutely essential for some of the longer notes I keep.


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