Dropbox vs Evernote –
The Differences Explained, and How to Use Them Both Effectively
I’m writing this article while listening to the new EP by Jason Newsted’s new band, so I will apologize in advance in the event things go sideways at some point – I normally write in total silence. I think it’s fair to say this evening’s soundtrack is about as far away from silence as one can get, but I digress…
So back to the topic at hand; Evernote and Dropbox. Both services are based in thecloud, and both services can be a huge asset to your backup strategy and workflow. Unfortunately, they’re often lumped together or painted with the same brush when in fact, they are actually quite different. If you’re using one of the services exclusively, you may not realize how the other service can help you. Similarly, you may actually be “rocking” both services concurrently with no clear dividing line that tells you definitively “this goes into Dropbox” and “this goes into Evernote”.
In a nutshell, the differences between the two services can be summed up as follows:
Evernote stores the data you send it in an Evernote “note”, or .enex file. This file type is proprietary and gives all of your notes the same look and feel. It doesn’t matter what kind of file you have in Evernote (.pdf, .docx, .xlsx or text within Evernote itself), all of your data appears as a “note”. Using this method of storage, Evernote gives you the ability to quickly scroll through your notes in a visual fashion. It also gives you the ability to search for text within your notes – even in files or even in a note that you’ve written by hand. It’s true, Evernote can recognize handwriting – even mine, which means it will certainly recognize yours!
Dropbox stores files, and files only. Unlike Evernote, you can’t open a Dropbox window and type a few lines of text. In order to place a to-do list or reminder in Dropbox, you would have to save your text as a text file or Word document for example. Dropbox is basically just a folder on your computer that you can use to house files of any type. While it doesn’t have the search functionality of Evernote, it does let you store larger files (Evernote caps out at 50MB) in addition to merging your data in a fashion more consistent with the data on your computer.
Okay, I see the difference – so how should I use the services together to stay organized?
The answer to this question is really up to you. Given my explanation above, you may already have a good idea of how the two services can live together in harmony. There’s no right or wrong way to view things here – it’s important to keep that in mind. However, if you’d like to see how I view things as a guideline to getting yourself more “digitally prepared”, here is what I’d recommend.
Evernote is a note taking app by design. It’s absolutely amazing at a lot of things which I’ve summarized on this site before. It’s great for keeping track of relatively small tidbits of information such as receipts and instruction manuals. It’s also quite useful for writing down or scanning meeting notes, car repairs, information from websites (research), and important documentation that may accompany your home or finances – just to scratch the surface. The reason it’s so powerful can be found in the fact it stores your information in a uniform fashion – as notes. You can categorize your data into different notebooks, tag your data, and even just scroll through your notes almost as though you were flipping the pages in a book. These features, in addition to the powerful search function, give you the ability to quickly view your data and find exactly what it is your looking for.
Dropbox is geared more towards file storage. You could scan receipts or meeting notes into Dropbox as a text or Word file I suppose, but creating a system that makes finding your data quickly becomes far more difficult. What Dropbox excels at (pardon the pun?), is storing larger, more conventional files that you would typically see sitting around your computer. Spreadsheets, Word documents, PDF files, Photos, Videos – they’re all perfect for the world of Dropbox.
As I mentioned before, there are no hard and fast rules here – it really is up to you. For me though, I’ve come up with my own solution that works pretty well. Evernote is for all of the scraps in my life, while Dropbox is there to house the larger files. I guess you could say Evernote is the stack of Post-It notes on my desk, while Dropbox is my Volkswagon-sized filing cabinet.
The only other thing I’d like to point out before closing is the fact that both of these services store your data in the “cloud”. This makes your data accessible from anywhere you can find an internet connection. Great for convenience, but a little scary when it comes to security. As a general rule of thumb, I try to keep all of my personal data on my home computer, away from these two services. If you’re security-conscious, files such as mortgage documents, bank statements, and tax return data should stay off the cloud.
Are you using Evernote and Dropbox together? If so, where do YOU draw the line between the two services?
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