When 3+ Apps Pluck Your Last Nerve, Make a Bullet Journal


Year 2016 witnessed three software teams’ bully tactics1, as developers either jumped aboard the SaaS ship and/or dramatically hiked prices. Each chose to ignore reality: an overflowing ship is destined to sink. Their yoe-pocket-be-mah-pocket strategy instigated a thorough review of my digital dependence. End result: my embrace of the Bullet Journaling system which, in turn, prompted blissful removal of 16 former core-usage apps. My productivity level skyrocketed.

Estimated Reading Time: 9:21 minutes

The Emergence of Fools Inc.

The evidence strongly suggests I own Duh!Hood. I selected my core apps, believing each dock-worthy; my judgment proved faulty. Exhibits A, B and C: EverNote, TextExpander and CloudMagic. In a “moe money moe money” quest (see: In Living Color), each developer’s mind’s eye converted loyal customers into stuffed-to-the-gills piggybanks. The best part: TRY to find a desirable new feature in the “new and improved” version; you’ll come up empty, mirroring the developers’ intended condition of your wallet.

✧︎︎︎ EverNote

The Evernote team raised its ante from a tolerable $5/month to $8, for my/the subscribed top level Premium tier. The main free feature drawing in most users—syncing more than 2 devices—vamoosed to a paid tier. Did new value features waltz in with the new pricing scheme? Nope. Instead, we were treated to a kinda promise with the weight of air, amounting to: Pay us now and we’ll work on ’em. Scout’s honor. Add: critical user problems remained.

2014’s infamous “EverNote: the Bug Ridden Elephant” article shed the first 100 watt bulb on well-known usability problems. Similar 2015 postings echoed get-it-togetha! pleas. As the years marched on, so too did the deafening chorus pointing to this fix-it-fools! debacle. As noted by one journalist:

I recently noticed that Evernote was becoming far too noisy and complicated for me. The layout on the Mac and iPhone versions of the app were completely different, and both were packed with far more features than I needed like location tagging and business card recognition. (Who uses business cards anymore?)

You’d think the increasingly poor press would coerce the EverNote team into hunkering down and plotting a fix. The good news? Evernote’s executives did indeed commence focused planning. The bad news? They focused on getting, as opposed to giving.

Mind you, objective articles warn: this is the same outfit dangling near life-support status. And those hits just keep on coming; example—an October 6th article: How US$1 billion EverNote went from Silicon Valley darling to deep trouble. Icing on this putrid cake? Executives continue to jump ship at an intriguing rate, including the founder’s son.

I don't complain; I resolve the issue. // Brown Thrasher. Durham, North Carolina
I don’t complain; I resolve the issue. // Brown Thrasher. Durham, North Carolina

What the Mental Midget Brigade fails to comprehend is not whether a user can afford to indulge the new pricing scheme, but rather will a user choose to pony up. Upper echelon managers possess information about their company unknown to the masses. Several of those folks decided an exit was the wisest course. Yours truly chose to mimic them, beelining a one-way trip through the Exit.

Exporting EverNote Notes, Formatted, to PDF, in Batch Fashion

I knew I could export within Evernote to .enex, and use Mac app DevonThink Pro Office to segregate the individual files comprising the bundled enex package. But DevonThink is allergic to the standard file structure, and I have no interest in playing Where’s Waldo on the continuum.

EverNote’s HTML format triggers tears, courtesy of the horrid formatting.

I renewed a search abandoned several years ago. This time, I found my bingo: ExportNote. I’ll say it again: ofree worthy features, and I’ll pay—with a smile. $15 for all features of this treasure proved a bargain, given the complete absence of resulting headaches. A separate article details the delight of ExportNote.

Courtesy of ExportNote, notes formerly housed in EverNote now reside on my desktop hard drive, yielding a new Someday/Maybe project: discard obsolete and unneeded files in that stash; move financial and sensitive data to a special hard drive folder created years ago for that purpose; create a /WasEvernote folder and move remaining files to that location.

● Replacing EverNote

A PDF-friendly bookmarklet graces every browser on every machine. I save pages to PDF, then stash them in searchable Google Drive. I append each file name with the date, i.e. 17.0310, providing an intuitive match for the corresponding note in the day’s Daily Log within my bullet journal. Bonus: that PDF is clean, absent extraneous ads and the like.

PinBoard.in, which saves the linked page’s full text for premium customers ($25/year), empowers with easy/quick tagging, and the option to add notes to the description field during the saving process. Here too a quickly inserted date matches the noted bullet journal entry. Translation: digital/analog harmony!

✧︎︎︎ TextExpander, Child of the Misnamed Smile Co.

The TextExpander crew, in the ultimate gonads move, issued a mantra: sure you wanna share snippets, sure ya do, honest for true. Tell a lie frequently enough….

This one-trick pony performs exactly one function: it expands shortcuts. For the most part, the native iOS keyboard setting does the same; this brutal fact was overlooked by many, until TextExpander’s team coerced us into looking much closer at their app’s core function.

The newly announced proprietary syncing tosses the former DropBox sync mechanism. Why? Alleged potential unreliability. The first “cuz ya wanna share snippets” utterance mirrored raw donkey dust, and we/users knew it. The second “our (new and untested by the masses) sync is better” rationale proved yellow-highlighter arrogant, presuming user stupidity.

End result? TextExpander currently limps around the net, last seen sporting a 60% sale tag. So much for the team’s get-rich-quick plan.

Last point: I thought I’d be in grin & bear it mode, per the loss of date snippets. Never happened. Because this me-SaaS-wannaBe subject sparked a mission to dwarf my digital dependence, critical notes are now fed to the Daily Log of my bullet journal. And, realizing how Smirk, errr, Smile Co. truly feels about its customers, I went back and blasted its PDF app off of my iMac and MacBook Air. Mac’s native Preview app handles most of my PDF needs, well. PDF Expert, long a joy on my iPad, now lives in my desktop ‘hood.

Bottom-line: as remains true regarding EverNote, I’ve lost nothing but irritation in assigning TextExpander to my permanently abandoned pile.

● Replacing TextExpander

The native iOS keyboard-shortcut feature satisfies; the date-focused snippets TextExpander offers are obsolete as my bullet journal plays maestro.

I blasted TextExpander off my devices, extending the same treatment to its counterpart, PDFPen. My rationale: once a developer proves the utter absence of functioning brain cells, I want no app from that source on my machines. Bite me once, and I assure you: the groundwork for a second bite will disappear. I’ve replaced it with the stellar PDF Expert, on every iOS and Mac machine. It’s a twofer: saves money; decreases aggravation.

✧︎︎︎ CloudMagic, a/k/a “May I Have Some of What You’re Smoking Inc”

CloudMagic, a pretty good cross-platform email client—despite bugs persisting through numerous updates—was the most recent to saddle up on the infectious runaway wanna-be-SaaS horse. To its credit, unlike its counterparts in excessive greed, CloudMagic’s oh-gees-yippee-for-us announcement included new features.

My question: who wants a read receipt, reflecting the ooo-ahhh precise time the email was opened? Better yet, assuming a non-spammer craves this information, what concrete benefit does this alleged info tidbit yield? One learns only that the email was opened. Bugs Bunny and friends said it best: “Uh, Umm, that’s all folks!” Dunno if read and digested. Dunno by whom, if anyone.

With this pseudo-information in hand, in what tangible manner does it assist one’s endeavors? “The email I sent yesterday was opened at 4:06p today. So I’ll —.” You’ll what, Sherlock? You lack proof the intended recipient opened it. You lack proof the intended recipient digested the contents. All of which triggers an old-school Aretha Franklin tune: 🎵Who’s Zoomin’ Whom?🎵 By the way, there’s no option for turning off this idiotic “feature.” So friends, ya get to spy on a mailbox, for no viable reason whatsoever. “Now isn’t that special!

What about the feature allowing a user to learn online details about those sending mail? News flash, Poindexter: I ain’t marrying none of these email senders. In the rare instance when I might care, I have a friend—named Google.

Wisdom of a send-later/hide-til-later feature? If it’s crucial enough to send at a precise time, I’ll handle it manually. That’s one reason task apps and calendars have alarms. Not to mention the in-my-face Bullet Journal. As regards playing hide-&-seek with email, no thanks. I touch an email once. Some are immediately archived/deleted after reading; others are converted to task or event, then archived. Period. The open secret is that I’m not checking my email sporadically throughout the day. I set aside discrete time to handle it, morning and evening. Those times are chosen to ensure I can complete that singular task: handle email. Therefore, hiding email until it reappears, IMHO, bastardizes actual efficiency. My plate is full; a time-wasting game of peekaboo more properly belongs in grade school play yards. Hey, just sayin’.

End result? I took an extraordinary step. Rather than merely archiving the app, I sat down at my desktop iMac, visited the folder housing apps, and deleted it outright. The Bullet Journal I adopted, in the wake of Evernote’s silliness, grew muscles sufficient to handle email-generated chores when paired with PDF printing.

● Replacing CloudMagic

Few things in life present the ease of iOS/Mac app AirMail’s print-to-PDF feature. One tap triggers the conversion. When the resulting PDF appears on screen, that screen includes the iOS Share Sheet icon. Through it, I choose Google Drive. Every converted PDF file is assigned a name, appended with the date. Because that date mirrors the Daily Log entry, the precise cross-references ensure my awareness of related docs stashed in gDrive as well as quick and easy retrieval.

Pre-Bullet Journal, I heavily relied upon CloudMagic’s Cards. The Cards integration with Trello, ToDoist, EverNote and a few others yielded minimal taps to push the email to one preferred task app. I’m now free of digital task apps, For those determined to leave CloudMagic, yet still intensely wedded to the digital world, know that the list of apps integrated with AirMail is rivaled only by app Dispatch.

The problem: while AirMail is a worthy CloudMagic replacement on Apple-related platforms, it offers zip for those on Android, Windows, or a Chromebook. A knight in shining print-PDF armor gallops to the scene; the rescuer’s name: Google Cloud Print, working within the Chrome browser. ZDNet spells out how to setup Google Cloud Print,


Re: EverNote: Web clipping remains a daily chore. A free bookmarklet, PDFPrint, not only provides a clean PDF capture (like EverNote’s Clearly, before those brainiacs inexplicably killed it), it allows an easy dump to the equally free and ooo baby! searchable Google Drive.

The files I stash in Google Drive are immediately mirrored on my iMac hard drive. Hazel, the premier Mac housekeeping app, automatically copies each to an external hard drive. A backup app, each night, copies that external drive’s files to the cloud.

TextExpander: iOS: Settings → General → Keyboard → Text replacement. Next.

CloudMagic: In 2015, CloudMagic briefly flirted with a SaaS implementation, which it abandoned within months. Even if it’s current pricing were reasonable, I’d pass. Given it’s history, I’m not about to trust this team with a year-in-advance payment.

I convert actionable emails to PDF, each tossed into a dedicated emails folder. The date, 17.0310, mirrors my Bullet Journal’s Daily Log header. Periodic reviews guarantee I will NOT miss such emails.


Call to Action

We each hold power, in the form of our wallets. If you have no issues with the rush to SaaS structure by one-trick pony apps like TextExpander, fine, whip out your credit card. If, like me, you’re weary of potential financial death by a thousand cuts, first devote time to listing each app adding to your monthly/annual SaaS tab. Next, research alternatives.

I realized that many of my app purchases were foolish in the first instance. I never needed TextExpander, since Apple’s native system offers a comparable feature. If I wanted fancy, then TextExpander might be a viable option. But I’ve learned: K.I.S.S. is a BFF (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

  • Among the apps you now use, do features overlap?
  • Is there a comparable feature offered natively by your device’s OS?
  • While you may have dubbed current preferred apps as “the best”, that was likely months/years ago; have you considered researching again for new apps worthy of consideration?
  • Remember momma’s admonition: just cuz ya can doesn’t mean ya should. Wisdom, borne of experience! It warrants repetition: the issue is not whether you can afford an app’s ongoing asking price but rather, do you choose to deem it a worthy expense.

Til later!

  1. Defined here as exploiting Apple’s auto-update feature, i.e. using the cover of darkness to obliterate a functioning version of the app

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