Migrating from Scrivener to Evernote

Well, that didn’t take long.  I thought it would be at least a week before I’d post a followup to Scrivener versus Evernote but the migration between apps was easier then I thought.

And on that note (ha ha), here’s my take on things so far.

Cross Platform Syncing and Ownership Costs

Evernote is the clear winner when it comes to making sure your work is accessible any place, any time.  I downloaded the Evernote Desktop and I’ve been syncing back to my account throughout the day.  It’s instantly backed up and I can access my work on my iPad or Android phone without any additional steps.

However, the cost of ownership is a tricky one.  Scrivener uses a standard, old-fashioned, one-seat, lifetime license.  It’s $40US.  However, the basic version of Evernote is free – so in that case Evernote is the clear winner.  BUT if you decide to pay for an upgraded Evernote account, the license model is a yearly subscription fee.  Using the middle-of-the-road upgrade for Evernote, Evernote becomes the more expensive option in two years.  If you pay for the Evernote premium upgrade it’s instantly more expensive.

Which application you prefer is going to depend on your work habits and needs.  If you’re a stay-at-home writer with no need to access your work outside of your home then Scrivener is the much cheaper option and does everything you need.  If you’re out-and-about as a writer (commuting to work, having to travel or researching in dusty archives) then Evernote is more expensive but delivers more bang for your buck.

The Text-to-Speech (TTS) Problem

The winner is Apple as opposed to the applications themselves.  Apple did a much better job of integrating TTS into their design.  That means that when I’m viewing Evernote notes on my iPad, it’s a simple matter of selecting the text then selecting ‘Speak’.  The PC is a mess when it comes to TTS integration.  The only place it really works is Word.  Evernote allows me to copy and paste between Word.  Scrivener also does this.

Winner – neither as it depends on the operating system.

Organizing Your Stuff

For those born and raised in a PC environment it’s only natural to want to use folders nested thirty deep.  You’ll also be very used to the lack of choices in how folders are sorted – it’s either alphabetical or numerical (ascending or descending).  If you’re like me and need to keep the folders in a certain order you would have learned the trick of numbering your folders so that they automatically sort themselves.  (For example I like to number my folders 1., 2., 3., etc, because then it’s easy to insert a folder into the sequence (1.1, 1.2, 1.1100 – you get the idea)).

In Scrivener you can drag an item or folder to anywhere on the tree and it sticks there forever.    That’s a very cool feature and makes organizing research, outlines, chapters and scenes pretty easy.  Just drag the folder (or item) wherever the heck you want to put it in the project.   Scrivener also allows nesting.  You can stack items under each other until the end of time. (I personally haven’t tried nesting items more than five deep, but presumably it supports more.)  It indents as you nest so it’s easy to see where items are and you can collapse or expand each level as required.

Evernote isn’t big on nesting and only allows three levels.  You can create notebooks and then move them into a stack.  Each notebook can hold as many notes as you like.  I tried out a few ideas in Evernote before settling on using a stack based approach to organization.  I created notebooks for Characters, Places, Scenes and Chapters and moved them into a stack titled with the name of the book.  Under each notebook I created as many notes as needed.   For example, under the Chapters notebook, I have Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc,.   I read on the Evernote blog that they recommend using one note to hold the entire book but I think Scrivener has the right idea in encouraging writers to break the writing up into manageable chunks.

In conclusion, they’re both about equal in terms of how you organize your folder/notebook hierarchy.  If you prefer to be able to drag and drop an item to any place in your tree and have it stick then Scrivener definitely wins.  Evernote is a little fiddlier but it’s completely doable.


Scrivener has a nifty little feature that allows you to take a snapshot of your draft.  If you ever need to go back to a previous version it’s saved in a snapshot.  Pretty cool and it’s a feature I used extensively.  I duplicated the feature in Evernote by creating a notebook called ‘Snapshots’ in my novel stack.  Then I created a backup by copying a Chapter note into the Snapshots notebook.  I appended the date (format yyyy/mm/dd) to the title that I’ve copied into Snapshots.  This takes about ten seconds longer than pressing CTRL + 5 to create a snapshot in Scrivener.

Both methods work well and take very little time.


Scrivener’s big selling point for anyone writing a book is the compile feature.  You can write each chapter on its own and use the compile feature to magically bundle the chapters together and export them into the format of your choice.  Being able to instantly assemble a PDF, Word or HTML version is a huge time saver.

Scrivener also does a fantastic job of compiling footnotes and citations.

I tried a similar approach in Evernote using a different method that’s more fiddly but seems to work.

First I selected the notes in Evernote (on the Desktop version this is done by holding the CTRL key and clicking each note).   After they were selected I went to File –> Export.  I selected ‘Export as Single HTML Web Page (.HTML)’.   That gave me one big file that contained all of my selected chapters in the order I selected them.  I opened the HTML file in Word before saving it as a Word (.doc) file.

Now, the one thing I’m good at is using Styles in Word.  I applied the Normal style to the text with the preferred font (Times Roman 12pt), indent and paragraph settings.  I then applied a modified Heading 1 to all of the chapter headings.  After that I ensured that a page break was correctly applied between chapters and the divider inserted by Evernote was removed.  Yes,this was definitely a bit more work than the compile out of Scrivener but it didn’t take me too long (mainly because I could use Styles for quick formatting).

Since Word is considered the all-knowing and all-powerful master word processor from there I could convert the document into anything I wanted.    I used Calibre to convert the document to an ePub file and tested it for compliance using the ePub Validator .  The validator didn’t report any errors.  I haven’t tested a MOBI conversion as yet but I presume the results will be the same.  PDF was a doddle – I used CutePDFWriter to convert straight out of Word via the Print function.

If you’re uncomfortable using Styles in Word and running your own file conversions then the compile options in Scrivener may be the way to go.  If you’re Word savvy I don’t think Evernote will pose any problems.


You can’t import a Word file into Evernote.  There, that’s an easy one.  However, you can copy and paste  from Word (and Scrivener) into Evernote without any issues.   Scrivener allows you to import from Word which is handy if you’re already got some monstrous beast of a book under way.  If you’ve got your separators right Scrivener splits the document into multiple items for you.

Again, this is a personal preference thing.  If you want to suck in your Word file without fiddling around, Scrivener will do a nicer job.  If you want to migrate to Evernote you need to do some copying and pasting.   I did this and yes, it took about five hours but I didn’t find it too much of a trial.  And once the job is done, it’s done…

Research and Articles

Evernote is the clear winner here.  Evernote Clipper copies a Web page straight into Evernote.  If you’re out and about you can take photos in Evernote.  You can record an audio note.  This makes it a researcher’s dream.  There are probably some other features tucked away in Evernote but I’ve only played around with the more obvious ones.

Scrivener also keeps research and notes in one place but there’s a bit more work in terms of saving and uploading.

The one thing that Scrivener excels at is citations.  I have a non-fiction book on the boil and it’s a dream having the chapter open with the footnote and comments listed beside it.  Scrivener also does an excellent job with footnotes in the compile.  I haven’t had a chance to try duplicating this in Evernote.

Word Count

Both Scrivener and Evernote provide a word count.

If You’re a Scriptwriter…

Scrivener wins as it includes a screenplay template.

Final Thoughts

I like having everything at my fingertips and Evernote certainly ticks that box.  I can check appointments, write, journal, store recipes, list my book collection and save articles without batting an eyelid.  Everything is in one place.  The very organized part of me is pleased with this.  Especially since I can access my new filing cabinet from anywhere.  As a safeguard, I’ve turned on two-step verification so I’m unconcerned about someone breaking into my filing cabinet and raiding my personal details.

Scrivener as a pure writing platform also has a lot going for it when it comes to collating ideas, outlines, notes, research, and chapters associated with a writing project.

My final step is to test how I can connect research to chapters in a non-fiction book (which is a big plus in Scrivener)  and see if this makes me change my mind.  At this stage though, my personal preference is to stick with Evernote and see how it pans out, despite the cost over a lifetime.

Of course, every writer is unique in how they tackle their writing and consequently  –  your mileage may vary.

2 thoughts on “Migrating from Scrivener to Evernote

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