Moving from Evernote to Google Docs

Summer is a good time to catch up on those organizational tasks that never seem to get done while there are more pressing things to do. One of these tasks, put off for too long, was a complete migration of my notes on the cloud. I used to use Evernote a lot, particularly since switching to an Android smartphone, as it was a convenient way to keep track of things in a way that remains available when I’m offline. Problem is, I have stopped using this service, moving instead to a combination of Google Keep (for todo lists etc) and Docs (for longer notes, articles I want to keep, etc). So instead of letting my old notes rot in digital oblivion, I finally migrated all my old material from Evernote and cleaned up my account.

I am writing about this because it was not completely straightforward. Let’s start at the beginning. First thing I need to do was to export all notes from Evernote.

  1. Now the only way to export notes is from the desktop application. As I’m primarily a Linux user, I didn’t have this installed, working always from the web app on my desktop. So the first order of business involved the installation of the desktop app on a Windows VM.
  2. Once I signed in on the desktop app I let it sync all notes. Beyond that, creating a backup of the notes proved very simple – it’s just a matter of selecting all notes (click on the “All Notes” button and then Ctrl-A) and then choosing Export from the context menu.
  3. There’s a number of possible formats: I saved my notes as Evernote XML (as an archival format and in the off chance I ever need to load them back) and also a multi-page HTML (to facilitate conversion and upload to Google Drive).

Now I wanted the notes as separate documents on Google Drive, ideally in an editable format (i.e. as a Google Doc each). It turns out there’s a fairly straight forward way of doing this as a two-step process:

  1. Using LibreOffice to convert the HTML documents to Word documents. This can be done very simply on the command line:
    lowriter --convert-as doc *.html

    In some cases this did not work, and I had to cut/paste manually from the HTML document (opened in Firefox) to a new LibreOffice document. Otherwise it made short work of the conversions, images and all.

  2. Uploading the Word documents to Google Drive, with the “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format” setting checked on Drive.
  3. Again here some documents did not play ball. In these cases (happened only once to me) I had to copy/paste from LibreOffice to a new Google Doc on my web browser.

Once I was done with all this I was about to delete my Evernote account, where I found out that you can only deactivate an account, meaning the notes remain there and even I couldn’t reopen an account with the same email address. What an idiotic methodology. Instead I simply deleted all my notes (again this had to be done with the desktop app) and emptied the trash. I left my account there, in case I ever want to use it again.



  1. I’m also in the process of leaving Evernote. I mainly used it for my own notes – recipes, bits and pieces, in general very very simple things with little formatting.

    Therefore, I’ve decided to simply convert my notes to RTF, and throw them into the cloud storage that I have with Tresorit (and end-to-end encrypted cloud storage/sync service). The Tresorit app on my iOS devices can open RTF files directly so that works as I had hoped. I’m happy that these documents are not stored on Evernote’s servers anymore, but in an encrypted space where only I have access to the cleartext document.

    • Thanks for stopping by and for the details on how you’re transitioning. I was sure I wasn’t the only one facing this 🙂

      I didn’t know about Tresorit, and had to look it up. Thanks for pointing it out! End to end encryption is definitely the way forward, but for me there are a number of things that need to be sorted out first. Personally I have issues with the security of any system where the technical details are not open; ideally even the source would be, possibly so people can set up their own servers. I wonder also how the service deals with searches – clearly they cannot perform the search on their own servers (as Google does), so one has to do a search on downloaded local copies. That would be a bit of a problem on portable devices where there is no need to keep a local copy of everything.

      So far I have stuck to not using cloud services for any sensitive documents, including my photography (except for what I explicitly share, of course). Mostly I’ve been using the cloud for less sensitive bits and bobs where it’s convenient to have the details synced with my phone or to be able to share the material with others.

      • Oh I agree. I don’t store “in the cloud” what doesn’t need to be there. For me/us, Tresorit is about the security, the comfort of syncing, and the peace of mind of having a decentralized backup – primarily of simple business documents that we gather/create/collect over the course of a year.

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