Woe is Me – Google Notebook to Fade Away

Today I read the sad announcement on the Official Google Notebook Blog that development and support of Google Notebook has ended. I have to say that Google Notebook must be in my top three favourite Web 2.0 applications of all time, and so this is devastating news. Over the last couple of years I have used Notebook extensively and have given a number of presentations extolling its virtues and flexibility. I use it to share evolving notes with colleagues and fellow researchers. The associated Firefox Notebook extension and its simple layout that works on the small screens of netbooks makes Notebook highly useful. It is even included in the list of services on the iPhone Google Mobile app. The autosave feature is invaluable meaning all typing/pasting is saved automatically up to the last few seconds of use. The only downsides are the lack of keyboard shortcuts and the limited size of each note.

The Google post quote is:

Starting next week, we plan to stop active development on Google Notebook. This means we’ll no longer be adding features or offer Notebook for new users. But don’t fret, we’ll continue to maintain service for those of you who’ve already signed up. As part of this plan, however, we will no longer support the Notebook Extension, but as always users who have already signed up will continue to have access to their data via the web interface at http://www.google.com/notebook.

Existing users can continue to use Notebook but for how long? So my next steps must be:

  1. Save all my Notebook notes to Google Docs via the built-in export features – no problem
  2. Configure sharing of the appropriate Google documents to continue shared access with my colleagues – fiddly but not a big job
  3. Look around for an alternative online note taker app

I have to admit I don’t have to look far for a Notebook replacement. About 8 months ago I signed up for the free version of Evernote. Very recently Evernote won the Crunchie for Best Mobile Startup of 2008. A couple of months later I paid for the premium Evernote because of its larger online storage capacity but mainly for the encrypted transfer between Evernote client and server that permits me to store confidential personal data online. So for some months I have been torn between Notebook and Evernote, mainly using the latter for personal data.

Although less nimble than Notebook there is no doubting the Evernote feature set is impressive:

  • web client plus bookmarklets and a Firefox extension,
  • extensive keyboard shortcuts
  • note submission by email,
  • full-featured desktop clients for Windows and Mac, and
  • mobile apps for iPhone and Windows Mobile.

We now have files as notes with full file synchronisation in the Premium version. All images and digital ink in Evernote are scanned for text to improve searching. Evernote notebooks can be made publically accessible on the web with human-memorable URLs and include an RSS feed. However the pages of notes are read-only so collaborators can’t change the notes – back to Google Docs for shared updates for now. Other Evernote missing features are notebook sections and autosave online. The benefits of Evernote far outweigh the disadvantages so it’s definitely Evernote for me from now on.

Google points out several of their other services that disappointed Notebook users might consider: SearchWiki, Google Docs (already noted), tasks in Gmail and Google Bookmarks. All are good services but spell the end of the central note taking repository concept.

It shows that even with a giant of cloud computing such as Google it is necessary to diversify use of online tools in order to spread the risk of such tools ceasing to exist. Maybe if there had been a paid version of Google Notebook its decease might have been avoided.

Note that other Google services are going as well: Google Video, Catalog Search, Jaiku, and Dodgeball. [Via Read/Write Web]


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

3 Responses to Woe is Me – Google Notebook to Fade Away

  1. I use Google Notebook every day while searching for stories to cover for the weekly podcast. The ease in which (most of the time) that you can quickly highlight something on the net and copy to notebook is an excellent feature. I think I will miss Notebook, but there will be something else.

  2. Troy Malone says:

    Evernote is creating an import. That will make any transition easier. I don’t know when it will be done, but it is good that it is in the works.

    Evernote is a great company. That’s why we integrated our Project Management system with them. Here’s how it works:



  3. Pingback: Import Google Notebooks into Evernote « Impressions Scholarcast

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