Dropbox vs Evernote – The Differences Explained, and How to Use Them Both Effectively

January 17, 2013

Evernote, Opinion

Evernote & Dropbox Together

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; Dropbox vs Evernote, their differences explained, and how to use each effectively. Both services are based in the cloud, 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?

If you liked this post, I’d invite you to check out my other Evernote posts, including how I use both Evernote & Dropbox. Follow the links below and follow me on Twitter:

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17 Responses to “Dropbox vs Evernote – The Differences Explained, and How to Use Them Both Effectively”

  1. Ethan Samuel Says:

    Awesome, this is a good comparison between Evernote and Dropbox. Quite informative also. I also didn’t knew some points.. thanks a lot Tech Barber!!


  2. Eric Says:

    Really awesome comparison between the two services! However, I think it is worth mentioning that Dropbox integration with GroupDocs overcomes the problem of editing documents and files accordingly. It is a very handy integration to make use of document management apps and edit, convert and compare files without any hassle. You should check this out and review this along-with Dropbox. For details, click:



    • Tech Barber Says:

      Looks like a very cool solution – I’ll have to look into it a bit more.

      I have a hard time imagining it would be powerful enough to completely replace Evernote, and without the ability to replace a EN, I probably wouldn’t want to add another solution to my workflow. Thanks for the tip though, I’ll definitely have a look!


  3. Brian Says:

    I dropped Evernote about 2 years ago and started keeping everything in Dropbox basically because I couldn’t keep the two separate. I decided I couldn’t live without Dropbox, but Evernote was able to be replaced by Dropbox and photos and text files. On my mac I have no problem using Spotlight to quickly find files. I will admit that I do still keep a pen and paper notebook for daily scribbles. I’ve never been able to fully digitize that part of my organization, and quite frankly I don’t want to.

    I’m also obsessive about my folder organization in Dropbox, so if you’re less of a control freak, then I think Evernote would actually be better.

    Both are indeed great products and I recommend both regularly.


  4. Frank Says:

    Why would you keep your personal data away from dropbox?

    One major feature of dropbox is that after a computer crash, you’ll be back in action in minutes on another computer. You can encrypt all your personal data, so no worries about someone looking into your data.

    But I can’t live without Evernote as well. The webclip feature is so nice and powerfull, nothing can meet up to that.


    • Tech Barber Says:

      I keep my personal data away so that in the event Dropbox or Evernote (or any “cloud” computing company) is ever hacked or compromised – my data isn’t.

      You are correct, you can encrypt the data that you store in Dropbox, but it slows syncing down considerably when I’ve tried it and not worth the hassle.

      All of my personal data is backed up locally so while not quite as redundant as my other data, it’s still pretty safe.


  5. Velma Says:

    Thank you very much…this was very helpful.


  6. Drake Says:

    Sorry I am not that techy but if you would, may I ask: If I am in Canada or Overseas (and not covered by my phone carrier and does not wish to pay arm and a leg for a wireless connection) I suppose I will not have access to my files being that all are in the cloud (or not really?) ?


    • Tech Barber Says:

      Hi Drake,

      This is a great question, one that I’d love to address in a future blog post (this week sometime). In short, there are still ways of getting at your data and I’ll cover them in my post.



  7. Doug Cohen Says:

    You are my hero. The fact that I searched for Evernote vs. Dropbox and your post came up which you wrote almost a full year ago, the fact that it was exactly the answer I was looking for and confirmed exactly what I suspected…. Well done sir. Well done.


  8. ms_flores Says:

    great summary! thanks so much.


  9. joe Says:

    what about OneNote? how does it compare to Evernote?


  10. sanjay Says:

    Thanks for the post. You have made the things very simple.


  11. amandath Says:

    Nice job explaining the differences and ways to use both apps. I’ve been an Evernote user for a couple of years now, and have a good friend who is also a bit techie who is a fan of Dropbox. We always jokingly make snide comments when the other mentions their app of choice, and then today I decided to Google what the differences really are. That landed me here, I sent her the URL and we both read through your article.

    I am downloading Dropbox.
    She is downloading Evernote.

    Thank you! 🙂


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