One Thing Well, or One Thing That Does Everything OK?


This post was originally published on my blog on January 9th, 2015.

I’ve been thinking about how to reduce the number of web apps I use on a daily basis. Theoretically, Evernote can save just about any web asset to the cloud and work as a private bookmarking service and work as a Read It Later service. If I took this route, I could give up Pinboard and Instapaper.

However, can Evernote beat apps that do “one thing well” at their own game?

Read It Later

Some members in the Evernote forum believe that Instapaper, for example, does “reading later” much better than Evernote can. One feature I love about Instapaper is that it remembers where I am in an article, and whether I’m using the app on my iPhone, iPad or on the web, I can resume an article where I left off without having to find my place. Evernote does not do that.

Also, if I wanted to peruse “Read It Later” articles on the subway in Evernote, I’d have to select the premium “offline notebooks” feature so that the articles I wanted were on my device even when I didn’t have internet access. With a service like Instapaper, I don’t even have to think about that, because anything I save will show up in the app (well, up to 500 articles) as long as I sync the app before I go underground.

In Instapaper, I just have to tap on an icon to archive an article I’ve read. In Evernote, I’d have to move the article to a different notebook, or remove a tag, or do something to signify that I’ve read the article but am still saving it in my account.


There are two reasons to bookmark: (1) to find an article later via tag or search; (2) to share. Pinboard provides users with the option to publicly or privately bookmark a page. Most of my bookmarks are public. I can see at (when I’m logged in) that I have 40+ people following my bookmarks, but honestly I don’t think my contributions to the world would significantly diminish if I didn’t share my bookmarks.

I can tag an article in Evernote with its web clipper in the same way that I can tag a page using the Pinboard bookmarklet, and I can search just one service instead of two if I were to abandon Pinboard. Plus, there would be the added benefit of knowing that all articles are archived automatically, and I don’t have to pay extra (as I would for that premium Pinboard feature).

One thing I do like about Pinboard is that I can just search for bookmarks via URL. I don’t go to Pinboard and then click on a tag in the tag cloud; instead I type something like into the address bar. Evernote unfortunately does not have that ease-of-use. I have to go into the app’s search bar and type tag:evernote or find the tag in the tag cloud.

Do you prefer “do everything ok” or “do one thing well” apps? Please share in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook.