Sunday, August 17, 2008

Palm to iPhone - only the notes remain

As summarized in my last note, I've got everything but my Memo Pad items (Notes) moved from Palm to iPhone. I've also realized that if were to do this all over again, I'd have paid my $25 sidegrade fee for Missing Sync for iPhone (includes migration utility).

Hey, I didn't have the benefit of reading my own blog postings.

The Memo Pad/Notes items are tough. I could get Missing Sync for iPhone [1], but then the data sits on my home machine. That wouldn't be so bad if the iPhone included any search functionality, but it doesn't.

I could wait for iPhone OS 2.1, but there's no guarantee Apple will actually include notes synchronization then. They've get a huge number of bugs to fix.

I don't like the usual hack of storing notes as fake contacts (messes up address book, weak search).

I could store them as tasks without dates or priorities on Toodledo/Todo. That's not a bad option.

I looked at Evernote again. It seems a natural fit. I installed the Windows version and used the "Add to Evernote" option to move all Notes to the net. The first time I did this the Windows app crashed, so I first created a local-only database, imported into that, then created a "sync" (net) repository and dragged them from the local to the net version.

This worked. The notes are on the net, and I can search them from the Evernote client on my iPhone (as long as I'm connected). I can even do some limited work with them using the Evernote client on OS X.

There's only one fly in the ointment, but it's a big, ugly sucker.

I tested the "export" features of the Windows client. Pathetic. The data is locked in. Worse, some web searches find Evernote users commenting about the need for export ... in 2005.

I really don't trust a company that locks in user data like that. They're well beyond the point where words are any use -- they need to show results.

So I have the data there for now, but I'm assuming I won't be able to get any of it out. So Evernote is a transitional strategy.

As I think harder about this I came across a review of evernote contrasting it to some other options:
Evernote for Mac Reviewed (beta version) Daniel mostly on Software:
  • 3.1: Evernote (2.7 plus 0.4 for what my benchmark doesn’t count)
  • 2.8: Journler, Together
  • 2.5: Scrivener, Soho Notes
  • 2.4: EagleFiler
  • 2.3: DevonThink Personal
  • 2.0: Yojimbo
  • 1.8: Circus Ponies NoteBook
There are a large suite of unstructured textbase apps for OS X, including Tinderbox. This Particular Outliner and Tidbits often review these apps.

These note taking apps go far beyond what I've done with the memos, which are really memory fragments, but I'll take a walk through this space and see what the Cloud or iPhone integration options are. (Yojimbo's web site still talks about .Mac sync, which is not a good sign.)

It has also occurred to me that there might be a way to structure my Notes as blog postings, and then store them as a private blog, choosing the blog based on available iPhone apps.

So it's Evernote for the moment, but I'm actively considering alternatives.

The current collection of solutions makes an interesting contrast to the simplicity of my original Palm III - even if I ignore the migration challenges!
  • Calendar: iPhone <-> iCal <-> Google Calendar via Spanning Sync ($25)
  • Contacts: iPhone <-> Address Book
  • Tasks: iPhone ToDo <-> Toodledo ( -> iCal + Google Calendar as read-only) ($35)
  • Notes: iPhone Evernote <-> Evernote service (temporary)
Obviously my data is fairly scattered now. I positively reek of cloudness.

[1] The mystery of why this is the only product able to access the iPhone data store over the USB conduit grows. What's Mark/Space got that no-one else has?

Update 9/29/08: Migrating Palm Notes (Memos) to Toodledo and Appigo

Update 3/14/09: See comments for an advanced approach using, in part, a Perl script.


  1. hi, I found your blog entry while searching on Google for ideas of how to sync notes between mac and iPhone....I've been following almost the exact 'tech journey' as you, having moved from a Palm Treo to an iPhone a few months ago, and like you it's down to the Memo Pad now....I tried Evernote too, but eventually decided it didn't fit the bill because it doesn't store my notes natively on the iPhone, meaning I need a web connection to access my memos - that didn't sound too painful until I was in a building and unable to access a network, thus couldn't get access to the memo I needed....there are lots of "enhanced notepad" apps now appearing on the App Store, but none of them (like the built-in Apple Notes app) have any sync back to the desktop, which is the missing piece of the jigsaw....anyway, just wondering if you've found any solution to this one yet :)

  2. Stephen, I love Appigo's and their new Notebook.

    That will be the solution for me.

    Problem is Notebook relies on Toodledo for server side sync -- and Toodledo has yet to provide import/export tools for notes.

    They're definitely working on this, but haven't provided a date. I expect 2-8 weeks.

    So for now I'm waiting ...

  3. An alternate solution might be to use PhoneView by eCamm

    They have a demo version that allows you to add an unlimited number of notes to your iPhone memo application. This free trial version expires after 7 days and limits the number of items you can view an d manipulate (such as SMS, call log entries). The full version costs $19,95

    So if you do not have too many important notes "trapped" in Mark/Space MemoPad, a few cut and paste will allow you to bring your iPhone memo up to speed quite nicely.

    I just tried it and it worked without a glitch.


  4. Thanks for that post. I also went through the same journey of replacing everything on my Palm but notes. Then I found MobileFinder, which lets my iPod Touch act like a wireless flash drive (through FTP and, apparently, soon with WebDAV).

    With it, I can happily create and edit as many text files and folders as I like on my iPod Touch, while off-line, and then copy the files across to my iMac whenever I like for backup or importing into larger documents and databases. (MobileFinder also allows you to read and edit (but not create) all sorts of other file types transferred to the iPod Touch or iPhone like Word docs, and xls spreadsheets, as well as read PDFs.)

    I just had a look at Appigo's Notebook, which looks good. Thanks for the tip. I already have their ToDo and use it all the time. However, I reckon I'll just stick with MobileFinder for now.

  5. Yes, I can see how that would work!

    I really need search on my notes though.

    Still waiting for a great solution here.

    BTW, speaking of search, when I use the address book it only searches on either name or company name. That is SO old.

  6. I hate that I can't search Contact notes. I've grown dependent on my Mac's Address Book app because of the Smart Groups feature. It essentially lets me add my own tags to each note so that I can have as many ways to categorize my contacts as I want. I'm in sales so I break them down by: date for next contact, stage in sales cycle, lead source, market, etc. The "date for next contact" is basically my daily call list and it'd be great to have that on my phone when I'm traveling. I've heard there's a script for turning smart groups into regular groups (which are syncable to iPhone). I might give that a shot.

  7. Have you tried SyncBook? I just found it, installed it and it's LOVELY for notes. The notes are stored on the Mac as text files (with a simple interface to access them) and on the iTouch/iPhone. The sync via WiFi directly to the computer. VERY fast. No internet needed. I did have to copy and paste my notes on my Mac into the SyncBook interface, but I had less than 70 notes and it didn't take very long. Thanks for all your tips on this transition process!

  8. I ended up being happy with Appigo Notebook, but thanks for the Syncbook tip!

  9. any update on this thread?

  10. I was able to get my Treo 750 memos into Evernote using only my Mac - NO Microsoft whatsoever and I now have an off-line backup in text format of my notes (one file per note).

    Here's how:
    1. Export your memos from Palm Desktop to a file in your Documents folder.
    - Open Palm Desktop
    - Click File, then Export
    - Be sure to change the default options to:
    - Module: Memos
    - Items: Desktop Memos (NOT all memos)
    - Format: Tab & Return

    2. Replace all the funky vertical bars with regular ones
    - open TextEdit
    - Click on TextEdit > Preferences
    - Click on the Open & Save tab
    - change Opening files: to Western (Windows Latin 1) (remember to change it back later!)
    - close the Preference dialog
    - open the file in TextEdit
    - copy one of those fake verticle bars | to your clip board (it is not a vertical bar, it just looks like one)
    - apple-F, and paste in the fake |, and replace with a real |
    - save the file
    - exit text edit (changing your preferences back)

    3. create the perl file
    - open a Terminal windows (in Applications>Utilities)
    - cd Documents
    - vi
    - i
    - paste in this:
    use strict;

    my $file = shift || exit;
    my $text = `cat $file`;
    my @items = split(/\r/,$text);

    foreach my $line (@items)

    my ($title, $body) = split(/\t/,$line);
    $body =~ s/\|/\n/gis;
    # print ">>>>>$title\n\t$body\n\n";
    #if(rand(100) < 10){last};

    # print OUT $title . "\n";
    print OUT $body;
    close OUT;

    - type ZZ (two capital Z's)

    4. Run the converter
    - perl yourmemofilename

    5. Open the memo files in Evernote
    - select and then right click on about 20 of your newly created memo files.
    - select open with Evernote
    - each memo will be added to Evernote
    - you can close each memo after it is added
    - repeat with the next 20

    Not easy, but oh so worth it!

    Good luck!


  11. thanks for the technique and script! I added a reference to your comment to the main post.

  12. Hey Gordon, I used the process steps suggested by N (anonymous) to migrate Palm TX Memos to my iPhone. It worked great - thanks to you both!!!

    In the process I made some annotations that might help a less technical person work through some of the Linux (vi editing) and Perl script creation steps.

    I'm happy to forward those to you for consideration in this blog-post. Just let me know.

    PS. Thanks again. I can't tell you how much my life has improved since moving fully to my iPhone and Mac.