Evernote is probably the most popular note-taking tool. For good reason: it’s been around for ages, works on almost all platforms (Linux being the one glaring exception) and it’s probably the most fully featured service you can find in that niche.
But, and that’s why you’re here, it’s hosted software. There are quite a few alternatives, but most of them fall short in more than one of the areas Evernote excels in.
Turtl is yet another contender for a self-hosted Evernote alternative, and I have to admit, it’s not a bad one.
In a nutshell
Turtl, in its essence, is a note-taking tool that encrypts everything. In its current iteration it’s a hosted service, but its server-side implementation can be hosted anywhere, so in theory, it’s a self-hosted alternative to Evernote. The hosted service is free, but there might be premium features to pay for sometime in the future. If you decide to host it yourself, it’s free (it’s also open-source).
What it does
Turtl is an app built with web-technolgies and due to the power of Electron, it’s also a cross-platform desktop app. Its interface is one of well-kempt elegance and the floating button to add whatever you want to add is reminiscent of the button found in the Evernote mobile app.
It uses a markdown editor, and notes can be the usual, from passwords to images, files and pure text notes. Categorization can be done via boards or tags, that’s up to you. Thanks to the built-in search, it doesn’t really matter what you use anyway.
Apart from desktop apps, turtl also comes with a mobile app for Android (according to their website, an iOS app is forthcoming). And for those who are used to clipping websites into Evernote, Turtl provides browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome which do just that.
Finally, and that’s probably why I’m willing to let Turtl pass as a self-hosted app here (even though installing the Turtl server is anything but trivial), I should stress that Turtl encrypts everything. So even if you decided not to set up your own Turtl server, there’s no way the Turtl makers and providers will be able to access your notes. Regarding privacy, from their website:
When United States law enforcement or a government agency has a court order or warrant which mandates that we share information on a specific user, we must comply. However, keep in mind that your data profile remains encrypted during this process. We have no way to decrypt your data, and most likely neither does any law enforcement agency. Whether or not you choose to share your encryption key with them is your decision.
That sounds reasonable.
All in all, Turtl already feels very polished. The one thing that keeps me from switching from Evernote to Turtl is the fact that it doesn’t yet have an Evernote importer. With my more than 4000 notes in Evernote, that’s definitely something I needed to do the switch. But, it’s a feature that’s in the works and I’m looking forward to the day when it’s ready.
Installing and setting up the desktop client, the mobile app and the browser extension is easy. Setting up your own server, not so much. You can have a look at their documentation (which in itself is a very interesting read, explaining all the underlying architecture and approaches) and decide for yourself if you’re up to the task. I’d wager that most aren’t, in which case using their hosted service or using someone else’s server you trust is an option.
In its current iteration, hosted Turtl is free. Using it with your own server is free as well, but you won’t be getting any support.