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Tags Vs. Notebooks

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#1 BRRABill

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 03:46 PM

I am a new user of Evernote. I've just been throwing everything in my INBOX, but I want to start getting things organized.

I originally found Evernote when searching for a system for GTD. Most of the articles I have read recommend using one notebook and then applying tags. But it seems more intuitive to me to use multiple notebooks instead of tags.

I'd like some opinions on what other people are doing, and why they are doing it that way. Both using GTD and not.

Thanks!

#2 jefito

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 04:17 PM

In my experience, "intuitive" really means just what you are used to doing. And that can block us from perhaps better solutions.

Anyways, I think that a lot of folks, once they get used to using tags, tend to de-emphasize using lots of notebooks. Notebooks partition the note space (a note belongs to exactly one notebook), whereas a note can have multiple tags. I believe that this allows tags to be more flexible for note organization. Aside from that, you can only search one notebook at a time, or one stack of notebooks or all notebooks, which can be limiting. Tags can be searched for across notebooks, and you can also do wildcard searches with tag names.

Plenty of posts on the forums on the tags-vs-notebooks question, there's also plenty on GTD as well (I am not a GTD-er).
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#3 lawvol

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 04:18 PM

Personally, I use both. Since tags are not hierarchical, I use notebooks for what would normally be a top level tag then use tags within that.

But my ultimate recommendation would be to try a few different ways and see what works best for your own personal style.

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#4 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 04:31 PM

do some searching
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this isn't really a microsoft specific question. if you search this forum and others you will find that discussions about tags come up quite frequently. i don't think there is a right or wrong answer, and ultimately you'll decide what works best for you, but i encourage you to consider some of the links on this page as a starting point for thinking about how to get organized in evernote.
http://christopherma...evernote-links/

keep it simple
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as for me, i have pretty much given up on notebooks. i have two: inbox and mobile. i would prefer to just have one, but currently evernote only supports offline notebooks on mobile devices and not offline tags. there are lots of systems out there. mine is fairly simple. i just figured out what some of the main categories were in my life, and put tags on everything according to that.

naming
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you'll go a long way towards organization with consistent naming. in my case, i use yymmdd keyword keyword keyword on most notes. there are exceptions, but they are restricted to a certain category of items.

searching
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searching isn't just for finding things, but it's also for sorting. if i do a search for "tag:reciept" then i will be viewing all of my receipts EXACTLY the same way i would if they were in a folder. in my experience, the more familiar you become with the search operands, the less you'll feel a need for notebooks, and the better you'll do at tagging.

grooming or gardening
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however you look at it, once you get a few thousand notes in there, you'll have to keep up with the grooming or gardening (whichever metaphor you prefer). it's no big deal, but it is something you need to do. and, your life will change, so you'll need to adjust tags accordingly.

#5 BRRABill

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 02:26 AM

Thanks, everyone. Some really good thoughts/concepts.

I will adjust my brain.

#6 idoc

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 07:26 AM

I recently discovered a new tag that has been a big help for me: "remove". Here's how I use it. I often need to create notes which I know that I will not need in the near future. For example, a note regarding a car rental reservation in Houston for next week. After renting the car I will not need that note anymore. However, how to find all the useless expired notes in EN that you no longer need? Just tag it with "remove" whenever you anticipate that that note will be irrelevant in the future. Once a month or so simply select the "remove" tag and quickly delete all of those that have become obsolete. Keeps your notes down to a minimum.

I think that that's one example of many where a tag is more helpful than a notebook.

#7 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 07:37 AM

I recently discovered a new tag that has been a big help for me: "remove". Here's how I use it. I often need to create notes which I know that I will not need in the near future. For example, a note regarding a car rental reservation in Houston for next week. After renting the car I will not need that note anymore. However, how to find all the useless expired notes in EN that you no longer need? Just tag it with "remove" whenever you anticipate that that note will be irrelevant in the future. Once a month or so simply select the "remove" tag and quickly delete all of those that have become obsolete. Keeps your notes down to a minimum.

I think that that's one example of many where a tag is more helpful than a notebook.


good idea! except that i rarely throw a note away. why would i? i am a digital hoarder :)

#8 Wern

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 01:33 PM

The "remove later" tag is one of my most important tags. I look for notes with that tag about once a month.
Keeps the database lean and trims the unwanted fat.

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#9 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:03 PM

The "remove later" tag is one of my most important tags. I look for notes with that tag about once a month.
Keeps the database lean and trims the unwanted fat.

that's like killing off brain cells to me!

#10 Wern

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:08 PM

Brain cells are different from fat.

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#11 May

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:08 PM

I personally trash about 90% of my notes! I capture a lot but certainly don't need to keep most of it forever

#12 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:28 PM

Brain cells are different from fat.


and fat is different from data!

evernote is my second brain for remembering stuff, so zapping notes seems more analogous to killing brain cells than it does to trimming fat. why would i want to do that? evernote doesn't increase your upload quota for zapped stuff. if you have named it well, it shouldn't come up in searches unless it is relevant.

i am not saying i never delete, but it is pretty rare. may's 90 percent would lobotomize me! anyhow, it is cool that you have the tag and all (as i said above), and i am sure it will give people ideas for their own system. i'm just explaining how it looks from my point of view.

#13 Owyn

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 03:13 PM

I am much more in GMs camp. Evernote is my long term journal of activities and reference. The only things I delete on an ongoing basis are duplicate clips and some items which show up in my inbox from Gmail filters. Those items trigger an action which occasionally results in a clip for the record. The original items would clutter the database.

I did do a mass delete a while back of items imported from Delicious which were originally bookmarked prior to 2008. But that was because of the poor current quality of the bookmarks.
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#14 May

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 03:21 PM

It really depends on what and how much you capture though.
I delete 90% of notes during processing of inbox, most of them are my internal thoughts which are no longer relevant.
I don't use remove later tag personally.

#15 C6REW

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 04:08 PM

I suppose it depends on what information you put into Evernote. If the information is only relevant for now and has no bearing on your future then I guess you would delete it.

But I agree with GrumpyMonkey. Whatever information I am putting in to Evernote is likely to be useful stuff for the future.

I have the last 5 years of my diary as collected in OneNote now in Evernote. This is invaluable information and would never be deleted. I guess in the same way you would never destroy your old diaries.

I have something like 12 - 14 years of emails in an Outlook archive folder. These would never be deleted and I ocassionally have to dip into them.

I have 15 years of every phone call, email, letter, quotation and conversation with 15,000 customers in my CRM. This is and always will be useful information.

As to the OP's original question I am as some of you know still trying to get my head around the same question. It was interesting yesterday when I imported 2007 - 2010 from my OneNote. First of all I put them into separate folders for each year. It then ocurred to me that I would be able to put them into one folder called Diary - Archive with each year having it's own tag. Do they need a tag? Probably not, but for now I will keep the tag and make my mind up as I use Evernote more. Of course a lot of you wouldn't even have them in a separate folder, but slowly, slowly catchy monkey! I need to move over to this idea of less folders gently. I can tell you that when I put these diaries into the one folder I almost broke out into a sweat! Had I done it properly, would I be able to get at my data as easily as I had in OneNote? I breathed a sigh of relief when it was done and everything was still searchable!

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#16 jefito

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 09:39 PM

I'm with GM and Owyn. Evernote for me generally acts like the Roach Motel: notes check in, but they don't check out...

I think that this has more to do with what I create notes for: first for articles online that I may want to refer to later on. In that sense, Evernote is like a library for me. Second, I do some light project tracking for work, and I do keep track of lists of to-dos, gen commitments and that sort of thing, and for me it's good to keep these as a record of what I was doing then. So these stay as well.
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#17 idoc

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 01:34 AM

Once it gets too cluttered the hassle value of searching begins to rise. When you start getting hundreds of hits everytime you put in a search term it gets more tedious to find exactly what you wanted. I take pleasure in deleting my notes and I carefully evaluate methods of safely doing so. Sometimes I will first merge notes so that I can whittle down the total number of my notes. The same applies for tags. When there are too many tags it becomes confusing to look down the list for what you want. I eliminated every tag that doesn't have at least 3 notes attached to it, and I nested many other tags such that I don't have to see them in the list. For example, under my "computer" tag I have "evernote", "infoselect", "itunes" and "misc software" as nested tags. I try to keep everything lean.

#18 jbenson2

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 01:57 AM

I eliminated every tag that doesn't have at least 3 notes attached to it


That's a good tip.

When I deliete a tag that is not used frequently, I type the tag word as a keyword into the notes that used the tag.
That is an added way to find the note in the future.

#19 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 02:31 AM

no clutter problems if you have consistent naming and use advanced searches. intitle, tag, created, updated, etc. will weed out any unnecessary things. i have thousands of notes and often find exactly the one i want. i bet lots of others here could say the same thing. a little bit of organization goes a long ways. i wrote about it in more detail above.

as for the lazy tags carrying only a few notes around, i'm working on weeding those out as well. another week or so and i ought to be down to just 10 or 20.

#20 BlippoBold

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 11:10 PM

you'll go a long way towards organization with consistent naming. in my case, i use yymmdd keyword keyword keyword on most notes. there are exceptions, but they are restricted to a certain category of items.


@GrumpyMonkey, I'm curious, why do you include the date in most note titles? What's the benefit of manually typing it when EN automatically gives it a "created" date?

I've been doing some heavy study on organization and tag theory and your posts have really helped--thanks!





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