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Organizational Structure in the Stack/Notebook/Tag Ecosystem

evernote organization structure

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#1 Oliver_Law

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 09:21 PM

I recently took a fresh look at how to organize my Evernote into Stack/Notebook/Tag. I couldn't find a good solution to fit my organizational needs.

Use Case:


Food stack containing Recipe and Restaurant notebooks.

Food

Recipe
Restaurant


Q: Where do I put a note titled "Food to Eat Before I Die"?


Possible Solutions:

  • Make "Food" a notebook and organize everything in a flat structure with tags
  • New notebook under "Food"
  • Make "Food" a tag and create new stack/notebook structure
  • NEW FEATURE: Allow Note Stacks to contain notes.
  • Open to suggestions :)

ATM I am using a notebook called Food which is part of the Food stack. This is how I am storing notes as part of a stack while not necessarily tied to a uniquely named notebook.

Food

Food

Recipe

Restaurant


I think that this solution leaves a lot to be desired since almost all of my stacks are going to require a generic 'self-titled' notebook inside of them. I'm accustomed to the GMail way of organization (labels). Do any experienced Evernoter's have advice on how to organize a note specific to a stack rather than a notebook?

Research Links:

#2 jbenson2

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 09:29 PM

I do not use Stacks and Notebooks with the same name. I would change the stack name to Cuisine or something similar.

If I was doing this for personal use only, my preference would be to:
Make "Food" a notebook and organize everything in a flat structure with tags (along with well-structured titles)

If I was doing this for professional use (food critic, restaurant reviewer, chef), more notebooks might be helpful.

#3 jefito

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 11:35 PM

I would use tags myself: a tag for "Food", a tag for "Life-Goal". Store it in whatever notebook you choose.
~Jeff
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#4 Oliver_Law

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 03:00 AM

After doing some more research I found out about tag grouping. This seems to be a good solution for my organization habits. Notebooks/Stacks don't offer many advantages over tagging for free users. I'm referencing the "make available offline" and "share" notebook-level settings mentioned here.


As I mentioned before, I am more accustomed to the GMail labelling process. The tagging philosophy falls closer to this system. It seems this is a common trend.


References:

Extra kudos to the following contributors for answering almost every related question I found useful. Thank you very much :)

Interesting how many people are making little use of stacks/notebooks in favour of labels/label grouping. Probably yet another case of "The Organism Will Do Whatever It Damn Well Pleases"

#5 jefito

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 03:36 AM

As I mentioned before, I am more accustomed to the GMail labelling process. The tagging philosophy falls closer to this system. It seems this is a common trend.

Correct. Tags (Evernote) / labels (Gmail) / categories (MS Outlook) -- these allow flexible organization, as compared to rigid hierarchies.

Interesting how many people are making little use of stacks/notebooks in favour of labels/label grouping.

I can't judge how many people are using which method. I use a little bit of both, but mostly tagging.
~Jeff
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#6 May

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:50 AM

In your particular example, just make a separate Tag "Food to Eat Before I Die" and that'd be it... simple, eh? You could also organise it as a sub-tag of "food" tag or whatever.

I personally wouldn't even use multiple tags as jeffito suggested

a tag for "Food", a tag for "Life-Goal"

First of all because I don't need a "life goal" as a separate tag.
It's best to use a single tag for a single list/topic because it's just easier. It's easier to add and it's easier to access later on. I already have some similar Tags, for example I use a Tag "books to read" and so on. I don't use separate "books" and "goal" or "to read" tags because that'd just make it harder to access this list later on.

Tags are better for organisation than notebooks because each note can have multiple tags.

Using separate notebooks is still useful in some cases. For example using an "inbox" notebook as a default notebook for new notes and a "processed" notebook for organised notes...

But other than that you don't even need to use multiple notebooks at all, everything could be organized in a single notebook and multiple different tags. There is nothing you can do with notebooks which couldn't also be done with tags except sharing notes and storing notes locally with local notebooks.


Organise each note with tags in as many ways as possible. The more "places" you put the note in, the easier it is to find it later. But give up control... Use only as many/little tags as you need, you don't want to be wasting time by trying to define all possible ways to organise each note in Evernote.

Here's for example an article I've just saved:

Posted Image

I don't use this many tags often. I usually use 1-3 tags.
However health is my area of interest and I have several hundreds of notes related to this topic and its sub-topics and so I used 8 tags in this case because I already had all of those tags before and I already had notes related to all of those sub-topics.

And btw organising notes with tags and organising tags themselves are two separate topics... Here's how I organise tags:
http://discussion.ev...em/#entry177979

http://discussion.ev...em/#entry177964


Hopefully this makes sense. :)

#7 Oliver_Law

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 05:43 AM

Organise each note with tags in as many ways as possible. The more "places" you put the note in, the easier it is to find it later. But give up control... Use only as many/little tags as you need, you don't want to be wasting time by trying to define all possible ways to organise each note in Evernote.

I agree with this philosophy completely.

#8 jefito

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 01:16 PM

Organise each note with tags in as many ways as possible. The more "places" you put the note in, the easier it is to find it later. But give up control... Use only as many/little tags as you need, you don't want to be wasting time by trying to define all possible ways to organise each note in Evernote.

I agree with this philosophy completely.

But one thing about that -- remember that plain old text search will turn up general terms like "starch", etc. You may not need so many tags -- that leads to tag management issues, a problem of a different sort.
~Jeff
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#9 May

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 03:37 PM

Yes, in my case "starch" is a separate topic that I'm interested in and I might continue collecting information about it, so I used a separate tag to highlight it as a separate topic. Maybe I don't need this tag, but I just use whatever makes sense in the moment. I haven't had any problems with this approach.

You may not need so many tags -- that leads to tag management issues, a problem of a different sort.


I don't have any problems with tag management at all whatsoever.I keep all tags in Evernote in a completely flat list and then usually just search for tags. And when I want to organise some of my tags into some browsable hierarchical or non-hierarchical structure which makes sense to me, I use a separate mind map outside of Evernote, this way I avoid any of the limitations of the Tag list on iPad and also get more functionality.

#10 roschler

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:16 PM

I wrote a guest blog post on Daniel Gold's Productivity web site on using Tags effectively with Evernote, especially when it comes to trying to find notes far in the future when the landscape of your memory has radically changed:

5 Step Plan To Better Document Tagging

The methods described are not for everyone, but perhaps you will find something useful in the post.

Since life is not very much fun without an opposing viewpoint, here is an excellent post on the same site from our very own GrumpyMonkey on how he organizes his notes with Evernote:

How a PhD student uses Evernote to organize his life - with one notebook!

He was once an avid Tagger and then went to a virtually Tag-free lifestyle. He is now a self-proclaimed minimalist who takes his organizational inspiration from Noguchi Yukio. (see the post for more details).

Those of us in Tagdom will welcome him back openly after his return from the Dark Side of the Force. :)

Disclaimer: I'm a Tag devotee and have over 4,000 Tags.

-- roschler
BitQwik - Search your Evernote notes with a powerful Artificially Intelligent assistant!
TagHunter - The free intelligent power search tool for Windows Evernote users that have lots of Tags

#11 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:45 PM

Those of us in Tagdom will welcome him back openly after his return from the Dark Side of the Force. :)


Tags are very cool, and I recommend them to people all the time (http://www.princeton...ernote-tag.html), but despite trying in recent months with the Windows client to make a go of them again, I still cannot see them as worth the effort for my particular use case.

I have a handful I use to test out stuff in the betas, so they aren't really ones I actually use on a regular basis, and they don't really count. I do have one tag, though, I might end up keeping!

I extracted all of the text from my OCR'd PDFs and put that into Evernote (a couple thousand notes). I tagged them all "library," because these are mainly journal articles, books, and so forth by other people (not "my" memories). I sometimes do find it useful to do a -tag:library search. Will I keep my tag? I don't know. Maybe :)

#12 roschler

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:50 PM

I extracted all of the text from my OCR'd PDFs and put that into Evernote (a couple thousand notes).


Yikes! How long did that take? Did you also make corrections to the reco'd text on the way? Sounds like a big job.

-- roschler
BitQwik - Search your Evernote notes with a powerful Artificially Intelligent assistant!
TagHunter - The free intelligent power search tool for Windows Evernote users that have lots of Tags

#13 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:57 PM

I extracted all of the text from my OCR'd PDFs and put that into Evernote (a couple thousand notes).


Yikes! How long did that take? Did you also make corrections to the reco'd text on the way? Sounds like a big job.

-- roschler

It took a few minutes (Automator on the Mac). No corrections -- some of this OCR'd stuff is really bad, and search results have to be taken with a grain of salt, especially with the Asian character materials. Actually, quite a simple job, though. I now have arguably one of the most comprehensive digital libraries in the world on my research topic, and if I get a hit on something in Evernote, I can open up the original PDF in Dropbox to read more there (no worries about garbled text with the PDF image).

#14 roschler

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 05:02 PM

Excellent. Automator sounds like a great tool. What database field is the OCR'd text stored in?

It's funny that so much of it had to be OCR'd unless you are referring to images embedded in the PDF's being OCR'd as opposed to the actual PDF text. The reason I say that is because as you know Evernote does incorporate the Foxit PDF filter so I would think that there should not be a need to OCR most PDF documents, that Evernote would just extract the text instead.

-- roschler
BitQwik - Search your Evernote notes with a powerful Artificially Intelligent assistant!
TagHunter - The free intelligent power search tool for Windows Evernote users that have lots of Tags

#15 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 05:07 PM

Excellent. Automator sounds like a great tool. What database field is the OCR'd text stored in?

It's funny that so much of it had to be OCR'd unless you are referring to images embedded in the PDF's being OCR'd as opposed to the actual PDF text. The reason I say that is because as you know Evernote does incorporate the Foxit PDF filter so I would think that there should not be a need to OCR most PDF documents, that Evernote would just extract the text instead.

-- roschler


I OCR everything I scan before I put it into Evernote. This enables me to use Spotlight on my computer to search in the PDFs, allows cut/paste, and allows me to jump directly to the search hits within the extracted text of a PDF (a huge help on the iPad). There are more benefits, but you get the idea. In addition, many of my PDFs fall outside of the Evernote OCR parameters, so Evernote will not OCR them.

#16 May

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 06:20 AM

Disclaimer: I'm a Tag devotee and have over 4,000 Tags.

-- roschler


How many notes do you have?

I have only about 500 tags per 20 000 notes, I probably won't reach 4000 tags even with 100 000 notes :)


#17 roschler

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 06:22 AM

Hello May,

4000 notes. About 1 tag per note. :)

-- roschler
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TagHunter - The free intelligent power search tool for Windows Evernote users that have lots of Tags

#18 GrumpyMonkey

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 12:53 PM

Hello May,

4000 notes. About 1 tag per note. :)

-- roschler

Wow... That sounds like a lot of work!

#19 jefito

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 02:26 PM

Yes, in my case "starch" is a separate topic that I'm interested in and I might continue collecting information about it, so I used a separate tag to highlight it as a separate topic. Maybe I don't need this tag, but I just use whatever makes sense in the moment. I haven't had any problems with this approach.

You may not need so many tags -- that leads to tag management issues, a problem of a different sort.


I don't have any problems with tag management at all whatsoever.I keep all tags in Evernote in a completely flat list and then usually just search for tags. And when I want to organise some of my tags into some browsable hierarchical or non-hierarchical structure which makes sense to me, I use a separate mind map outside of Evernote, this way I avoid any of the limitations of the Tag list on iPad and also get more functionality.

The idea is that tags, which have abundant utility, as I've posted about many times, are not always necessary to find and categorize Evernote users' notes. Sometimes simple text search will suffice just as well. For those people who don't want to manage their notes *and* their tags (4000 tags sounds a lot to me, I use about 200 myself), it may be an exercise in overkill. Not for you, obviously, but there's a spectrum of usage available here.
~Jeff
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#20 May

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 03:20 PM

Yes, it's a good point. However in practice plain text searches are usually a lot slower and a lot less accurate... Actually here's an example with "starch":

Plain text search gives me 68 notes, most of them are irrelevant, they're actually not about starch at all:

Posted Image


Search for a Tag on the other hand gives me only 3 notes which are focused exactly on the topic:

Posted Image

Of course both searches are useful in different cases.





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