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Tags vs Notebooks Comparison Summary

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It looks like there are a lot of discussions that go on about the utility of using tags versus notebooks, and how some people prefer to organize using one or the other. While people seem to get into the weeds about why tags or notebooks are better, I haven't seen a good summary of how Evernote handles these, so I'm providing one below and which, I hope, will give people a better basis to decide on which form of (or combination of) organizational tools to use. 

Without further ado, here is the summary of differences of how Evernote handles tags and notebooks (each type referred to as an "attribute" below):  

Maximum Number of attributes for an item
Minimum number of attributes for an item 
Adding an attribute 
Add a new tag
Remove current notebook designation and assign a new notebook designation - in one step 
Removing an attribute
Remove current tag 
Remove current notebook designation and assign a new notebook designation - in one step 
Impact of adding/removing an attribute on other tags
Impact of adding/removing an attribute on other notebooks
Removes from current notebook and adds to the new notebook
Can be grouped at one level using stacks 
Sharing  / Sync                                                                                
Can share notebooks with others, or sync them for offline use                                                      

To summarize the above,  the main differences are as follows:

  • An item does not need to have a tag, but it must have a notebook
  • An item can have unlimited number of tags, but it can be in only one notebook
  • When adding OR removing notebooks: two things happen in one single step:
    • Removing current attribute  
    • Adding new attribute 
  • When removing tags: only one thing happens
    • Removing one of the current attributes 
  • When adding tags: only one thing happens
    • Adding a new attribute
  • Tags can have unlimited levels of hierarchy, where notebooks can only be grouped in 1 level

Also, don't forget about the special notebook called "Trash":

  • Keeps all existing attributes (including the notebook where the item was prior to being deleted) 
  • Removes the item from regular interface (search, tag, notebook)
  • Note that within "Trash" one can search for other notebooks, to which a deleted item belonged prior to being deleted! 
Based on the above, my own conclusion as to how to use tags vs. notebooks is as follows:
  • Notebooks, including the trash notebook, describe a dynamic attribute or a state of an item  or some quality that would be exclusive of other qualities and/or that you would expect to change over time and be replaced with others, or that are exclusive of other qualities by definition, for example: 
    • Short-term reference vs Long-term reference 
    • Incomplete task vs a complete task 
      • Task for today vs task for tomorrow 
    • A note that is useful for later reference vs a note that is not expected to be needed 
    • Lists of notes with some common theme
  • Tags can be used to describe static attributes that you do not expect to change and be replaced with a different attribute
PS: where I say "unlimited" above, it means the limits are very high, especially for paid users to the point of not being relevant, in my view. 
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2 hours ago, DTLow said:

Evernote supports two fields for organization of note data; Notebooks and Tags (both are fields in the note metadata)
There is no support for Folders.  
You seem to be comparing use of the Notebook field to the Tag field

You are correct, fixed that. 

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2 hours ago, DTLow said:

You didn't mention the important Notebook function of identifying notes as
- private/shared
- online/local (Windows/Mac)
- offline (IOS/Android)

Added that in the table above

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3 hours ago, DTLow said:

The maximum for notebooks is 250; 1,000 for paid accounts.

Well.. darn.  D'you know I quite missed that recent(ish) increase - I've been agonising about some temporary notebooks I created a while ago that took me out to outrageous limits - I might have gotten up to around 100 notebooks as against my normal dozen or so.  I've been tidying madly as often as I could so I didn't go over 250...  Doh.

I'll stop worrying now...


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