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(Archived) Tag Hierarchy

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I just noticed the other day that Evernote has hierarchical tags, which I've never seen an an application before (maybe one I used had/has it, but I never noticed). It seems like it could be very powerful, so I'm wondering how I might use it. Is it mainly just useful for organzing tags themselves?

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Starting to answer my own question by playing with this. Unfortunately I have about 500 entries that I carried over from Delicious (which I had at one point as bookmarks in my browser until I imported them into Delicious*), with a lot of tags for each item. What it seems hierarchical tags might be useful for other than just organization of tags themselves is to reduce the number of tags, since it seems you can search on a parent or grandparent tag and have the something tagged with a tag at a lower level show up. That sounds a little confusing, so maybe an example: I have tag for I could have a tag for food, under which could be tags for: recipes, restaurants, culinarytools, etc. Under recipes I could have tags for meat, fish, veggies, etc. So if I tag a recipe with just one tag, say "fish", it will not only show up when I do a search of fish, but also on recipes, and on just food. The only problem I can see with this system is that you can't have a tag that serves multiple purposes. IE, if I wanted to tag a both a recipe about fish with the tag "fish" as well as an article about mercury levels in fish, you couldn't fave that same tag under both recipes as well as "articles" or "reference" or "health", etc.

So how do others use the hierarchical system of tags?

* Speaking of which, is there a more direct way of getting browser bookmarks into Evernote? Not sure if I've seen it if there is. If not, maybe you could point out in the FAQ that you can import your bookmarks into Delicious, then into Evernote?

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Don't get too excited about the hierarchical tags. There are no semantics in the hierarchy, i.e., food > fish means nothing except that the tag fish is sitting as a child of food. You can't find notes tagged with fish when you look at food, nor can you find notes tagged with food when you look at fish. The tag hierarchy is there strictly as eye candy, i.e., you can organize your tags visually, but there is no meaning whatsoever in the organization. In fact, this is what the EN developers suggest we do when we complain about seeing useless tags when looking at particular notebooks. For instance, you could have a notebook called Work and one called Play. Create a tag called Work and one called Play. Then, for whatever tags you use at work, tuck them under the Work tag. Then, when you're in your Play notebook, you can just collapse the Work tag and not see any of your work tags.

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Thanks, Crane, I could have sworn that I saw that you could search for a higher-level tag and find notes tagged with lower-level tags even if they weren't also tagged with that higher-level one, but on rechecking I see you are right. It's too bad, what I'd rather see is EN just hide tags that there's nothing tagged with that tag in a particular notebook. Seems like they should be able to do that easily. Also to make searches show everything tagged with descendant tags. Maybe they've decided that this would cause other issues with the data model and with managing other areas that I can't envision immediately, but I guess this could be on that very large wish list that is floating out there in bits and pieces :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with you DVDmon,

I would love it if they would hide the tags for which their are no entries in a notebook.

Additionally, it would be nice if the hierarchical tags actually worked that way.


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I would love it if they would hide the tags for which their are no entries in a notebook.

Additionally, it would be nice if the hierarchical tags actually worked that way.

I want to show my support for these features too.

In the absence of subfolders, these features would make it easier to handle tags (and would probably be easier to program than subfolders).

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  • 3 months later...

Here's my suggestion for how to implement hierarchical tags. Everything I suggest would be enabled by a user-selectable preference so the existing tag semantics could remain and noone gets upset but, by setting the "extended hierarchical tags" advanced option a user could get what I suggest below:

Imagine I have tags set up as follows:







(The indentation is intended to indicate the hierarchy relationship when seen in the left pane of Evernote desktop.)

Right now if I drag the "Gadgets" tag onto a note then I just get the "Gadgets" tag applied to the note. The first tweak that I suggest when "extended hierarchical tags" mode is set is for this operation to not only apply the tag "Gadgets" but also all the parent tags, in this case just "Personal".

The next tweak I would suggest for "extended hierarchical tags" mode is to allow the same tag to appear in multiple places in the hierarchy, e.g. I could travel on business or on holiday so I would like that tag to appear in both places. Note that this is not implying a change to the underlying data structures, there would still be a single flat tag space with only one "Travel" tag, the only difference is that now I have two places I could drag the tag from to label a note and, depending which display place in the hierarchy I drag it onto a note from, it will either pick up the "Personal" or the "Business" tag in addition to the explicitly requested "Travel" tag.

I'm a pretty new Evernote user so I'm sure that there are lots of issues that I haven't thought of but one that leaps out at me is what happens if a user explicitly types "Travel" into the tag box for a note and Travel is declared as both a Personal and a Business tag; what additional tag does the note inherit? Two possibilities to resolve this issue occur to me:

1) None - just tag it with "Travel". If the user wants to take advantage of extended hierarchical tag semantics then they need to either use the drag interface or they need to explicitly type "Personal, Travel" into the tag box. This is by far the lowest implementation cost for Evernote I think and probably OK provided that most people don't have massively nested tag structures.

2) Prompt - if Evernote detects a choice of parent tags then, when the user finishes typing in the tags, pop up a dialogue of some sort to ask which one the user wants.

For my use the above fairly modest tweaks to Evernote would give me the hierarchical behaviour that I would like.

- Julian

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  • Level 5

Here is an example of some of my nested tags. I try to abbreviate whenever possible.

Searching for tag:Fam-* will bring up notes for all my family























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Thanks for the tip. I considered the same tag hierarchy myself, it clearly works, but I'd still like to see my suggestion because the scheme you suggest does get more cumbersome as one gets beyond a single level of nesting. For instance I have the following hierarchy for my customer meetings: Business/Meetings/External// where is the name of the customer I'm visiting. This is very easy to browse in a hierarchy-based system and reproducing that in a single level tag system would end up with some ugly and cryptic tag names.

- Julian

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  • Level 5

Yes, I can see how it will get cumbersome. Especially if you have a lot of customers. I can't imagine anyone reaching the Evernote maximum of 10,000 tags.

NOTEBOOKS: I try to limit the number of notebooks to a few high-level subjects only. For example: Biz, Home, Fun. Because I dump a lot of stuff into these high-level notebooks I use the TAG search feature to pull out the info I want.


  • [list=]Biz-Trav


  • [list=]Out


  • [list=]Co-Lmn


I add a dash to two-word tags to eliminate the need for quote marks. (tag:Co-Def is shorter and easier to type than tag:"Co Def")

In your situation, if I wanted to see all my business meetings held in the office with company Def, I would search.

Tag:Biz-Mtgs Tag:In Tag:Co-Def

Bonus Tip: If I wanted to find July meetings held in my office with Def, I would use the following search

subjectdate:20090701 -subjectdate:20090801 Tag:Biz-Mtgs Tag:In Tag:Co-Def

Whenever I create a search, I save it in a special EN note with a brief explanation.

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