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Philosofy

(Archived) Strategies for using Evernote

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I'd like to see some discussion on using Evernote. I'm just starting, and while Evernote seems very powerful, and will meet most of my needs, its also very flexible. That flexibility might be a hindrance if I start using the program in an inefficient manner. When should I start a new notebook? How many tags do I need? Is a keyword search in a document good enough, or should I tag?

Let me start by telling how I use Evernote. I work in sales for a chemical distributor. We sell several types of products to the paint and plastics industry, from several manufacturers (we call the manufacturers "principals".) The reason I bought an iPad is because Evernote will allow me to pull up data when I'm on a sales call, and its much easier than pulling a laptop out. I started out with Evernote by making a different Notebook for each principal. From there, I dragged presentations, literature, MSDS', Tech Data Sheets, etc. into the Notebook. For the presentations, I wrote a quick overview of helpful slides, so in the note you see "Slide 57: good recommendations for application. Slide 72: formulating tips" followed by the link to the file. Another thing I did was take pictures of the back of a pigment fandeck. This is similar to the paint chip samples you see at Home Depot, but the back contains critical information, such as the pigment index number, exterior durability, solvent resistance, particle size, chemistry, etc. Evernote is great: it does its OCR thing, and I don't have to type anything beyond the name of the note. I've been tagging the pigments with the tag PIGMENT, then its COLOR, then its SHADE, then its durability RATING. That way, if someone asks for a green shade yellow pigment, I can bring them up. Or, if someone is making a new automotive paint, I can bring up all the pigments suitable for automotive coatings.

I know one thing I have to watch is the word "green." Its not just a color, but a word used to describe environmentally friendly chemicals. So I have a tag called "Environmentally Friendly."

Does my strategy seem sound? What strategies do you use, and what do you use Evernote for?

Thanks!

I only know one person who uses Evernote, and he only has one notebook, and tags the heck out of everything.

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Thanks for passing that along. There are a few other tips and stories on our blog:

http://blog.evernote.com/category/tips_stories/

I think that notebooks are better for separating pools of notes that have no overlap at all. I.e. my "Cooking" notebook and my "IT Operations" notebook are very coarse, top-level categories with no overlap.

I tend to prefer just putting relevant words in the title and body of my notes so that I can search for them later rather than making a lot of tags. I'll tend to be a little verbose so I know that I can search for one or two variants to find the note later. I.e. I tend to use Evernote search for my collection of notes like I use Google search for the billion pages on the web.

On the other hand, I know other folks at Evernote who love thousands of tags, so it's a bit of a personal preference. Tags tend to lend better for "browsing" rather than just "searching" your notes.

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I think that notebooks are better for separating pools of notes that have no overlap at all. I.e. my "Cooking" notebook and my "IT Operations" notebook are very coarse, top-level categories with no overlap.

(snip)

I tend to prefer just putting relevant words in the title and body of my notes so that I can search for them later rather than making a lot of tags. I'll tend to be a little verbose so I know that I can search for one or two variants to find the note later.

This is how my EN usage has evolved. One of my recurring examples about adding in what I call keywords is to add misspellings. Say if a note is about someone who's last name is Shafer, I'll add Shaffer in as a keyword. That way, if I forget how they spell their name, I don't have to search twice for the note.

Other threads on EN usage (there may be some overlap):

viewtopic.php?f=30&t=17399

viewtopic.php?f=45&t=12672&p=50510&hilit=drugs#p50506

viewtopic.php?f=30&t=16994&p=68693&hilit=novel+uses#p68098

http://www.andrewcmaxwell.com/2009/11/1 ... note-uses/

viewtopic.php?f=30&t=11900&p=47609&hilit=uses#p47609

viewtopic.php?f=53&t=17219

viewtopic.php?f=30&t=17390#p70012

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My method is to keep the number of notebooks to a minimum - I've got 7 sync'd and 1 local non-sync'd notebook.

My notebooks are very broad subjects - Work, Personal, Hobbies, Friends, Misc, Politics. I tried being more specific, but it was not worth the effort.

To narrow down the search, I use tags extensively. For instance:

For each employment related note I tag the name of the employer I worked for (Job-Abc, Job-Def, Job-Geh)

For each company related note I tag the company (Com-Amazon, Com-Target, Com-Dominos, Com-Allstate)

For each immediate family member related note, I tag the person's initials (Per-JLB, Per-DLB, Per-PBB, Per-BEB)

For all my friends and relatives, I use the tag Friend-Relative

Business cards and people's address information is tagged with Address

The titles can be very helpful.

Approximately half of my titles are scanned documents and follow this format: YY MM DD State City Company/Individual subject

The other half are free form

Adding keywords to a note is helpful.

And the ultimate keyword is when I want to link all the notes from one project together, I will copy a unique 8 digit alpha code (created by my RoboForm program) to each appropriate note. For instance, we just bought a new oven. I linked all the research notes from Home Depot, Lowes, the local carpenter, dimensions, installation information, receipt, warranty details with the unique code. This allows me to review all the notes together.

And my solution for the green confusion would be to create two tags: Color-Green and Enviro-Green

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I heart Evernote SO much. I'll just say that right out of the gate. I hardly use paper anymore it's become THAT much of a ubiquitous tool for me.

I started off with notebooks for practically EVERYTHING until I finally saw the light of day on the powers of searching and tagging. Now I have notebooks set up akin to the previously-mentioned philosophy: top-level categories that tend not to overlap into anything else. My default notebook is a catch-all for anything that doesn't fit neatly into one of the other notebooks, and by far it has the biggest number of notes (by a factor of 10) -- my grocery list, interesting web sites I want to bookmark, things I find on the net I want to remember to look at it more detail later, anything relating to the house I own in another state that I'm renting out, etc. I use tags pretty extensively but honestly the search always turns up whatever I need in this notebook.

Most of my other notebooks are more specific and tend to be ones I would browse by tag or title -- Recipes, Design Inspiration, Yarn Project Records (one of my hobbies is handspinning and I take extensive pictures and record keeping of my projects so I can reproduce anything I make accurately). My Wedding Planner notebook has been INVALUABLE through my wedding planning. I'm sure I could have done all that without Evernote but I really don't think I would have wanted to. I was able to share that notebook with my fiancée and my sister -- my fiancée could always find something we talked about if he needed to look it up because he knows I obsessively take notes, and my sister was able to drop some notes into the notebook herself for things like cake design inspiration, places to look for flowers. I heart Evernote pretty heavily just based on this.

But one of my favorite new uses of Evernote that I started doing a couple of weeks ago is creating my own encyclopedia, of sorts, about UI and UX Design (I'm a UI designer for a video game company). There's a ton of great articles about UI/UX design online and all over the place, and in order to help keep myself current, increase my skillset, etc. I've been collecting them into their own notebook (UI and UX Articles) and tagging them appropriately. The tag list serves as a kind of back-of-the-book index for topics when I might be looking for a bunch of information on, say, iPad design guidelines. If I want to be more specific in finding something the search will go a level deeper than tags will. When I would tweet these articles, people told me they were really digging them so I decided to share out the notebook publicly for the benefit of other UI/UX designers. It's been a really cool resource.

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Hey (again), Hellchick!

I think a lot of people tend to have a "catch-all" notebook like this. My default notebook is called "Inbox", and usually has a dozen unsorted things that I'll deal with later.

Thanks

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What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a tag vs a keyword search? When I put a power point into Evernote, I put an outline in it as well (to highlight the more helpful slides).

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I don't see tags or keyword searches as mutually exclusively. You can search by tag, by keyword (note content) or both at once.

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What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a tag vs a keyword search?

I use keyword searches most often. But I also use tags & tend to use them when grouping things together that may be subsets of the group. (Think sub-folder/sub-notebook.) Say, hypothetically, if I were researching how to get legally purchased DRM "protected" Ereader books converted to Kindle format, there may be a group of notes related to installing Python on a Windows box. Those would normally be easy to find searching on the word Python. (Or I may assign a tag "Installing Python on Windows" to filter out any notes pertaining to Monty Python or snakes.) But then the next step (hypothetically) would be the Python script to remove DRM from Ereader files (if such a script existed). Those notes could also stand on their own. Then there's the part of converting a non-DRM "protected" Ereader file to Kindle format. Those notes can also stand on their own. But I may apply a more encompassing "DRM Ereader files to Kindle" tag to all the notes so that all the notes would be easily/quickly found. Hypothetically. :lol:

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This is a great topic! I'm sure it will, or could, help many EN users.

Unfortunately, it's not very visible. Is there a way you could make it more visible to the entire EN community?

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I am a notebook-centric holdout in the EN universe. For me, EN works best as an electronic equivalent of a bunch of pigeon hole mail slots. Each slot has a topic and when I come across something I need to keep I just toss it in the right slot. No keywords, no tags, just the right notebook. I like the fact that if I need it later I can search by keywords or by the text of the item itself but I am a browser not a searcher. I have stopped asking EN for sub-notebooks but I have developed a workaround over the years that works FOR ME. I am an architect and I tend to be project/client based.

I make use of ***'s and a naming order to keep my 70-80 notebooks organized. I also use zzz's to archive projects that are inactive but still needed. I name a folder by project and if that folder gets too big I start a sub folder by using a "project - subfolder" title. My notebook list ends up like this:

***Critical

***Read

***Events

** Project 01

** Project 02

** Project 02 - Plans

** Project 02 - Program

**Project 03

* Life

* Marketing

* Work

Computers

Food

Food - Vietnam

Food - Wine

zzz Project X

zzz Project Y

zzz Project Z

The alphabetical listing keeps my notebooks in the order I want them and the ***'s keep my most used notebooks at the top of the list. I do the occasional tagging and I will do general searches if necessary but this system of sub-notebooks has worked well for the way I work. I still have hopes of EN implementing some form of sub notebooks someday but in the meantime this works well FOR ME.

Hugh

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Philosofy said:

What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a tag vs a keyword search?

Tag adds some pre-defined intelligence to the search

Example:

Tag: Home

vs

Keyboard Search: Home

The tag Home would refer to my personal home.

A keyboard search for the word Home will result in all sorts of hits, ranging from Home Depot, to do tasks when I get home, the home key on my keyboard, etc.

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I am a notebook-centric holdout in the EN universe. For me, EN works best as an electronic equivalent of a bunch of pigeon hole mail slots. Each slot has a topic and when I come across something I need to keep I just toss it in the right slot. No keywords, no tags, just the right notebook. I like the fact that if I need it later I can search by keywords or by the text of the item itself but I am a browser not a searcher. I have stopped asking EN for sub-notebooks but I have developed a workaround over the years that works FOR ME. I am an architect and I tend to be project/client based....

Hugh

I'd like sub notebooks as well, just for the sake of separating my work stuff from my personal stuff. I use Evernote on my iPad in front of customers, so I'd rather not have my personal stuff show up in searches.

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I don't need any subnotebooks.

I put all my stuff (7,000 notes currently) into 7 notebooks.

* Acquaintances (addresses, business cards)

* Business (current and past employers)

* Hobbies

* Local (non-sync'd)

* Misc / Trivia

* Personal (family, home)

* Politics

With 100 notebooks as the max, I have tons of room to expand if I wanted to.

No need however, due to the power of tags.

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Hey (again), Hellchick!

I think a lot of people tend to have a "catch-all" notebook like this. My default notebook is called "Inbox", and usually has a dozen unsorted things that I'll deal with later.

Thanks

Hello!

So Dave, do you end up going through your Inbox folder at all like you would an email inbox, sorting and removing notes? Or does this remain a catch-all for anything that doesn't fit elsewhere? Although I've moved to a more tag- and search-based use of EN instead of a notebook-centric use, the organizer in me still wants to create notebooks for the 222 notes currently in my catch-all notebook; it feels like a misuse, somehow, of EN.

Which is totally weird, I know. It's a testament to EN's power that it's flexible enough for any of these systems.

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It tends to be more for just temporary churn ... I don't really let things sit there for more than a few minutes, although occasionally a web clip will show up there that needs to be moved.

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Does anyone use Evernote as an email archive? The iPad and iPhone won't let me store ALL my old emails, which I sometimes need on the go.

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I only use Evernote to store specific and important emails.

I rely on GMail to store my emails going back to 2005. My archive file is just over 6 gigs and it is free.

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Yeah, I think that specialized email systems (like GMail) may be more useful if you want to keep an archive of every email you send/receive. Since they're tuned for email, they give options to filter and sort your messages in ways that would be much more difficult if you just dumped them into Evernote as text.

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Does anyone use Evernote as an email archive? The iPad and iPhone won't let me store ALL my old emails, which I sometimes need on the go.

I do. That was the first function I used EN for. I have a couple Gmail accounts (one personal, one for a hobbyist thing I do) as well as my work email and an email account for a hobbyist website I created/maintain. To make things easier on the receiving end, I have them all forwarded to my real live email address & use Outlook to collect them. And I archive them into Evernote. I'm still in the process of adding old emails from all my previously archived pst files. And...am hoping I can even archive emails from old Eudora files someday. I'm pretty sure I have them around here somewhere... :D

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Yeah, I think that specialized email systems (like GMail) may be more useful if you want to keep an archive of every email you send/receive. Since they're tuned for email, they give options to filter and sort your messages in ways that would be much more difficult if you just dumped them into Evernote as text.

FWIW, IME, EN does just fine as an email archive. I do keep all my Outlook.pst files, should I need them, so I have the original email & attachment(s). And (for my purposes), often, looking up an old email is much like restoring from a backup. You need it when you need it but you just don't need it that often. (Which is why I don't spend a lot of time tagging/organizing emails.) This was a bit easier in 3.1 when the Outlook clipper would default the subject date (dead field in 3.5) to the date the email was rec'd. But I can still work it by using a tag (IE "email from Outlook_20050623") SO...if I need to look up an old email, I check EN. Find the email (most of the time). Then based upon the dates in the email and/or the tag, I can usually determine which pst file to open, should I need to forward/resend that email. I recently was in a situation where the email was archived in EN but I still couldn't find it in a pst file. So I just copied/pasted the info from EN into a new email. NBD & life goes on.

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I agree with Dave (just quoted) and jbenson2 that email systems like GMail make for a better archive and retrieval system, especially since Google keeps on improving and making GMail better and better.

Like jbenson2, I do like to clip from Outlook key email related to topics I'm already tracking. It would be very nice if the EN Win Outlook clipper would map the Outlook Sender and Received Date to EN Author and Created Date. :D I now manually change these fields each time.

Forgot to mention for those that don't know, you can email your EN Note (that was clipped from, say, Outlook) simply by selecting first the Note, then the File > EMail menu, or CTRL+SHIFT+E, in EN Win 3.5.6. Copy/Paste not required. Looks very good.

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I was writing down how I was using EN and how I was going to continue to use it but the security problems are a deal killer. I'm contacting support to cancel my subscription. If I can't store my personal financial and other business data on here it isn't worthless but it is...less than what's required.

Damn.

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The last post is a little old, but I'd like to know step by step how burgersnfries gets his outlook data into EN, and how he organizes it into notebooks/folders? What would be different to get Eudora data into EN? I want to get all my old mail files into EN.

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Hi gred22. BNF will probably come along in a while with a better answer for you. In the meantime, if you can export your emails as text files (I think Thunderbird allows this), you can easily drag your emails into Evernote en masse (In Microsoft this might stick them all in one note, but in Mac it will create different notes for each email). Otherwise, I usually just forward emails to my Evernote account as needed.

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Thanks grumpy monkey. I have read several in the forums here that say its better to keep mail in mail apps because they're built for that, like gmail. But I have many files from many computers over decades I'd like to get into one place so I can search and find things.

The thing for me is how to best be able to search on different fields (to / from / subject / date), or is EN's search good enough that just getting the mail into text and inputting in mass without separate fields gonna work fine for what I want?

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glad i could help :)

evernote's search features are pretty robust. think of them as ways to filter the notes that it displays, and you'll find it very easy to locate notes without necessarily needing to use a whole lot of organizational tools like notebooks. here are some of the search options with which you will want to become familiar.

https://support.evernote.com/ics/support/KBAnswer.asp?questionID=535

in your case, the "source" one might come in handy, but i think that might only work if you email them into evernote (as opposed to the text file method i recommended). if you go the text route, and the files end up as attachments (i think this might happen with microsoft), then you can look using "resource". of course, basic searches for information contained in the header of emails will probably turn up what you need as well. with so many potential combinations of search vocabulary, i think you will be ok :)

i think bnf is probably more knowledgable about this email into evernote process than i am, so you may want to contact her directly.

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Thanks grumpy monkey. I have read several in the forums here that say its better to keep mail in mail apps because they're built for that, like gmail. But I have many files from many computers over decades I'd like to get into one place so I can search and find things.

The thing for me is how to best be able to search on different fields (to / from / subject / date), or is EN's search good enough that just getting the mail into text and inputting in mass without separate fields gonna work fine for what I want?

Can't you access gmail from any computer/multiple computers anyway? but I can understand the desire to back it up additionally in Evernote.

I personally don't keep all of my email in Evernote, i keep only something which I want to refer to or something which is related to some project and so on. If the email isn't really useful then I don't store it in Evernote and just leave it in gmail. 99,9% of the time I don't need to look at it again but if I do then I store it in Evernote and tag/organize appropriately, i.e. It's an on-demand process.

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Thanks grumpy monkey. I have read several in the forums here that say its better to keep mail in mail apps because they're built for that, like gmail. But I have many files from many computers over decades I'd like to get into one place so I can search and find things.

The thing for me is how to best be able to search on different fields (to / from / subject / date), or is EN's search good enough that just getting the mail into text and inputting in mass without separate fields gonna work fine for what I want?

Can't you access gmail from any computer/multiple computers anyway? but I can understand the desire to back it up additionally in Evernote.

I personally don't keep all of my email in Evernote, i keep only something which I want to refer to or something which is related to some project and so on. If the email isn't really useful then I don't store it in Evernote and just leave it in gmail. 99,9% of the time I don't need to look at it again but if I do then I store it in Evernote and tag/organize appropriately, i.e. It's an on-demand process.

the poster mentioned eudora, so i am guessing they are talking about emails on their hard drive (?) from outlook, eudora, and all of the other annoying email programs i have suffered through over the years before gmail. i bet you are too young may to know what the world was like before hotmail :)

anyhow, i agree with you about gmail. i just forward what i need.

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i bet you are too young may to know what the world was like before hotmail

GM, I was born in the 80s... I know what the world was like without internet, not to mention gmail/hotmail! :)

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The last post is a little old, but I'd like to know step by step how burgersnfries gets his outlook data into EN, and how he organizes it into notebooks/folders? What would be different to get Eudora data into EN? I want to get all my old mail files into EN.

I only use Outlook for email, primarily b/c that's what we use at work, since we have our own email server. There is an EN plugin that will send from Outlook to Evernote.

I would also like to get my very, very, very old emails into Evernote. But I don't even know if I still have any backups of Eudora data, since I've not used Eudora in about 20 years. ;-) Someday, if/when I get the time, I guess I'll deal with it then. You can always forward things directly to your EN account by sending to your EN email address, which is located in your settings page.

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I would still prefer a tree of folders to tags. And I've been using Evernote for a couple years.

Evernote refuses to accept that some information is structured - and I don't understand their obsession with forcing people into a tag-and-search world. Sometimes it just doesn't work well.

What I would love is MyBase with Evernote's web/device integration.

Alas.

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Evernote refuses to accept that some information is structured - and I don't understand their obsession with forcing people into a tag-and-search world.

The 20+ million EN users might be part of the reason Evernote is obsessed with a proven winning program.

Tags work, even with the link you provided.

.

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I would still prefer a tree of folders to tags. And I've been using Evernote for a couple years.

Evernote refuses to accept that some information is structured - and I don't understand their obsession with forcing people into a tag-and-search world. Sometimes it just doesn't work well.

What I would love is MyBase with Evernote's web/device integration.

Alas.

i understand this criticism, and i think the lack of folders probably discourages new users. but, the folder (notebook) limits are there, for ehatever reason and as users we have to work with what we have.

that said, tags are much more powerful, especially in conjunction with search filtering, and i hope users give them a try. personally, i have been inspired to become better organized thanks to evernote's structure, especially its search feature.

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Evernote refuses to accept that some information is structured -

You could just as easily say that some people refuse to accept that you can structure data without a hierarchical storage model.

and I don't understand their obsession with forcing people into a tag-and-search world. Sometimes it just doesn't work well.

Making software is all about making choices, and one of the beautiful things about writing software is that often you get to set the rules. Unfortunately, you may find that your size doesn't fit all, but if you do well, the market may reward you..

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and I don't understand their obsession with forcing people into a tag-and-search world.

Evernote isn't forcing you to do anything. If you're not happy with the way their software works, you are certainly free to find an app that does what works better for you.

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