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burkedroppings

(Archived) More (notes) or fewer; which is better?

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I've developed a tendency to "batch" information and place multiple documents in one note rather than giving each its own unique cubbyhole. A good example of this practice is saving several email messages, which comprise a single conversation, into one note rather than several. My thinking is that this will make it less important to use a lot of tags or to develop a scheme for note titles (which I've done, as in "part I;" "part II;" etc.

Can anyone suggest arguments on one side or the other of this question?

Given the choice, should an EN user tend to store information in smaller chunks or larger ones?

Note: this could be taken to an extreme by appending new data to existing notes (such as tacking this month's statement onto the end of a single note that will eventually contain a year's worth of statements). I know of one possible drawback to this scenario: the entire note will be uploaded each time it's revised and, depending on other variables could end up threatening data limits within EN and/or for various devices that sync when records are added OR modified.

I hope this makes sense and I'll be grateful for some guidance. I've jumped right into the deep end of the pool (gone premium in my first month and am approaching 750MB for the past two weeks. I've learned a lot and now know how I could have kept that number lower; but I'm not going to spend time regretting mistakes as long as I'm so thrilled with the whole process and the features provided. I'll go back and "clean up" the most egregious of my foibles later; for now it's onward and upward!

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Imagine you're part of a small unit scouting enemy territory. You come under fire, but instead of running in whatever direction doesn't have flashes coming from it, you hunker down at ground zero and dig out the map.. "OK guys, I'd like your suggestions for the best route out of here..."

My view of Evernote: it's the application you should have been using years ago before you got all those files / connections / ongoing information streams. But you already have all those input streams, so its like finding a safe exit under fire - action is more important than planning. Pick a likely direction and start running. If it proves not to be the optimum choice, you've still made progress that won't be wasted. Pick another direction!

To get properly up to speed with a new account you need to record a (frequently huge) backlog of information as well as keeping up to date with ongoing input, so:


  • > Use whatever means are necessary to get your core data stored in the system - if it's easy to collate several documents into one, do so. If not, then label each one with a meaningful subject line and/ or tag so a search will find them. Leave the contents unencrypted if you can so a content match (on a name, a phone number or an address) will find all the relevant pieces of this content even where the subject line or the tag fails.
    > Remember that super large notes are not allowed (25MB max for the free version, 50MB for premium) and that larger notes take longer to download if you're going mobile for any of this material.
    > Aim to add each new single item (pic, letter, email, webpage) as a new note when it first comes up, and with a consistent subject / tag or notebook allocation. I save correspondence as soon as it hits my desk, and (sometimes) add my response to the same note. More frequently now I'm saving the responses as separate notes just so the file opens quicker if it has to download anywhere.
    > Expect to spend quality time "gardening" your database so searches match only with the stuff you need. Save any complicated searches.
    > Some of the more important updates to data may be a need to move some items (such as press cuttings) to a separate notebook so they won't contaminate factual searches.
    > Remember that (AFAIK) the number of notes is virtually unlimited, so your only practical restrictions with notes are the overall size and potential download speed.
    > Get used to the idea of a large, single, central pile of information which you can chop into an infinite number of different smaller heaps with subjects, tags and content searches.

Hope this helps!

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To get properly up to speed with a new account you need to record a (frequently huge) backlog of information as well as keeping up to date with ongoing input, so:

Excellent, well thought-out suggestions.

Good job.

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Gazumped said:

its like finding a safe exit under fire - action is more important than planning. Pick a likely direction and start running. If it proves not to be the optimum choice, you've still made progress that won't be wasted. Pick another direction!

Thanks SO MUCH for taking the time and making the effort to honor my query with an eloquent response. I feel reassured, hopeful and optimistic after reading (and re-reading) your remarks. I had started to wonder whether it would have been better to move more deliberately – seeking a rational and comprehensive plan of action before stumbling around trying to get my bearings while on the move – but your observations (and wonderful metaphors) give me confidence.

I shall blunder on.

And the attitude put forth is very comforting. Big notes - small notes; many notes - fewer notes –– it's all good if you just make them searchable and/or sortable. I'll be tapping this group's wisdom regarding tags and notebook structures; but first, I'm going to (as gazumped advises) first "get [my] core data stored in the system."

I'm loving this!

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Big notes - small notes; many notes - fewer notes –– it's all good if you just make them searchable and/or sortable.

That's the key. I'd probably avoid merging separate items into bigger notes, though, until you find yourself needing that; it's easier to merge than to unmerge. Tags are key to organization, in my mind, more so than notebooks for most usages. But blunder away; there's not a lot of irreparable harm that you can really do, though occasionally take some time to assess where you are in your organizational scheme, and find out what works best for you.

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Big notes - small notes; many notes - fewer notes –– it's all good if you just make them searchable and/or sortable.

That's the key. I'd probably avoid merging separate items into bigger notes, though, until you find yourself needing that; it's easier to merge than to unmerge.

Thanks jefito.

I wonder if you said "needing" just in passing, or if there's a scenario where one may be compelled to either merge notes or to tend toward creating bigger rather than smaller notes (consolidating data, in other words).

Is there a situation where one "must" or "should" opt for larger (or smaller) note sizes?

My impression, based on the conversation above is that the answer may be "no, size doesn't matter" (sorry about that – I'm a writer and can't resist puns). But Jefito mentioned (in passing, perhaps and not implying some sort of axiom or guideline) that one may NEED to move toward larger notes at some point. Obviously, the use of "until" implies inevitability; Jefito may have meant to say "unless" which means something different.

(I don't want to start a flame war over words -- which nitpicking like mine tends to do; I'm just trying to probe beneath the surface (as is my way); and defining terms is part of that process). While I very much subscribe to (and am empowered by) the advice to move ahead without fear, I'm also interested in refining my methodology so I don't need to revisit too many notes to perform housekeeping in the months and years ahead.

Thanks again.

<<< By the way, I LOVE CEO Phil Libin's statement in this morning's blogcast:

"You know what’s really cool? Making a hundred year company."

I know I won't be around for 100 years, but it would be SO GREAT if all of this data I'm entrusting to EverNote survives through (and perhaps beyond) my lifetime. It's a great philosophy for a great company. >>>

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I wonder if you said "needing" just in passing, or if there's a scenario where one may be compelled to either merge notes or to tend toward creating bigger rather than smaller notes (consolidating data, in other words).

No need to over-analyze this... it was just in passing, and "need" refers to your own needs, not any intrinsic Evernote requirement. But as a rule of thumb, it's probably better to merge cautiously, because undoing a merge, while not difficult, is something you have to do by hand, whereas merging is something that you can use Evernote to do. But large vs. small -- it's really up to you; there's no real stricture on making large notes.

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I wonder if you said "needing" just in passing, or if there's a scenario where one may be compelled to either merge notes or to tend toward creating bigger rather than smaller notes (consolidating data, in other words).

Is there a situation where one "must" or "should" opt for larger (or smaller) note sizes?

About the only time I use the merge feature is when I capture a web site editorial and it covers more than just one page. Some sites have a print icon that allows the user to see the entire article on one page for easy capture. But for the sites that don't, I'll capture Page 1 and Page 2 as separate notes and then merge them.

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Is there a situation where one "must" or "should" opt for larger (or smaller) note sizes?

Note sizes are limited to 25 mb (free accounts) & 50 mb (premium.)

Just play with EN & see what works best for you. IME, I have many notes that have multiple screen caps, text & even PDFs or Word docs. IE, I got a bill from our HOA that had a balance forward. Since we only get billed twice a year, I looked up the bill from January 2011, took a screen cap of it, so it showed the balance due. I then checked my financial records & took a screen cap of the line on my bank statement where check 9201 cleared on 1/13/11 for the full amount I was billed. However, the bank statement doesn't show the check payee. And Chase apparently doesn't let us plebs call up checks that cleared over 60 days ago. So I went to the bank & got a copy of the cleared check. I came home & wrote a letter (Word document) & attached copies of the January 2011 bill, the cleared check & the July 2011 bill. This is also helpful to me in case I need to complete a task over a couple of days b/c it serves as a reminder of what I've already checked/confirmed. In my Evernote note for this issue, I have my own text (IE, can't call up the cleared check from the Chase site, so need to get copy from the bank), PDFs of my two HOA bills, the screen cap of the line on my bank statement that showed the check cleared & a PDF of the entire letter I sent to the HOA.

OTOH, when I scan business cards, I prefer to have one business card per note.

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I have notes with multiple documents in, like Burger's example, but most of them have a single 'thing' in a single note. For me it works better that way - I can tell more easily from the note title in the search results what I have retrieved. I don't want to have to find the notes, and then go searching through huge notes looking for the bit of info I want.

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I have notes with multiple documents in, like Burger's example, but most of them have a single 'thing' in a single note. For me it works better that way - I can tell more easily from the note title in the search results what I have retrieved. I don't want to have to find the notes, and then go searching through huge notes looking for the bit of info I want.

Ditto.

I do occasionally merge a collection of, typically small, notes where I will always want to view ALL the note content at the same time. Much like B&Fs HOA example.

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Apologies for the length of this..

One thing I forgot to highlight earlier is the wonderful convenience of links between notes. If I have several notes related to one topic I will (eventually) have a "master" note listing all the relevant page links - although the same job could also be done by a bespoke tag, or a saved search.

Some while back I "invented" the ELF system of taxonomy; that's Explanations, Lists and Facts. The theory being that every document (or in Evernote's case - note) falls into one of those three categories. Either it's an Explanation of How Something Works, with references to various source documents and illustrations; or a List of items from local banks to recipe ingredients; or its a single, atomic Fact like a street address or a website description and URL or a software spec.

The Facts are important because they appear in many Lists and Explanations via (in Wikiland) Transclusions or as URL links. If a fact changes - new 'phone number forinstance - then one Fact change will ripple across however many other notes are linked into that item. Means you can never (well, hardly ever) have incorrect data in your pages.

In this context, letters, emails, visiting cards, receipts, reports are all Facts - single chunks of data that may be used or listed by one or more other pages to draw a picture together.

Personally I don't like long notes - although I have merged before and will do it again - simply because it's time consuming to scroll through a long note, and there are no chapter headings to make navigation easier unless you've added them yourself. A tagged list or a search will (if you've kept the weeds down) give you a list of note headings that constitute chapter marks in a particular project. If you only need a specific letter regarding your house loan you can immediately jump to that heading and open the note / file / attachment to start work immediately.

But back to my original post - I urge you not to worry about "the best" way to do anything; just stuff the maximum amount of data that you can into your account by any means - monthly limits permitting. Rely on tags, searches or (at worst) an inspection by Created date to find your information.

In your new paper-and-hopefully-stress -free environment you will begin to operate more efficiently, and you'll inevitably see patterns in the total information that you hold which will suggest better ways to manage it. I have an Archive notebook forinstance, to hold the historic stuff on past house moves that I don't think I will need again and don't want cluttering up other searches that I make. I also have way too many tags, some starting with non-alpha characters so they sort to the top of the list. Since I'm building a twitter account I have the hashtags of information that I reference as Evernote tags (e.g. '#consumer') so if I get feedback on a subject I can revisit it quickly. I definitely have to sort out my tags - sometime.

However IMHO the most important thing is: once uploaded your data is safely protected at Evernote Towers and you can always resort it in the future when you have the time and inclination to tidy up some more.

Short term, your only priority is to shovel as much of your former and ongoing life as possible into storage using any means available!

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Some of the more important updates to data may be a need to move some items (such as press cuttings) to a separate notebook so they won't contaminate factual searches.

This advice, with a twist, will really help you going forward.

I find that I work best when I have a finite goal. This also applies to "cleaning up" your Evernote notes. Getting all my notes organized is too big a task, and is also a moving target. Getting all my notes organized for a specific topic, e.g. Cooking, is a well defined and achievable task.

My, ongoing, process for this is to:

- Create a new Notebook for all the relevant posts

- Using search, find and move relevant notes to the new notebook

- Take a look at what you have. Try sorting by title, maybe you could improve the note titles to bring similar items together.

- Set "Hide unassigned tags" and see what you are using in this notebook. Think about a few high level tags which would help you find notes in this notebook. Use "Tag Notes" (Ctrl+Alt+T) to quickly assign tags to collections of notes.

When you have a topic under control then take a look at what is left. Pick another big topic, e.g. Applications, Evernote, iPhone tips,.. etc. and repeat the process.

Pretty soon your dog-pile turns into a very usable collection of notes which have been organized in a way that makes sense to you.

And to reiterate the initial advice. You don't have to get it right the first time. Pick a direction and try it. If it doesn't work the first time, try something else. You will still be better off each step along the way.

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Don't mean to intimidate OP but I'm jumping onto the "organize" as you go bandwagon here. Like others, I spend time up front with my notes, being sure to give them accurate titles, tags & "keywords". If your search yields 5 notes & they all have the same title (IE "bathroom light fixtures", you have to spend time looking through them to find the one you're looking for. But if the title defines each note more precisely, you can quickly find the one you're looking for. (IE "master bathroom light fixtures").

Regarding keywords, I often toss in any words that are not already in the note that I think I may use later, when trying to find that note. I occasionally even add in misspellings. If the note is a business card for Joe Shafer, I'll add "Shaeffer, Shaffer" to the note. That way, if I forget how Joe spells his last name, I don't have to do multiple searches looking for it.

IME, taking a minute or two up front, when creating a note often saves at least that much time (often more) when you're looking for the note.

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IME, taking a minute or two up front, when creating a note often saves at least that much time (often more) when you're looking for the note.

Amen.

Though, I often find that appropriate organization is something that needs a bit of time to surface.

IME I tend to collect a lot of related notes in a short period of time. I use a Saved Search "Created since Yesterday" (created:day-1) to review these notes and clean up as appropriate. Seeing these notes in the context of what I have done over the last two days can really clarify relationships.

Sometimes the cleanup includes deleting notes. I err on the side of collecting more information at the start and reviewing later.

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IME I tend to collect a lot of related notes in a short period of time. I use a Saved Search "Created since Yesterday" (created:day-1) to review these notes and clean up as appropriate.

Another good point about EN's strong search functionality. I also create a lot of notes in a short amount of time, often, say when researching something. Since my EN is set up to put screen caps into my current notebook, I've been known to put a screen cap into the wrong notebook (or create a new note in the wrong notebook) b/c I forgot I switched to another notebook to look something up. Very easy to switch to all notebooks & sort either by creation date or update date to find newly created or updated notes.

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New user here and I've come across one good instance when a merge would be in order. I get a pdf'd bill then later the check image showing it paid. Makes sense to merge the two as they are really the same thing. In fact once In other cases, if used the copy note link feature, if it is a central note relating to multiple notes.

Question-

When you merge multiple notes, do ALL of the tags get included into the new note?

Also, which title takes priority?

Thanks-

LB

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Great points above, and I will reiterate the need to just dump it in there. You can sort it out later, but this is the priority.

Some advice based on my experience:

1. Pick a naming pattern. I don't think you can go wrong with "yymmdd" plus a few keywords. You can always change it later.

2. Add some tags. Your life surely has some broad categories. Don't get too specific just yet. Something like professional, personal, record (medical documents, insurance, etc.), receipt, trip, photo, etc.

3. Don't merge notes. I don't see the point, and haven't done it before. Although, I have split notes apart! In general, I figure that every piece of information (however I define that) ought to get its own note. For example, it might make sense for me to have a journal article, my notes about that article, and some notes about the author in that note. However, it makes more sense (imho) to have the journal article in one note (do i need to download it every time?), the notes in another (do i need to chew into my upload limit every time i add information?), and notes on the author somewhere else (the author probably wrote several articles). I'm not saying that merging notes is never good, but with consistent naming, tagging, and mastery of the search options, you can have all of that information "together" on the screen with no problem.

EDIT: I should say how a search would pull up these notes. For me, something like "tag:bibliography tag:text grumpymonkey 2011" would get every journal article/book I have written as well as things like website posts, cvs, or other miscellaneous stuff related to the author or work. If I wanted to focus the search even more, in cases where I have lots of articles and so forth, I could just put in a keyword from the title of the article in question.

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Also, which title takes priority?

On the Windows client, notes are merged in click order. The title & notebook of the resultant note is the title/notebook of the first note clicked. IDK about tags b/c I don't pay particular attention to that part b/c I normally merge notes before tagging. What I mean is the first note has already been assigned an accurate title/notebook & tags. The subsequent notes that I'm merging into it are normally not tagged yet. So if you have tag 1 applied to the 2nd note & it's not assigned to the first note, IDK if tag 1 is then applied to the resultant note. (Hope that makes sense...)

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Actually, it appears in the Mac environment that the combined note takes the title and order of the note which is higher up in the displayed sort, doesn't matter which note you selected first.

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