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JMichaelTX

(Archived) ISSUE: All Search Terms Entered by User Changed Internally to Increase Scope to "Starts with"

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Issue: Evernote modifies what you type in the Search box to effectively add an asterisk, which changes the scope of the search from an "exact match" of your term to "starts with".

The Evernote Search Grammar states that whatever string is provided to the Search engine requires an exact match. At some unknown, unannounced, time in the past, Evernote changed the behavior of how all EN Clients behave to make what you type to mean "starts with".

I understand the benefit of this for some use cases.

However, it has some unintended consequences. We are now unable to search for an exact match.

The more Notes you have, the bigger the impact this will have on you.

For example, I you want to find notes that contain a persons name, say, "Gene", then you would type into the Search Box:

gene

Unfortunately this finds notes with any word that begins with "gene":

  • general
  • generation
  • generator
  • genetics
  • etc

So, your search may return many more Notes than you expect, making it harder to find the one (or the few) you are looking for.

This is greatly compounded by the presence of PDF attachments in your notes.

PDF files can be hundreds of pages, with thousands, even tens of thousands of words.

But, you can't easily see all of these PDF pages.

So, you don't know if just "gene" was found somewhere, or if it is a false positive of words that start with "gene".

Those of us that have been using computers for years have learned (been taught by experience) that when you are searching for a term, you need to ADD an "*" to the end of the term to match all terms that start with what you type.

In my opinion it is easy enough to type one character * when you want to extend the scope from an exact match to starts with.

The current behavior is confusing and inconsistent.

When you enter an operator in the search box, then it looks ONLY for an exact match.

For example, if I typed "tag:gene" then it would find ONLY those Notes with a tag of exactly "gene".

It would be much simpler to remember one rule for all cases: exact match unless you add an *

So, I would like to request that Evernote change the EN client behavior to be an "exact match" unless the user types an asterisk at the end of the term.

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However, it has some unintended consequences. We are now unable to search for an exact match.

"gene"

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in my experience with search (google, for example) you need quotation marks to indicate an exact search. by changing evernote's search, they have brought it more closely in line with other search applications, right?

the issue, then, is in the api documentation, not in evernote.

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The problem is that a Google search of web pages and a defined database search (Evernote) are two totally different things.

What we are seeing is a dumbing down of search capability to the lowest common denominator: a simple text string.

With Google, there are no database fields to specify/search. You are searching a very, very broad dataset: all public web pages in the world!

When you are searching a database like Evernote, you are looking for data that you have put into the database with some specificity. Therefore the DB fields become important metadata to search for.

In all of the database apps I have ever used, the default for searching for text is an exact match. You need to add a wildcard to match any/all characters after the text to type.

Based on the changes Evernote has made over the last few months, it is becoming clear (to me) that Evernote is targeting users with minimal computer skills, and is dumbing down or simplifying the UI so that pretty much anyone can use it without any documentation or training. I believe that is the motivation for the new multi-note UI and the opposition to providing true Boolean searches. I don't mind providing a simple UI as long as it does not reduce the power available to more advanced users.

An interesting side note. Maybe Evernote is thinking like Apple when they designed the iPad OS: It is mainly for people who never get, or don't want to get, even the basics of how a computer OS works. There is no file system to worry about. In fact Steve Jobs said something to the effect that the iPad is designed so that the user becomes totally immersed in the app they are using, becoming unaware of that they are even holding a computer. The app becomes like a high-tech car that, although highly automated, all the driver is aware of is the sensation of driving, not knowing about, nor caring about, the many computer chips behind the scenes.

For most people, that is all they want -- to just drive the car from point A to point B.

For some of us, we want much more control. We want to take the car through its paces. We want to control how the car responds, changing from 2-wheel to 4-wheel drive when we want. The important part for us is the trip, not the destination.

In defense of Evernote's approach, I can understand that most users probably don't want to have to think about how to compose a good search query. They don't even want to take the time to use a well-designed query builder. They just want something quick and simple like Google, not knowing, or caring, that with just a little bit more effort they could get much better results.

Don't misunderstand me. I love Google. It is the most incredible search engine ever developed. But there is much, much more to Google search than a simple text search. Before Google, web searches were almost worthless. These were also using simple text searches.

So now, when most Evernote users have less than 10,000 notes, and no one has more than 100,000 notes, the simple text search appears to work well. Fast forward to 10-20 years from now when many, many users have well over 100,000 notes. How well will a simple text search work then, especially one that automatically searches for matches that "start with" rather than an "exact match"?

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in my experience with search (google, for example) you need quotation marks to indicate an exact search. by changing evernote's search, they have brought it more closely in line with other search applications, right?

the issue, then, is in the api documentation, not in evernote.

GM, I was just looking at your public shared NB. Well done!

I'm sure a lot of people will find it helpful.

I did notice one problem I think with use of the Wild Card with Searches.

If I am reading your NB right, you indicate that you have to add an asterisk to find text that starts with the Search expression.

As I noted at the beginning of this thread, that is not the case.

Searching for [japan] and [japan*] matches the same text. (square brackets denote the search expression)

Quote from your Shared Notebook:

Basic Wildcard Searches

You can use the asterisk (*) as a wildcard at the end of a word in order to tell Evernote that it needs to look for everything beginning with the letters you entered (you cannot use a wildcard at the beginning of a term). For example, let's say you are taking a class on Japan, and you want to see notes about it. Of course, you may also want notes with the word "Japanese," "Japan's," etc. to appear. This is where the wildcard can come in handy.

  • japan
    matches "Japan," but none of the others.
  • japan*
    matches "Japan," "Japanese," "Japan's," etc.

Advanced Wildcard Searches

Let's say that you have taken notes on a few dozen books about Japan, but you only want to see the ones you read in 2011 for your classes or papers. Assuming you have followed a system

similar to mine, with the YYMMDD in the title of each note, you could do the following search:

  • 110101 japan
    matches any note with the date 110101 and japan contained in it.
  • 11* japan*
    matches any note containing any word beginning with "11" and any word beginning with "japan".
  • intitle:11* japan*
    matches any note with a title containing any word beginning with "11," and a word anywhere inside the note beginning with "japan" (I'll write more about the "intitle" search operand in another post).

Let's say you have a bunch of projects going on at once, and you want to be able to just focus on the ones going on right now. You could assign numbers to all of the projects (01, 02, 03, etc.) and make sure to put the names in the titles without spaces (Project01, Project02, etc.). You could do the following search:

  • intitle:Project2*
    matches any note with a title containing a word beginning with "Project2". In other words, all of the projects with numbers in the twenties or two-hundreds would appear.
  • intitle:Project2* intitle:1202*
    matches any note with a title containing a word beginning with "Project2" and a word beginning with "1202". If you are beginning all of your notes with YYMMDD, then this will return all of the notes for projects 20-29 that you are working on in February.

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in my experience with search (google, for example) you need quotation marks to indicate an exact search. by changing evernote's search, they have brought it more closely in line with other search applications, right?

the issue, then, is in the api documentation, not in evernote.

GM, I was just looking at your public shared NB. Well done!

I'm sure a lot of people will find it helpful.

I did notice one problem I think with use of the Wild Card with Searches.

If I am reading your NB right, you indicate that you have to add an asterisk to find text that starts with the Search expression.

As I noted at the beginning of this thread, that is not the case.

Searching for [japan] and [japan*] matches the same text. (square brackets denote the search expression)

Quote from your Shared Notebook:

Basic Wildcard Searches

You can use the asterisk (*) as a wildcard at the end of a word in order to tell Evernote that it needs to look for everything beginning with the letters you entered (you cannot use a wildcard at the beginning of a term). For example, let's say you are taking a class on Japan, and you want to see notes about it. Of course, you may also want notes with the word "Japanese," "Japan's," etc. to appear. This is where the wildcard can come in handy.

  • japan
    matches "Japan," but none of the others.
  • japan*
    matches "Japan," "Japanese," "Japan's," etc.

Advanced Wildcard Searches

Let's say that you have taken notes on a few dozen books about Japan, but you only want to see the ones you read in 2011 for your classes or papers. Assuming you have followed a system

similar to mine, with the YYMMDD in the title of each note, you could do the following search:

  • 110101 japan
    matches any note with the date 110101 and japan contained in it.
  • 11* japan*
    matches any note containing any word beginning with "11" and any word beginning with "japan".
  • intitle:11* japan*
    matches any note with a title containing any word beginning with "11," and a word anywhere inside the note beginning with "japan" (I'll write more about the "intitle" search operand in another post).

Let's say you have a bunch of projects going on at once, and you want to be able to just focus on the ones going on right now. You could assign numbers to all of the projects (01, 02, 03, etc.) and make sure to put the names in the titles without spaces (Project01, Project02, etc.). You could do the following search:

  • intitle:Project2*
    matches any note with a title containing a word beginning with "Project2". In other words, all of the projects with numbers in the twenties or two-hundreds would appear.
  • intitle:Project2* intitle:1202*
    matches any note with a title containing a word beginning with "Project2" and a word beginning with "1202". If you are beginning all of your notes with YYMMDD, then this will return all of the notes for projects 20-29 that you are working on in February.

thanks for the kimd words and the suggestion for improvement. ithis was my understanding of the usage and api when i wrote it, but either i misunderstood, or something changed (it seems to be the latter). i was planning to write about more searches, but i have come to realize that the behavior is inconsistent across platforms, i used to use the wildcard a lot, but not as much anymore, because (as you noted), it doesn't seem necessary anymore. i'd rather spread no information than wrong information, so i will probably get rid of the post at some point.

more problematic for me, though, is that asian text searches return inconsistent results. it is rather frustrating. and as one user posted a while back, may be related to punctuation.

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but i have come to realize that the behavior is inconsistent across platforms,

Agreed. Plus the numerous Search bugs makes it a real challenge.

Evernote Search has kind of become like a wayward son -- I still love it, but don't trust it as much any more. ;)

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