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shanusmagnus

mac (Archived) Can I _really_ not perform a literal text search?

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In an Evernote note I have pages and pages of text. Within that text I want to find the exact string "goal priming" -- that is, the word goal, a space, and the word priming. Normally (in every other application) one achieves this by typing "goal priming" into a search box, with the double quotes meaning "search for this exact string." For some reason this pattern seems to not function in Evernote, which instead highlights all the instances of the word "goal" and all the instances of the word "priming."

I've used several versions of EN, including the current beta (3.2 b2) I've searched (ha!) both the forums and the wider web, and turned up all kinds of posts on how EN search is broken in one way or the other, across various versions of the application, across various platforms. My sense is that search is a mess; but I can't quite tell if the mess is so profound that one can search notes by the latitude from which they were submitted, but one cannot perform the most basic search imaginable, and look for a literal text string within the body.

Can someone clear this up definitively? Does a literal text search really exceed the technological capacity of Evernote?

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"goal priming" with quotes is fine for searching for the term, as long as it is plain text inside an Evernote note or inside a PDF file.

However, it will not work if the term is inside a Microsoft Word, or Excel file.

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"goal priming" with quotes is fine for searching for the term, as long as it is plain text inside an Evernote note or inside a PDF file.

My target info is plain text. That's not the issue. Try this: create a note with the following content (without the quotes):

"This is a test of a bunch of boring text, and here's a bunch of other stuff, which is also boring."

Go to the search box in the upper right-hand corner and type "bunch of boring text" (with the quotes.)

EN will highlight the words "bunch" "of" "boring" "text" wherever they appear, not just the literal "bunch of boring text." In a large note, this makes it impossible for me to locate the text in question.

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I can confirm similar results in my Mac client (beta). A search for "medieval period" turns up results for both medieval and period in my database. I'll have to try more testing with this, though, because my internal memory (as opposed to my external Evernote memory) tells me that I was getting the correct behavior last time I tried this. On iOS at the moment, so I cannot test now, but I think any search for attributes (like intitle) tends to follow the rules. So, if this is a search discrepancy on the Mac client, it moght be limited to straight searches. I think JMichael and sgscott have done more extensive testing of search behavior on the Mac, so I hope they'll post here about their thoughts.

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EN will highlight the words "bunch" "of" "boring" "text" wherever they appear, not just the literal "bunch of boring text." In a large note, this makes it impossible for me to locate the text in question.

There is no doubt that the EN Search engine has its problems. It is flat broke in some cases, and is inconsistent across platforms in other cases.

The search you are trying to do is a "phrase search", meaning that the search engine should find Notes that contain ONLY the exact phrase. Note that the phrase must start on a word boundary, and include complete words.

I find this works [most of the time]* in EN Mac 3.2.0 Beta 2, in that the correct Notes are found.

However, the text highlighted by the Search in the Note contents is NOT done correctly.

The search highlights each word separately.

So it appears that the Note search almost works correct, but the search highlight is flawed.

*[most of the time] -- by this I mean that Evernote will also include Notes that have the words in the phrase that is separated by punctuation. For example:

Search for: "boring text"

Returns Notes with any of the following:
  1. This is boring text
  2. This person is boring.
    • Text is plain.

In example #1, "boring" and "text" are separated by a space character.

In example #2, "boring" and "text" are separated by a period and a bullet (even more if you look at the HTML code).

I actually had notes with Example #2. In my case I was searching for "ultimate macbook".

So apparently the EN Phrase search is looking for the words in the phase that can be separated by spaces or punctuation.

I don't think this is what most users would expect. IMO, if I type "boring text" in the Search box, EN should return ONLY Notes that have the words "boring" and "text" separated by a space.

This needs to be tested in EN Win and EN Web.

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Thanks JM. I wonder if you had two notes, one with the passage above, and one with boring on one line and text on another (no other text in the note), if both would appear in the search results. That was the kind of behavior I thought I was seeing earlier today with my medieval period example.

If we could narrow down the positive and negative results with variations on searches we might be able to help the developers figure out what could be causing the issue.

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IMO, the EN dev teams need to quit working on new features and UI changes, and focus on making the EN Search engine rock solid and consistent across all platforms.

Without a reliable Search engine, Evernote fails as our external brain. It is as if Evernote has Alzheimer's. The memories are there, we just can't recall them. :(

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IMO, the EN dev teams need to quit working on new features and UI changes, and focus on making the EN Search engine rock solid and consistent across all platforms.

Without a reliable Search engine, Evernote fails as our external brain. It is as if Evernote has Alzheimer's. The memories are there, we just can't recall them. :(

There are idiosyncracies and issues to sort out, as the developers know, but it isn't a debilitating degeneration of our external brains, as your analogy suggests. Most users probably don't even notice. So, it's up to the power users to track down these synapse misfires and point them out for devs. The more information we can provide, the better. I hope the devs don't drop everything to do this! I am still looking forward to some requested features; namely, more of those Windows features :)

I know jbenson has one feature, in particular, that he'd like to see! *** *****!

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There are idiosyncracies and issues to sort out, as the developers know, but it isn't a debilitating degeneration of our external brains, as your analogy suggests. Most users probably don't even notice.

Sorry GM, but I beg to differ.

Frankly, I no longer completely trust EN Search. I don't know what "most" users notice or don't notice, but I suspect it affects them whether or not they know it.

The more notes I enter into EN the more complex searches I need.

I now have to try searching several different ways if I can't find the Note(s) I'm looking for, just to make sure notes aren't missing due to a bug or platform inconsistency.

I just discovered two major search bugs in the last two days.

What scares me the most is I don't know what I don't know.

Who knows how many more bugs are out there?

To me Search is like the "trusted consultant". Once you catch them in a lie, you never fully trust them again.

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Thanks, folks, for confirming that I'm not losing my mind.

The more notes I enter into EN the more complex searches I need.

To me Search is like the "trusted consultant". Once you catch them in a lie, you never fully trust them again.

Agree wholeheartedly with this. I've been using EN for a couple of years now, heavily, with the result that when search doesn't work, it's actually less than useless to me -- not only doesn't it give me what I need, but it actively 'misleads' me. I've been lucky till now, I guess, in that I've just been reading through the notes, instead of needing random access to the salient parts of them. Still, I'm flummoxed as to how what seems to me to be the most fundamental kind of feature -- the ability to find what you've stored -- can be so buggy. I think the Alzheimer's analogy is perfect.

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Thanks, folks, for confirming that I'm not losing my mind.

The more notes I enter into EN the more complex searches I need.

To me Search is like the "trusted consultant". Once you catch them in a lie, you never fully trust them again.

Agree wholeheartedly with this. I've been using EN for a couple of years now, heavily, with the result that when search doesn't work, it's actually less than useless to me -- not only doesn't it give me what I need, but it actively 'misleads' me. I've been lucky till now, I guess, in that I've just been reading through the notes, instead of needing random access to the salient parts of them. Still, I'm flummoxed as to how what seems to me to be the most fundamental kind of feature -- the ability to find what you've stored -- can be so buggy. I think the Alzheimer's analogy is perfect.

I've got about 8,000 notes now. I rarely have difficulty finding what I want with the first search. Of course, I'd like to see the search improved, and we ought to call a spade a spade -- there are search problems (the developers know about some of them) -- but I don't think we should exaggerate the problem. Supply data to the developers whenever you come across an issue, and hopefully we can help improve the performance. I think that is the more constructive approach. JM and others have provided a lot of information, so hopefully we will see improvement over time as bug fixes get implemented.

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I've just discovered a search issue (Evernote Mac 3.1.2) that may be related to this thread, so decided to reply here rather than start a new thread. I often mark important items in my notes to be reviewed/acted upon later with a "**", and apparently these characters (as well as a few others, e.g. "[") are not recognized as text in the search box. (This is when searching within a given document.) Of course, "*" is a wildcard character within the search syntax, but then again one should be able to search even for "*" with proper delimitation!

Ideas welcome.

Thanks,

Jim P.

PS -- Just figured out that I can indeed search for the above via the web interface...may have to do it this way in the meantime...

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I've just discovered a search issue (Evernote Mac 3.1.2) that may be related to this thread, so decided to reply here rather than start a new thread. I often mark important items in my notes to be reviewed/acted upon later with a "**", and apparently these characters (as well as a few others, e.g. "[") are not recognized as text in the search box. (This is when searching within a given document.) Of course, "*" is a wildcard character within the search syntax, but then again one should be able to search even for "*" with proper delimitation!

Ideas welcome.

Thanks,

Jim P.

PS -- Just figured out that I can indeed search for the above via the web interface...may have to do it this way in the meantime...

Hi. I think special characters are treated as punctuation, which is interpreted as white space, so a double asterisk would be seen as a single white space. It isn't a search bug, but a design decision. I could be wrong about this, but that is how I understand it. You can read details of the searches here.

http://dev.evernote.com/documentation/cloud/chapters/search_grammar.php

In order to mark things for later review, I am using the Chinese character 注. I started with ★, but it turns out that Evernote apparently interprets this as white space. It is invisible to the application. An alternative in English would be to come up with some sequence of letters that will stand out. OOO, XXX, or something else like this work as well.

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Yes, this makes sense, though there is no list I can see of what they count as "punctuation."

Just tried all opt-characters, and the only ones that return unique in-text search results are opt-f (ƒ), opt-q (œ), and opt-z (Ω). All others are either counted as punctuation, or are included in search with non-option characters (e.g., search for ø includes all instances of o). So, I guess I get to figure out how to do a search-and-replace with one of these outside of Evernote, then copy back to Evernote! (Ideas welcome.)

Thanks,

Jim

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Yes, this makes sense, though there is no list I can see of what they count as "punctuation."

That's why I am guessing. I actually don't know that this is what Evernote is doing, but that is how I interpret the API and behavior I am seeing in the app.

Just tried all opt-characters, and the only ones that return unique in-text search results are opt-f (ƒ), opt-q (œ), and opt-z (Ω). All others are either counted as punctuation, or are included in search with non-option characters (e.g., search for ø includes all instances of o).

I have found the same thing (I use a bunch of macrons).

So, I guess I get to figure out how to do a search-and-replace with one of these outside of Evernote, then copy back to Evernote! (Ideas welcome.)

Ouch! How many notes are we talking about, and why are you needing to search and replace?

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Not too many notes, but want to make my "check this later" or "act on this" notations are consistent across notes. When I copy into e.g. BBEdit, of course, the HTML is not preserved; other text editor ideas welcome.

Jim

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