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other (Archived) Organizational Structure in the Stack/Notebook/Tag Ecosystem

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I recently took a fresh look at how to organize my Evernote into Stack/Notebook/Tag. I couldn't find a good solution to fit my organizational needs.

Use Case:

Food
stack containing
Recipe
and
Restaurant
notebooks.

Food

Recipe

Restaurant

Q: Where do I put a note titled "Food to Eat Before I Die"?

Possible Solutions:
  • Make "Food" a notebook and organize everything in a flat structure with tags
  • New notebook under "Food"
  • Make "Food" a tag and create new stack/notebook structure
  • NEW FEATURE: Allow Note Stacks to contain notes.
  • Open to suggestions :)

ATM I am using a notebook called
Food
which is part of the
Food
stack. This is how I am storing notes as part of a stack while not necessarily tied to a uniquely named notebook.

Food

Food

Recipe

Restaurant

I think that this solution leaves a lot to be desired since almost all of my stacks are going to require a generic 'self-titled' notebook inside of them. I'm accustomed to the GMail way of organization (labels). Do any experienced Evernoter's have advice on how to organize a note specific to a stack rather than a notebook?

Research Links:

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I do not use Stacks and Notebooks with the same name. I would change the stack name to Cuisine or something similar.

If I was doing this for personal use only, my preference would be to:

Make "Food" a notebook and organize everything in a flat structure with tags (along with well-structured titles)

If I was doing this for professional use (food critic, restaurant reviewer, chef), more notebooks might be helpful.

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I would use tags myself: a tag for "Food", a tag for "Life-Goal". Store it in whatever notebook you choose.

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After doing some more research I found out about tag grouping. This seems to be a good solution for my organization habits. Notebooks/Stacks don't offer many advantages over tagging for free users. I'm referencing the "make available offline" and "share" notebook-level settings mentioned

here.

As I mentioned before, I am more accustomed to the GMail labelling process. The tagging philosophy falls closer to this system. It seems this is a common trend.

References:

Extra kudos to the following contributors for answering almost every related question I found useful. Thank you very much

:)

Interesting how many people are making little use of stacks/notebooks in favour of labels/label grouping. Probably yet another case of "The Organism Will Do Whatever It Damn Well Pleases"

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As I mentioned before, I am more accustomed to the GMail labelling process. The tagging philosophy falls closer to this system. It seems this is a common trend.

Correct. Tags (Evernote) / labels (Gmail) / categories (MS Outlook) -- these allow flexible organization, as compared to rigid hierarchies.

Interesting how many people are making little use of stacks/notebooks in favour of labels/label grouping.

I can't judge how many people are using which method. I use a little bit of both, but mostly tagging.

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In your particular example, just make a separate Tag "Food to Eat Before I Die" and that'd be it... simple, eh? You could also organise it as a sub-tag of "food" tag or whatever.

I personally wouldn't even use multiple tags as jeffito suggested

a tag for "Food", a tag for "Life-Goal"

First of all because I don't need a "life goal" as a separate tag.

It's best to use a single tag for a single list/topic because it's just easier. It's easier to add and it's easier to access later on. I already have some similar Tags, for example I use a Tag "books to read" and so on. I don't use separate "books" and "goal" or "to read" tags because that'd just make it harder to access this list later on.

Tags are better for organisation than notebooks because each note can have multiple tags.

Using separate notebooks is still useful in some cases. For example using an "inbox" notebook as a default notebook for new notes and a "processed" notebook for organised notes...

But other than that you don't even need to use multiple notebooks at all, everything could be organized in a single notebook and multiple different tags. There is nothing you can do with notebooks which couldn't also be done with tags except sharing notes and storing notes locally with local notebooks.

Organise each note with tags in as many ways as possible. The more "places" you put the note in, the easier it is to find it later. But give up control... Use only as many/little tags as you need, you don't want to be wasting time by trying to define all possible ways to organise each note in Evernote.

Here's for example an article I've just saved:

8305199675_604e47dfcf_b.jpg

I don't use this many tags often. I usually use 1-3 tags.

However health is my area of interest and I have several hundreds of notes related to this topic and its sub-topics and so I used 8 tags in this case because I already had all of those tags before and I already had notes related to all of those sub-topics.

And btw organising notes with tags and organising tags themselves are two separate topics... Here's how I organise tags:

Hopefully this makes sense. :)

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Organise each note with tags in as many ways as possible. The more "places" you put the note in, the easier it is to find it later. But give up control... Use only as many/little tags as you need, you don't want to be wasting time by trying to define all possible ways to organise each note in Evernote.

I agree with this philosophy completely.

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Organise each note with tags in as many ways as possible. The more "places" you put the note in, the easier it is to find it later. But give up control... Use only as many/little tags as you need, you don't want to be wasting time by trying to define all possible ways to organise each note in Evernote.

I agree with this philosophy completely.

But one thing about that -- remember that plain old text search will turn up general terms like "starch", etc. You may not need so many tags -- that leads to tag management issues, a problem of a different sort.

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Yes, in my case "starch" is a separate topic that I'm interested in and I might continue collecting information about it, so I used a separate tag to highlight it as a separate topic. Maybe I don't need this tag, but I just use whatever makes sense in the moment. I haven't had any problems with this approach.

You may not need so many tags -- that leads to tag management issues, a problem of a different sort.

I don't have any problems with tag management at all whatsoever.I keep all tags in Evernote in a completely flat list and then usually just search for tags. And when I want to organise some of my tags into some browsable hierarchical or non-hierarchical structure which makes sense to me, I use a separate mind map outside of Evernote, this way I avoid any of the limitations of the Tag list on iPad and also get more functionality.

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I wrote a guest blog post on Daniel Gold's Productivity web site on using Tags effectively with Evernote, especially when it comes to trying to find notes far in the future when the landscape of your memory has radically changed:

5 Step Plan To Better Document Tagging

The methods described are not for everyone, but perhaps you will find something useful in the post.

Since life is not very much fun without an opposing viewpoint, here is an excellent post on the same site from our very own GrumpyMonkey on how he organizes his notes with Evernote:

How a PhD student uses Evernote to organize his life - with one notebook!

He was once an avid Tagger and then went to a virtually Tag-free lifestyle. He is now a self-proclaimed minimalist who takes his organizational inspiration from Noguchi Yukio. (see the post for more details).

Those of us in Tagdom will welcome him back openly after his return from the Dark Side of the Force. :)

Disclaimer: I'm a Tag devotee and have over 4,000 Tags.

-- roschler

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Those of us in Tagdom will welcome him back openly after his return from the Dark Side of the Force. :)

Tags are very cool, and I recommend them to people all the time (http://www.princeton.edu/~cmayo/evernote-tag.html), but despite trying in recent months with the Windows client to make a go of them again, I still cannot see them as worth the effort for my particular use case.

I have a handful I use to test out stuff in the betas, so they aren't really ones I actually use on a regular basis, and they don't really count. I do have one tag, though, I might end up keeping!

I extracted all of the text from my OCR'd PDFs and put that into Evernote (a couple thousand notes). I tagged them all "library," because these are mainly journal articles, books, and so forth by other people (not "my" memories). I sometimes do find it useful to do a -tag:library search. Will I keep my tag? I don't know. Maybe :)

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I extracted all of the text from my OCR'd PDFs and put that into Evernote (a couple thousand notes).

Yikes! How long did that take? Did you also make corrections to the reco'd text on the way? Sounds like a big job.

-- roschler

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I extracted all of the text from my OCR'd PDFs and put that into Evernote (a couple thousand notes).

Yikes! How long did that take? Did you also make corrections to the reco'd text on the way? Sounds like a big job.

-- roschler

It took a few minutes (Automator on the Mac). No corrections -- some of this OCR'd stuff is really bad, and search results have to be taken with a grain of salt, especially with the Asian character materials. Actually, quite a simple job, though. I now have arguably one of the most comprehensive digital libraries in the world on my research topic, and if I get a hit on something in Evernote, I can open up the original PDF in Dropbox to read more there (no worries about garbled text with the PDF image).

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Excellent. Automator sounds like a great tool. What database field is the OCR'd text stored in?

It's funny that so much of it had to be OCR'd unless you are referring to images embedded in the PDF's being OCR'd as opposed to the actual PDF text. The reason I say that is because as you know Evernote does incorporate the Foxit PDF filter so I would think that there should not be a need to OCR most PDF documents, that Evernote would just extract the text instead.

-- roschler

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Excellent. Automator sounds like a great tool. What database field is the OCR'd text stored in?

It's funny that so much of it had to be OCR'd unless you are referring to images embedded in the PDF's being OCR'd as opposed to the actual PDF text. The reason I say that is because as you know Evernote does incorporate the Foxit PDF filter so I would think that there should not be a need to OCR most PDF documents, that Evernote would just extract the text instead.

-- roschler

I OCR everything I scan before I put it into Evernote. This enables me to use Spotlight on my computer to search in the PDFs, allows cut/paste, and allows me to jump directly to the search hits within the extracted text of a PDF (a huge help on the iPad). There are more benefits, but you get the idea. In addition, many of my PDFs fall outside of the Evernote OCR parameters, so Evernote will not OCR them.

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Disclaimer: I'm a Tag devotee and have over 4,000 Tags.

-- roschler

How many notes do you have?

I have only about 500 tags per 20 000 notes, I probably won't reach 4000 tags even with 100 000 notes :)

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Hello May,

4000 notes. About 1 tag per note. :)

-- roschler

Wow... That sounds like a lot of work!

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Yes, in my case "starch" is a separate topic that I'm interested in and I might continue collecting information about it, so I used a separate tag to highlight it as a separate topic. Maybe I don't need this tag, but I just use whatever makes sense in the moment. I haven't had any problems with this approach.

You may not need so many tags -- that leads to tag management issues, a problem of a different sort.

I don't have any problems with tag management at all whatsoever.I keep all tags in Evernote in a completely flat list and then usually just search for tags. And when I want to organise some of my tags into some browsable hierarchical or non-hierarchical structure which makes sense to me, I use a separate mind map outside of Evernote, this way I avoid any of the limitations of the Tag list on iPad and also get more functionality.

The idea is that tags, which have abundant utility, as I've posted about many times, are not always necessary to find and categorize Evernote users' notes. Sometimes simple text search will suffice just as well. For those people who don't want to manage their notes *and* their tags (4000 tags sounds a lot to me, I use about 200 myself), it may be an exercise in overkill. Not for you, obviously, but there's a spectrum of usage available here.

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Yes, it's a good point. However in practice plain text searches are usually a lot slower and a lot less accurate... Actually here's an example with "starch":

Plain text search gives me 68 notes, most of them are irrelevant, they're actually not about starch at all:

8310022029_5a43c32121_b.jpg

Search for a Tag on the other hand gives me only 3 notes which are focused exactly on the topic:

8310022297_19e87a274e_b.jpg

Of course both searches are useful in different cases.

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The idea is that tags, which have abundant utility, as I've posted about many times, are not always necessary to find and categorize Evernote users' notes. Sometimes simple text search will suffice just as well. For those people who don't want to manage their notes *and* their tags (4000 tags sounds a lot to me, I use about 200 myself), it may be an exercise in overkill. Not for you, obviously, but there's a spectrum of usage available here.

@Jefito,

I'm a developer and I tag hundreds of programming, technology, and other high tech articles. Programming and other technical documents frequently are of the nature where there aren't a few keywords that you can use as "hooks" to remember the article. Instead of having an easy noun or phrase to grab hold of (E.g. - "Symantec", "Anti-virus software", etc.), you have tons of documents where the key concepts are usually represented by phrases consisting of very common words. If I don't tag them heavily it's nearly impossible to retrieve them since any typical text search using the common words that comprise the phrases that describe the concept(s) involved yields a ton of noise. That is why I learned/created the techniques I mention in my tagging techniques article. Without doing this, my note store would be useless.

@May,

Yes, it's a good point. However in practice plain text searches are usually a lot slower and a lot less accurate... Actually here's an example with "starch": ... Plain text search gives me 68 notes, most of them are irrelevant, they're actually not about starch at all:

My point exactly. :)

-- roschler

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The idea is that tags, which have abundant utility, as I've posted about many times, are not always necessary to find and categorize Evernote users' notes. Sometimes simple text search will suffice just as well. For those people who don't want to manage their notes *and* their tags (4000 tags sounds a lot to me, I use about 200 myself), it may be an exercise in overkill. Not for you, obviously, but there's a spectrum of usage available here.

I'm a developer and I tag hundreds of programming, technology, and other high tech articles. Programming and other technical documents frequently are of the nature where there aren't a few keywords that you can use as "hooks" to remember the article. Instead of having an easy noun or phrase to grab hold of (E.g. - "Symantec", "Anti-virus software", etc.), you have tons of documents where the key concepts are usually represented by phrases consisting of very common words. If I don't tag them heavily it's nearly impossible to retrieve them since any typical text search using the common words that comprise the phrases that describe the concept(s) involved yields a ton of noise. That is why I learned/created the techniques I mention in my tagging techniques article. Without doing this, my note store would be useless.

I'm a developer too, don't forget, and a lot of my Evernote notes are clipped development articles. I tag these very generally, something like [software][Development][Windows][C++]. That's usually enough to narrow things down to where a text search will help. For example, the other day I wanted to find some information on "non-virtual interface", a C++ idiom that I wanted a refresher on. Since it's often referred to as "NVI" A search on "nvi tag:C++" was enough to locate three clipped articles, two of which were exactly relevant (the other was apparently an OCR whoopsie). A search on ""non-virtual interface" tag:c++" worked similarly. No problem there. BTW, the "C++" is necessarily a tag, because of the Evernote limitation on searching for punctuation in text searches. Also, tags like "Windows" and "Software" are pretty general, so can be used in other contexts. My approach tends to be pretty general rather than specific; a smallish number of primitives to get me in the right area, then I can dig if I need to.

But that's just me. As I said, there's a range of usage available. I'm not particularly interested in spending a lot of time tagging and curating a lot of tags. But since you can have up to 10,000 tags (at last count), your approach is certainly an allowed choice. If it's working for you, then that's as it should be. If mine wasn't working for me, I'd figure out what did work, and do that.

Anyways, I hadn't read your article before, but I'll check it out.

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While trying to arrange all of the thoughts and references regarding this subject I made a rough summary of a few of your organizational structures. This is might be wrong so feel free to correct me.

Minimalism - GrumpMonkey

Title

  • Structure note title as: YYMMDD keyword keyword keyword

Reference

Hierarchical Tagging - jbenson2

Parent Tag

  • Full word defining concept/category

Child Tag

  • Nested under parent tag.
  • Name is prefix of parent tag

Eg.

Science

Sci - Physics

Sci - Chemistry

Sci - Biology

Reference

Flat Tagging - May

Tag

  • No hierarchy (external to Evernote if any)
  • Many tags per note

Reference (from this page)

My conclusion has been to try experimenting with a combination of minimalism and flat tagging. Thanks again for all of your input :)

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Hello Jefito,

I'm a developer too, don't forget,

Actually I never knew that. What kind of development do you do (application segment, etc.)?

Since it's often referred to as "NVI" A search on "nvi tag:C++" was enough to locate three clipped articles

Right those too are easy for me to find. Some examples ("genetic programming", "BeginInvoke" (.NET CLR Runtime method name), etc.)

For a great example of the more difficult search targets, how about code snippets or for example an article describing a particular technique for array manipulation? I have a vast number of such documents and like any document that describes a process or technique that doesn't have a popular and unique name (E.g. - Taguchi technique), you're snookered if you don't have set of lateral tags that occupy the periphery of the target document(s) conceptually when you go searching.

-- roschler

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While trying to arrange all of the thoughts and references regarding this subject I made a rough summary of a few of your organizational structures. This is might be wrong so feel free to correct me.

Minimalism - GrumpMonkey

Title

  • Structure note title as: YYMMDD keyword keyword keyword

Reference

Hierarchical Tagging - jbenson2

Parent Tag

  • Full word defining concept/category

Child Tag

  • Nested under parent tag.
  • Name is prefix of parent tag

Eg.

Science

Sci - Physics

Sci - Chemistry

Sci - Biology

Reference

Flat Tagging - May

Tag

  • No hierarchy (external to Evernote if any)
  • Many tags per note

Reference (from this page)

My conclusion has been to try experimenting with a combination of minimalism and flat tagging. Thanks again for all of your input :)

Great job pulling all of this together! Thanks :)

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I'm a developer too, don't forget,

Actually I never knew that. What kind of development do you do (application segment, etc.)?

Thought that my geekiness on the search grammar stuff would be a giveaway. :)

I've been programming professionally for nearly 30 years now, mainly application development of various kinds in the Microsoft world, DOS in the early days, Windows later on; word processing, 3D CAD, and a lot of mapping. C early on, moving into C++, which it mainly is now. Some database work, a lot of graphics & UI, and some computer language implementation.

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While trying to arrange all of the thoughts and references regarding this subject I made a rough summary of a few of your organizational structures. This is might be wrong so feel free to correct me.

I think you forgot:

Ad Hoc - jefito

Descriptive

  • descriptive tagging ("tags are adjectives")
  • tags are general terms that are combined
  • hierarchical tag tree for convenience rather than strict classification (since tags used are unique and cannot exist in multiple places in the tree)
  • searches augmented with other search terms, mainly text

:)

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Ad Hoc - jefito

Descriptive

  • descriptive tagging ("tags are adjectives")
  • tags are general terms that are combined
  • hierarchical tag tree for convenience rather than strict classification (since tags used are unique and cannot exist in multiple places in the tree)
  • searches augmented with other search terms, mainly text

Sorry for missing you jefito :P Do you have a reference/example?

Also the specific qualities which I am trying to document are what features of Evernote (stack, notebook, note title, tag, etc.) are being used for organization. If I am interpreting correctly, your strategy involves little to no use of stack/notebook organization. It is closer to hierarchical tagging, however it does not enforce strict tagging naming convention such as jbenson2.

I find the "adjective tags" are a distinct quality. I make use of 'funny' and 'educational' as adjective tags. Are the majority of your tags adjectives as compared to nouns? If not then what is the distinction between your method and the 'hierarchical tagging' i've defined above?

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OK, here goes:

Tags; the main organizational facility:

I call them adjectival, though that's not strictly true, as most of them are nouns, since they tend to serve as attributes describing the note content; an article describing, say, database development could have the tag "Database". I call them adjectival because they describe the note content. I also have tags that are straight-up adjectives, e.g. "Interesting". They are all pretty much just descriptive -- and general -- terms. You must combine them with other tags to get more specificity of meaning.

Because tags are just labels, you can overload tags with different meanings, dependent on context, just as we can with normal words (English language assumed). For example, the tag "Graphics" could apply to graphics programming, or graphical images. Actual meaning is generally determined by other tags, e.g., an article about graphics development would usually be tagged as [software][Development][Graphics].

I do maintain a tree structure for my tags, but it's pretty loose as opposed strictly hierarchical (which I believe is impossible in my system, because of the uniqueness rule and my overloading of the same tag to mean different things). With hierarchical tagging, as I understand it, you encode context into the tag name, and therefore can create unique tags wherever you need them, so you can actually create strict hierarchies of tags, if you want, and you can also take advantage of the prefix trick to do wildcard tag searches that reflect the hierarchy.

Notebooks:

I use notebooks, but not many of them. There are a few situations where you must organize via notebook:
  • When sharing a set of notes with someone else, a notebook is probably the best way. I have a few of these, mainly for testing purposes.
  • Also, to keep notes local to your desktop client, you need a notebook (Evernote local notebook).
  • And to keep notes available on a mobile device when the device is offline, you need a notebook (Evernote offline notebook).

Aside from those uses, I maintain a main notebook and a couple work notebooks (one for each job I have worked since I started using Evernote); the vast majority of my notes are in these notebooks. Also, I have a notebook for a few note templates, so that I can keep these separate from actual content-bearing notes. And a notebook that is where notes that cannot be tagged up front go, like notes from IFTTT, or auto-forwarded from GMail. These are isolated so that I can go through them every so often for purposes of tagging and assigning ultimate notebook.

Stacks:

I have a few, mainly for gross organizational purposes. But since I have so few notebooks, I don't need many stacks: on for notebooks I have joined, One for notebooks I have shared to others, and one for Archives (the notebook associated with my old job lives there).

Others: Note title - I don't often do much with these, nothing systematic anyways. Created/Updated dates: don't do much with these, either.

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@jefito - Ok given you're most recent post I would classify it as similar to my section on Hierarchical Tagging except much more loose.

Loose Hierarchical Tagging - jefito

Tag

  • Structured into loose hierarchy
  • Tags can be overloaded with different meanings
    • Eg. graphics can be referencing graphical images or graphical programming. Multiple tags must be used to further reduce the graphics tag to better context.

    [*]Lookups are performed with multiple tag and text search criteria

I'm leaving out notebooks/stacks because aren't the primary organizational feature. I'm sure many of the other architectures I listed also make use of separate notebooks to define localization. How is that?

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