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(Archived) Tagging advice

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1. Is the idea to add enough tags so you never have to go through your list of notebooks and notes on the lefthand side, and you can instead just use the search field at the top?

2. Why would you add keywords to a notebook? Wouldn't you just add them to the notes within the notebooks?

Thanks in advance.

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Some experienced users have very few notebooks, no tags, no keyword in the note, just very descriptive titles for each note. Others have a LOT of tags because they act like folders and files in the old tree system - use one tag for a general subject, and others for more specific topics, then use a combination of tags to find your required information. It very much depends on what works for you, and exactly what you're going to use Evernote for. Best advice - start small and experiment. You'll soon see what works best.

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1. If you put keywords into the titles of a note, is there any advantage to also using the same keywords as tags? Evernote will find a note whether the title has the word "list" in it or a tag of "list" right (list is just an example in this case)?

2. I'm not clear on what you meant by "- use one tag for a general subject, and others for more specific topics, then use a combination of tags to find your required information."

If I have a notebook called "Work Projects" and separate notes within this notebook, of "Website Project" "Video Project" "Committee Work" "Grant Research" How might you suggest I use tagging?

Thanks!

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I'd start with the titles. Descriptive titles (see my website in the signature below) can be very useful -- in my case, so useful I don't rely on tags or notebooks for organizing. However, I am lazy :)

I think my approach may be a little extreme, and i expect most people will prefer a mix of tags, notebooks, titles, note links, and search filtering for metadata.

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1. Is the idea to add enough tags so you never have to go through your list of notebooks and notes on the lefthand side, and you can instead just use the search field at the top?

2. Why would you add keywords to a notebook? Wouldn't you just add them to the notes within the notebooks?

Thanks in advance.

Hmm, I wasn't aware Notebooks themselves could take 'tags', only the notes themselves. Perhaps this is a difference between OS? I am a Mac operator, and perhaps this is an option in Windows?

As far as the rest of your question, I agree with the others - it all depends on how you operate. I will use my most recent experience as an example, but please keep in mind, I am completely new to this (in comparison to most on this forum).

SO, one of my little OCD projects is to create and keep a list of wines I buy to add to my "wine cellar", and then make notes on whether I liked the wine or not when I get around to opening the bottle. @Gazumped gave me the brilliant idea of creating a Notebook solely for the purpose of this - which seems so logical when you think about it. This is how I've organized it:

  • each wine gets it's own Note entry within my "wine cellar" notebook, titled "Winery - Grape Type - Sub-Type" (sub-type is for things like "Reserve", "Frisante", etc.)
  • each note gets the obvious tag of "wine" (for those times when I want to scan all notes across all notebooks), as well as a tag for the "type" ("cabsauv", "sauvblanc", "fristante", etc.) so if I one day decide I'm in the mood for a particular wine, I can easily pull up all my notes on that type
  • within the body of the note itself, I insert a photo (because I'm a visual person) and add any other necessary notations

With all of that being said, I will probably then add tags of "1", "2", etc. for my rating of the wine, again for ease of pulling up later (say I am making a white sangria, so I don't want to get top of the line, but I want something middle of the road - or I am getting a present for someone, and a wine stands out on the shelf, then I can quickly cross reference to see if I have already tried that wine and what rating I gave it).

Why all this tagging for me? Because, as an almost-veteran Tumblr user, I have found tags are essential (for my particular organized mind) in finding old things I have noted. The trick is to tag just enough for what your needs are - over-tagging, the likes you see on Instagram, only leads to needless jumble in your life later on. So in Tumblr I have things organized to such tags as "photography", "tableware", "illustration", "technology", "video", so if I ever go "Oh, there was that thing I posted about a year ago, it was so cool, where is it?" I can find it based on the tag hierarchy.

Because EN remembers your tags, this makes adding old tags to new notes easy - even if at first you cannot remember what notation you made ("sauvblanc" for example).

So that was my long answer. My short answer is it is completely up to you how you choose to use the tagging feature. Just make sure you're not wasting time now creating tags you will never utilize, and on the other end of the spectrum, make sure you don't have to spend time later tagging old notes just so you can find what you're looking for.

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I'm just learning to tag as I am slowly moving from my old hierarchall way of thinking. There were two things that made my realize I had to embrace tagging.

1. Tags allow you to find a note or picture in more than one way.

2. Tags can give you a narrower focus on a search than a straight text search.

For #1, let's say I find a cool new freeware outlining tool (something I looked for recently). When I clip it to Evernote in Web Clipper, I might use tags like "outlining," "software," "freeware," "writing," and "organizing" Later on, if I am going to write an article about freeware tools or writing tools, the outlining software web site would show up in either search.

For #2, lets say I am looking for a speaker to come and speak at a conference I am organizing. My text search for "speakers" would also include the research on computer speakers I did. But if I had a tag specifically for "speakers-trainers" then only the right type would show up.

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@MediaFred,

I think the easiest line that can be drawn is between retrieving and cataloging or said differently, being a hoarder or a librarian. If you just want to use Evernote as a giant info repository and your retrieval operations are strictly the "just find it" kind, you can easily get by with little or no tags at all thanks to Evernote's comprehensive search. If however you want to be able to filter your searches easily by a particular trait or topic, or if you have a need for maintaining your information in a manner akin to a catalog, then tags become an invaluable tool. After a month or two of usage you'll find out pretty quickly whether or not you need them. However, if you are sure up front that you are a librarian and not just a hoarder and you create notes frequently (something that happens blindingly fast if you use the web clipper a lot), you'll save yourself a massive, tedious headache later on by tagging now rather than going back and tagging a slew of previously untagged notes.

Another sure sign that you need to get tagging is if you find yourself creating too many notebooks and notebook stacks or constantly shifting them around. Remember, notebooks can only be "one level deep" as part of a stack and you cannot brachiate your notebook hierarchy further. Tags do not have that limitation, lending themselves to deeply nested trees that can become an ontology onto themselves.

-- roschler

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You just have to watch that you don't go Tag crazy. If you do, it can make filling your notes a bit of a hassle. For example, you don't want to scan your latest car repair bill and then say - "okay, this goes into the tag car, but I think it also goes under the tag receipts, and it could also go under the tag expenses".

If you do that not only will you become frustrated, you'll also have trouble finding notes in the future because your actions given the situation above will be different each time. Maybe this time you file it under "car" and "receipts", next time under "car", "receipts", and "expenses".

The way I've set up my account, I have a high-level tag like "cars" that I put anything car related into. I then use the search function within that tag to get me where I need to go. I guess I basically use tags to narrow my searchable notes.

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Hmm, I wasn't aware Notebooks themselves could take 'tags', only the notes themselves. Perhaps this is a difference between OS? I am a Mac operator, and perhaps this is an option in Windows?

Notebooks cannot take tags in any client that I am aware of. Tags can only be used to label notes.

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You just have to watch that you don't go Tag crazy. If you do, it can make filling your notes a bit of a hassle. For example, you don't want to scan your latest car repair bill and then say - "okay, this goes into the tag car, but I think it also goes under the tag receipts, and it could also go under the tag expenses".

If you do that not only will you become frustrated, you'll also have trouble finding notes in the future because your actions given the situation above will be different each time. Maybe this time you file it under "car" and "receipts", next time under "car", "receipts", and "expenses".

The way I've set up my account, I have a high-level tag like "cars" that I put anything car related into. I then use the search function within that tag to get me where I need to go. I guess I basically use tags to narrow my searchable notes.

"Tag happy"? I wouldn't say that. This is exactly the feature that makes tags so powerful. With tags you can create cross-categorizations that work with other categorizations to help you narrow down your note database to those you are actually interested in. In the real world, categorizations like "car" and "receipts" and "expenses" are great choices (simple and descriptive, yet generic as well), but they're completely independent of each other (you can have receipts and expenses unrelated to anything automotive, and you can have receipts for things that are not expenses). Put them together, though, and they are that much more powerful. And in fact, I would definitely scan my car bill and apply just those sorts of tags -- generally speaking, Evernote makes it easy to apply tags. But yes, some discipline is required, as with any categorization system. And yes, if you can get by using content search as opposed to tags that you need to apply yourself usually (consider the web clipper's auto-tagging suggestions), then that's great too.

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You just have to watch that you don't go Tag crazy. If you do, it can make filling your notes a bit of a hassle. For example, you don't want to scan your latest car repair bill and then say - "okay, this goes into the tag car, but I think it also goes under the tag receipts, and it could also go under the tag expenses".

If you do that not only will you become frustrated, you'll also have trouble finding notes in the future because your actions given the situation above will be different each time. Maybe this time you file it under "car" and "receipts", next time under "car", "receipts", and "expenses".

The way I've set up my account, I have a high-level tag like "cars" that I put anything car related into. I then use the search function within that tag to get me where I need to go. I guess I basically use tags to narrow my searchable notes.

"Tag happy"? I wouldn't say that. This is exactly the feature that makes tags so powerful. With tags you can create cross-categorizations that work with other categorizations to help you narrow down your note database to those you are actually interested in. In the real world, categorizations like "car" and "receipts" and "expenses" are great choices (simple and descriptive, yet generic as well), but they're completely independent of each other (you can have receipts and expenses unrelated to anything automotive, and you can have receipts for things that are not expenses). Put them together, though, and they are that much more powerful. And in fact, I would definitely scan my car bill and apply just those sorts of tags -- generally speaking, Evernote makes it easy to apply tags. But yes, some discipline is required, as with any categorization system. And yes, if you can get by using content search as opposed to tags that you need to apply yourself usually (consider the web clipper's auto-tagging suggestions), then that's great too.

I hear what you're saying, but with so many tags I don't see how you can remember where you file things each time. I tried doing it that way but I ended up with a bunch of notes that were sometimes filed here, sometimes filed there, sometimes neither, sometimes both. It was a mess.

Of course that's just how I found it to be. I'm sure it would work wonders for someone else. I just lost interest when I was filing notes and trying to remember which tags to file them under.

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You just have to watch that you don't go Tag crazy. If you do, it can make filling your notes a bit of a hassle. For example, you don't want to scan your latest car repair bill and then say - "okay, this goes into the tag car, but I think it also goes under the tag receipts, and it could also go under the tag expenses".

If you do that not only will you become frustrated, you'll also have trouble finding notes in the future because your actions given the situation above will be different each time. Maybe this time you file it under "car" and "receipts", next time under "car", "receipts", and "expenses".

The way I've set up my account, I have a high-level tag like "cars" that I put anything car related into. I then use the search function within that tag to get me where I need to go. I guess I basically use tags to narrow my searchable notes.

"Tag happy"? I wouldn't say that. This is exactly the feature that makes tags so powerful. With tags you can create cross-categorizations that work with other categorizations to help you narrow down your note database to those you are actually interested in. In the real world, categorizations like "car" and "receipts" and "expenses" are great choices (simple and descriptive, yet generic as well), but they're completely independent of each other (you can have receipts and expenses unrelated to anything automotive, and you can have receipts for things that are not expenses). Put them together, though, and they are that much more powerful. And in fact, I would definitely scan my car bill and apply just those sorts of tags -- generally speaking, Evernote makes it easy to apply tags. But yes, some discipline is required, as with any categorization system. And yes, if you can get by using content search as opposed to tags that you need to apply yourself usually (consider the web clipper's auto-tagging suggestions), then that's great too.

I hear what you're saying, but with so many tags I don't see how you can remember where you file things each time. I tried doing it that way but I ended up with a bunch of notes that were sometimes filed here, sometimes filed there, sometimes neither, sometimes both. It was a mess.

Of course that's just how I found it to be. I'm sure it would work wonders for someone else. I just lost interest when I was filing notes and trying to remember which tags to file them under.

I think I see where both of you are coming from - and I think the main thing to keep in mind is being organized from the start! I learned this the hard way with Tumblr, when I realized I had been tagging some items "photo", some "photography" and some "photos", when one tag would do for all 3. I don't believe Tumblr has the tag search-ability that Evernote does, but the root problem is the same.

There's no reason tagging something "expense", "receipt", and "car" (I would use "automotive" ;) ) isn't a bad idea, as long as you do it consistently for all notes that all three tags apply to. After all, you might have some "expense" - "receipt" - "hotel" notes, or some "expense" - "receipt" - "other" notes, or some plain old "receipt" "personal" notes. So being able to pull up just the ones that are automotive expense receipts makes using multiple tags easy.

On the other hand, if all you ever do is just keep receipts (but not work expenses) then using the "expense" tag would be silly. Or if you're lucky/unlucky enough to not keep expense records, but you like to image your grocery receipts, expense may not be the tag you need.

I personally use tags as searchable definers. I title notes in a more general way that makes for easy alpha-sorting. For instance, I won't title a note "Cleaning whatever", but if I come across a DIY recipe for Vinegar Water, or removing armpit stains, or polishing silver, I'll make sure each note gets tagged "cleaning", while the title will go something like "Vinegar Water - Scented" or "Polishing - Silver". But I'm not going to tag "Vinegar Water - Scented" with the tag "scented" or "water" - because why would I ever be searching for either of those things? :D

Basically, think about what you're going to use EN for. If you need to, write down (that's right, use the good old fashioned paper and pencil!) main categories, sub-categories, etc. that you think you will need for tagging. Make yourself a note (EN or otherwise) to refer to, if needed. This way next time you have a note that contains a receipt for a car expense, you'll know how you've determined how to tag it, and can be consistent every time!

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I only have ~200 tags (some of which are used for test scenarios). They tend to be general, so they're applicable to more than one categorization. Note that the average English speaker has a vocabulary of ~10,000 - ~20,000 word families, so 200 doesn't seem like a lot to me.

The thing that I find confusing is the reference to "filing under"; this implies I have one place in my organizational scheme where a note goes (and under the hood, that's actually true, but that's not how I think about it). I'm not filing my notes under anything, I'm just describing my notes by applying labels (i.e. tags) to them, in such a way as to give me a good chance of finding them. Like you, I'm trying to narrow my search space down, and tags can do that pretty well. I will confess to occasionally sitting down and cleaning up my note tags, but only when I see fit, not on a systematic basis.

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Somewhat sadly I have around 1,000 tags, used from 0 (that was a mistype) to 1,228 times (got lots of notes too). I sympathise with the comments above about the difficulty of being accurate with a tagging structure, and I think that's an area where Evernote (or maybe BitQwik these days) can be of much more help in ensuring you employ a consistent strategy. MediaWiki forinstance (think Wikipedia) uses things called categories (same thing) but they are much easier to create, refer to and apply - and sort themselves into nice alphabetic pages of their own for easy reference.

I very rarely create new tags now - I do better titles (thanks GM and others), and now I understand that searches are actually the most powerful part of the Evernote experience.

Most of my tags were created in the first few months of my becoming papyrophobic, so I blame ignorance and a certain exuberance - plus I tend to work on the triage system; get the most urgent stuff done first, then work your way down the line until you can start rearranging the flowers. Again from the Wiki mentality I'm used to constantly going back over existing notes when they crop up (or don't) in searches, and tweaking the content, the title and the tagging so things look and work out better next time.

My original working concept of the constant maintenance factor was 'Wiki gardening' except jef (I think) suggested 'curating' was more dignified. Either way, if you keep on referring to your archived material you'll find better ways to arrange it, and it's easy to apply changes and experiment. If you don't keep on referring to the archived material, you might as well export it into a proper archive offline notebook and stop cluttering up your desktop!

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plus I tend to work on the triage system; get the most urgent stuff done first, then work your way down the line until you can start rearranging the flowers.

It is neat to see how others arrange their work flow. I'm more of one of those "quick pass to get the major grime cleared up, then follow back around for the fine detailing" kind of organizer. Often if I'm trying out something new, I'll create a few entires (we'll call them entries as this applies to all of my organizational tics) and then play around with the best way to keep things straight, before going and making a zillion entries and finding I went about it all wrong.

And you are right - while I have no where near to thousands of tags, posts, or notebooks, it isn't too hard on EN to clean things up, if you're using it as a working app, and not just an archival app.

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I've been all over the place with my account. I'll set it up one way, and then six months later I'll think "wow, that was dumb".

Luckily I don't have a ton of notes (up to about 700 now), so a complete re-do of my system doesn't take me long. Plus I've been happy with my system now for quite a while so I think I'm sticking with it.

Like you said though Loquos. It's better to tinker now than to go all EN happy for three years and realize you're 6,500 notes are all over the place.

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I've been all over the place with my account. I'll set it up one way, and then six months later I'll think "wow, that was dumb".

Luckily I don't have a ton of notes (up to about 700 now), so a complete re-do of my system doesn't take me long. Plus I've been happy with my system now for quite a while so I think I'm sticking with it.

Like you said though Loquos. It's better to tinker now than to go all EN happy for three years and realize you're 6,500 notes are all over the place.

True.

I have tried just about every organizational system for Evernote at some point or another, but one thing I have kept throughout is my practice of titling notes YYMMDD + keywords. It turns out that all of the tags and notebooks weren't so useful (for me) after all. The idea of having YYMMDD was that, if all else fails (bugs in searches, etc.), at least my notes are organized chronologically. It turns out that this has almost always been sufficient for my needs. It will come as no surprise, I suppose, that I am a historian by training :)

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I've been all over the place with my account. I'll set it up one way, and then six months later I'll think "wow, that was dumb".

Luckily I don't have a ton of notes (up to about 700 now), so a complete re-do of my system doesn't take me long. Plus I've been happy with my system now for quite a while so I think I'm sticking with it.

Like you said though Loquos. It's better to tinker now than to go all EN happy for three years and realize you're 6,500 notes are all over the place.

True.

I have tried just about every organizational system for Evernote at some point or another, but one thing I have kept throughout is my practice of titling notes YYMMDD + keywords. It turns out that all of the tags and notebooks weren't so useful (for me) after all. The idea of having YYMMDD was that, if all else fails (bugs in searches, etc.), at least my notes are organized chronologically. It turns out that this has almost always been sufficient for my needs. It will come as no surprise, I suppose, that I am a historian by training :)

Which makes a very excellent point! No one can tell you the ONE way to organize your EN, because no one is YOU. What may work very well for one person may not work at all for another. As a graphic designer and general OCDer, I could never work with a YYMMDD in my EN, because my head doesn't work that way. I don't think to myself, "where is that note I made 3 months ago about a design concept?" I think "I'd like to tackle one of my illustration ideas today, let's see what's in the list". Some of my notes will be permanent (like my growing 'wine cellar' book), and some will be temporary (like my design ideas). But I do my best to name them and tag them appropriate to their use.

The only thing I use a date naming system for is my photographs, because I simply take too many to give them all unique names and remember them all, when I can just have Lightroom title them YYMMDD-001, etc. Again, what works for one system may not work for another, so it is ultimately up to the individual to figure out what works best for them! :)

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Like you said though Loquos. It's better to tinker now than to go all EN happy for three years and realize you're 6,500 notes are all over the place.

My whole life gets what I call a "feng shui" go-over about once a year. No one could ever call me a cluttered person! Of course, I realize some people prefer to have stacks of old papers everywhere and a filing system that holds things from the 1980's. If that works for them, great! But I cannot stand keeping things that I don't use/need any more, and I prefer to clean up smaller messes than large ones!

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