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UncleDaddySwiss

How to choose tags

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Hi,

I use Evernote for everything. Work notes, household notes, hobbies, projects, interesting articles, -You name it. I believe in tagging notes, I see the benifit, but my tagging structure is a complete disaster. I have read several articles on organizing tags but I still dont have a clue as to the best way to use them. How detailed do I get? Do I do things like make a separate tag for each manufacturer mentioned in a note, for example? And if so, do I also use another general tag such as "Product?" I have instruction manuals of all kinds stored in an "InstructionManuals" notebook in this example. I have been working on organizing my notes all weekend with the future hope of getting rid of several notebooks and going more tag oriented. I have many more examples such as this but I dont know how deep to go with this. I know I am way over-thinking this, but dont know what to do. I know that the ultimate goal here is to be able to find what Im looking for, but it seems like consistency would be good too.

Thank you for any help.

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Almost any of the possibilities you mention could work depending on your preference and some specific details of your situation. You'll really have to feel it out, though premeditating and planning how to organize in advance, as you are doing, can save some headaches. 

 

A place to start might be here:

The Benefit of Using Tags

 

The main questions to think of are - what relationships between notes are essential? Client would be one. you'd likely want to retrieve all notes associated with a client fairly easily. Product information might also be important, so all notes with marketing information on Product X might need a tag, since that might need to be reviewed or brought up. However, if you sold Product X to Client A, then you need to ask yourself whether you need to include Product X tag on the note that has that sales info. Is that something you'll likely need to retrieve? Do you want every single invoice for Product X to show up? 

 

Also consider where tagging is needed, and where searching contents or titles might suffice. For example, if every sale of product X is tagged "sale", and the name Product X appears in the contents of the note, you could search

tag:sale "product x" 

to retrieve every sale that involved product X. 

 

Or if you want to see if Client A has ever purchased product X because there's a recall or something, you could search

tag:"client a" "product X'

to search the contents of every note tagged "client a" that contains the text "product X".   (You might prefer to give clients their own notebooks too, and this same thing could be accomplished had Client A's records been in their own notebook rather than marked with a tag). 

 

Begin with a task:

 

"I need to look up all the support documentation for Product X, and pass that along to every client that has purchased Product X."

What tags and other information would be best suited to performing this task most efficiently? You'll need to identify every client that has purchased Product X (through sales records), you'll need to find all the support documentation for Product X (instruction manuals, etc). 

 

Another example: 

"I want to find all of the pre-sales/potential clients with whom I discussed Product X, since there's been an update that might push them over the edge."

 

As you can see there's no right or wrong way, so just play through a few tasks you think you might regularly perform. Think of a few contexts in which you will need to retrieve information and consider how tagging, titles, notebooks, and contents of notes can best serve those needs. Then go from there.

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Thank you for the reply. I see where you are coming from, but I use Evernote mainly for personal use. It is replacing my physical file cabinet. All instruction manuals, important documents, personal projects, web articles. True, I do use it for work, I am a machinist, so notes that I take about certain machines, certain jobs that I run, etc. but they are all for personal use. Your examples do apply, I just need to adapt them to my scenarios. Right now, I have in my instruction manual notes, a tag for each device type, and another for each manufacturer, but now Im wondering if I really need that. Should I really be that specific, or just go with more generalized tags. I've spent almost the entire weekend going through all my notes, changing my mind, restructuring, changing my mind again. My head is spinning right now.

But thank you again.

 

Edit: Also, I dont want to create a bunch of tags that only 1 or 2 notes are going to use, seems wasteful to me.

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The question that you could ask yourself is something like this: if I had 1000 notes, would using this tag, or a simple combination of tags (total or two or three, or perhaps in combination with a text search term), help me to narrow my note list down to these one or two notes, provided that the tags are easy to remember? Or even narrow it down to, say, 7 +/- 2 notes, so that it wold be easy to pick them from the resultant list...

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Ah, sorry for the slightly obtuse answer. It was late, dark, and I didn't have my glasses! 

 

Really the same set of questions applies whether it is for work or personal. What relationships are important to highlight, and what is the most effective way of highlighting them? (Tags, notebooks, titles, contents).

 

I think Jefito's suggestions are worth thinking about too.

 

One of the biggest tradeoffs is whether a tag or a notebook is ideal. I tend to always try and use a tag first, rather than a notebook. So for example, rather than having a "receipts" notebook, I have a "receipts" tag. Notes that contain a receipt go in either Work, Household, or Personal notebooks, and get the receipt tag. If I had a "receipts" notebook, then I'd have to somehow differentiate work/personal/household receipts. Then I'd have to duplicate any household receipts into a shared household notebook (or have household receipts in the household notebook with a "receipts" tag, thus meaning I have both a receipts tag and notebook, which is inefficient. Alternatively again, I could create an additional shared notebook called "household receipts", but then I have two household notebooks, when I could get away with one had I just used the tag! All of these alternatives are also nightmares for using Evernote's search function). What a waste of time. In this case, the tag wins out!

 

Instruction manuals are not so clearcut. There's a strong case for having a notebook devoted solely to your manuals, especially if you don't need to share them with anyone. Instruction manuals are fairly discrete entities and might not have any other notes they are related to, they are related only to the actual object to which they correspond. However, if you are a notebook minimalist, then just tossing all your manuals into a general notebook and tagging them all with "manuals" or whatever, would be organizationally equivalent. The benefit to the tag, then, is that if you have a manual for a complicated entertainment unit that your partner can't ever remember how to turn on/off, you can put that into a shared "household" notebook rather than sharing the entire "manuals" notebook which might contain manuals for things your partner doesn't care about. Further, it can still be retrieved easily by tag:manual regardless of what notebook it is in.  

 

But, as you can see from the manual example, switching between schemes is pretty easy. If you have a "manuals" notebook, and want to switch instead to a tagging system, just select everything in "manuals", apply the "manuals" tag to the whole selection, move them to the general notebook (and any to a relevant shared notebook), and delete the empty manuals notebook. Going the other way, list all of the notes tagged "manuals", move them to a newly created "manuals" notebook, then delete the tag. 

 

 

So there's some flexibility if you want to change schemes. 

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Scott's point about choosing when to use tags vs. notebooks for organizational purposes is a good one. It's a bit of a personal preference. Some things that you might to keep in mind:

  • The number of notebooks per account is currently capped at 250
  • Notebooks are required for certain situations:
    • If you want to keep a set of notes local to a desktop client (i.e. unsynced to the Evernote servers), you would use a "local" notebooks for that
    • For premium users, if you want to guarantee that a set of notes is always automatically kept synced to a mobile device so that you can use them when you're offline, you'd use a an "offline" notebook for that
    • If you want to share a group of notes with another Evernote user (or possibly with yourself, if you have a separate work account), you'd most likely use a "shared" notebook for that
  • You can only filter on a single notebook (or stack) at a time, whereas you can filter on multiple tags at a time
  • You can exclude a tag from being matched in your current search using the term, e.g., "-tag:MyTag". Notebooks cannot be so excluded

 

In line with the above, my preference is to minimize the number of notebooks that I create, and use tags wherever possible.

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Thank you for the reply. I see where you are coming from, but I use Evernote mainly for personal use. It is replacing my physical file cabinet. All instruction manuals, important documents, personal projects, web articles. True, I do use it for work, I am a machinist, so notes that I take about certain machines, certain jobs that I run, etc. but they are all for personal use. Your examples do apply, I just need to adapt them to my scenarios. Right now, I have in my instruction manual notes, a tag for each device type, and another for each manufacturer, but now Im wondering if I really need that. Should I really be that specific, or just go with more generalized tags. I've spent almost the entire weekend going through all my notes, changing my mind, restructuring, changing my mind again. My head is spinning right now.

But thank you again.

 

Edit: Also, I dont want to create a bunch of tags that only 1 or 2 notes are going to use, seems wasteful to me.

 

I'd suggest that you start slow, and add/create new tags as you need to assign them to a note.

Do frequent Searches (using "tag:") to make sure it is finding the Notes you want.

There is no cost for adding tags, other than tag clutter.  Evernote allows you to have up to 100K tags.

 

Having said that, you might start out using as few tags as possible. Think of Tags as major categories, or like subfolders in your computer or file cabinet.

 

If you combine Tags with a descriptive Title (that may also contain keywords), I think you'll have a very powerful system.

Later, if you find that your Search results using :tag & :InTitle are not returning the Notes it should, you can do a little Tag maintenance and Search ONLY entering your keyword as text (without any qualifiers like "tag:") in the Search box.  Then you can select the appropriate Notes, and apply additional Tags.

 

Try not to over-think this.  Give it a little thought, maybe precreate major Tags you know you will want, and dive in.

Only after you have used Evernote for a while will you be able to determine the system best for you.

 

Good luck, and enjoy.  If you find any Searches that do not work as you expect, post a question here.  There are a number of Search bugs, and sometimes a small tweak will give you the results you want.

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Thank you for all the good replies, this gives me something to think about. I had no direction with this and I've been using evernote for almost 3 years, which is why I have almost 2000 notes and no good method of keeping them organized. So tonight I set out again to come up with a good system. Thank you again!

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