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Do you find lots of notebooks or notebook stacks useful?

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I have a very simple notebook setup - just a handful of notebooks: Inbox, Main, a couple of shared notebooks, a local notebook.

I have been using tags as a means of retrieving my notes. Since all sorts of unrelated notes are tossed in just a few very large notebooks, I cannot browse a subject matter easily by notebook. I could sort of do so with tags by clicking on each tab related to a particular subject. That said, since I've moved to EN and its tags, I don't really browse my notes. I simply search.

With that as background, I'm wondering if I'm missing out on anything by not using lots of notebooks and potentially organizing them in stacks. For those who use lots of notebooks or stacks, what benefits do you get from this approach as opposed to tagging and searching?

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I wish I was wired to do it like this. I just can't away from that old school hierarchy of organizing. I think every year I say I'm going to do this. 

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3 minutes ago, u352 said:

I just can't away from that old school hierarchy of organizing.

That's also one of my obsessions.  Its satisfied by organizing my tags into hierarchies (desktop feature)

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tavor - There have been many posts (and opinions) in this forum on the issue of the # of notebooks versus the # of tags. I suggest you search this forum for various keywords to see what other people have said. There are almost as many approaches to dealing with this issue as there are people.

I have been using EN heavily for 3-4 years. In that time, I probably switched my emphasis on Notebooks and Tags 4-5 times, depending what I saw as my current needs.

I suggest your best approach for resolving the issue to your satisfaction is to try a couple different approaches and see what "fits" best. Fortunately, with EN you can assign a batch of Notes to a Notebook all at once and you can assign a Tag to a bunch of Notes all at once. - - - And then after you settle on an approach, don't be afraid to change it in a few months.

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On 1/15/2016 at 4:13 PM, tavor said:

I'm wondering if I'm missing out on anything by not using lots of notebooks and potentially organizing them in stacks. For those who use lots of notebooks or stacks, what benefits do you get from this approach as opposed to tagging and searching?

The key, whether Notebooks or Tags, is hierarchical organization.  I recently completelly reorganized my Evernote account, moving from having Notebooks as my primary tool, to using tags.  I actually find that I now have the best of both worlds, the ability to easily/quicklly find notes by search, and to browse in a setup logical to me.

I use tags in two fundamentally different ways:
  1. Pseudo Notebooks -- use in place of where you would normally use a notebook.  This includes sub-notebooks.
  2. Note Categorization -- traditional use of tags to categorize the entity, which can have multiple tags.  Can be used across Notebooks, or in this case, across pseudo NBs.

See Using Tags as Pseudo Notebooks

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I have about 9.000 notes with 7000 tags in a deep hierarchial system, wtih an average of 5 tags per note. I still have 250 notebooks and feel limited by the limitation for number of notebooks.

My biggest problem with Evernote is the lack of alternative meta-data fields, which i should be able to use to sort my "search results" by. Today you have three different customizable fields: notebooks, tags and author. This means i can quickly select a notebook from the left menu, and among the notes in that notebook, sort my listed results by the first tag, or by author, while i still see which notebook i am browsing. You loose this possibility if you give up on notebooks as a relevant filter.

Some other negatives are the loss of the useful notebooks menu with recently used notebooks for quickly changing and moving notes, which can also be increased in the registry; loss of smaller offline notebooks; loss of automatic notebook picks when clipping; loss of a hiearchial function inside the shortcut menu; loss of an icon set in the shortcut menu, which visually helps you seperate certain containers from others; problems due to iOS lack of support for hierarchial tags, and so on...

There are so many more small issues which by themselves are no issue, but all of them together creates a significant loss of functionality.

 

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gustavgi - Good, detailed, reply.

My first reaction when reading your reply was to say, "Yes, I'd like to see more alternative meta-data fields, too". But, then it dawned on me that the response from the EN development staff to this would be that we EN users can use Tags to produce similar, if not virtually the same, result.

I guess I could be wrong about this. You may have a particular need that could only be efficiently fulfilled with another meta-data field. - - - If so, please mention. It could be insightful to the rest of us.

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7 hours ago, JMichaelTX said:

The key, whether Notebooks or Tags, is hierarchical organization.  I recently completelly reorganized my Evernote account, moving from having Notebooks as my primary tool, to using tags.  I actually find that I now have the best of both worlds, the ability to easily/quicklly find notes by search, and to browse in a setup logical to me.

I use tags in two fundamentally different ways:
  1. Pseudo Notebooks -- use in place of where you would normally use a notebook.  This includes sub-notebooks.
  2. Note Categorization -- traditional use of tags to categorize the entity, which can have multiple tags.  Can be used across Notebooks, or in this case, across pseudo NBs.

See Using Tags as Pseudo Notebooks

Thanks JM, this is quite interesting. Pseudo NB's seem to provide the visual organization and easy browsing of notebooks, which my tags-only setup is lacking, but without the limitations (limited # of NBs in EN, only 1 NB per note).

With only [note categorization] tags, I sometimes feel like my data is all tossed into a huge pile and while EN search is pretty good, the ability to visually browse may put my mind at ease, and allow me to get a handle on things in a way that simply having a retrieval system (EN search) does not. I suppose that slight feeling of uneasiness, which has grown as the # of notes has grown, is what prompted my creating this thread.

Definitely worth trying out, and as Analyst444 notes, it's easy enough to make batch changes to notes.

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2 hours ago, Analyst444 said:

gustavgi - Good, detailed, reply.

My first reaction when reading your reply was to say, "Yes, I'd like to see more alternative meta-data fields, too". But, then it dawned on me that the response from the EN development staff to this would be that we EN users can use Tags to produce similar, if not virtually the same, result.

I guess I could be wrong about this. You may have a particular need that could only be efficiently fulfilled with another meta-data field. - - - If so, please mention. It could be insightful to the rest of us.

The problem is that with tags alone, a search will only display all the notes containing that tag in a random order. You have no great options to individually sort your search results by what is more important among the relevant results. You can only do this by filtering your results further by selecting an additional tag, and thus eliminating the other relevant search results.

Say you have 500 notes where 9 notes are about flowers, where the single note is a chapter in a book about an individual flower. Each note name has the chapter number first, so that I can sort by the books chapters, followed by the individual flowers name. For some reason I now want to find my 9 flower notes and sort the notes by flower color. Say all 9 notes are tagged Flower and their respective color (Red/Blue/White). I can see all my 9 notes by clicking on the Flower tag, but from there on Evernote doesn't give me any help in seperating the red flowers from the blue flowers in the search result.

This can however be done with ease in Windows, which has both folders, tags, categories and comments etc.

And say that if Evernote would let me place my notes in the notebook hierarchy Vegetation-Plants-Flowers, I could sort my results in the way I want by clicking on Flowers, and sorting by the only tag, which is the color tag. This would make for a slighly better system.

But as soon as I start adding other tags to those notes, the color-tag will no longer be the first alphabetical tag, and sorting by tag is no longer possible.

So if I find myself wanting to sort by color more times, this could have been solved by an additional meta-data field. Today I can enter the color in the author-field, but after that my options stop.

The bottom line is that when you click a tag which displays more than 10 notes, you often stumble because you don't know which of the notes are more relevant to this current search you are doing. If it's 50 notes, you give up. Therefore it should be a way to sort among relevant information, without excluding other relevant information by filtering further.

 

 

 

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@gustavgi

And a tag for color would not solve this problem because?  It seems you would have to enter the color somewhere, and if a metadata field I'm assuming it would be a custom one since color seems a very specific attribute.  Just wondering is all, not meant to be critical or dismissive.

@tavor

I am basically a hierarchical or tabular thinker.  Funny thing, I started to truly leverage EN for my use case when I let go of that thinking, which did require some effort. 

I have found that with minimal notebooks (3 synced, 3 local), 350 tags and 31k notes I don't need a structural view (I only open the left panel to empty trash).  Another key has been to limit tags to broader, easy to remember groups so a tag or compound tag search maybe with some text yields less than 20 notes.  So I am now comfortable with a big pile since my purpose is more find than to structurally organize per se.  

Definitely not for everyone, but I thought I would share a non-hierarchical perspective.

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4 hours ago, gustavgi said:

and sort the notes by flower color

I can see that  sorting by tag would help sometimes.  In grid view I found the tag column only useful for identifying notes with no tags.

One idea, if colour is very important, prefix the tag with one of the special characters; for example !Red

That would make the tags first in the general tag list, and in the note tag list

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@gustavgi - I suspect this idea won't completely satisfy you, but it might get you closer to what you want to accomplish.

Construct Tags which (within themselves) are effectively multi-level. (I am sure you are aware this can be done.)

Using your example, a Tag could be Vegetation*Plants*Flowers. (Asterisks won't work in this case.) --- When you do a simple search for Vegs* (or search for tag: Vegs) you will get those Notes that match. If you do a search for Vegetation*Plants, you will get a smaller list of notes. When you search for Vegetation*Plants*Flowers you will get an even smaller list.

After the applying the search, sort the found Notes by either some meta-data field that you can modify or, maybe your tags would need to be Vegetation*Plants*Flowers*Red.

I realize that if you search by Vegetation that you won't likely be able to sort the found Notes by color this way, if that need arises.

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7 hours ago, gustavgi said:

I have about 9.000 notes with 7000 tags in a deep hierarchial system, wtih an average of 5 tags per note. I still have 250 notebooks and feel limited by the limitation for number of notebooks

Wow!  I have about 14,000 notes, now with about 1500 tags.  I used to have about 2400 tags, and just reduced to 1500.

There are two ways to use tag hierarchies:

  1. Organize your tags
  2. Organize your Notes

Previously, I used #1.  Now I use both.   Now that I have reorganized my account using pseudo Notebooks (tags), and named these tags with a prefix of ".NB.", they all appear at the top of my tag list in the Sidebar, and are just as easy to find and use as Stacks and Notebooks.  In fact, they are more powerful because I can have as many levels of pseudo NBs as I want.

EN-Mac-6.3-Pseudo-NBs.png

4 hours ago, gustavgi said:

Say you have 500 notes where 9 notes are about flowers, where the single note is a chapter in a book about an individual flower. Each note name has the chapter number first, so that I can sort by the books chapters, followed by the individual flowers name. For some reason I now want to find my 9 flower notes and sort the notes by flower color

In this case, if you had a pseudo NB named ".NB.Flowers", and this tag assigned to all 9 Notes, you could easily view them just by clicking on the ".NB.Flowers" tag.  If each Note is named starting with the chapter number, then regardless of whether you use real Notebooks or pseudo NBs, the only way to sort (order by) color is to sort by tags and have a tag named with a special character to put that tag at the top of tags assigned to the Notes.  Something like "^Color.Red".

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14 hours ago, JMichaelTX said:
I use tags in two fundamentally different ways:
  1. Pseudo Notebooks

One caution about Pseudo Notebooks Tags vs Actual Notebooks and Stacks
For example if you have the Hierarchy   Flowers
                                                                        Green Flowers    Note1, Note2
                                                                        Blue Flowers   Note3, Note4
If Flowers is a stack, it would be associated with all the Notes
If Flowers is a tag, it would not be associated with all the Notes by default; You will have to specifically tag the note with Flowers and <Colour> Flowers
 

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16 minutes ago, DTLow said:

If Flowers is a stack, it would be associated with all the Notes
If Flowers is a tag, it would not be associated with all the Notes by default; You will have to specifically tag the note with Flowers and <Colour> Flowers

That is correct.  However, if you have a tag hierarchy, you can expand the "Flowers" tag to see the sub-tags:

  • .NB.Flowers
    • FColor.Red
    • FColor.Green
    • etc

IMO, the many benefits of Pseudo Notebooks far outweigh this one limitation.  As we all know, Stacks and Notebooks provide only 2 levels of a hierarchy, while Pseudo NBs (tags) can provide as many as you like.

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12 hours ago, csihilling said:

@gustavgi

And a tag for color would not solve this problem because?  It seems you would have to enter the color somewhere, and if a metadata field I'm assuming it would be a custom one since color seems a very specific attribute.  Just wondering is all, not meant to be critical or dismissive.

Tags help you find search results, but meta-data fields are used to structure search results. Say that a notes' created date was added as an automatic tag instead of as seperate meta data. This would mean that you would have no way good way to sort your notes by a created date and such a tag with the same information wouldn't be nearly as helpful. 

The extra fields could be called "Comments" and "Category" etc. Windows has like 200 of them.

All suggestions above are good suggestions, but they depend on the fact that you must have a maximum of ca 10 extra important tags, before the system with special characters collapse. Especially since adding tags in Evernote doesn't search within the tag-name but from the beginning, which requires that you remember which tags that has a special character and what character.

 

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18 hours ago, JMichaelTX said:

Wow!  I have about 14,000 notes, now with about 1500 tags.  I used to have about 2400 tags, and just reduced to 1500.

There are two ways to use tag hierarchies:

  1. Organize your tags
  2. Organize your Notes

Previously, I used #1.  Now I use both.   Now that I have reorganized my account using pseudo Notebooks (tags), and named these tags with a prefix of ".NB.", they all appear at the top of my tag list in the Sidebar, and are just as easy to find and use as Stacks and Notebooks.  In fact, they are more powerful because I can have as many levels of pseudo NBs as I want.

EN-Mac-6.3-Pseudo-NBs.png

 

@JMichaelTX, it looks like you are tagging notes with both note categorization tags (tags identifying the note content) and note hierarchy tags (tags that function as pseudo notebooks). So for example, the .NB.NetSuite tag gets applied to every note you want located under that pseudo notebook. So in your tag hierarchy view, .NB.NetSuite shows 426 notes.

This video describes a slightly different methodology: 

 

He is using the nested tags approach of creating hierarchy using tags and not notebooks. So a note does not necessarily get tagged with the name of the pseudo notebook(s) to which it belongs. He also doesn't make a clear distinction between note categorization tags and pseudo notebook tags, so unlike JM's use of ".NB" prefix for pseudo notebook tags, it's not easy to tell which role a tag serves, and it looks like he has some tags that serve both roles.

I'm trying to get a handle on the pros/cons of the two approaches. Let's call yours the JM method, and his, the AG method. Here are the pros/cons as I see them; JM and anyone else, please feel free to correct and or clarify, thanks.

JM method pros

  • you can look at any note and know instantly where it fits into the hierarchy b/c that locating info is in the tags
  • when looking at the hierarchy (pseudo notebooks), you can instantly see how many notes fall under each branch of the hierarchy
  • no need to nest all, or even any, of your note categorization tags
  • create hierarchy only when you want to. Any notes not in the pseudo-notebook hierarchy are still organized, and easily found, by note categorization tags.

JM method cons

  • requires you to tag a note with every pseudo notebook to which it belongs. For deeply nested pseudo notebooks, this can require a lot of tagging or dragging/dropping of a note to each level of the pseudo-notebook hierarchy.
  • similar to the above, changing where a note falls in the hierarchy requires a lot of untagging and retagging

 

AG method pros

  • for initial setup you drag/drop to nest a tag wherever in the tag hierarchy you want. For a shallow pseudo notebook hierarchy, this may be slower as it requires use of a mouse vs. keeping your hands on the keyboard.
  • much less tagging for new notes, especially for deeply nested pseudo notebooks. You simply assign the normal note categorization tags. This method does require more initial thought as to tags, as every note with a particular tag is going to end up wherever that tag sits in the hierarchy. With JM's method, you won't have notes inadvertently appear in the hierarchy where they don't belong b/c you specifically tag or drag/drop each note with its pseudo-notebook info.
  • easy to reorganize by dragging/dropping a tag elsewhere in the hierarchy. The nesting is done with both note categorization tags and pseudo-notebook tags. In JM's method, the nesting is primarily done using the pseudo-notebook tags.

AG method cons

  • the note itself provides no information about where it belongs in the hierarchy. If you navigate to the note via the pseudo notebook hierarchy, the note's location in the hierarchy will be apparent, but if you find the note via search, you may be scratching your head as to where it fits in your organizational structure. It's not obvious to me how one would quickly figure a searched-for note's location - any ideas?
  • when reorganizing notes, because you relocate notes by dragging and dropping tags, if the reorganization doesn't involve every note with a particular tag, you'd have remove the old tag and assign the new tag. With JM's method, you'd select the notes that need to be moved, remove the old pseudo notebook tags, and apply the new pseudo notebook tags. Not much different in terms of work involved, but AG method seems like it would require more tags over time as notes get moved around.
  • b/c there is no clear distinction between tag type (note categorization tag vs pseudo notebook tag), you would have to nest all or most of the tags inside the tag hierarchy so that the root level tag list is easy to look at and understand. With JM's method, the pseudo notebook tags are at the top by virtue of the ".NB" at the beginning of these tags. So the note categorization tags can be left at the root level of the tag list; i.e., no need to nest note categorization tags. A workaround to this con of the AG method would be to use the a preceding ".NB" to float pseudo-notebooks to the top of the tag list. Then only the tags you want in your hierarchy need to be nested in the pseudo-notebooks, and other tags will simply remain in the root level tag list, but below the pseudo-notebook tags. And you'd still retain the key advantage of the AG method of not having to tag every note with all the pseudo-notebook tags.

I'm just thinking this through in my head without the benefit of having used either method, so I am probably overlooking some important benefits or drawbacks to each method.

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6 hours ago, gustavgi said:

Tags help you find search results, but meta-data fields are used to structure search results. Say that a notes' created date was added as an automatic tag instead of as seperate meta data. This would mean that you would have no way good way to sort your notes by a created date and such a tag with the same information wouldn't be nearly as helpful. 

The extra fields could be called "Comments" and "Category" etc. Windows has like 200 of them.

All suggestions above are good suggestions, but they depend on the fact that you must have a maximum of ca 10 extra important tags, before the system with special characters collapse. Especially since adding tags in Evernote doesn't search within the tag-name but from the beginning, which requires that you remember which tags that has a special character and what character.

Thanks for the explanation.  This is a need I haven't stumbled across in my use case, always nice to learn something new.  :)

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8 hours ago, tavor said:

I'm just thinking this through in my head without the benefit of having used either method, so I am probably overlooking some important benefits or drawbacks to each method.

@tavor, thanks for the summary and comparison.  I found this helpful, and I think others will as well.

8 hours ago, tavor said:

@JMichaelTX, it looks like you are tagging notes with both note categorization tags (tags identifying the note content) and note hierarchy tags (tags that function as pseudo notebooks).

 
That is correct.  The way I approach it is that I always assign a top-level pseudo NB to every Note, just like you always specify the real NB for the Note.
 
Maybe this will help clarify my approach:

My workflow goes something like this:

  1. All new notes go to ".INBOX" an actual notebook
  2. If tags were not assigned via web clipping (usually they are), then I usually assign two or more tags:
    1. A top-level pseudo NB, like ".NB.IT"
    2. A primary category tag, like "IT.SW" or "EN.Mac"
    3. Additional sub-category tags if I feel they are important, and likely to be used
  3. Move the Note to "Active", my primary actual notebook
 
Actually, AG (alex-goodall) and I have a lot in common in our approaches:
We both:
  1. Believe using tag hierarchies is a better approach than using Stacks/Notebooks
  2. Make use of pseudo notebooks, although AG does not call them by that name
    1. But AG does NOT assign every note to a top-level psuedo NB, as I do.
    2. So perhaps I should not label his top-level tags as pseudo NBs.
  3. Have similar top-level pseudo notebooks (tags), although I have more (just my choice):
    1. Business
    2. Personal
    3. Reference
Some important differences between AG's approach and my approach:
  1. AG says he uses Evernote only for archiving content, not for any project or task management activities
  2. I use Evernote for:
    1. Accumulating content for later use
      1. My "Active" notebook:  Some I recognize as "Active" -- most likely to need now and in the near future
      2. My "Archive" notebook:  Some I recognize as "Archive" -- not likely to need now or in the future
    2. Content I'm actively working on -- my " .InWork" real notebook
      1. Content I'm developing
      2. Content I'm reading/analyzing
  3. Use of "Inbox" notebook
    1. Although AG has a "Inbox" NB, he does not use it in the classical sense (per his own statement)
    2. I use my ".INBOX"  real notebook in the classical sense
      1. All new notes go there
      2. I review, classify, and move the notes to "Active" NB ASAP.
  4. Project/Task Management
    1. I agree with AG that Evernote is a poor tool for project and task management
    2. I use IQTell, which has tight intergration with Evernote
      1. I can even create an IQTell Action, Task, or Project from Evernote just by assign a special tag to the note.
8 hours ago, tavor said:

JM method cons

  • requires you to tag a note with every pseudo notebook to which it belongs. For deeply nested pseudo notebooks, this can require a lot of tagging or dragging/dropping of a note to each level of the pseudo-notebook hierarchy.
  • similar to the above, changing where a note falls in the hierarchy requires a lot of untagging and retagging
 
The first sentence is correct:  "requires you to tag a note with every pseudo notebook to which it belongs"
Like Evernote requires every note to be in a NB, I require every note to be assigned a top-level pseudo NB.
 
But I really don't have "deeply nested pseudo notebooks".  In most cases, I only have one sub pseudo NB, meaning a tag that starts with ".NB.".  How many you have is entirely up to you.  I do have other parent tags under a pseudo NB, but those generally are tags used to categorize the note.
 
To All:
I hope this helps.  Please feel free to ask more questions and challenge my approach.  I expect to learn from this, and will adapt my approach over time as I learn more.
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14 hours ago, gustavgi said:

Tags help you find search results, but meta-data fields are used to structure search results. Say that a notes' created date was added as an automatic tag instead of as seperate meta data. This would mean that you would have no way good way to sort your notes by a created date and such a tag with the same information wouldn't be nearly as helpful. 

I agree completely.  A number of apps I have used offer custom fields, and allow you to search and sort on those fields just like the built-in fields.  This is extremely useful and powerful.  It would allow each user to turn the general purpose Evernote app into a specialized app without any further changes by Evernote.

I think I make this request years ago soon after I started using Evernote, but to no avail.  All of the so-called "Evangelists" at the time jumped on the request as being way out of line for Evernote.  I don't think I ever got any response directly from Evernote.  Given Evernote's current focus on "returning to the core" product, I'm not hopeful that Evernote will ever provide us with custom fields.  They have declined to provide a highly requested field, "Due Date", so custom fields seems out of the question.  I'd like to be proven wrong.

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37 minutes ago, JMichaelTX said:

The first sentence is correct:  "requires you to tag a note with every pseudo notebook to which it belongs"

Like Evernote requires every note to be in a NB, I require every note to be assigned a top-level pseudo NB.
 
But I really don't have "deeply nested pseudo notebooks".  In most cases, I only have one sub pseudo NB, meaning a tag that starts with ".NB.".  How many you have is entirely up to you.  I do have other parent tags under a pseudo NB, but those generally are tags used to categorize the note.

Since you tag each note with a top level pseudoNB, and if applicable, a sub-pseudoNB, I guess this raises the question of how do you decide between using a pseudoNB tag and an 'ordinary' tag.

To use the flowers example, if you have a dozen notes about flowers, should they be tagged ".NB.Flowers" or simply "flowers"? Or tag with both? I suppose if you have a collection of notes about flora, the ".NB.Flowers" tag makes more sense.

But there is a certain degree of arbitrariness between pseudoNB tag and ordinary tag. I suppose the use case will determine which style of tagging makes more sense for a particular note, but it seems one might easily end up with pseudoNB tags and ordinary tags that are very similar (which isn't the end of the world, but may be confusing) without a definitive plan out the outset on which attributes of a note's contents should inform pseudoNB tags and which should inform ordinary tags.

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31 minutes ago, tavor said:

Since you tag each note with a top level pseudoNB, and if applicable, a sub-pseudoNB, I guess this raises the question of how do you decide between using a pseudoNB tag and an 'ordinary' tag.

It is really easy.  ALL notes must have at least one top-level pseudo NB tag, regardless of whether or not I also assign any category tags.

So, I assign the top-level pseudo NB that first comes to my mind -- this would be the primary.  For example one of the following:

  • .NB.Business
  • .NB.Personal
  • .NB.IT
  • .NB.Travel
  • etc

Sometimes the note may be associated with multiple top-level NBs.  If I buy a new computer, used for both business and personal, it will likely get tagged with:

  • .NB.IT     (primary)
    • I know that regardless of any other tags, ALL of my computer stuff will have this tag.  It's very logical, and easy to remember for me.
    • The key in the use/selection of either real notebooks or tags, is to use what is intuitive to you, what comes to your mind first.
  • .NB.Business
  • .NB.Personal

It will likely also get tagged with these category tags:

  • Asset
  • IT.HW

Think of pseudo NBs just like real NBs.  When you have a new note, you must pick at least one.  The beauty of pseudo NBs is that you can assign multiple.
So you no longer have the old issue of where to file a car insurance document, under "Cars" NB or "Insurance" NB.  The answer is both!
Although that is the example most often quoted in "Notebooks vs Tags", I never had a NB for either.
A more realistic example, for me, is "Business" vs "Personal".  I used to have real notebooks for each of these.  Where do I file IT stuff that is used by both? 
Now that these are pseudo NBs (tags), that is no longer an issue.

Does this make sense?

49 minutes ago, tavor said:

But there is a certain degree of arbitrariness between pseudoNB tag and ordinary tag. I suppose the use case will determine which style of tagging makes more sense for a particular note,

Not really.  I think I explained why above.  If not, ask more questions.

Keep in mind that pseudo NBs are very HIGH level, broad collections.  You might think of pseudo NB as a file cabinet, or even all of the files owned by a department, like accounting or sales.  In my case, it's even higher: the whole business, or my personal stuff.

The key is to create pseudo NBs that make sense to you, but keep them high-level.  
Before you used Evernote, how did you organize your file folders?
For many, many years, I had a file server with these top-level folders:

  • Business
  • Personal
  • Ref
  • Projects
  • IT

But that's just me, what is logical, intuitive to me.  It might be something completely different for you.

If you have more questions, fire away!  ;)

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28 minutes ago, JMichaelTX said:

It is really easy.  ALL notes must have at least one top-level pseudo NB tag, regardless of whether or not I also assign any category tags.

So, I assign the top-level pseudo NB that first comes to my mind -- this would be the primary.  For example one of the following:

  • .NB.Business
  • .NB.Personal
  • .NB.IT
  • .NB.Travel
  • etc

Sometimes the note may be associated with multiple top-level NBs.  If I buy a new computer, used for both business and personal, it will likely get tagged with:

  • .NB.IT     (primary)
    • I know that regardless of any other tags, ALL of my computer stuff will have this tag.  It's very logical, and easy to remember for me.
    • The key in the use/selection of either real notebooks or tags, is to use what is intuitive to you, what comes to your mind first.
  • .NB.Business
  • .NB.Personal

It will likely also get tagged with these category tags:

  • Asset
  • IT.HW

In your use case, it's a bit more obvious how to draw the line between pseudoNB ("pNB" for brevity) tags and ordinary tags. But even here, you could have pNB tag ".NB.Asset" instead of ordinary tag "Asset".

28 minutes ago, JMichaelTX said:

Not really.  I think I explained why above.  If not, ask more questions.

Keep in mind that pseudo NBs are very HIGH level, broad collections.  You might think of pseudo NB as a file cabinet, or even all of the files owned by a department, like accounting or sales.  In my case, it's even higher: the whole business, or my personal stuff.

The key is to create pseudo NBs that make sense to you, but keep them high-level.  
Before you used Evernote, how did you organize your file folders?
For many, many years, I had a file server with these top-level folders:

  • Business
  • Personal
  • Ref
  • Projects
  • IT

But that's just me, what is logical, intuitive to me.  It might be something completely different for you.

If you have more questions, fire away!  ;)

Yes, I'm starting to realize that limiting pNB's to very high levels - i.e., file cabinet level - reduces much of the arbitrariness I perceived between pNB tags and ordinary tags.

So once you have these high level pNB's, how do you browse through them? I.e., if you have .NB.Business with 1000 notes, it's difficult to browse, and you're left with search, for which none of this tag hierarchy is necessary. Even if you go one level down with pNB's, as you said you do in some cases, you might still be left with hundreds of notes in one pNB.

One thing that appealed to me about AG's method is that once he drills down into the hierarchy, he is left with a handful of notes, i.e., an easily browseable # of notes.  With your method of very high level pNB's, and let's say one sub-level of pNB's, you are left with many notes in a sub-level pNB, with no ability to navigate through the hierarchy to a small number of notes that may be of relevance to a particular inquiry. Unless you are using nesting ordinary tags inside the pNBs?

You mentioned the following in an earlier post: 

But I really don't have "deeply nested pseudo notebooks".  In most cases, I only have one sub pseudo NB, meaning a tag that starts with ".NB.".  How many you have is entirely up to you.  I do have other parent tags under a pseudo NB, but those generally are tags used to categorize the note.

I don't understand what you mean by "parent tags". But perhaps the answer to this has something to do with how you are breaking down large pNB's into browsable groups of notes.

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23 minutes ago, tavor said:

In your use case, it's a bit more obvious how to draw the line between pseudoNB ("pNB" for brevity) tags and ordinary tags. But even here, you could have pNB tag ".NB.Asset" instead of ordinary tag "Asset".

I could have, but it doesn't make sense to me to do so.  If you choose to do so, that's fine -- again, whatever is most intuitive to you.

25 minutes ago, tavor said:

So once you have these high level pNB's, how do you browse through them? I.e., if you have .NB.Business with 1000 notes, it's difficult to browse, and you're left with search, for which none of this tag hierarchy is necessary

Good question.  Like AG, I have a shallow-to-deep hierarchy inside of my pseudo NBs to facilitate browsing.
You can make the hierarchy as deep or shallow as suits your needs.  Some pseudo NBs may have only 2 or 3 levels.  Other may have 5 or 6, or more, although I would not make it very deep for practical reasons.  But, again, that's up to you, whatever makes sense to you, works for you. 
For example, here's an example with 4 levels:

EN-Mac-6.3-IT-Tag-Hierarchy.png

38 minutes ago, tavor said:

I don't understand what you mean by "parent tags".

In any hierarchy, just like in real life, any item which has sub-items, known as "child items" is a "parent item".
So "parent tag" is any tag which has one or more child tags.

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9 minutes ago, JMichaelTX said:

I could have, but it doesn't make sense to me to do so.  If you choose to do so, that's fine -- again, whatever is most intuitive to you.

Good question.  Like AG, I have a shallow-to-deep hierarchy inside of my pseudo NBs to facilitate browsing.
You can make the hierarchy as deep or shallow as suits your needs.  Some pseudo NBs may have only 2 or 3 levels.  Other may have 5 or 6, or more, although I would not make it very deep for practical reasons.  But, again, that's up to you, whatever makes sense to you, works for you. 
For example, here's an example with 4 levels:

EN-Mac-6.3-IT-Tag-Hierarchy.png

In any hierarchy, just like in real life, any item which has sub-items, known as "child items" is a "parent item".
So "parent tag" is any tag which has one or more child tags.

Ah, so you are nesting ordinary tags inside the pNB tags. So, for example, you have pNB ".NB.IT", and multiple levels of nested ordinary tags, e.g., IT_List  > IT.HW > IT.Blutetooth. That's what I was missing. Now I have a much better understanding of how you can use very broad pNB's and still drill down to relatively small numbers of related notes via navigation of the hierarchy.

Thanks for answering all my questions, and detailing your use of pNB's. I may have some more questions as I start implementing this! 

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One other point I should have made clearer, is how to decide which tags get designated as pseudo notebooks.
Here are the guidelines I use for myself:

  1. Is it a very broad category/collection, very high-level?
  2. Limit the number of choices I see when assigning tags that start with .NB. in the Tags block of a Note, and in the Tags block of multi-note panel.
  3. Limit the number of tags I see at the top of my Tag list
  4. Limit the number of tags I see at the top of the Tag list in the EN mobile apps
    1. Very important since EN iOS does NOT support tag hierarchies, and just shows all tags as a flat list.

IOW, I must have a  very compelling reason to designate a tag as a pseudo NB before I do so.

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13 minutes ago, JMichaelTX said:

One other point I should have made clearer, is how to decide which tags get designated as pseudo notebooks.
Here are the guidelines I use for myself:

  1. Is it a very broad category/collection, very high-level?
  2. Limit the number of choices I see when assigning tags that start with .NB. in the Tags block of a Note, and in the Tags block of multi-note panel.
  3. Limit the number of tags I see at the top of my Tag list
  4. Limit the number of tags I see at the top of the Tag list in the EN mobile apps
    1. Very important since EN iOS does NOT support tag hierarchies, and just shows all tags as a flat list.

IOW, I must have a  very compelling reason to designate a tag as a pseudo NB before I do so.

I like these guidelines, and they help avoid the arbitrariness of, and thus, the mental exercise of always deciding between, pNB tags vs ordinary tags.

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Here's a proposed tag hierarchy system that combines elements of both JM's and AG's methods. 

Guidelines:
  • pseudo notebooks ("pNB's") (with ".NB." prefix) 1-3 levels deep
  • ordinary tags nested below pNB tags
  • notes do not get tagged with pNB tags
  • between pNB's and nested ordinary tags, the smallest branches of the tree should contain easily 'browsable' # of notes. For notes that aren't uniform, let's say <10 notes. For uniform notes (e.g., item1Note, item2Note, etc.) where a large list of notes is easy to mentally process, the smallest branches can contain larger #'s of notes.

Pros:

  • visual hierarchy via tags (broadly similar to both JM and AG methods, i.e., avoids limitations of EN notebooks)
  • no need to tag notes with every pNB to which it belongs - saves time, makes reorganization easier. Just tag notes with relevant ordinary tags.
  • no need to nest all of your ordinary tags. Ordinary tags will sit below pNB tags in the tags list and are easily distinguishable from pNB tags. Nest and organize tags in the hierarchy only to the extent it adds value.
  • easy reorganization of the hierarchy by moving ordinary tags
Cons:
  • note's location in the hierarchy is not obvious if you find the note via search. But perhaps between the note title and how your hierarchy is organized, it will be easy to determine, to the extent this is necessary.
  • when looking at pNB's, not obvious how many notes fall under that pNB. Not sure if this knowledge has much value.
  • may end up with a lot of ordinary tags as you differentiate groups of notes to meet goal of limiting smallest branches of the tree to easily mentally processable #'s of notes. But since these tags will sit in a nested hierarchy, maybe having lots of tags isn't an issue - i.e., the tag list will still be relatively compact.

Thoughts? The primary difference from JM's method is NOT tagging notes with pNB tags. It's not obvious to me that tagging notes with pNB tags provides benefits that exceed the effort required.

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24 minutes ago, tavor said:

It's not obvious to me that tagging notes with pNB tags provides benefits that exceed the effort required.

I don't use pNB tags myself but I can see benefits

  • It will satisfy those users who can't contemplate life without notebooks ?
  • I can see a benefit; for example using pNB Personal and pNB Business
    Having a discipline of always assigning a pNB tag will make sure you've always correctly identified your notes
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2 minutes ago, DTLow said:

I don't use pNB tags myself but I can see benefits

  • It will satisfy those users who can't contemplate life without notebooks ?
  • I can see a benefit; for example using pNB Personal and pNB Business
    Having a discipline of always assigning a pNB tag will make sure you've always correctly identified your notes

pNB tags' ability to organize tags into a hierarchy is independent of actually tagging notes with pNB tags, so what I'm proposing would satisfy at least some of those who need notebook-style hierarchical organization of their notes.

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25 minutes ago, tavor said:

ordinary tags nested below pNB tags
...
note's location in the hierarchy is not obvious if you find the note via search.

I wondered about this.
In JMs example, he also used prefixes such as IT > IT-xxxx

One of the examples in this thread is flowers and colour
Would your guideline be a hierarchy of Flowers  > Red etc
or can Red be a completely independent tag

 

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22 minutes ago, DTLow said:

I wondered about this.
In JMs example, he also used prefixes such as IT > IT-xxxx

One of the examples in this thread is flowers and colour
Would your guideline be a hierarchy of Flowers  > Red etc
or can Red be a completely independent tag

 

Good question. This goes back to what I described as an arbitrariness between pNB tags and ordinary tags. With JM's guidelines on creating and using pNB tags, there is less flexibility/arbitrariness because you are incentivized to keep pNB tags to a minimum, otherwise you'll have a very long list of tags when you type ".NB." into the tag field of a new note.

So for him, he may not have pNB's for flowers or colors and may just rely on ordinary tags for those note content descriptors. If you aren't tagging notes with pNB tags and using them only to provide hierarchical organization for ordinary tags (as I am proposing), then you can have many more pNB tags, which means you'll have to think some more about how you will organize the hierarchy between pNB tags and ordinary tags. 

So you could have .NB.Flowers and then drag the various color (ordinary) tags  under that pNB. Of course that would require that only flowers get color tags, otherwise you'd end up with, e.g., a red ties note under .NB.Flowers. I suppose I'd stick with ordinary tags for both "flowers" and "[colors]", and have a broader pNB, say, .NB.Flora with "flowers" as a nested ordinary tag. This branch would show all notes tagged "flowers". And if that list of notes was very long and not easy to mentally process, then instead of a simple "red" tag, I'd opt for "flowers.red" tag and nest that under flowers, so it would look like: .NB.Flora > flowers > flowers.red.

This is what I meant by this method potentially producing a large number of ordinary tags. Though if most of these tags are nested, the tags list will be relatively compact and well organized.

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On 1/19/2016 at 8:54 AM, tavor said:

Here's a proposed tag hierarchy system that combines elements of both JM's and AG's methods. 

[Note to future readers:  pNB stands for pseudo notebook, a tag named with a prefix of ".NB."]

The beauty of Evernote is that there are an endless number of ways to organize your notes, no one way being the "best" for everyone.

You make some good points, and if it meets your needs, then go for it.  I may change in the future, but at this time I still prefer my approach.
Perhaps it is just psychological, but I really like the comfort of knowing that all of my notes will be tagged with at least one of the pNBs.

  • Perhaps later I may want to do something with the block of notes in a one of my pNBs
  • I may want to backup my notes using ENEX, and create one ENEX per pNB, to facilitate selected recovery (import) later
  • I may want to just browse the entire contents of a pNB, in either chronological order or title order
  • Since I used to always set a real NB, like "Business" or "IT", it is already muscle memory for me to set a pNB now.

 

On 1/19/2016 at 8:54 AM, tavor said:

Pros:

  • visual hierarchy via tags (broadly similar to both JM and AG methods, i.e., avoids limitations of EN notebooks)
  • no need to tag notes with every pNB to which it belongs - saves time, makes reorganization easier. Just tag notes with relevant ordinary tags.
  • no need to nest all of your ordinary tags. Ordinary tags will sit below pNB tags in the tags list and are easily distinguishable from pNB tags. Nest and organize tags in the hierarchy only to the extent it adds value.
  • easy reorganization of the hierarchy by moving ordinary tags

As I mentioned above, for me, tagging every note with a pNB is now fast and easy.
I don't see reorganization as a concern.  I would rarely need to do it, and when/if I do, then a simple search of the current pNB, then tag with the new pNB is easy enough.
I actually prefer to nest all of my tags under the pNBs.  

  • It collapses my tag list down to less than 10 parent tags at the top level.
  • Reduces clutter in the left Sidebar and in the Tags view, and makes both much faster to display
On 1/19/2016 at 9:19 AM, DTLow said:

I don't use pNB tags myself but I can see benefits

  • It will satisfy those users who can't contemplate life without notebooks ?
  • I can see a benefit; for example using pNB Personal and pNB Business
    Having a discipline of always assigning a pNB tag will make sure you've always correctly identified your notes

Agreed.

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@JMichaelTX, thanks for listing what you perceive as the benefits of tagging notes with pNB's as opposed to simply using pNB's to organize ordinary tags into a hierarchy. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't overlooking a dealbreaker.

I think I'll try using the system I proposed and see how it goes. I'm sure I'll have better clarity on needs/wants/limitations once I'm actually implementing this. Thanks for engaging in this discussion! 

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1 hour ago, tavor said:

So for him, he may not have pNB's for flowers or colors and may just rely on ordinary tags for those note content descriptors.

I definitely would not have a pNB for flowers, and especially not for colors.

I do have lots of tag hierarchies that are used to group together common choices.  For example:

EN-Mac-6.3-Tag-Group-Example.png

So, IF I was into flowers, and colors were important, then I might create a tag group like this:
(this facilitates browsing by flower color)

  • FLOWER.COLORS
    • FCLR.Red
    • FCLR.Green
    • FCLR.Blue
    • etc

OR, if it was NOT important that I have a specific color tag for flowers, I might create this tag group, which could obviously be applied to any object that has color:
(this does NOT facilitate browsing by color of a specific object)

  • COLORS
    • Red
    • Green
    • Blue
    • etc

Assuming I had a tag named "Flowers", then I'd have create a tag filter of "Flowers", "Red" ( or do a similar search), to show the red flowers.

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14 minutes ago, tavor said:

I think I'll try using the system I proposed and see how it goes. I'm sure I'll have better clarity on needs/wants/limitations once I'm actually implementing this. Thanks for engaging in this discussion! 

That's exactly how I developed the approach I'm using.
Thank you, and everyone, for the discussion.  It has definitely caused me to reexamine my approach, and think about alternatives and improvements.
It is definitely a  work in progress.

Good luck to all!

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I was just working in Evernote, and I made use of another benefit of using pNBs (and tagging all notes with that pNB):
Using Reminders as Pinned or Key Notes

Once I click on the pNB tag, the Note list shows all notes in the pNB.  I can then expand the "Reminders" list at the top to see my key notes and actual reminders for that pNB.
I really like this. Since I have very few real Reminders (I use Outlook for that), I see a small list of my key notes for the pNB.

Works for me, but YMMV.

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Minor update: I went ahead and created a few top level pNB's and nested some of my ordinary tags. I liked the appearance so much, I went ahead and created a .NB.Misc and nested all the leftover ordinary tags that weren't already nested. I love the look. Much more pleasing (and perhaps even calming) than a long list of random tags. 

It's clear to me that in order to achieve my goal of being able to navigate down the tag hierarchy to small groups of notes, I will have to create more tags. But rather than approach this as a standalone reorganization project, I'll wait until I need to access a note, and at that time, I'll create new tags as necessary. No point in spending a lot of time tagging notes that I may never access again.

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7 hours ago, tavor said:

Minor update: I went ahead and created a few top level pNB's and nested some of my ordinary tags. I liked the appearance so much, I went ahead and created a .NB.Misc and nested all the leftover ordinary tags that weren't already nested. I love the look. Much more pleasing (and perhaps even calming) than a long list of random tags

Agreed, however visible hierarchies are a desktop feature.  On my iPad, tags are just displayed in one long list.

I've tried to mitigate this somewhat.

  • I use prefixes to group classes of tags.  
    My first attempt was to repeat the parent, for example Who > Who-xxx.  
    Then I found the tag names are truncated in the display.  I ended up using symbols, for example ?Who > ?xxx
    When adding a tag to a note. I start typing ? and the list is restricted to all my ?Who tags
  • I use emoticons to make the parent tags stand out, for example ?Who?‍?‍?‍? > ?xxx
  • I insert a space to ensure the parent tag sort first, for example ? Who instead of ?Who

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6 hours ago, tavor said:

I went ahead and created a few top level pNB's and nested some of my ordinary tags. I liked the appearance so much, I went ahead and created a .NB.Misc and nested all the leftover ordinary tags that weren't already nested. I love the look. Much more pleasing (and perhaps even calming) than a long list of random tags

I agree completely.  I love the compact, uncluttered look of my tag list using pNBs.  Glad to see it is working out for you.

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No.  What happened to Evernote?  Now I can't search for notes or expand notebooks.  I have no idea how to find my notes anymore.

I get the desire to constantly innovate but what good does that do when you compromise your core product?

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2 hours ago, hirpaguy said:

What happened to Evernote?  Now I can't search for notes or expand notebooks.  I have no idea how to find my notes anymore.

Sorry to hear about your troubles.  It would be best if you could start a new topic, and provide:

  1. What versions of OS and Evernote you are running
  2. Detailed description of what is not working for you
  3. Steps to reproduce
  4. Screenshot(s) showing issue

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@eafpres mentioned a benefit to @JMichaelTX's pseudo noebook tags

"I also use tags, including a unique tag for each notebook so that you can filter out a notebook (Evernote Windows client does not support -notebook:notebook_name in search)."

 

 

 

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FWIW, I also use a convention as follows:

Let's say I'm a researcher collecting exiting literature on topics A, B, and C

I create notebooks for A, B, and C

I create tags a-A, b-B, c-C and tag everything in the respective notebooks with these tags.  This allows me to use the afore-described utility to filter OUT a given notebook from a search

I also create tags A, B, and C

If I put something in notebook B, because it is mainly about B, it gets the b-B tag because it is in notebook B.  However, if it also contains important information about C, it gets the C tag (NOT c-C).  That way I can run a search for all the things related to C that are not in the main C notebook.

 

For me this has been extremely useful

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