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Flier

Notebook Colors .... Useless!

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IMO Evernote's major flaw is folder organization.  No hierarchical folders.  No way to change the listing order of folders.  (Yes, yes, I know all about tags.  Tag zealots please restrain yourselves.  Tags are fine on their own but are an inadequate workaround for a primitive folder interface.)

I was pleased to see the announcement that folder labels could be colored.  This seemed to open the opportunity to apply a little organization at least.

After I cracked the code on the obscure "Style" box  (the tiny monochrome gridwork thingy gets you the color picker) I discovered that color can be applied only to folders that do not contain other folders.  Sheesh!  Why bother to add color at all?

I really like aspects of Evernote, but the lack of folder organization makes opening the application feel like entering a garbage house.  The desktop Win version is bad, but the touch version is hopeless.  Sure, everything is there.  But where?

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There are a lot of articles showing various ways people approach and tackle "finding stuff in Evernote." 

Since I decided to make Evernote the foundation of my info ecosystem, I've invested time in learning about various approaches (lots of notebooks vs. one giant notebook, a gazillion tags vs. very few vs. none at all; saved searches, advanced search methods...). 

I would encourage you - if you want to get more comfortable finding stuff in Evernote, take some (more?) time to research and find methods that work for you. 

Personally, I've always hated folders because I've never liked the idea that a note must reside in one folder and when a note can fit in more than one folder, I'd have to make a decision on which one in which to save it. 

That's when I began to really appreciate tags. Then I learned that too many tags has its own drawbacks... and putting more muscle into searching was recommended. Recently I've also developed my own system for how I measure engagement with a note and its relationship to other notes in a topic, which takes my degree of connection to my notes that much further.

At the end of the day, I've found and have seen in others that, when you make the jump to that next level of getting what makes Evernote rock, the last thing you'll worry about is how to find stuff. I went from 1000 notes to just over 4000 notes in a year, and am impressed to see people managing tens of thousands of notes in Evernote.

Hope it works out for you.

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On April 25, 2016 at 9:14 AM, Flier said:

IMO Evernote's major flaw is folder organization.  No hierarchical folders.  No way to change the listing order of folders

As you found out, Evernote does not use a folder methodology for organizing notes.

Instead, a label methodology is used. You assign labels to the notes, and retrieve notes by specifying the labels.  These labels are known as notebooks, tags, keywords etc.

Depending on the Evernote platform, you can arrange the labels in a hierarchy
for example  - notebooks in stacks
                     - tags in parent-child structures

As you noted, the folder methodology is a primitive form of organization.  
The label methodology is the next level.  
You can see it being implemented in various computer operating systems.  
IMO, Evernote's implementation is very successful.  
It's allowed me great control over my data, and task management.

 

 

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Guys, I get all that.  That's why I said " Tag zealots please restrain yourselves."  Hierarchical directories/aka folders have been around since the dawn of computing.  There is a reason for this:  They are useful.  Tags are useful too, but they are not a substitute for a folder hierarchy.  Drag and drop for list ordering came along much later, but it too has persisted because it is useful.

For example, I use Evernote for travel planning because I can use my desktop computer to plan and then when we are on a trip I can have all of the trip info available via offline folders on our tablets.  A very simple and useful structure would be a top level folder Travel folder, below which is a folder with the country name and general information, then a subfolder for hotels and a subfolder of that for rejected hotels.  Same thing for driving routes:  "Travel/Norway_2015/Routes/Rejected Routes"  When I am not working on travel I would like to completely collapse the Travel folder and get all of its children out of view.  Once the trip is completed I would like to drag it to the bottom of the trip list so that my one or two upcoming trips are at the top of the list.  I can do none of this with Evernote but I can do all of it even within the simple bookmark structure of Firefox.  As far as I am concerned these are major functional deficiencies.  The fact that I can work around some of them with tagging kludges is irrelevant.

The implementation of notebook colors is another piece of low quality work.  "Stack tops" or whatever you call them, appear in the same list as notebooks and are functionally the same.  Why would you implement a coloring scheme that allows colors terminal node notebooks but cannot color notebooks/stack tops that contain other notebooks?  The only reason I can think of is that no one spent the few milliseconds of UI planning that would have been required to forecast how colors might be used.

Evernote is just good enough as it stands to make it frustrating that its approach to folders is pre-stone-age.  If it were a little less good, I would not bother with it at all and I would not be here to carp about this major inadequacy.

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I hear you, but I'm not a tag zealot - as I said, I've seen cons with tags in addition to the pros.

I also recognize that your post was about the colour-coding. To be honest, I doubt I'll even use that. I agree it doesn't present a compelling use value. 

BUT, when you expressed concern about how to find stuff in Evernote, I focused on that. Colour coding isn't likely to help you a whole lot. But what is? Developing your grasp of what makes Evernote a strong platform.

Of course, if Evernote is not for you, it's not for you. There's choice out there, maybe you may want to try Microsoft OneNote. From that angle, my response was to not leave "how to find stuff in Evernote"  dangling unaddressed, because that's not a problem for me or other with many more notes than I'm managing. 

 

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26 minutes ago, Flier said:

Hierarchical directories/aka folders have been around since the dawn of computing.

I realize adapting is difficult for some people.
Have you considered exporting your notes in html format.
This will give you your notes as individual files into the computer file folder system.

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8 minutes ago, DTLow said:

I realize adapting is difficult for some people.

Yes.  It would be difficult for me to sell my sports car and instead begin driving a Model T Ford.  It would be difficult, too, for me to ditch my current Surface Pro 3 tablet and go back to an Intel 286-based computer.  That is more or less what we are talking about here.

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Evernote is the past and folders are the efficient ideal? Alright then, I'm done here. Good luck. 

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Evernote's folder management is in the far, far, past.  I have been a computer architect and programmer for a long, long time and I can't remember an OS that did not implement hierarchical directories.  Maybe the Radio Shack TRS-80, Exidy Sorcerer, or one of the other cassette tape based machines?

Evernote's ability to store , manage, and search heterogeneous data is the reason for its leadership in its niche and is the only reason that I put up with its crude and archaic folder management.  Adding just enough folder management to make it competitive with, say, the simple bookmark management capability in FireFox takes nothing away from Evernote.  It only adds.

And, BTW, I never said anything about "efficiency" or "ideal."

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Back when computers were new,  "folders"  were used as a motif familiar with people using paper,  a physical thing with physical limitations. We don't share with carbon paper anymore either, because Evernote is not paper, it's "folder management"  is not its base approach, nor should it be clawed back towards that basis. Its strengths and advantage is precisely that it is not paper, it is free of paper's limitations.  I can't wait to finish scanning all my old paper DayTimer books into Evernote. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Duane said:

Back when computers were new,  "folders"  were used as a motif familiar with people using paper,  a physical thing with physical limitations.

"Notebooks" and "stacks" are not comforting metaphors familiar to people used to using paper?  "Folders," "directories," and "notebooks" are all names for the same thing:  collections of information.  The only thing at issue here is Evernote's unhelpful limitations on collections being able to contain other collections.

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Funny thing is tags contain tags with nesting, all the more powerful now with inheritance implemented.

IAC, to me stacks/notebooks in EN are used to segregate data into search, shared, and offline sets, not necessarily to "file" the data.  Tags, text, and attributes (eg, created) are used to find things.  And finding things is EN's strength.  For me I care less where I put it, I just want to find it.

Not hating on folks who want notebook levels.  For sure you can use notebooks to accomplish the same ends, I just prefer tags. 

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11 hours ago, csihilling said:

Funny thing is tags contain tags with nesting, all the more powerful now with inheritance implemented.

BINGO!

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20 hours ago, Flier said:

I discovered that color can be applied only to folders that do not contain other folders.

Correct. In other words you can only color Notebooks. You can't color Stacks.

@Flier, you might want to try out a notebook/ tag-based hybrid setup... Do your thing with Stacks and Notebooks... and then go deeper with tags. While filtering for notebooks in the note panel, you are able to bring up all tags associated with those filtered notes... and as your tag filtering gets more specific, you only see remaining tags available to filter further via the tag search icon in the Note List's search explanation. 

As @csihilling pointed out, nested tags have become a whole lot more powerful and behave more like nested elements would, being able to search from any level down through children elements.

13 hours ago, Flier said:

I have been a computer architect and programmer for a long, long time

Nice!

A REMINDER: you have other Evernote users just like yourself offering (friendly) workarounds and suggestions and you're coming across as a spoiled, entitled brat. 

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14 hours ago, Flier said:

Yes.  It would be difficult for me to sell my sports car and instead begin driving a Model T Ford.  It would be difficult, too, for me to ditch my current Surface Pro 3 tablet and go back to an Intel 286-based computer.  That is more or less what we are talking about here.

drama-queen-i5291.jpg

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18 hours ago, Flier said:

A very simple and useful structure would be a top level folder Travel folder, below which is a folder with the country name and general information, then a subfolder for hotels and a subfolder of that for rejected hotels.  Same thing for driving routes:  "Travel/Norway_2015/Routes/Rejected Routes"  When I am not working on travel I would like to completely collapse the Travel folder and get all of its children out of view.  Once the trip is completed I would like to drag it to the bottom of the trip list so that my one or two upcoming trips are at the top of the list.  I can do none of this with Evernote but I can do all of it even within the simple bookmark structure of Firefox.  As far as I am concerned these are major functional deficiencies.  The fact that I can work around some of them with tagging kludges is irrelevant.

Can this not be accomplished simply by making a Stack of notebooks named after your destination. Stacks can be collapsed or opened whenever you like. When a trip is complete, add "z" prefix to the name to force it to sort at the bottom of the stack (and upcoming or current trips can be prefixed with a symbol like ! . or @ to force it to the top).

That said, you'd be unable to do something like, for a given destination, make sub-folders for "routes" and "sights" or whatever. Tags can go along way with that, but you apparently already know about everything tags can do, so I'll spare you an explanation.

 

What is really sounds like you are saying is that you want hierarchical organization, or else. I'd consider setting up such a hierarchy in your computer's filesystem, and if you need mobile/online/cloud access, put the hierarchy into something like Dropbox. 

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18 hours ago, Flier said:

It would be difficult, too, for me to ditch my current Surface Pro 3 tablet and go back to an Intel 286-based computer.  That is more or less what we are talking about

I don't understand?  I thought the discussion was on data organization methodology, and your issues with the Evernote system.

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I don't know if this is still relevant to you @Flier but have you considered using tags instead of notebooks in the shortcut menu? Tags, unlike notebook stacks, can all be styled with colour like the regular notebook. Might be worth a look? That said, I'm a visual person and I hear you, I've been waiting for more tools to VISUALLY separate different content in Evernote.

I don't really miss physical notebooks that much, but I miss the great feeling of finally having filled an entire book. Adding some visual cues would help me create that sense of having made progress. Right now Evernote for me is this bottomless sea of notes from the past eight years. I realise that might not mean much to every Evernote user, but having a notebook cover, even with a progress bar next to it to indicate how much of the notebook have been filled (if you have specified a limited number of pages/notes), would be very helpful to me with the kind of work I am doing. A notebook cover can be like a trophy/reward or achievement like in a video game as it can represent progress. For instance, I like to have a new notebook at the beginning of every month, but I would also like to get the sense of how my notes are piling up. Having a few visual cues to encourage me to look through my previous notebooks would be good.

This has been a discussion in the EN forums for years. I guess either you get it or your don't. Or, in other words: Either you think and work visually or you don't. For those who don't, searches and tags are probably more than good enough. However, I would love to see a more wide acceptance of the fact that people think and work differently, and that one way isn't necessarily better than the other. I would love to see EN provide the necessary tools for both groups.

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„If you want to please everybody, you end up with pleasing no one“ (German writer Goethe about theater audiences).

Some more optical elements like more color in highlighting etc. yes. Pushing EN from what it is today to something visual-based no.

For me if my right half of the brain wants handwriting or sketching I use a device (iPad pro with Apple Pencil) and apps (Goodnotes, Sketchpad etc.) that are up to the task. If my left half of the brain wants to have it organized and filed, I use Evernote. Since Evernote will take all sorts of stuff and is highly flexible, I can satisfy both aspects of my virtual life.

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Like I said, people are different. However, I never said anything about pleasing everyone. I thought it would be sensible to take a moment to consider how different people think and work and look at what the possibilities are before dismissing suggestions based on one's own preferences. I don't need an integrated drawing app. EN has had different plugins in the past, and I appreciate the simplicity of the UI. But perhaps there are other ways to provide some visual customization in EN that doesn't require a complete redesign.

For instance, I think a lot could be solved by providing more varied templates. For now I have made my own 'home page' note that contains links to my most used notes and it works ok for the most part. I do think it would be easier if it was possible to lock a note/make it 'read only'. Or, if that is too complicated, make it possible to toggle between a 'reading mode' (not presentation) and the editing mode (the text editor) as clicking links or scrolling a note in the Windows app too often results in accidentally moving text or stretching a table. The Android allows for this. Tapping the screen makes a note editable (though I would prefer if it was possible to choose between 'tap anywhere' or 'tap the edit button').

I tend to use the Android app primarily for reading and the Windows app for writing just because this is what seems to works best at the moment. I do look forward to see how the new EN is streamlined across all the different devices.

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For me it is iOS and Mac. For the Mac, there is a very nice extension called Bubble Browser for Evernote. It shows notes in their relation to each other, or groups of tags etc. A very nice tool to visualize the living structure of an Evernote database.

 

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Wow, I can see how that can speed things up! And it looks very clean too

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It is especially useful when you clean up your notes. You can both find tags seldom used (some may be important though, others are just near copies of other tags), as you can find notes that have escaped tagging. For me, tagging is important, so I have to keep my tags in line.

To see how clusters of notes are related creates a much better feeling for all the information in my Evernote data.

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