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peterp6

Display search results according to the relative importance of the term in a note

Idea

I'm often surprised (and, to a degree, frustrated) by the way that Evernote ranks search results. I don't understand how the results are weighted:

  • Do the most recent notes get preference? Apparently not. [EDIT: Yes, if you select the "Updated" column header. If you select the "Title" column header, the result will sort alphabetically.]
  • Does the relative importance of the term in the note count for anything? It doesn't seem like it.

[EDIT: In the specific example that I gave (which I deleted because it's not relevant anymore), the results were being sorted alphabetically according to their titles. When I selected the column header labeled "Updated", the results sorted more sensibly. However, I believe my main point still stands. It would be nice to have an additional way of sorting the search results so that if the search term is, for example, in the title, that note would be ranked higher than a note where the search term was merely part of a URL string in a sub-sub-bullet.]

There should be some clear indication (or at least an obvious reason) of how search results are weighted. [EDIT: Though I didn't realize it at first, this is already being done to a degree.] Here is my idea for a weighted hierarchy:

  1. Title
  2. Tags
  3. Body copy
  4. Images [EDIT: that is, text in images]
Edited by peterp6
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9 minutes ago, peterp6 said:

I'm often surprised (and, to a degree, frustrated) by the way that Evernote ranks search results. I don't understand how the results are weighted:

Where did you get the idea there was any ranking?

You simply get the results in a list of notes satisfying the criteria

You specify the order, for example creation/update dates, title ...

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Search results aren't weighted, they're just ordered by whatever sort criteria you have enabled at the moment. There's no such thing as note importance or relevance. I've thought before that it would be nice to have a sort term in the search grammar,  but that's not the case now. On the other hand, the latest Windows beta allows you to apply view settings (sort ordering, view type) to notebooks, tags, and saved searches. Hopefully that will extend to other clients soon. It's not what you're asking for, but it might be sufficient for some folks (there've been many requests for such a facility here in the forums).

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Thanks, Jeff.

I agree that the latest Windows beta sounds like an improvement.

I'm probably not using the right term when I say "weighted." I just mean that whenever there is more than one item in a list, those items are ordered according to some criteria — unless it's a totally random process, which I doubt it is.

After posting my idea, I discovered that Evernote does allow me to sort the results in one of two ways: by updated date and by title — by clicking on the column headers. That addresses part of my frustration. But the part I would still like to see addressed accounts for the majority of my searches. For example, when I search for a term, I don't necessarily want at the top of the list the most recent notes that contain the term. Nor do I usually want the notes sorted by title. I most often want the notes sorted by importance.

So how can Evernote decide what the important parts of a note are to me? I admit that it can't know for sure. But I'm betting the clever software engineers at Evernote could figure out a way to get the program to make some intelligent guesses. For example, if the term is part of the title, that note is probably more important to me than a note than happens to have a matching string of characters (i.e., the "term") in a URL in a sub-sub-bullet. And if the term matches a tag, those notes are probably (though not guaranteed to be) more important to me than a note that contains the term in some text on a photo.

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Search results on Evernote are a joke, and it's a shame that despite being so successful, they still haven't fixed it. Firstly, you have to type "intitle:[keyword]" in order to prioritise cards that have the search query in the title, otherwise what you get is an endless list of all cards where that words appear, with no prioritisation based on title (which should be default, or at least customisable). Check the screenshot attached. I have a card containing the word "Travels", but it does not appear if I only type in "Travel". I have to type in "Travels" to make it appear in the results! That means one simple thing to me: the search engine on Evernote is seriously flawed. I remember that famous article called "Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant". He was damn right. Note that I am paying my damn premium membership... 

Screen Shot 2016-09-23 at 18.17.29.png

Screen Shot 2016-09-23 at 18.17.39.png

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15 minutes ago, LucaBen said:

the search engine on Evernote is seriously flawed

The search engine has limitations, but it works well for me

I chose this product, and I try to understand those limits and work within them

You can submit posts and cry flaw, bug, joke; I prefer to submit feature requests and work towards improvement

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The search engine doesn't have limitations, it's either badly designed or badly implemented. I am paying for the product, I expect the search engine, it's most important feature, to be impeccable. 

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On 9/23/2016 at 1:41 PM, LucaBen said:

The search engine doesn't have limitations, it's either badly designed or badly implemented. I am paying for the product, I expect the search engine, it's most important feature, to be impeccable. 

To find the notes with "Travels" in the title, use a wildcard: "intitle:Travel*"

The search language is designed to be easy to use; I can handle more complication than it offers; not everyone can. The search engine is fine, but searches are only as powerful as the search language allows it to be.

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Hi Jeff, thanks for taking the time to answer, unfortunately I don't find your suggestion very useful for practical reasons. Using "intitle" in the search query is already in itself more complicated than it should be, it means I had to browse on the internet, look for a solution to a problem that should be solved by the Evernote team by designing a search engine that works as expected, instead of needing such workarounds. I don't see a valid reason why users wouldn't want to prioritise notes titles first. Adding star in the end? I will never do that, it just doesn't make sense, and the reason why I wrote this complain is that I would like the search engine - that is, the very core of the app - to work just fine, and be easy to use. If I type "travel" on Google, it returns search results where "travel" is in the page title, first. And whether I type "travel" or "travels", I am not going to miss important content just because of an "s". That's how a search engine is supposed to work. The fact that the tech team at Evernote has not addressed this issue yet is not a good sign, either they don't have good programmers, or the app is badly set up in its foundations. 

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11 hours ago, LucaBen said:

Using "intitle" in the search query is already in itself more complicated than it should be, it means I had to browse on the internet, look for a solution to a problem that should be solved by the Evernote team by designing a search engine that works as expected, instead of needing such workarounds. 

afaik    The search feature is working as expected
            If I search for notes, and specify the list is to be in date sequence
            - this is how the list should be ordered

The fact that you expect something different is an error on your part. 
You need to understand the product you're using.  Search is documented here   Evernote Search Grammar

The intitle search term is not a workaround.  Its the documenter method used by this feature
There are other terms such as  tag: notebook: etc

If you want the feature changed, submit a request or vote this request.Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 4.34.44 AM.png
I'm not sure this request has much user support; the current vote is 0
(voting buttons are in the upper left corner of the discussion)

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The reason that note titles aren't prioritized first is that all search results are automatically sorted by whatever criterion you, the user, has set. Evernote doesn't sort by "best match". That would be an interesting addition, though I doubt that it would affect how I use Evernote. Here's a hint: do try hard not to call them "bad programmers" when you make a feature request, it's bad form insulting the people that you want to do something for you).

With respect to the '*': it's a common enough search augmentation. In the Windows client, you need to add a '*' to intitle: terms and tag: terms to get prefix matching against words in the title or tag names; for normal text search, you don't need the '*'. A separate feature request would be in order if you want a different behavior, as that differs from the current one.

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So you are telling me that since the notes are sorted by date, the search results should not prioritise titles, and it's an error on my part? I don't see it that way. Titles are a hierarchy step higher, why should date come first? I don't see an option to sort by relevance. Titles describe the note content at a higher level than the content itself, it should be prioritised by default, otherwise what are titles supposed to be used for, if they are not a high-level description of the note content? I don't see any use case scenario where users would want to prioritise random content sorted by date, rather than titles first, dates second (or whatever the criteria). Looks to me like the interface was designed by software engineers with little thinking about users' mental models. This is certainly an assumption on my side but your replies so far did not bring forward any reason why it should not work that way. What's written in the documentation is also incorrect. 

intitle:coffee searches for notes whose title contains "coffee"

This is not how it works. I have a note whose title contains "travels" and it does not come up in search results if I type intitle: travel. That to me means one thing: search is not working properly, as explained above with my example based on google. There's no reason on earth why I should type in "*". I am a guy using a computer, not a tech nerd. If I am still missing something, I'd like you guys to tell me. But thank you for adding your comments. 

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5 hours ago, LucaBen said:

So you are telling me that since the notes are sorted by date, the search results should not prioritise titles, and it's an error on my part?

I'm saying its an error to expect a result when its not set up for that
Its not an error to request this feature; in fact this discussion is a request for Evernote to add "sort by weight" to the sort options.  You can show your support by up-voting
(vote buttons are in the upper left corner of the discussion)

>>I don't see any use case scenario where users would want to prioritise random content sorted by date, rather than titles first, dates second (or whatever the criteria).

If I specified the notes are to be sorted in date sequence, thats how I expect to see them.
I would find it disturbing to have the list sudenly appear in a different sequence

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4 hours ago, LucaBen said:

So you are telling me that since the notes are sorted by date, the search results should not prioritise titles, and it's an error on my part? I don't see it that way. Titles are a hierarchy step higher, why should date come first? I don't see an option to sort by relevance.

Yes, I'm telling you that search results do not prioritize titles. I said nothing about it being an error on your part, unless you somehow assumed that somehow they did. Once notes that match the search criteria are identified, then they're sorted using the sort criterion.

Titles are not part of any hierarchy, they're just another piece of metadata for a note (indeed, often, the first line of a note is used as the title field).

There is no option to sort by relevance, and I never said that there was. It would be an interesting feature.

4 hours ago, LucaBen said:

I don't see any use case scenario where users would want to prioritise random content sorted by date, rather than titles first, dates second (or whatever the criteria). Looks to me like the interface was designed by software engineers with little thinking about users' mental models.

You're wrong about that; there are plenty of use cases where users don't care at all about sorting by title. My content is (mostly) not random: I use sort-by-updated-date-reversed, almost exclusively. I'm sure that many other people do too, or sort-by-location, or sort-by-tag, and so on. One thing that's true: Evernote does not present its search results using multi-level sorting: you choose the single sorting criterion, and that's how things are sorted. Multi-level sorting would be useful, but more complicated to present to users -- it's a balancing game, I think between ease-of-use and utility. 

4 hours ago, LucaBen said:

What's written in the documentation is also incorrect. 

intitle:coffee searches for notes whose title contains "coffee"

This is not how it works. I have a note whose title contains "travels" and it does not come up in search results if I type intitle: travel. That to me means one thing: search is not working properly, as explained above with my example based on google. There's no reason on earth why I should type in "*". I am a guy using a computer, not a tech nerd

Note that Evernote is not Google. Evernote's search works the way it was designed; Google's works the way that it was designed.

The wording of that documentation (and also that of the definitive documentation here: Evernote Search Grammar) is ambiguous: "notes whose title contains 'coffee'" could mean notes whose title contain exactly "coffee", or notes whose titles contain words that begin with "coffee". By strict definition, the search grammar denotes the former of those (this also applies to tag matching and normal note content matching). In the Search Grammar documentation, wildcarding (use of '*') is mentioned explicitly for tags and note search, but is missing for intitle: searches (that's a problem with the documentation). In addition, some Evernote clients -- like Evernote for Windows, which I use -- silently add a '*' to note search terms, turning it from an "exact match" into a "begins with" match. That is, if my search is, say "open", it will match, in the note body, on "open", "openGL", "openings", and so on. It doesn't do that for tag: and intitle: search terms. That's useful, but a little confusing. Generally speaking, though, you want the ability to distinguish between "exact" searches and "begins with" searches: sometimes you want exact matches, and not "begins with". Evernote provides for that; you just need to do a little extra nerd-work to get "begins with" searches.

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I certainly would not consider the search engine a joke.  Can it be enhanced?  Sure.  I take the kitchen drawer approach to my use of Evernote.  I use few notebooks and tags and rely on general search to pluck out what I need.  For the most part, it works well for me.  Occasionally I have to hunt for something a little more than I would like.  Having user selectable weight options would benefit me.  I tend to use descriptive titles so I would like seach hits in titles to show up before content hits, as an example, so I have upvoted this request.

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1 hour ago, s2sailor said:

I tend to use descriptive titles so I would like seach hits in titles to show up before content hits, as an example, so I have upvoted this request.

I upvoted this because I think that multi-level sort would be useful. But I don't think that it's quite the same thing as what's being asked for here. I think that what's being requested is a sort by hit-on-title-match, followed by hit-on-tag-match, followed by hit-onbody-copy-match, followed by hit-on-recognition-text match (i.e. text from images). Multi-level sorting would just use the existing sorting criteria applied multiple times to normal search results. "Relevance" sorting as expressed in the original request is a brand new set of criteria and sorting capabilities.

 

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31 minutes ago, jefito said:

But I don't think that it's quite the same thing as what's being asked for here.

I believe you are right.  I wasn't sure so I included some words about why I upvoted to clarify what I thought would be useful.

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1 hour ago, s2sailor said:

I believe you are right.  I wasn't sure so I included some words about why I upvoted to clarify what I thought would be useful.

Me as well.

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As a not-so-sophisticated Evernote user, I would like the ability to prioritize parts of the search request over other parts, but I can't think of any examples right now. I already use different notebooks for things (though I would really like the ability to -notebook:notebook). I use pretty wordy title descriptions. I'm aware of intitle:blah.

Like the first poster, there's a lot I don't know about Evernote and so I have to google on whatever it is I wish to do. But it seems to me that with hundreds of positive results from my search, I should have more ability to refine the order of what I'm searching for.

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2 minutes ago, TdeV said:

As a not-so-sophisticated Evernote user, I would like the ability to prioritize parts of the search request over other parts,

I think this would help:

 

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1 hour ago, TdeV said:

I think this would help:

 

Can do in Windows.  Description in other post.

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