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Thoughts on Organizing Evernote Notes

In Evernote Podcast #26, their CTO Dave Engberg answers a question about organizing notes in Evernote using Notebooks and Tags.  If you listen to the podcasts, it starts at 31:03.

He makes the point there are really two ways to organize notes.  One is to be scrupulous about segregating like notes into notebooks, and religiously using a a tag system.  The other is to dump everything into one notebook and use no tags, and just search for data.

To this long time user, his remarks harkened back to the days when Yahoo was the first, best search engine.  The two methods compare the Yahoo of then, with the Google of now.

Back in the day, Yahoo had a staff of people who would look at a web page and categorize it.  They maintained  a list of topics, not unlike a Dewey Decimal breakdown, and the associated web pages.  When web pages were numbered in the thousands instead of billions, this was a great system.  Of course the explosion of web pages doomed that model.

Then Google appeared which worked on indexing the words in a website and using their Page Rank system to determine which were the more relevant web page for a given search.

I tend to use the Google system in my Evernote use, but that is just what works for me.  Unless I am sharing a note with the public, as I do with my Public Bookmarks, everything goes into a Default Folder.  Then I use search to find items.

Now, if I were a college student I could see using it differently.  All notes, web pages, document scans etc. pertaining to a current class I would put into a notebook specific to that class.  That way I could easily see all the material when I was preparing for a Final Test.  If I kept current on my scanning etc. I could study for a intermediate test by sorting that notebook by Date Created.  The limit of 99 notebooks should give me enough notebooks for a four year degree.

When my college degree was completed, I might want to reclaim my Notebooks for future use.  I could tag all the notes in a given Notebook to show that it was a college class, another for the name of the course, and perhaps a third for the overall subject matter.  Then I would move those Notes to a Default Notebook and then reclaim those 48 notebooks or so I'd used for classes.

For the way I use Evernote now, capturing random data off the web I might use in a blog post or column, I do tag with tags regarding the subject matter and intent to use, (i.e. column idea or blog post).  For capturing the documents of my everyday life, I just dump them in and am able to find them with searches.  For example searching on the name of my bank pulls up relevant data, or searching on the name of my insurance company gives me all the information I need on that topic.

How do you organize your Evernote data?


  1. I dump it all in and use search. I have found more and more that this method works best for me, not just with Evernote, but for most storage. Evernote just makes it easier to search. In my file storage for my work, I have dispensed with folder hierarchy in favor of relevant file naming to help when I search. I am now training myself to include expiration dates in file names, to that I can routinely line up the files I no longer need and delete them. Getting rid of unnecessary garbage is important. Most of us who have been saving files since the dawn of the PC's have learned just how much stuff can accumulate over time. You either have to have a good way to deal with it, or drag it around with you through the data media conversions. (floppy to zip to CD to DVD to cards to external HD to USB to cloud and others in between in less than 20 years.)


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