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Make Your Own Query Language with Evernote Tags

Finding back items in Evernote is usually as simple as typing something, anything, into the search box and seeing the results appear as you type.

For slightly deeper data digging some of us might be tagging our notes and use the [tag:] query to get to very specific notes.

The problem begins when you need that note with that Word document attached to it. Or when you want to pull all your notes with .ppt attachments.

Go ahead, give it a try. I’ll wait.

“Finding” Files the Evernote Way

You won’t find any guidance on how to do this in the Evernote help files. The information is buried deep inside the developer notes and reads something like;

resource:[MIME type string] – will match notes that have a resource with a MIME type that matches the argument.

Which is almost not true.

So before you go off on a Google chase to figure out which MIME type Microsoft Word is then, let me tell you that even with that information, you’ll only find a fraction of the amount of files you know are in your Evernote.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Evernote had a search like has:pdf or from:whomever or…

Finding Files the Easy Way

Setup and use a tag structure which emulates precisely the type of queries you would want to perform in Evernote.

For example, I might tag a note with has:file, has:word, is:template. Or: has:file, has:image, has:photo, is:scanned.

Custom Queries for Evernote

You can already see how this folds back into specific queries:

[tag:has:pdf] finds all my PDF files.

[tag:has:word –tag:is:template] finds all my Word documents which aren’t templates.

I have these tag structures listed in a way which helps me remember visually that something special is going on here – but you can organize this any which way you like.

Taking Query Tagging to the Next Level

Although you have to be careful not to go all out crazy and create tagging structures like people:family:mom:events:birthdays … there are some tempting query-like tags you can setup.

I often come across software that strikes me as very handy because it does A or B. I often download and/or buy it. Problem is that when the time comes that I think “boy, do I need to do B!” … I have no recollection of the software solution I have at hand :)

So, these days when I read the description of a product or service, I clip it into Evernote and tag it with one of my tool: query tags.

Custom Queries for Evernote

Need Portable software? [tag:tool:portable]

Graphic apps? [tag:tool:graphic]

Any software? [tag:tool:*]

You Can Go Your Own Way

Ruud going his own way

Apart from the file/attachment specific queries above, which I think we all need at one point or another, the examples above are really very specific to my user scenarios.

When you get back to your Evernote install or web setup, you have to apply this the way it makes sense in your life.

Questions & Answers

  • Do I have to use the : in these tags?
    No, not at all. In fact, putting a period there is much faster. I just like how it looks like a regular query this way :)
  • Do I have to start these tag structures with has or is or tool?
    No; pick whatever works for you.
  • Why do you use word:word? Why not simply add two tags?
    Because at times I need very specific searches. When I have notes tagged with “word”, “file”, “template” … those notes are just as likely to be about those thing vs. being those things.
    In other words, the above structure allows me to separate tags into information about the note’s content (what it’s about) and information about the note itself (where it comes from or what it contains).

10 Responses to “Make Your Own Query Language with Evernote Tags”

  1. Dave Yuhas Says:

    This is brilliant. Thanks.

  2. Loc Says:

    Ruud – browsing through all your tips and tricks with Evernote, Gmail and other tools in your quest for productivity and efficiency. Good stuff! We tried for a year to get Evernote to work w/in our scope and hated all the little tricks. Like this one. Search really needs to be better – especially once you cross the 1000+ note mark and 100’s of tags. There really should be a better filter system. Would love to chat w/ you further on your methods if you’d entertain the questions. We’re eager for more insight into the problem. Loc@digipim.com

  3. Springpad and Evernote – My Guide to Getting Things Done « dan gold, esq. Says:

    […] find any note I wanted while I was on the phone with a colleague or a client.  I even ran into ways to build some very complex search strings and then save them so that you could re-run them whenever you needed.  Evernote became my virtual […]

  4. Chris Says:

    How are you grouping your saved searches? I am using Evernote 4 and I don’t see a way to group the saved searches. Are you grouping these in the Tags section? Regardless, this a great idea. I love it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ruud Hein Says:

    Chris, the screenshots are from the tag section.

  6. Andreas Says:

    Simple and effective, great!

    Regarding grouping saved searches: that would be a great enhancement indeed.

  7. strumpfhosen Says:

    I do have a couple of notebooks & tags that have the same name, such as “Journal”, “Mother”. Yes, it’s redundant but I’d rather be a bit redundant than have trouble finding my notes. If I want to find the note about my mother wanting some things from the grocery store, did I put it in the “journal” notebook & tag it “Mother” or did I put it in the “Mother” notebook & tag it “journal”? :shock: If I tag it “Journal” & “Mother”, it doesn’t matter which notebook it’s in, even if it accidentally got dropped into the “Auto info” notebook. I just search all notebooks looking for notes that are tagged “Journal” and “Mother”.

  8. Ruud Hein Says:

    I too use notebooks and tags with often the same name.

  9. Abi Shepherd Says:

    Hi. Is there a way in evernote for setting up a search query to find tags that CONTAIN certain text. For instance, I’ve set up tags that start with @ to be my need action tags. Some are @Email, @Out (things I need to do out) and I also wanted to set up some others that start with # to indicate what time of day or if weekday or weekend these jobs might be done. But I can’t find anything anywhere that tells me how to do this….

  10. Ruud Hein Says:

    @Abi You can start experimenting with the wildcard character: *

    It’s also important to know Evernote considers some characters word separators; same like a space between words. These word separators are more or less ignored.

    Anyway, start with something like:

    tag:@*

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