It’s one thing to use Evernote, but it’s entirely another thing to master Evernote. If you’re new to Evernote, I don’t want to come across like it’s something complicated – it’s not, in fact, it’s the complete opposite. But there is a lot to Evernote – more than most of its users probably don’t take advantage of.
In another article I wrote called Why You Should Be Using Evernote As Your Go-To Place For Remembering Everything, I made the point that it is strong at two things, one being searching for your notes quickly and easily. This is a feature that I feel doesn’t get a lot of recognition very often.
My goal in this article is to help you understand the available Evernote search tools, so that you will find it even easier and more enjoyable to use, than it already is. And if you’re not a current Evernote user, to encourage you to take a look (or another look) at it. Note that these methods can be used in both desktop and web versions.
The Two Most Common Evernote Search Techniques
These two techniques are probably ones you are already using and are used in two completely opposite situations – when you know exactly what you’re looking for… and when you have a vague idea of what you’re looking for.
Scan Through Your Notes By Notebook Or Tag
This is probably the least advanced method there is, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. If you know exactly where you want to go, and have organized your notes effectively, simply going to the notebook or tag that the note is categorized by is a great option.
The left panel has a lot of great features actually. More specifically it has the Attributes section, which I encourage to look through, open up all those minimized menus and see what they’re hiding.
Type a Search Term Into Evernote’s Search Box
The search box in Evernote is where all the magic happens. We’ll get to that magic in a bit, but first I want to acknowledge this as the most common way people search for something in Evernote. It works the same way like a search engine, so you already know how to use it.
Just start typing whatever you’re looking for and Evernote will begin narrowing down the results in real time. If you click a notebook or tag in the left sidebar first, your results will be restricted to just that notebook or tag.
NOTE: By default, the search automatically filters out common words like “a”, “and”, “the”, “these”, as well as others.
The default method will only display notes containing every word in your search query, but not necessarily in the same order as they are in the search box.
Boolean Searching & Wildcards
Now we’re getting advanced. We’ll stay with using the search box, but instead of just typing in a search term, let’s spice it up a bit.
Use The + Or – To Include Or Exclude Certain Words
Use case: makeuseof -microsoft +google.
This will display all notes with the words makeuseof and google, but not microsoft.
Note that these also work with other search operators, such as tag:, which we’ll cover later.
Example: -tag:apple will filter out any results that would have been tagged with apple.
Use * To “Read Your Mind” – A.K.A. The Wildcard Character
No this doesn’t really read your mind, but think of this tool like your best friend….who can always finish your sentences. The asterisk can be put at the end of anything and will give you the results of the search term before it. For instance, if you can remember how to spell a place, but remember part of it, type what you can remember and add the * at the end – Evernote will take care of the rest.
NOTE: This is especially helpful in cases where you’re searching for the base word, but want to include other variations of it, like plural forms.
Use case: kane*
In the example below, I’m looking for notes on K?ne?ohe Bay, but can only remember “Kane”.
Basic & Useful Search Operators
In addition to the Boolean search techniques, there are some additional tricks that you can use and even combine with the methods previously mentioned.
Search Any Words With any:
If you want the least specific type of search, this is your solution. As stated before, by default Evernote Search filters out common words. If you want to include those words, any: will do that. This method works best if your search query is a question.
Use case: any: feeding snakes
This will bring any articles that contain either words feeding or snakes, unlike the default search method.
Search An Exact Phrase With a ” At The Beginning
You might already use quotations to get an exact phrase. However, you may not have noticed that you only need one quotation ["] at the beginning of your phase.
Use case: ” feeding snakes
In this instance, I’m looking for any notes that have the words feeding snakes in that exact order, so I add a ["] before the words.
Find Stuff Within a Specific Notebook With notebook:
You could use the first option mentioned in this article to scan through a notebook, but if you have a lot of notebooks, physically searching through them may not be the best way to quickly find what you’re looking for. Instead, go to your search box (like we’ve been doing) and type notebook:[notebook name].
Use case: notebook:resume
In this example I want to quickly access a notebook under the Professional stack, called Resume. It’s important that you don’t put a space between the colon [:] and the notebook name, otherwise you won’t be searching through the desired notebook, but instead for any notes with that term, which would in this case be resume.
If you want to search a notebook containing two or more words in the name, you’ll need to add a quotation ["] between the colon [:] and the notebook name, but like before, you won’t have to add one at the end, although it won’t affect your results if you do.
Example: notebook:”business cards
Search Within The Title Of a Note With intitle:
If you know a specific set of words in the title of a note that you’re looking for, this is a great method to use.
Use case: intitle:quote
Search Within a Specific Tag With tag:
You probably know that tags are an excellent way to organize and categorize your notes. But do you know why? No, it’s not just to add an extra step to the note creation process. It’s for when you need to find them. But have you looked at the Tags from Notebooks menu in the left sidebar?
Scanning through that to find a tag would definitely not improve time efficiency and you might begin to wonder how using tags in Evernote is helpful. Well, wonder no more because using tags in Evernote is helpful, but you have to use them correctly and that comes down to how you search them.
Use case: tag:bicycling
Like previous examples, if you have a tag that contains multiple words, you will need to add a quotation ["] between the colon [:] and the tag name.
For instance, despite sending web articles to my Kindle Touch, I also like saving them in Evernote. So I clip them with the Web Clipper and tag them with read it later.
Example: tag:”read it later
Find a Note Based On a Certain Date With created:[datetime] Or updated:[datetime]
If you know the date a note was created or updated on or after, this is a nice search tool. To find a note based on or after a date, you must format it as YYYYMMDD.
Use case: created:20130113
This will find any notes created on January 13, 2013.
You are also able to search in relativity to the current day.
Use case: created:day-1 = yesterday and created:week-1 = one week ago.
The numbers can be anything and you can also use month and year in these instances as well.
To find notes based on when they were updated, use the updated: search operator, which works the exact same way.
Find Content Of a Specific Type Of Media (e.g. Audio, Image) With resource:
If you’re looking for, say, an image, you can specify and really narrow down your results quickly, unless you have a lot of images, in which case combining some other search operators would speed up the searching process.
Use case: resource:image/png
This will display notes only with images in the file format of .PNG – if you want all images, add an asterisk [*], a.k.a. wildcard, at the end.
Find Notes Containing Your To-Do Lists With todo:
Use Evernote for your to do lists? Well then your life just got better. Evernote sadly isn’t that great for to do lists, but there is a great search operator you can use to find all your to do lists.
Use case: todo:true = notes with a checked checkbox. todo:false = notes with an unchecked checkbox. todo:* = all notes with checkboxes.
Also, in case you are wondering, the results for todo:true and todo:false don’t strictly show only notes with all checked or checked. There only needs to be one of either or to show up. In my own opinion, I kind of wish that wasn’t the case, so I personally recommend just using the asterisk [*] – it’s quicker and simpler.
NOTE: For Evernote to detect notes containing your to do lists, you must use checkboxes – bullet points won’t be detected.
Find Notes That Contain Encryption With encryption:
Encrypting sensitive or private data in your Evernote notes is an excellent feature. In fact, it’s kind of forgotten by many, myself included. If you’re looking for a specific note that you know has encrypted data, there is a really fast way to find it.
Use case: encryption:
Notice that this search operator doesn’t need any additional values. If you have a lot of notes with partial encryption, consider using additional search operators such as notebook: or intitle: to narrow your search.
Search Notes Containing Recognition Information With recoType:
First let me explain what “recognition information” is. It is information acquired through Evernote in the forms of handwriting, pictures, speech, etc. that can be detected through text. For instance, OCR technology in Evernote allows you to search text in images. Evernote can also do voice to text, as well as handwriting to text.
Use case: recoType:picture, recoType:handwritten, recoType:speech, recoType:printed, recoType:unknown
NOTE: according to a discussion on the Evernote forums, this search operator is likely useless as of now due to changes in how Evernote works. I, personally, don’t have all the knowledge to explain why or how though. Why didn’t I just leave it out completely then? I thought about it, but in the case that it does prove useful in the future, I left it in as a reference.
Find Notes Created At Or Around Co-Ordinates With latitude:, longitude:, & altitude:
Alright, so let’s be honest here – this one is pretty nerdy, but still interesting. If you use your Evernote on your mobile device or on a Mac a lot, the location that a note is created is likely being added to the note. It’s pretty nice actually, especially if you use Evernote for travelling purposes.
Use case: latitude:-97
Again, this is probably not the best search operator to use, unless you really know your coordinates when you travel. And this is really only useful when you do travel because otherwise pretty much all your notes will have the same coordinates.
What is a better way to find something based on where a note was created? I’ll explain in the Combine Search Techniques section.
Save Your Searches
Moving on from the actual search operators, this is another tool that Evernote provides. If you find yourself searching the same thing over and over, why not save it?
To do this, expand the search options by click the arrow to the right of the search box. After you’ve typed in your desired search, click the magnifying glass with a plus sign over it. Name your search in the first field (this is solely for your use, so name it whatever you feel will make it easy to recognize). If your search is for some reason incorrect, you can check it in the bottom field in the window. Refer to the image below.
Sort Your Results
If you’re wanting to improve your searching experience even more, choosing how your results are sorted and displayed can make a big difference.
You might have noticed in most of the screenshots in this article that there are two dropdown menus to the left of the search box. If you haven’t ever used these, go to your Evernote and take a look at them real quick. The first menu include a lot of choices for how you want to sort them. Also, take notice at the very last option on the menu, Reverse Sort Order. This is one that could get easily overlooked, but is a great tool.
Moving on to the second menu, this one includes three different views for displaying your notes: List, Snippet, and Thumbnail. I personally prefer Snippet as it provides a nice balance between the List view (great for smaller screens) and the Thumbnail view (great for notes with images on larger screens).
Combine Search Techniques
This is a pretty basic one and has even been touched upon throughout the article, but I wanted to make the point that you can combine search operators to improve and narrow results. Using the Boolean techniques in combination with search operators is yet another way to improve results.
Simultaneous Search – Display Evernote Notes Which Match Your Query In Search Engines
Even if you already use the Evernote Web Clipper in your browser, you may not have noticed this feature as it is unchecked by default. You can enable it by going to the Web Clipper’s options. In Firefox and Chrome, this option is at the very bottom of the page.
Use The Search Hot Keys
Another very simple tip, but it can greatly improve your time if you are accessing the search box often. To access Evernote Search use Win+Shift+F in Windows and Ctrl+Cmd+F on Mac.
To search through notes for text you can use Ctrl+F in Windows and Cmd+F on Mac.
Note Preparations To Improve Your Evernote Searching Experience
Evernote recognizes that they don’t set you up with a specific way to use it and they pride themselves in allowing their users to create their own system and customize it to their needs. There are, however, some things which you can do to enhance Evernote’s benefits and make finding your notes simpler.
- Title notes accurately.
- Tag notes, but not excessively.
- i.e. tags of words that are already in the note itself.
- When using the Web Clipper, add a description.
- Use notebooks – you can’t have too many.
- “Pin” commonly accessed items to the toolbar via drag and drop.
- This can be a tag, saved search, notebook, anything.
- Use it. Use it a lot. And only use it.
The majority of these are self explanatory, however, below is a picture of what I mean by “pinning items”.
Also, the last one on the list, Use it. Use it a lot. And only use it., means that Evernote is only useful to you if you make it a part of your everyday life. If you’re bouncing back and forth between Evernote and some other similar service, you won’t remember where you stored something and it becomes more of a hassle. So dedicate yourself to one service, in this case Evernote, and create your own system within it.
Now it’s you’re turn to share – did I leave anything out? If so, share how you search through Evernote. Also, we’re always looking for unique ways that you guys have integrated Evernote into your life, so please share in the comments.