For years, I’ve breezily claimed that Evernote is the perfect way to capture absolutely everything. The result? over 5,000 notes and some very cursory attempts at organising them. One of the many unattractive tasks I set myself over the Christmas holiday was to impose some order. I’d imagined that among the squillion new features added to Evernote would be a simple ‘archive’ checkbox to hide notes that you don’t want showing up in your search results, but might need again one day. Alas, no. I’ve devised my own housekeeping approach, which I’ll share with you now.
Tidying up in Evernote
1. Remove duplicates
There’s no easy way of removing duplicates. Boo. I’d suggest switching to Top List View (Ctrl + F7), and sorting notes by Title.
You can then scan down the list to spot any with the same title. Of course, the content might be different, so take a quick look before deleting. If the date and time are the same – as in this case – it’s quite likely that they’re genuine duplicates.
2. Remove blanks
Being a bit sausage-fingered with my smartphone, sometimes I inadvertently manage to create blank notes. You can find them by searching for “Untitled note”. Before deleting, check whether they contain any content. If so, you can choose to dump it, or to add a descriptive title.
3. Remove anything obsolete
I tend to save a lot of notes about technology that are very useful at the time, but quickly go out of date. For example, I had dozens of notes on WordPress plugins from 5 years ago. If you’re saving time sensitive material, you could sort by creation date in reverse order.
If, like me, you use to-do lists in Evernote, it might be time for a prune. You can find any notes containing checkboxes by typing todo:* in the search box.
To find only those with completed tasks, use todo:true. For those with outstanding tasks it’s todo:false.
4. Add tags to notes
A good way to improve your chances of retrieving useful content is to ensure that everything is tagged. Having said that, I’m often guilty of thinking “I’m far too busy to spend 3 seconds adding a tag – it’ll be much easier to do that later. I’ll definitely remember.” So, for retrospective tagging, first search for all the notes without a tag by typing -tag:* in the box.
OK, hopefully you’ve now had a tidy up. Now it’s time to start archiving …
Archiving in Evernote
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t an official archiving feature in Evernote. Here are some workarounds:
1. Add an ‘archive’ tag
If you want to stop certain notes from popping up in your search results, but you don’t want to actually delete them, add an archive tag. You can then exclude it from your searches by adding -tag:archive to the query.
For further advanced search techniques, take a look at this post on the Evernote blog.
2. Export notebook or notes
For those of use who routinely want to exclude an entire notebook, it could make sense to export the content and store it elsewhere. A few years ago, I worked as a researcher on a biography of Queen Victoria. I amassed heaps of material in Evernote and really don’t want to part with it. However, I don’t necessarily want a tiny monarch popping up in most of my searches and also consuming my data allowance. So, I’ve exported my notes in a format that allows me to re-import them at any time.
To do this, right-click on the notebook and choose Export Notes.
Now select ENEX. You can opt for HTML instead, but ENEX makes it easier to retrieve your content in its original format.
You’ll then have an ENEX file like this one.
Unless it’s gargantuan like mine, you can simply double-click it at any time to bring everything back into Evernote. Make sure this file is added to your backup routine, though, as you’ll no longer benefit from the benefits of Evernote’s cloud storage.
3. Create a second account
If exporting a big chunk of content makes you nervous, there’s another option: create a second account. This could get expensive if you have a lot of stuff, but the free version of Evernote might be sufficient for some projects. Once your additional account is set up, export your content (as above), then click File > Import to retrieve it.
You can easily switch between Evernote accounts, at least in the desktop version. Click your account name in the top left-hand corner to add or switch accounts:
I hope that helps. I’ve managed to shed more than 2,000 notes so far. This has improved my search results and made Evernote more responsive. Do let me know if you have any more elegant solutions. Happy deleting!