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Let me show you an example first: I have the evernote a stack called school and a notebook in it called physics. I put all the physics related school stuff into it. My problem is that I struggle a lot how to tag my notes. Does it make sense to add tags to them "school" and "physics"? Generally, how should I use notebooks and tags?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

In Evernote, notes are kept in notebooks and tags are assigned to notes, you know this. The main difference is that tags can be used to search across all notes and notebooks whereas notebooks can only be opened to show the notes currently located in that notebook.

This makes tags much more powerful. I, for instance, subscribe to the idea that I only need 1 notebook and use tags and custom searches to filter notes for what I need. I model it based on The Secret Weapon's model.

The function of notebooks is much less useful than the agility of using tags for notes. Say you have 1 notebook - school. In this are notes that have physics, chemistry, calculus. Now say you tag these notes based on subject. Say you have a calculus-based physics equation in a note. You can then tag this as both calc and physics whereas in a stack, the note would have to be duplicated to belong to both subjects.

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that's interesting I like it :) – gen Mar 19 '14 at 15:17
Generally agree, with the caveat that using more than one notebook allows better control of offline access, if you are a paid subscriber to Evernote. Notebooks can be marked to be available offline on mobile devices, while tags cannot. A single notebook configured for offline access with many notes containing large binary elements (e.g. audio, graphics) may use more bandwidth than you'd like. Keeping a separate notebook for things you don't mind not having offline access to is one way to manage that issue. – Dennis S. Mar 19 '14 at 21:50

I use Evernote Notebooks to capture broadly themed notes together, and I use tags to help me more specifically slice content in a notebook into areas of usefulness or interest.

I don't think there's a right or wrong to how to use tags, but my general rule of thumb is that a tag shouldn't cover most or all of the content in your notebook. That's what your notebook itself is for. So, any one tag should only cover a percentage of your content. Tags should conceptually play nice together. In other words, combining tags ideally should help you get to more precise views of your notes. So, (for example) you might have a tag called 'assignments', and a tag called 'essays'. Everything tagged 'assignments' is (obviously) an assignment. But perhaps not everything tagged 'essays' is an assignment -- it might be a famous essay on a particular topic. But the application of 'assignments' and 'essays' together should return only those notes about assignments in your notebook that are essays.

I assume there are situations where you would break the rules of thumb above. There might be a great reason why, in a notebook with 100 notes, 99 of them have the same tag and 1 of them doesn't (I can't think of a reason, but I'm sure someone could).

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Notebooks in Evernote have attributes that affect all the notes in them. Namely - local notebooks (which are notebooks which don't synchronize to the server), and shared notebooks.
Also, each note can be only in a single notebook - If you want a note to be in two separate notebooks, you need to copy it.

Tags, on the other hand, are used to facilitate search, and can be assigned to any note on any notebook, and each note can have as many tags as needed. Tags do not have intrinsic attributes like sharing, and although they may be assigned child/parent tags, this is a display only feature, which has no impact on notes having these tags.

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