Tips & Stories

11 Advanced Search Techniques to Quickly Find What You Need

11 Advanced Search Techniques to Quickly Find What You Need

Posted by Jessi Craige on 09 Jun 2017

Posted by Jessi Craige on 09 Jun 2017


When you’re searching in Evernote, there are many different ways to go about whittling down the results.

From simply typing into the box with the magnifying glass to more advanced search techniques such as using syntax, there’s a lot of options. While advanced search techniques may sound like a pretty intimidating topic that is somehow both mildly threatening and hopelessly out of reach, it’s really just a fancy way of saying there are lots of ways to step up your search game in Evernote.

Unlock the power behind the search bar

Why do we even need advanced search techniques? How hard can it be?

Everyone knows about the most basic approach to search: typing into Evernote’s search bar and then scrolling through the results to find what you were looking for. Pretty obvious.

But eventually, there will come a time when you are returning too many results for a simple search to handle. As you start to put more and more into Evernote, it can be harder to find what you need with plain old, regular searching. For example, if I type meeting notes into the search bar, my Evernote Business account returns precisely 4,144 results, which is a bit more than my “scroll and look” abilities can handle.

Luckily, there’s more to this little search box than meets the eye. Underneath the hood are some powerful tools, such as advanced search syntax, application shortcuts, and more.

Advanced search tips for the less advanced

Advanced search is really just about speaking to the technology powering Evernote in a tongue that it understands. You can dive into advanced search syntax in Evernote with this help article to master all the search terms we have or check out this video for a quick primer.

To make life even easier, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite advanced search methods here so you can just grab and go. (That way you can save the somewhat formidable task of learning search syntax and memorizing shortcuts for your future self.)

1. Take a shortcut

To start things off easy, try your hand at some powerful search keyboard shortcuts.

  • Quickly access the search bar in Evernote by using Option + Cmd + F for Mac or Ctrl + Q for Windows.
  • To search specifically within the note you currently have open, use Ctrl + F in Windows and Cmd + F for Mac.
  • As long as Evernote is running in the background, using Win + Shift + F in Windows and Ctrl + Cmd + E in Mac will immediately take you to our search bar. No matter whether you’re working in your browser or in iTunes, you can always get straight to the search by jumping directly into Evernote.
  • Need a specific note, notebook, or tag in a pinch? Use Cmd + J with Evernote for Mac or Ctrl + Q for Windows to “jump” there, fast. You can see your most recent notebooks or just search for other things in general. Try it out—you’ll quickly see why this shortcut is a favorite.

2.  Cut straight to the notebook

If you’re team notebooks in the ongoing battle between notebooks and tags] then you probably have a lot of them and it may take you a while to navigate to the exact one you are looking for.

  • Find things in a specific notebook by typing notebook:insert notebook name into the search bar. Be sure not to include a space between the colon and the name of your notebook. (I may or may not be speaking from experience).

3.  The power of any

If you type meeting notes into the search bar, Evernote will only show the notes that include all of your search keywords (i.e. meeting and notes both have to appear in the note for it to be included). But what if the note you are looking for is titled team sync notes or brainstorming session notes? You’d be out of luck.

  • Put any: before your search term. For example, any: meeting notes will show you every note that contains either meeting or notes.

4.  Exclude away

Not everything needs to be included. I’m more of a notebook person myself, but if you’re an avid tagger, then this tip is especially helpful.

  • Search for notes not tagged by using -tag. For example, if you’re looking for a receipt you haven’t submitted (and you’re diligent about using the proper tags), you can type -tag:submitted into the search bar to find receipts without the submitted tag.
  • Use -tag:* to return all notes without tags. If sorting notes with tags is your thing, then this is a great way to see all the notes that you haven’t dealt with.

5.  Describe and go

If you’re using Evernote in English on Mac, then you should definitely know about descriptive search. Use simple words to find things fast.

  • If you clipped a great article last month but can’t remember where you put it, simply type in web clips last month and the Evernote search bar will do the work for you.
  • To find that PDF you’re looking for, enter notes with PDFs into the search bar.
  • See all the notes you created on your business trip to Germany by searching for notes from Germany.

Notes with PDFs

6.  Check your progress

Planners and list makers, this one’s for you. Searching your notes by checkboxes is a game changer.

  • Search todo:false to view all of your notes with incomplete to-dos, an easy way to see what remains on your various task lists.
  • Type todo:true to see what you’ve accomplished recently.
  • Use todo:* to unveil all notes with checkboxes, checked off or not.

To do list example

7.  Head straight to the source

We all remember things in different ways. I tend to remember notes by the method I used to collect them. The conversation I have with myself when I’m on the hunt for something specific often goes something like this: “Where is that PDF? I know I forwarded it into Evernote from my email, but where did I put it…” If your mind works that way too, (with the talking to yourself bit included), then these tips are for you.

  • Type source:mobile to see all the notes that were created from your phone. This is perfect for those times when you captured a great idea on your phone a few months ago, but then promptly forgot both the idea and where you put it in Evernote.
  • Use source:mail.smtp to see notes added through email. This tip is great for when you remember forwarding an important email into your Evernote recently, but can’t find where you sent it. (Or in my case, sent it to the wrong notebook.)
  • Try source:web.clip to see all the notes added via Web Clipper.

8.  Manage your search by media

Adding attachments is part of what makes Evernote great. The ability to search for notes that contain specific kinds of media, from audio and images to PDFs, makes this nifty feature even better.

  • Do a broad search by typing in resource:audio/* to see all notes with some kind of audio.
  • Get more specific by searching resource:image/jpeg to find only JPEG image files.

9.  All in a day’s work

Have you ever reached the end of the day only to think back, “What did I actually even do today?” Author and going paperless expert Jamie Todd Rubin brings us a great tip for solving this problem.

  • Type created:day into the search bar at the end of the day. That way, you can review what you worked on and make any changes to your to-do list for tomorrow.

10. Look at what you’ve accomplished

We all put a lot into Evernote. Sometimes it’s fun to look back and see exactly just how much.

  • Type in created:20160101 -created20161231 to find out how many notes you created in Evernote in 2016.

11. Saved search to the rescue

Now that you’ve been introduced to a few different ways to search, do you see yourself using any of these advanced techniques more than once? If so, you definitely need Saved Searches in your life.

  • Create a saved search so you don’t have to refer back to this article or look it up again.
  • Save even more time by adding saved searches to your shortcuts tab. (For example, you could save the todo:false search and add it to your shortcuts—that way you can quickly pop over and see what you still have on your to-do list at the end of every day.)

Go forth and search

In case you can’t tell, when you’ve got advanced search techniques by your side, the possibilities are endless. There are many more applications of these tips, so don’t be afraid to get in there, mix it up, and experiment to see what works best for your workflow.

Have any great advanced search tips that we missed? Share them in the comments below!


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20 Comments RSS

  • Luciano Silva

    I often use the following searches:

    reminderTime:day -reminderTime:day+1 (tasks for today)

    reminderTime:day -reminderTime:day+2 (tasks for tomorrow)

    reminderTime:day -reminderTime:day+3 (tasks in 3 days)

    … and so on…

    todo:false (all incomplete tasks)

    I can even combine some research:

    todo:false tag:”insert your tag here”

    Basically the combinations are endless …

    The searches I use frequently and the tags (I’m a tag dude, I only have 2 notebooks – Work and Personal), are added to the shortcuts.

    I once used the fantastic Remeber The Milk (RTM) to handle my tasks, but over the past few months I’ve set up my entire system in Evernote and I’m very, very satisfied.

  • Davido

    This is really awesome
    The funny thing is I am just getting to see this for the first time.
    Initially when I started reading the article, I thought I was not going understand.
    Please how does this work?
    Is it like google or something?

  • Mark Rosenberg

    Is there any way for Evernote to go straight to what I was working on last inside a document ? This would be so useful if it were available.

  • Drone Solutions

    Search continues to evolve. Always wonder what will be the next great leap with this tech.

  • William Reed

    1. The article does not mention if these tools work on IPad only access, but I tried the resource:audio/* to find an item that I had searched for unsuccessfully in the past and the process found it quickly for me – thanks. 2. Why was it decided to come up with a new search process rather than adopting the well developed system of using boolean operators used by the National Library of Medicine for searching scientific literature. It seems burdensome to learn a different search system e.g. Google, EN when the NLM system is well entrenched.

  • Dale

    I REAAAALY wish we could search for special characters… Being a C# programmer, it is VERY frustrating to not be able to search for many of my notes….

  • Tom

    Do some of these only work in the app? I tried created:201601-created20161231 (note the missing colon after the second created in the article) and the corrected version created:201601-created:20161231 and all they bring up is the clipped version of this article that I saved. What am I doing wrong?

    • Pamela Rosen

      Tom, Thanks so much for calling this out to us. We realized there was a typo in the code we provided. You were correct. We’ve corrected this tip so that it will now work It was a matter of missing an 01 and a space.It should read: created:20160101 -created:20161231. Thanks so much for reading this article so closely! -Pam R

  • Gazumped

    Hi. Just to warn you of a typo in the article – you mention “source:mail.stmp” as one search. It should (of course) be source:mail.smtp…

    • Pamela Rosen

      Thank you for finding that and pointing it out to us! I’ve made the correction. You’re an honorary Evernote Grammar Hawk! -Pam R

  • Linda

    Great info. I seem to have missed a fundamental process prior to the search and that is having my notes automatically be filed to the correct folder based on OCR within the document. For example, my phone bill – once I have scanned it, is there a way to have this document automatically be filed under the folder that I have all the other ones?? I sure hope this is a function and that someone can help me with it. Thanks.

  • J. Fivebig

    I appreciate the powerful search capabilities, but that is a lot for some users to remember. Why doesn’t Evernote just create a search wizard to make advanced searching easier for the average user?

  • Jeff

    Not to pick on Evernote, but I’m experiencing heavy technology fatigue. There is no way most folks are going to remember all of those shortcuts and so you, perhaps like me, send this to Evernote and create a shortcut. But the problem is, often when I need a piece of information, I’m on my iphone or iPad and in a hurry to find a piece of information as someone bureaucrat in front of me waits, or some customer service person on the phone waits and we simply don’t have the luxury of time to review the search tips, narrow our search and find the one nugget needed. Multiply this by the myriad of other apps and programs we are using, and we (I) hit the technology fatigue barrier. The bottom line is that ultimately technology is still half-assed. I forgot who said it, but “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication” and all technology is just not simple enough yet, be it hardware or software.

  • Radhesh Naik

    Great post! The beauty of Evernote is that it provides you with a kind of a blank canvas and you decide what you want to do with it. Absolutely love the unparalleled flexibility. Feature discrepancies between platforms is an issue though and a big headache, especially when you depend on it so much.

  • Ronald

    Sorry way too complex for the average user. What about full boolean searching?

  • kazim zada

    I use my evernote on my iphone and I have sorted my notes in alphabetic order of title, and most of the time I wish to go to a particular note whost title begins with a particular letter. Previously you had the alphabet on the right hand side and all I had to do was to touch a letter of the alphabet and all the notes with titles starting with that letter would appear. Any chance of getting that back again.

  • Lars

    Hi, i like this post very much. I USE tags a lot and ofren Wanny ro search for notes with one than one tag. I USE tag:tag1 tag:tag2, bit World like to search for more than one tag in the tag searchbar. Is this possible?

  • Roland

    Is there a way to search for the word “tea” without finding all the words that have or start with “tea?” I don’t want to find team or steam, just tea.

  • Barbara

    Hi there, I am a premium user who loves evernote! I would like to highlight everywhere a word appears inside a specific note, and I would like to take advantage of evernote’s amazing search within images. What is the code for that, please? I can find the note easily with “intitle:note name”, but when I try “intitle:note name note:word” evernote does not bring me results. Thank you!