A Simple Trick for Naming Tags

Aug 29, 2014
Joe Buhlig
~2 mins

The search capabilities of many tools today is impressive. We can search titles, notes, filenames, and even the contents of a file. But if you’re searching for a tag, it can give you a lot more than you expected.

Take Evernote for example. In a single search, you get results that match tags, titles, body of the note, files, content inside files, words inside of pictures, and even locations for notes. I’m not a search expert, but I know that it’s easy for me to start typing in the search field and get a lot of results very quickly.

The trouble comes when I start using tags. Tags have a lot of power, but what happens when I have a tag name that matches a common word? Here’s a common scenario.

My Coffee Dilemma

I keep a database of different coffees that I’ve tried in Evernote. I snap a picture and record some quick notes on it. I then tag the note with “coffee.” If I look at the tag for “coffee”, I see that I have about 28 notes on coffees that I’ve tried and rated.

However, I also keep a log of articles that I’ve read from the web. I do my reading in Pocket and have it set up with IFTTT to send any Archived articles to Evernote. This is great when I remember reading something, but can’t remember where. I can search Evernote and find it pretty easy.

Because I like coffee, I seem to read a lot of articles that involve coffee in some way. So searching Evernote for “coffee” right now, I get 313 results. How am I supposed to find those 28? Scrolling?

In Evernote you can do the search like this: “tag:coffee”. That will eliminate the results that don’t have the tag and only give you what you want. But that doesn’t work on all systems. Not every app allows you to single out tags versus a search term. Even in Evernote, I don’t always remember to put the qualifier at the beginning of the search when I start. So I have to come back and add it.

The Trick

I was listening to a Mac Power Users podcast a while ago and learned of the “x” trick by Merlin Mann. It’s really simple. Add “x” to the end of your tag names. So instead of tagging my coffee database with “coffee”, I tag it with “coffeex”.

By adding “x” to the end of your tag names, you’re creating a word that you normally wouldn’t see. It’s a “made up” word. Since “x” isn’t used in a lot of words, it makes sense. You could also use “z” or “q,” as long it creates a word that you wouldn’t see in normal writing.

Result

So what does that do? It means that I can now search for “coffee” in Evernote and get all 313 results if I want. But it also means that I can add a single keystroke, “x”, and get just the 28 that I’ve tagged. And it works across systems. It’s not just an Evernote thing. It works in filenames, titles, and anything else that you want to search. Just add the “x” and you’ve created a tag that you can easily find in a search.