Evernote encourages you to make it a dumping ground for all your notes — this includes email you forward into the service, webpages you clip, and pdf and office documents you attach to your notes.

If you have been using the service for a couple of years, you probably have thousands of notes in your account. In my last post, I showed you how I use notebooks and tags to organize my notes, but even with this organizing system, it may be impractical to just browse for your notes.

This is where search comes in. Evernote’s powerful search feature allows you to quickly retrieve the notes you want, even if they are buried beneath a pile of other notes. In order to be able to take advantage of this powerful feature, you need to know how to use Evernote’s search syntax. The rest of this post provides you with a brief overview of this syntax.

The Basics

The easiest way to search is to just enter the term you are looking for in Evernote’s search bar. For example, assume that you want to look for notes about student registration, the easiest way to do this would be to type student registration in the search bar.

The beauty of Evernote is that it will search in text notes as well as in the contents of PDFs and office files uploaded to it. It will also search for the keywords inside images — Evernote does OCR (optical character recognition) on the text in images you store in the service.

It should be noted that a multi-word search string will cause Evernote to return notes containing all words in the string, but not necessarily in a consecutive order. So, student registration will bring up notes that contain student, and that contain registration but they don’t have to be written after each other.

If you want to make sure that both words appear in the exact order specified in the search string, you should place the search term between quotation marks. So, for example, ”student registration” will bring up notes that contain that exact phrase.

If you want to create a search that looks for the existence of any word in a note, rather than all words, you would write something like this any:student registration. This would return notes that contain student, or that contain registration or that contain both words.

You can also use the wildcard * to search for something if you only know it’s beginning. For example gean* would search for all notes containing words that begin with “gean”.

Specifying Tags and Notebooks

If you want to tell Evernote to search within certain tags or notebooks, you can do so by using the keywords tag and notebook. For example, if you want to search for notes in your health notebook tagged dentist, you can do so using the following search string notebook:health tag:dentist. If you want to exclude certain tags, you can do so by preceding them with a minus sign.

For example, if you want to search for all your dental health notes, but want to exclude the notes about your root-canal, you would write something like this notebook:health tag:dentist -tag:rootcanal.

You can combine this with standard search, so for example, if you want to see all your receipts concerning non-root-canal dental work, you could write something like this receipts notebook:health tag:dentist -tag:rootcanal.

Date Related Search

Evernote gives you two date related search options, created and updated, both do what they sound like — search for notes created or updated on or after a certain date, respectively.

Both have a similar syntax, they either take a date written in YYYYMMDD format, or a relative date. A relative date uses the current date as a reference, for example, day-1 is yesterday, week-1 is last week, month-2 is two months ago, and year-3 is three years ago.

Examples of this include, updated:week-1. This would bring up all notes updated in the last week. Similarly, created:20180808 would return all notes created starting from 8/8/2018 until the present. Again, as in the previous section, you can combine this with other search options to create a more complex search.

So, for example, receipts created:week-1 notebook:health tag:dentist -tag:rootcanal would restrict the search mentioned in the previous section to only the notes created since last week.

In the following sections, I will not provide examples of combining the search options again, as this can become rather repetitive, but please remember that you can combine all Evernote search options to create your custom search.

Files, Location and Client

Evernote also allows you to search for notes that contain certain files. For example, if you wish to find all notes that contain PDFs, you’d write something like this resource:application/pdf. resource:image/jpeg would return all notes that have embedded JPEG images, and so on.

For location based search, you can specify the latitude, longitude and altitude of the location you wrote the note in. So let us assume that you were vacationing in a location with longitude and latitude 30 and 35, you’d search for notes written in that location as follows longitude:30 latitude:35. To be honest, I very rarely use this search option, but it’s there if you want it.

You can also search for notes based on the client that was used to create them, so source:mobile would return notes created on your phone, while source:web.clip would return all the web pages you clipped using Evernote’s web clipper. Again, I very rarely use this, but it’s there if you want it.

Todos and Encryption

If you use Evernote to manage your todo list (I don’t recommend this, see my previous post where I recommend creating hard edges among your digital productivity apps), you can search for your todo items based on their state.

todo:true will return completed todo items, while todo:false will return uncompleted todo items. If you want to see all your todo items, both completed and uncompleted, you need to write something like this todo:*.

Finally, if you want to search for notes that contain encrypted text, you should write encryption: with nothing after it.


That’s it ladies and gents, the search syntax of Evernote. As you add more and more material to Evernote, you’ll find yourself using search more often. In fact, if there is one feature that distinguishes Evernote over all the other note-taking applications on the market, it’s its stellar search functionality. Play about with the search feature, you’ll find that it completely changes the way you interact with Evernote.

1 Comment

  • Neotheone’s Thoughts, April 25, 2019 @ 10:57 am Reply

    […] For both of these searches, I want to see notes that I have not handled yet — i.e., notes that do not contain the Done label. Therefore, I have created two custom searches update:day-1 -tag:Done and update:day-7 -tag:Done to quickly show me the notes that have not been handle for the last two days and for the last eight days respectively — for more information about Evernote search syntax take a look at my previous post. […]

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