How to Do an Advanced Search in Evernote

By David E. Y. Sarna

If you’re feeling a little brave, you can master the native Evernote search syntax. Your reward will be your ability to carry out advanced searches when you have an idea of what you’re looking for but don’t remember exactly how you stated it. This type of search relies on the use of Evernote search syntax to find what you need.

Syntax, as you may recall from English-grammar classes, is the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages and especially in formal languages such as programming languages.

The search syntax of Evernote is a little inscrutable, and Evernote’s documentation definitely isn’t for anyone whose native language isn’t C++ or Linux. Still, examples help, and with a little practice with a notebook whose contents you’re familiar with, you’ll get the hang of advanced search quickly. The results will be worth the effort.

In a search, syntax means the parameters and words you use to execute the search. Tag syntax, for example, looks like this:

Tag: "name of tag"

A basic search starts at the beginning, but when you add the syntax (everything that appears up to the colon, such as Tag), you free Evernote from the constraint of matching the exact text.

You can run these types of searches on titles or tags, your to-do list, and many other items. The table lists some of the most basic and useful types of syntax.

Basic Syntax
Syntax Description
Intitle Searches for and returns notes based on their titles
Tag Searches for and returns notes according to their associated
tags
-Tag Searches for and returns notes that aren’t associated
with tags
Source Searches for and returns notes based on the source media in
which the notes were generated, such as e-mail, picture, or typed
text
Any Searches for and returns notes based on any of the criteria
entered in the search
Todo Searches for and returns notes that have a check box

The advanced search is nearly identical across platforms, with the method of accessing it matching the type of device. You can type intitle:bills in the search box to pull up every note within a highlighted notebook that has bills in the title, for example.

This table provides examples of advanced searches that work, as well as some that don’t work.

Advanced Search Syntax
Syntax Element Example Search Matches Search Doesn’t Match
Space embedded in quoted text “San Francisco” “The hills of San Francisco” “San Andreas Fault near Francisco Winery”
– (hyphen) -potato “Mash four potatoes together” “Sweet potato pie”
tag:[tag name] tag:cook* Any note with a tag that starts with “cook” Note tagged with “cook”
created:[datetime] -created:day Notes created before today Notes created today
created:day-1-created: day Notes created yesterday Notes created before yesterday

Don’t add punctuation if you didn’t originally include it in the title. The colon is the only piece of punctuation that you should use. You also should avoid adding extraneous spaces.