Another update today from Evernote, the latest in its ongoing product sprint. Today the note-taking platform is adding “descriptive search” to its Mac app, based on what Evernote is calling “everyday language.”
What does that mean, exactly? In essence, it’s a new layer of intelligence on Evernote’s search function, going from more basic, traditional keyword-based searches to those that incorporate terms like date or place created or what device you may have used, as well as what media may be included, to help bring up the files that you would like to see, even when you do not have specific keywords in mind.
This should make your Evernote archives more accessible — an especially important thing for those of us who have amassed a large amount of data in Evernote and may find it increasingly challenging to find and discover what we have there or figure out useful ways of manipulating it. But it won’t be a universal convenience: for now Evernote tells me that the feature is not getting rolled out on its mobile apps, and it is for English-language searches only.
“Descriptive Search is launched today for Mac and for English language searches only. It will be available to all Evernote users regardless of account type — premium, business, free. We do not have a date for mobile yet,” a spokesperson told me.
She would not comment on when other platforms may be getting the feature, or when other languages might get included.
It’s also not completely clear how many people among Evernote’s 80 million-plus users this change will impact. “We don’t share usage by platform publicly,” she added.
The news comes in the wake of Evernote pledging to update its service with more user-friendly enhancements, after coming under fire for letting the product slip, some would argue in favor of focusing more on scaling its user base and steering more people to paid tiers.
Updates in the last week have included new iOS apps and faster, more reliable data synchronization. It seems that some form of descriptive search has already been available for at least one platform up to now — Windows, which got a descriptive search feature added way back in 2010.
There are two parts to this new search feature. The first of these will be an algorithm that will be able to search your files for results that may or may not be in the keywords of the file itself. (Evernote’s example: vegetarian recipes, which may be tagged as “vegetarian” or “recipes” but may not be.) This is similar to what Evernote already offers in its archival searches.
The second part of the new descriptive search is that Evernote now will add a number of new filters to the content to help shape searches — some ten in all at the moment, it notes:
|Dates||“notes created yesterday”, “updated since last year”|
|Apps||“created in Penultimate”, “from Skitch”, “Post-it Notes”|
|Places||“from San Francisco,” “notes created in London”, “in Japan”, “from Beijing”, “from California”|
|Documents||“notes with Office Documents”, “notes with Excel spreadsheets”, “with attachments”|
|Images||“notes with photos”, “jpeg”, “with images”, “with pictures”|
|Audio||“notes with audio”, “mp3”, “wav”|
|Devices||“mobile”, “scanner”, “iPhone”, “Android”|
|Web Sources||“web clips”, “clipped from web”|
|Type of Content||“recipes”, “business cards”, “email”|
|Notebooks||“Cooking Diary”, “Clients”, “Team Meetings”, “Recipes”, Receipts”|
|Tags||“favorites”, “approved”, “news”, “to do”, “lodging”|
As I see it, there are a couple of advantages to descriptive search. The first, as I mentioned before, are that there are a lot of people out there who may not be using Evernote in the most organised of ways, or just as likely, are extremely organised to a very particular idea. A descriptive search function like the one that Evernote is adding will help them dig deeper into their archives and encourage them to make better use of what they have there.
The other advantage, I think, is for Evernote itself. A more searchable platform becomes a more useful platform, and subsequently becomes a more essential platform — one that people will want to keep around and make their default, go-to database in the clouds. The hope here is that this will eventually lead people to put more into that system, and eventually opt for paid tiers with higher storage limits.
Importantly, though, the new search is free for anyone to use.
On a wider scope, the addition of more enhanced search on Evernote speaks to bigger trends in how we access information.
Search has quickly gone from being something based on “what” (keywords) to more complex questions like why, how, where, who, when and so on. This evolution has greatly influenced what leaders like Google are doing, and would-be rivals like Bing would like to have, too. Evernote’s addition of more advanced search features make these bigger trends in search into a very personal application, and it plays into the company’s bid to be not just a platform for storing your notes, memories and other data, but also one for accessing and enjoying them.