Zettelkasten Forum

Using Evernote as a Zettelkasten - Rough sketch on how I do it



  • I like how this thread has evolved! And I find myself nodding along with @cobblepot a lot.
    Especially their points regarding the influence of style and research interests and how our Zettelkästen include a great amount of Zettel that are less abstract and more applied and are therefore subject to change, strike a chord.

    I find @sfast's explanation of "knowledge structure" pretty good, on the other hand. A structure in general, is a model-like abstraction (if we believe Luhmann, and why wouldn't we…) and so it is certainly worthwhile to work towards these model-like abstractions of knowledge. Even if these structures won't be the end goal per se, it surely doesn't hurt, to have models at hand that I might have "abstracted" from somewhere else and that can then be recontextualized (i. e. applied) in a different situation.

    As far as the permanence of such things is concerned: I rarely come up with these just like that. Abstraction is the result of abstracting, that is, a form of work. And for me that means also reworking the formulations, maybe changing the emphasis, sometimes, of my Zettel. Certainly things are in flux. Not the structures per se, maybe, but my articulation(s) of them. I realize that it's possible that this might not be true for everyone, although I wonder what you would "train" to remove this uncertainty and how to judge that the newfound certainty is justified? Anyways, reworking Zettels happens surely more often to my more younger Zettel. But nonetheless: it happens.

  • @cobblepot said:

    @sfast said:
    I have Zettel that are over 20 years old. :smile:

    Finally I caught you in an obvious lie. I have clear proof based on your videos that you are in your mid-20s at best, and thus there is no way you have 20 year old Zettels. :smile:

    Haha. Don't make me blush, sweetheart. I am 35 turning 36 in two months. :blush:

    My some of my oldest Zettel are transcripts from the pubescent of me. I was developing a theory on how to terrorize school lessons (direct translation..).

    I think we might have a different definition of knowledge structure. Knowledge structures function, as I use the concept, similar to what you refer as logical structures.
    The hill model does never change. Its application might be inappropriate but nevertheless it is always in the form of "if.. then.." Perhaps, one could say, if you wrap your knowledge in a Modus Ponens you can make it eternal. :smile: (Not true for those of don't know formal logic)

    If all you mean by a knowledge structure is something like a abstract cognitive framework or a logical axiom, then of course you can create a Zettel describing that structure and say it's permanent. But I assume the vast majority of your Zettels are not describing such frameworks, but are instead making other kind of statements that apply concepts or structures to situations in concrete ways.

    Maybe the problem here is just that this is all very abstract in the way we are discussing it. but what about my example of vision? You can say that were not really thinking of vision in a different way, it's just that we have a permanent knowledge structure and we realize the application was wrong. But, the advance in knowledge is the realization that our application was wrong, and we were thinking about the object - vision - in a misleading way. Presumably, the point of research is not to build up a network of internally consistent abstract knowledge structures, but to apply those to real world situations in order to answer questions.

    Mh. The example of vision is odd to capture in my opinion. It think the discovery of blindsight is not changing anything but adding a layer. What is the concept of vision that needs to change? I think the premise that needs change is a statement that vision is always conscious. But it would be a bad idea anyhow to frame it like this from the beginning.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited April 2020

    Hi @matti
    Thanks a lot for this introduction to ZKN with Evernote.
    I was introduced to Sublime Text. Truly sublime indeed. Yet i have lots of content in Evernote already, plus I'm not so much at ease with this kind of GUI.
    So your post was a real game changer for me.
    I started creating notes for learning purposes, and it's really helping a lot. A lot.

    My context & concern:
    1. I have let's say 50 main topics in this 2-year training I'm following
    2. Around 15 books to read plus 3-day live sessions from time to time + videos, etc.
    3. In the end I want to get, for each topic, an ordered aggregate of all the notes covering this topic, so that I get a comprehensive document for each topic and hence learn efficiently from that.
    In other words, I want to expand an ordered list of notes reference, as we can do in Sublime.
    If I am not mistaking the command in Sublime would be "Expand link inline = ctrl + ."
    5. Problem is (1) Evernote can make a fusion but this cannot be undone, and (2) the order of the notes in the resulting note is decided by Evernote, not me, and (3) I did not see any expand feature from note references, like Sublime does.

    Here is a sample root note, to illustrate. Sorry it's in French ;)

    Does all this make sense? Am I clear enough?
    And would you or anyone around see a way to achieve this please ?
    Would it be possible to automate this with Keyboard Maestro, for instance, as you did for searching in tags, Matti?


  • Hey @AgilPhil I'm happy that what I have written was useful to you! So I assume you're referring to this?

    If so, it can be done, but it's not straightforward. The Evernote Applescript Library doesn't allow full on editing notes. You can append to them, but not paste something in the middle, which is what would be needed here. You can also not paste ENML or HTML just like that, even though you can retrieve it through the applescript interface.

    Both of these issues can be overcome with UI-scripting through Keyboard Maestro, of course, but it takes some effort (and makes the script more fragile). With that said: I have thrown something together that expands note links.

    Let me know what you think. I hope it works for you. :)

    P. S.: If anyone has an idea how to paste ENML or HTML content of notes (which can be retrieved through applescript), I would be interested!

  • Bad news about collapsing things in Evernote : this thread started in March 21, 2011, and no action was taken so far, unless I missed something :/

  • @AgilPhil Yeah, outling is not yet part of Evernote, really. I always find it kind of annoying if somebody says "I at least don't really need it…", but none the less: Since Zettels are supposed to fit into your head, I find this limitation to be a good one. It tends to make me link more, follow those links and focus on one Zettel at a time. Although not the same, you might find the use of project notebooks where you move Zettels temporarily for a specific task to be helpful. But maybe Evernote is not the droids you're looking for?

  • edited April 2020

    So I assume you're referring to this?

    Yes Sir.

    Rhooo, great, I'm rushing to check this out!

    By the way, you make a point stressing out atomicity as key for brain work, if I get you right. Expanding though is for ma a way of producing a document from notes, so that I can share a "deliverable", so to say, to others.

    And let me say this : you definitely made my life much easyer indeed. My mind got so much clearer now that I can flush ideas, sources and facts out of my head being sure I can retrieve the links I had elaborated between them. Thanks.

    Post edited by AgilPhil on
  • But maybe Evernote is not the droids you're looking for?

    I do not understand this point. Could you "expand" please ? ;)

  • Waw, demo looks great.
    So, I tried on an internal link to an existing note:
    1. Shortcut does not execute at first, I have to go into KBMaestro and click "Run" icon to do so
    2. Both Evernote and KBMaestro crash
    3. Finder throws an error message (translated into EN by me) :

    The name « https://www.evernote.com/shard/s31/nl/3305271/c7b21db4-9287-488c-b93a-9a9a06eba212/ » cannot be used.
    Try to use a name with less characters or with no punctuation marks.

    By the way, please tell me if you prefer this tech discussion to occur elsewhere.

  • Tried. Having issues, and sent them to you via MP.

  • @AgilPhil

    Expanding though is for ma a way of producing a document from notes, so that I can share a "deliverable", so to say, to others.

    I totally get that. I could see using an external program like an outliner (OmniOutliner?) for that, albeit the workflow would of course be different. But you surely would like something more integrated, it sounds like. Right now it seems to me, that it's not possible to add Zettel-folding/unfolding without having to resort to flaky-at-best UI-scripting.

    This brings me to my next point, about the Macro:

    • The macro assumes you are looking at a note in evernote, so pressing run would try to run the macro itself on the KM window, instead of the Evernote window. Instead, try to see if the macro is enabled in KM and then add a hotkey trigger to it. (If this happens to be the problem than I will release an update to the macro, that ensures this.)

    If this is not the problem (and since both EN and KM have crashed, it seems not super-likely):

    • What version of Evernote, Keyboard Maestro and mac OS are you running?
    • What is your locale? French?
    • What happens if you press cmd + K in an opened note in Evernote (cursor in the note's body)?
    • What happens if you press cmd + L in an opened note in Evernote (cursor in the note's body)?
    • This might be an issue with KM not having enough permissions, have you checked if other macros work? See if there are any unchecked boxes for KM in systems preferences under Security & Privacy

    I'm stumbling in the dark a little bit, tbh.

    (For now you're the only user of the macro, if we need more than one or two messages I will open a thread about the macro and we continue there.)

    About Evernote being "not the droids": My point was just, that, depending on your requirements, maybe Evernote in the end doesn't tick all the boxes for you? You seem to say that's not the case. The reference is from Star Wars, but I admit, it is crude at best, since the scene is about a jedi mind trick that makes people say and believe whatever the jedi wants. Sorry for the confusion!

  • edited April 2020

    Oh wow. I'm in awe about your answer.
    Thanks first for reminding me the Starwars Jedi trick, Obi-wan :lol: :+1:

    And yes. I start to see how much far Evernote is from being able to handle ZKN workflow.
    At this very moment I'm following a RoamResearch tutorial : Evernote is not the droid I'm looking for.

    I have to read around 20 books + articles etc, and link this into a coherent vision around let's say 50-75 main "concepts" which mastery is required.
    So workflow may look like : reading a book / extracting highlights / Expressing ideas my own way / Building kinda "concept" Subnotes / Aggregating this into one Index Card for each "concept"

    At the age of 53 I have to rethink the way I take and use notes + Find an appropriate tool to do + Reuse whatever junk, disorganized material I have stored (mainly in Evernote).

    And I feel excitement as well as sideration :dizzy:
    Benevolent help would take me too long and would not be fair. Can I hire your services for some online sessions of consulting ?

  • @AgilPhil said:
    Benevolent help would take me too long and would not be fair. Can I hire your services for some online sessions of consulting ?

    Sorry, for answering just now, but I'm just a hobbyist, so I can't take your offer. I wish you well on your knowledge organizing and generating adventures, though!

    Keep us (and me) posted on how it goes and if I can help (as a hobyist) I'd be happy to do so.

  • Hi @Matti, I understand that of course, and thanks for being a damn great hobbyist :*
    For now I stay with Evernote, since my knowledge got trapped in their proprietary format and tool :'
    Printing is bad, bulk editing is impossible unless lame external automation (which is far from my grasp), exporting .enex to openformats and hence other opened tools look really bad.. Feeling trapped and I hate that.
    Still happy to be able link notes with one another, create summary notes, but franckly I doubt this is worth it. Okay, syncing to any device is great...

    In parallel experimentinc litterature notes elaboration in Roamresearch : amazingly friendly and and cryptic at the same time, you really need to know some keyboard tricks.
    Zotero makes it for book references and highlight extraction.
    Still struggling to go from decyphered epubs to pdf, though, but globally this part of the game gave me some first real satisfactions.

    Pointers to "get rid of evernote (without loosing inter-notes links) and get an open, markdown and zkn process tool would be highly appreciated.

  • @AgilPhil You might want to take a look at Joplin which can convert Evernote ENML to markdown, but as far as I know, it doesn't support converting internal links (yet?). So the links would still point to your original Evernote notes. Still, might be worth a look. Even if it's just for converting to markdown and moving on.

  • Okay, that's cool, thanks, Matti.
    I start to think my problems is both being in proprietary and "dry" format + zero help for printing so you end up with content cropped with neither warning or possibility to adjust.
    Could The Archive be of some help at some point, in a forseeable future ?

  • I only later found out that Evernote might have or had problems with growth and/or sustainability. But what I recently read about what they want to do, e. g. this blogpost, made me quite hopeful.

    I put my two cents here: Evernote can be exported to Microsoft OneNote. Besides, some said OneNote offers similar functions to Evernote too. If Evernote dies, we may migrate to there.

    Thanks @matti for sharing the valuable evernote experience.

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