Monday, January 16, 2012

Evernote Character Sort Order Finder

As I was updating my old post, Evernote Tag Sort Order, I realized that there are many variations between the clients and figuring out the best set of symbols to use is not an easy task. Therefore, I decided to create a tool which will help you choose which symbols you should use for sorting purposes (e.g. to make it easier to access them). Simply check all the clients and lists you care about, and it will output several recommendations for you. See the end of this post for more details.
All clients


  • Notes:
    • List view: When you view notes. Some clients let you explicitly choose list view.
    • Snippet view: Some clients let you choose snippet view, which shows more information about each note.
    • (Mac) Full-screen view: On the Mac OS X Lion client, you can view the notes in full screen.
    • (iPad) Side list: when you click in to a notebook or tag, it shows you notes on the left side and a preview on the right side. If you switch to portrait mode, the list appears on top.
  • Notebooks:
    • Main list: The left panel on desktop/web clients, or the main list you get to from the home screen on iOS clients.
    • Favorites bar: The favorites bar on desktop clients.
    • Note's notebook selection: When you edit a note, it lets you select a notebook.
  • Tags:
    • Main list: The left panel on desktop/web clients, or the main list you get to from the home screen on iOS clients.
    • Favorites bar: The favorites bar on desktop clients.
    • Snippet view: When you look at a note in snippet view, in some clients it shows a note's tags after the date.
    • Note details: When you open a note's and view the tags it is assigned.
    • Auto-complete: When you edit a note and begin typing a tag's name, it auto-completes it for you.
    • (PC) Tag column: On the PC version, you can see the tag list in the Tags column of the list view.
    • (PC) Assign tags: The PC version has an assign tags screen which is accessed by right-clicking a note and choosing "Tag note..."
    • (iOS) Tag selection: when you edit a note and click tags, it shows you a list of tags you can select.
  • Saved Searches:
    • For Mac and PC, it appears on the left panel. iOS has its own dedicated view for this. On the web, it appears when you click in the search box.
Example use cases:
  • Aaron uses the web client only, and is only concerned with the sorting of notebook names. He checks the "Notebooks" option under "Web" and sees that it outputs the following:  !"#$%&'()*+,-./123:;<=>?@[\]^_`AbC{|}~. This tells him that if he were to create the notebooks $Test and @Test, the one with the dollar sign will appear before the one with the at-sign (since the dollar sign appears before the at sign in the output).
  • Bill uses Evernote on his PC only. He wants to use the symbols for sorting in all the lists available, and doesn't want to remember how symbols specifically sort in each of the 4 categories (i.e. notes, notebooks, tags, saved searches). That is, he wants a consistent sorting experience for each of the lists. So he checks all of the 4 categories under Windows and views the available options. One of the symbols he wants to use the equals sign (=), so he types it in the filter box. He then chooses to use the top row in the result list, since that will maximize the amount of consistently-sorted characters he can use.
  • Jane uses Evernote on her Mac, iPhone, and iPad. She's mainly concerned with ensuring that tag sorting is consistent everywhere, so she checks all tag options available for her 3 clients. She realizes that on the iPad she won't be able to have a consistent experience when it comes to auto-completion, but she is okay with that. She then examines the top possibilites and notices that several of them have either Ab or AC. This means that at least one of the clients has a case sensitive sort somewhere. Therefore, it would be best for her to stick with only capital or only lowercase letters. She decides she will use only capital letters, so she enters in AC in the filter box. She's then presented with several choices of the same length, but upon examining them, notices that some have the digits (123) while others don't. If she were to include the digits, that gives her another 7 characters she can use (only 3 of the 10 digits are represented here). She decides that it's important to her and enters in 1 into the filter as well. She's now left with 4 choices of the same length. However, as she looks at the rest of the list, she notices that if she gives up one character, she can get symbols that appear more distinct than the symbols in the top 4 results, so she ends up choosing that one instead. In other words, even though  !"()*/123AC contains more symbols (12 symbols) than  !"#%+123AC (11 symbols), the latter is probably a better choice since the symbols #%+ stick out more than ()*/.
Other notes:
  • There are many useful tips in my original post.
  • Tag lists will always have sort orders that are different than other lists in the same client since they cannot contain the , character.
  • Each auto-generated color is used to represent a different sort order.


  1. This is a fabulous tool! Thanks for putting in the time to create it and share it. It's exactly what I was looking for.

  2. I tried out tags on the Android client and got this for the tags list:


    (Only character I wasn't able to test was space, since none of my clients could create a tab that started with a space.)

    Looks like it's identical to the iPhone/iPad order, with the exception that the numbers are after # instead of after $ at the end.

    1. Ah, but of course you can test sort ordering in the middle of a tag if the beginning is the same. Indeed space is highest priority, same as iOS.

  3. Also it looks like the windows order has changed since you created this. I haven't tested them all, but - is sorting before . for me.

    Aaand the windows client appears to have different orders for the tag list and tags in note details now, like the others. I see ! comes before - in the list, but after in the note details. (Which is a pain, because I'd hoped to use !1, !2, !3 as priority tags that would sort above the others. That works, but if any of my notes have tags that start with - (they do), those tags go before the ! tags, so they are the ones that are sorted on.)

    This stuff is hard. And since it appears the rules have already changed once, I'm beginning to doubt the wisdom of relying too much on the sorting being consistent in the future...

    1. Huh. It appears that in windows the - is being ignored completely unless it appears by itself.

      I get this sort order, in both note details and list, where the square brackets are the tags:

      [- 1] [. b] [.a] [-1] [a]

      Since space is highest priority and dash is ignored, the [- 1] tag comes first. - is the only special character I've found that behaves this way though. As you see, . behaves as expected. Then the [-1] tag behaves as a 1. Here's a better illustration actually:

      [a] [-a] [b] [-b] [c]

      That's the order they show up in, in both note details and list.

      Could actually be handy having a special character that doesn't affect sorting - for example to break autocomplete without messing up anything else. Likely only a quirk of the windows client though.