Why use tags when full text search is available

So of course this is an open ended philosophical question aiming to pick your brain on how to use Dynalist more efficiently. Personally at least, my natural inclination to use tags for organization purposes, to have distinct topics or categories applied to each item irrelevant to their structural locations, so it’s possible to search across different locations in your notebook for related information, but as one can imagine the use of tags can get really messy and out of hand very quickly.

So why do you even need to use it if we can search full text already and tags and plain text are not that different in Dyanlist when being searched? Especially when you can bookmark each search, then from a search result perspective, what’s the advantage of using tags vs making sure the tag text (for example #plugin, or #privacy) already exist in the item itself (“plugin”, “privacy”, etc.)?

Also read above that it’s better to use Object tags rather than topic tags and embed the topic relationship in your note structure for better searching experience, which makes a lot of sense. So in my mind the only time you should use #tags are when a important nature of the item/article is neither included by the text itself, or implied by the parent note structure. So for example @people.

of course there are other reasons for using tags to expand Dynalist functions for example #15min to track time, etc. which are not in the scope of this discussion.

This is meant as an mental exercise to see I can simplify my note taking routine further and make searching easier, any thoughts are appreciated!


You’re right that this is complex, but I mostly agree - I think overtagging is common when people first start doing digital organisation. One of the problems with just keywords is you might not use it uniquely for the purpose you intend. For this reason I use a lot of emojis (via text expanding software) where people might use tags.

Of course aside from theory, there are practical interface benefits to tags. If you don’t want text expanding software, then tags are the only way to get autocomplete (i.e. to remind you what tags you’ve used). Also there’s the tag pane, and also you can click on a tag to initiate a search (I actually find accidentally doing this more annoying than helpful and is a major reason I don’t use them) - you can also use the CSS to change the look of certain tags, or classes of tags …

But yea generally there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a keyword system, and reducing the effort of maintaining your system is very important long term - if tagging becomes a chore its easy to lose the habit

The only time I really use tags is when I make databases in Dynalist, for example I have a load of academic papers tagged up by topic etc

I think you have to explore for yourself and its important to reflect over time e.g. ‘How many times have I really searched for that over the last week, month, year? vs How much effort am I putting in to its maintenance?’ to arrive at the right balance for you


autocomplete is a nice feature I forgot, but tags might be better used for a more confined part of your knowledge system say your academic paper database where the tags are very specific and finite, or used for expanding functions working with your own CSS