I write and have taught classes for adults, two activities that require taking and organizing notes. I wrote in a previous post about why I chose EssentialPIM for storing my extensive notes. This post shows how EPIM helps me organize them.

Software reviewers say the best outliner apps make it easy to see your information, easy to arrange and rearrange and easy to find. EssentialPIM excels at each of these.

Notes made easy to see

EPIM makes notes and their connections visible by storing them in three arrays: Trees, branches and leaves. Think of trees as categories and the different levels of branches as subcategories. Figure 1 shows my writing projects, with the EPIM blog tree in focus:

  • Trees: MyBooks, MyWriting, EPIM Blog, Resources
  • Branches for each post in the EPIM Blog
Trees and branches

Figure 1 — Trees and branches

In Figure 2 are the four leaves attached to Post 5: Final, Draft, Research and Permissions.

Leaves for Post 5

Figure 2 — Leaves for Post 5

Mine is a simple arrangement but you can have an unlimited number of trees, branches and leaves, and you can indent, or nest, branches as many levels as necessary.

Notes made easy to arrange

Rearranging your outline is as easy as selecting a branch and dragging and dropping it to another place in the same, or another, tree. Likewise, you can drag and drop leaves from one branch to another.

The menu bar (Figure 3) makes rearrangement flexible with quick access to buttons to add or delete notes, move them in/out or up/down and expand or collapse all branches in the tree.

Menu bar buttons for quick rearrangement

Figure 3 — Menu bar buttons for quick rearrangement

Notes made easy to find

EssentialPIM has three search methods to help find your information (Figure 4).

Three ways to search

Figure 4 — Three ways to search

1. Advanced Search (Ctrl-Alt-F): When you need to find something anywhere in your EPIM database, Advanced Search is your friend. Its dialog has options to set the module(s) and related fields to search, to limit the search to a date range, and also to replace the text searched for. The results dialog lists all the entries where the string is found and lets you open an item from the search results or go directly to it.

2. Find (Ctrl-F): Find is a limited version of Advanced Search. This searches only the Notes module, but you can set the range and also have the option to search and replace. Results bring you to the first occurrence of the string, and you can circulate through your notes using the Find Next button.

3. Search and filter The search field at the upper right is what I use most. Like Find, its scope is limited to the current module, but it searches across all trees. Results filter the display to only trees and branches where the string occurs and also highlight it in the note for easy visibility.

What do you need to outline? EssentialPIM can handle it.

Reviews & Comments  

# Claudia Arnold
The hierarchical tree structure is really something I miss when using OneNote. I use these kind of notes - clippings, scans, writings, tables etc. - to collect and organize the informations I use on client assignments. As a consulting chemists, I have dozens of long pages of all kind of technical and scientific information, including, of course, PDF attachments.
I don't use EPIM for this because I fear it would make my file too large. Already I struggle to keep it below the GB margin (where clicks on the menu items tend to take much longer) by regularly exporting, filing and deleting e-mail, optimizing the database and so on. I am afraid that if I use notes to store my information, EPIM would pancake flat to the ground and every click would take seconds (and yes, I have a fairly stron computer with additional RAM which is a fetish of mine).
2020-07-28 08:02 Reply
# EPIM Team
Claudia, thanks for your comment! 1 GB database is a relatively small file that shouldn't really influence EPIM's performance. If it does do that on your side, please contact our customer support and share your PC specs along with a screenshot taken from the File->Database Management window so that we could see the number of items in each of the modules and the EPIM versions the database was opened in. Thanks!
2020-07-28 13:32 Reply
# MV

If you have an EPIM db that is huge, there could be some simple things that may help reduce the size.

If you have a huge db that you have built through several versions of EPIM, there can be a lot of overhead in the transitioned database.

You can check to see if you have a multi-version database in EPIM by opening the database, then going to File / Database Management.
At the bottom of the pop-up window is a section titled "This database was opened in:"
Below that will be some numbers. If there are a lot of versions represented, there is a good chance that you have some bloat in the database.

You can use EPIM Synchronizer to create a fresh (empty) database and then populated with the contents of the old database. The old database will remain intact, and you can revert to it if you want.

This has to be done on a local database, so if you've moved your DB to the cloud, you need to make a local copy.

To do this, close your current database (or exit EPIM - probably a good idea).
Download the EPIM Synchronizer and install it. Run it.
For the input, choose Local Database, enter the location of the EPIM db.
For the output, you can chose the location for the new database, and give a new name. I tend to include either a year-date or version number in my DBs.
A database by that name will be created in the location chosen.

Then, click the ">>" button.

The synchronizer will go through your epim database, read and recreate those items in the new database.

Once it through, you can look at the file sizes.

Open the new database in EPIM and give it a test. Everything should be crisp and new and smell fresh. ;-)
2020-07-29 22:58 Reply
# Claudia Arnold
:cry: That so didn't work - though I kind of liked the effect, no calendar entries, no tasks, the synchronizer must have read my mind. It was the newest version, too. Essentially my e-mails got synchronized with an inital hangup from Windows, and in the end error messages which in themselves were so jumbled that I could not send them (something about "bad lines of command" or something like it).
On the other hand, I have a full 79 (!) versions listed in the database management field, 5.8 RC2 being the earliest. Old woman, been in business for herself for a looong time... I'll try again on Monday. 8)
2020-07-31 08:32 Reply
# Ruud
As an Epim user for a very long time, I 'v seen this problems. Lost some data. So the "story telling" and searching for content , it needed another piece of software.
But .......... if there are differences between data handling in a database, why not together with such an update, to rewrite automaticly a new database, based on the old ones, so everyone is up te date ??
2020-08-11 16:04 Reply
# EPIM Team
It's virtually impossible to lose data with EPIM thanks to the auto-backup feature. BTW your database is always up to date - when the new version is out, EssentialPIM automatically updates it (making another backup in the process, just in case), if needed.
2020-08-11 18:50 Reply
# Andrew Vogel
Hi there. Thanks for an interesting article!

How do I add "leaves" to my Notes in EPIM (in your screenshot, your Post 5 has the following 'leaves': "Final", "Draft", "Research", and "Permissions")?
2020-07-29 21:42 Reply
# Dennis
Hi Andrew. Thanks for your question. Each note automatically creates an initial leaf, titled Leaf 1. Click on the Plus sign next to Leaf 1 (or, in my screen shot, it's after the Permissions leaf).
2020-07-29 22:20 Reply
# Francis Chin
As a journalist and Web content writer, I don't produce "outlines" and different content segments that are identified as "categories", "leaves" and branches. The blog post is thus not relevant to me, only to textbook writers.

I have upgraded my EPIM countless times over the years but have not found it useful to help manage the thousands of news reports, articles and stories I've written since 1977 (on average three stories per day from 1977-2016). I will be more interested in EPIM if it offers tabular database features with primary keys and keywords, similar to what you get in Microsoft's Access database program. For instance, when I wrote an article on Mindfulness Meditation, I would like to categorise it under BUDDHISM, VIPASSANA, MENTAL HEALTH, MEDITATION, MINDFULNESS, DHARMA TEACHING, LIFESTYLE, MENTAL WELLBEING, etc. There should also be links to related articles (in my own collection), plus a brief description on how "strong" (level of relevance) is the "relatedness" of the linked articles.

Of course Microsoft Word offers search capabilities but the result is scattershot. When I typed MINDFULNESS, I also got articles that are not really about mindfulness but which that particular word happens to appear at least once in the article.

I have discarded EPIM and placed all my past writings on Microsoft Word (version 2003 only) because I could format the text and images to exactly the way I like about its appearance. I used to use Adobe PageMaker but it is no longer necessary as Word gives me all the formatting features I need. Do note that the latest version of Word under the Microsoft 365 product offering is a PAIN in the neck to use. Even a simple function like inserting page numbers is hidden inside layers of menu.
2020-08-02 10:35 Reply
# EPIM Team
Francis, thanks for sharing! Sounds like using tags in notes would most likely cover your needs :-)
2020-08-02 14:42 Reply
# Christine
I get SO frustrated by the search. Been using EPIM for quite a few years now, not religiously, but have all my personal and business records and the crap you have to deal with just to stay alive in EPIM.

I may have a hundred search results. I don't have all day to go through them, so I click "next" fast. OFTEN too fast.

HOW do I go BACK?

The "filter" ...
1) why don't you replace the word "search" with the word "filter"?????
2) You "filter" for something, then you click on notes, then you have to go back into the "filter" field and delete character by character to see everything again. Why not have a button that deletes all the characters in the field?

I'd always use the real search, but you have to CLICK on it! Why can't I just have a search box that searches?


I have separate databases for special projects and it's always great until you have too many notes and searching becomes so frustrating.

You mentioned "tags" in one of the replies. I did not know there are tags. So I looked in help:

"The second way is adding a tag to a special Tags field at the bottom of every record info dialog."

I don't see this anywhere. Tried tagging and it doesn't seem to work at all.

Did finally find the "tags explorer". There are many tags, especially phone numbers. I went to the tag "ss", opened the note and could not find the tag. How do you delete tags?

And again, nothing happens when I type "#"

I don't know why it's in my "help" when the feature isn't available. Enough frustration for one day.

I keep looking for different software that makes it easier to organize, and ESPECIALLY to search. I ONLY use the notes and just wish it was a little more intuitive and functional. I really like the many ways to organize in EPIM.

You might want to send out articles like this one occasionally, very helpful, thanks!
2020-09-02 18:03 Reply
# EPIM Team
Let me address your questions one by one.
1. There's currently no way to go back (only around), will likely add this option in one of the next versions of the app.
2. To delete the search term at once, simply click on the cross icon, located at the right hand part of the search box.
3. You might need to enable the Tags field by clicking on View->Tags Field.
4. You can delete Tags directly from the Tags Explorer by right clicking on them.
5. As for the hash sign "#" - you need to keep typing in order to see prompts for existing tags.
2020-09-03 13:08 Reply
# Christoph Biemann
On the 28th of august 28,76 Euro were charged from my credit card. But so far I have not recieved an update or information about it. I have checked my spam folder as well.
Christoph Biemann :-x
2020-09-03 11:03 Reply
# EPIM Team
What were you charged for? Note, these kind of requests should better be addressed to our customer support: https://essentialpim.zendesk.com/hc/en-us. Thanks!
2020-09-03 11:30 Reply

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