3 Pane view in DT3

OK Here is a simple example

In DTPO2 the sidebar is compact. While I’d prefer the option to move things around and change the order in which the sections appear it’s not critical because the open databases are near the top vertically and you can simply click on the name of a database to get right back to where you were. So in the first screen shot I’m in my notebook getting ready to look up something from the group where I am documenting the NSIP issues. I can easily see the databases I have available and open, the ones I might want to move to and the data in the selected database display starts at the top. I suddenly had an idea of how to fix one of my queries for getting carcass weights so I click on the LambTracker Queries database in the open databases and am immediately in screen shot 2. Notice how I am already at the location I need to be and can see the working query code and am ready to edit.

Contrast that with the same scenario in DT3.
In the first screen shot lots of the vertical real estate in the sidebar is taken up with favorites that I really only need to see UNDER my open databases. My window has to be much taller to even get to the same point in see ing stuff and I have to scroll up and down a lot. I don’t use keystrokes, my typing is terrible, so I use the mouse for all my navigation and I want it to be simple. Same thing, I get the idea for a change tot he carcass query. First I have to open the LambTracker database in the sidebar by clicking on the down arrow, then navigate to the group, then select the query and in the mean time my whole notebook database structure has scrolled off.

Multiply this by all my database interactions in a day and it’s both time consuming and frustrating. What was a simple clean interface has become harder to use.

Now things that could help:
Allow me to change what order the groups appear in in the sidebar.
Keep the last view when selecting a database or have multiple tabs with each different open database and it’s own sidebar. I can’t really handle more windows but I could deal with additional tabs.


Disclaimer: I am just a bystander who is comfortable/ok with the workflow of DT3 sidebar.

However, it seems that for most (if not all) threads re 3PV, the most common request is looking for an effortless continuity of workflow IN a single viewer window environment. IMHO, this idea can be beneficial to many other DT3 users and not just for those users whose workflow are relying on 3PV. I wish DT would consider to include this feature (as option or standard) in the sidebar in the next version update.:pray::pray::pray::clap::clap::clap:

This is currently my biggest issue with DT3. Every time I click into a new group or Db, the document I was looking at is no longer selected (nor in the view pane) when I go back. It’s a huge setback to have to hunt for the document I was just on. Another issue related to this is when I use the back/forward arrows… it brings me to the document, but it doesn’t highlight where that document is.

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Yojimbo does this; sort of a Gmail style of tags and no folders (or groups). It doesn’t work for me, but you could dump everything into a single Db in DT3 now, if you wanted to. I prefer having the ability to separate my data at a high level, so many reasons.

Spot on!

This is a script that can do some limited context retention when switching databases: SwitcherV1 (Updated2) (V1) limited database context retention (V2) retain search view in DB

The script has some limitation, and may not work occasionally. But a quick fix can resolve the issue most of the time.

Hope it may be helpful to some 3PV user.

EDITED: I post one more version of Switcher2 which “should” be able to retain the search view of the database, too. But I don’t have time to test it thoroughly. Please let me know if there are any bugs.

I had been following this thread for a while and started a small list of suggestions a few days ago. Since then a number of others have provided their ideas, some of which overlap with mine. So I apologize for the repetition.

But I think I do not only repeat what has been suggested already, and maybe you will find at least something useful amongst it. Since I am not DT’s programmer of course I can’t tell if my suggested expansions of the sidebar can get implemented easily or at all. But at least they are intended as improvements for the DT 3 sidebar and not to talk DEVONtechnologies into switching back to the DT 2 sidebar. Which I am totally sure could not be done just like that even if someone at helm wanted to.

That leads me to the disclaimer: Except for my early days fiddling with the settings of DTPO 2 I have been using the three pane view exclusively. And—despite of that?—I am not missing it and by far prefer DT 3’s new sidebar. Which might be due to the fact that usually I am not using more than one Database at a time.

But enough with the preliminaries. Here are my offerings:

  • A customizable order of the sections (Favorites, Globals, Open Databases, &c.) in the sidebar to allow the users to put the sections in their favorite orders. So on top of the sidebar the respective most important sections will always be visible without scrolling, even on smaller screens.

  • An option for freezed/locked/retained view so when you click on a database or group DT shows the last view with all expanded sub-groups and not just the top-level with all groups collapsed. This could be a general option only. But it would be better if it was possible to additionally set this per Database/Group. And it should be independent from the Double-Click Opens Groups in New Window setting, unlike the already existing Retain View option in General Settings.

  • Favorites

    • Right now Databases (including Inboxes), Groups, Files, and Tags can become Favorites. Please allow Smart Groups too. This would allow a very concise view of the most important and in the most heterogeneously ways collected content.

    • Allow to group Favorites. So a Favorite Group like, say, “Kramer vs. Kramer”—hello to all the lawyers here!—could contain everything that has to be at hand for that case. Wether it is in the same group or the same data base or spread over several.
      When needed the user expands this Favorite Group, when not he collapses it to set free space in the side bar. While the Database section is (at least partially) location oriented the grouped Favorites would be semantics oriented, so to speak.
      Tags are too of course and like BillW mentioned above they can be set to provide the same. But maybe they are in use for completely different purposes. Which is possible due to the beautifully open concept of tags. (The same goes for Labels except that they are limited by number.)
      Favorite Groups would add just another dimension to the sorting of the data. A temporal one maybe, as the items might not reside in the Favorites section forever.

    • “Merge View”: For example CMD-click on more than one Group/Database/Tag shows a merged list of the items of all selected groups. (Ordered by … the order of the first selected group? Now it gets really tricky. I better leave that to the developer(s).)

    • Allow to do everything with items in a Smart Group as in a normal Group. Like deleting. Again maybe better just as an option with another option to show an alert when deleting from out of a Smart Group view.

  • Keyboard navigation for the sidebar.


I have just upgraded to DT3, and the lack of 3 pane view is really frustrating me. I would like to add a vote to bring this view back.


For my personal curiosity I reinstall DTPO V2.9.17 again and take a look at what’s the gap between the sidebar of DT3 and 3PV. I suspect that (1) some users are not aware that DT has incrementally adding back a lot of adjustments into DT3 (2) two planned enhancements are already mentioned (3) there is only one feature left that makes DT3 almost 100% compatible with 3PV and better than 3PV in other aspects.

(1) The currently available twist in UI:
1.1 user can now put either one or both individual database’s tags and inbox back to the list view. Tags is a hidden preference, and inbox is in the DT3’s general preference. See A very nice touch on sorting groups in list view
1.2 The std list view in DT3 is “subgroup and documents”, but the user can flip to “Show Only Documents” under view->“Show Only Documents” if they need to focus on documents only.
1.3 A hidden preference is also available for “DisplayGroupInPreviewPane” (p.231 of the user guide).

With this preference enabled user will see the list of documents thumbnails in the preview pane when a group is selected in the list. So no more empty preview pane. To set this preference, open terminal, and type (exact capitalization for TRUE)

defaults write com.devon-technologies.think3 DisplayGroupsInPreviewPane -bool TRUE .

1.4 Some users in this post mentioned that they want unsorted groups in the sidebar. This feature is already there, by ctrl-click on the database in the sidebar and choose “Unsorted” :

(2) If I am reading the forum posts correctly. DT is already planning to
2.1 provide key navigation in the sidebar and let the user jump from the sidebar to list to preview pane by certain modifier+tab. And this enhancement wasn’t even available in DT2. See the response from DT DT, focus on sync and iOS next (& a suggestion on sidebar).

2.2 allow user to cmd-click on multiple groups in the sidebar and show all documents in those groups in the list view.

(3) That leaves only one more thing to do: allow a user to switch from one database to another whilst retaining all databases selected group, or items, or search results, for the continuation of workflow or for multi-tasking. I suggest those who need to work on multiple databases but would want to work on one main window to take a look at my script SwitcherV1 (Updated2) (V1) limited db context retention (V2) + db search view retention (V2.1) show db list only option. It retains settings of list and column view and the list for search results as well. It might helps in certain types of database switching.

This attached image is from DT2, IMHO, the main/only “one more thing” for the DT3 sidebar to realise.

Finally, as quite a number of other users have mentioned here and in OP, the new sidebar is not an idea created by DT by thinking “in-the-box”. If you read the posts of the last few years, many users are complaining or suggesting ways to get rid of the DT2’s original sidebar for its purpose is mainly a “database switcher”.

My humble suggestion is try not to focus too much on the residual image or habitual reaction to 3PV because the new sidebar is the results of rationally and carefully considering many users’ needs. However, try our best to suggest how specifically sidebar, or in other areas (menu, option, etc), can make changes to help your workflow. Better yet, explain the specificity of the workflow to help DT to generalize the change for similar types of workflow (I guess it means it’s more about “what this type of workflow needs” rather than “what you like”). It is great to see that many users have now made more specific suggestions. Hopefully some sort of convergence in opinion may come soon. My opinion is that the focus is about workflow, not 3PV.

Disclaimer: I see sidebar is a better and more flexible implementation of workflow but it doesn’t mean there is no shortcomings.

So, in case you are not aware of the currently available options mentioned in 1.1. to 1.4, and/or the planned feature changes mentioned in 2.1 to 2.2. Give them a trial.

If the database’s settings retention in switching is important, I think DT is listening, because this feature is likely useful to many other users, too. Meanwhile, take a look at the Switcher script, it may help while u are waiting for the switching function in DT3.

Just MHO.


Please give us DT3 back for most of us who complain, we work with Devonthink on almost daily basis and a lot of data collection depends on their work

Some replies:

Would be welcomed, indeed. I’m not sure about the role of the sidebar in that. Tabs and history on main window level could play a role as well.

Right. As far as I remember, DT2 had a distinct search window, anyway. In DT3, you can either use the existing window for a search, or alt-cmd-n alt-cmd-f to search in a new window. It’s taken a while until my memory muscles got used to that, but it works fine now.

I’m not saying I couldn’t think of even more efficient, convenient UXs for search: cmd+return to start search in new window (or a tab with a tab system on the main window system) from search box; a vertically extended search-box (akin to the Go-To control, but for documents as well; even detachable); search results in right or left pane; and what else I can’t think of right now.

As to database transparency for users:

My intention was to point out that some characteristics that are now linked to databases (encrypted or not,… on mobile devices and not, …indexed or not) could be implemented on any level, not necessarily on database level. Also mind the frequent discussions in the forums on how to best organize your data into several databases. But I said „DT 4 or 5“ for a purpose. The DT connoisseurs among us know that by time DT five launches, its AI will have been significantly overhauled and 110 GB are of minor concern. Anyhow, just speculation.

Regarding databases as visual anchor, environment:

Would a newbie DT users care about how DT implements it’s upmost, root-level elements, the top-level nodes in the new-left pane? That „Scientific literature“ node could be database, as in your case. In my case, that node is a folder in a database called „Research“. We can now have lengthy discussions about whether such a node should better be at the root of a distinct database as or be a folder inside a database with a wider set of purposes. The same discussion would apply to the question whether major projects you’re working on should get a distinct database as reside within a „projects“ database.
From my perspective, DTs UI potential for improvement lies in the ability to make any folder your metaphorically ad-hoc or permanent „library“ or study. Or, as other software has called this feature, „focus“ on any folder (and that could be a database’s root folder, too).

A sketch based on OogieM’s screenshots above:


Regarding doubts of whether Devontech would listen to users after releasing major versions, here’s a brief list of Devonthink’s upgrades under the version 2 umbrella:

  • 2.11 (2018): JSON feeds, push notification for Sync, CriticMarkup support, …
  • 2.10 (2018): Sync via iCloud, …
  • 2.9 (2016) : Rewritten sync, declutter web service, new conditions for smart groups, more robust sync, …
  • 2.8 (2014): Sharing extension, Indexing iCloud Drive, Finder tags, ePub and iBooks support, …
  • 2.7 (2013): Create ToCs, improved Save panel, MMD rendering, Label & Annotations view options, encrypted sync
  • 2.6 (2013): Formatted Notes, automating updating of indexed folders, importing from Bookends and Evernote, menus cleaned up
  • 2.5 (2013): Syncing, new web server
  • 2.4 (2012): rewritten scan module, combine scans into single document, sharing service supported, Notification Center supported
  • 2.3 (2011): new activity panel, window full screen mode
  • 2.2 (2011): Lion compatability
    Besides that, lots of refinements on UI, existing features, support for OS updates, etc. And I’ve probably forgotten lots of other features.
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or alt-cmd-n alt-cmd-f to search in a new window. It’s taken a while until my memory muscles got used to that, but it works fine now.

Yep - and I use this all the time, every day :slight_smile:

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This thread is getting to complicated. Of course everyone can work and there are scripts, shortcuts, options or workflows to work around everything.
Especially hardcore users might not have problems as they spend a lot of time in this software and the configuration and know about every shortcut.

But what abut beginners or casual users if even some hardcore users complain ?

As a newbe looking for better organization possibility you don’t realize the need why to use DevonThink.

  • The first impression with DT3 is as if it had the same possibilities of organization as the finder but without tabs

  • But in DT2 you clearly see extended functionality from the first impression. 3 pane makes me very quick getting interested into the software and for getting deeper into into. It was an eye-catcher, a candy or one kind of organization opportunity I was looking for as finder was bad.
    It was a unique feature and I actually expected it to be extended in future releases rather than removing it.

I think a lot of us started this way or might still use DT on a similar level until today? … at least I can clearly say that I would less have taken notice of DT without the 3pane view.
It just felt easy and right without the need to go deeper into document management at this time. It gave me easy extended possibilities for (re-) organizing my documents… I could have done this using finder too as well as I can do everything in DT2 as well as in DT3.

So it’s not about features… It’s about a good feeling, an ease of use and a tool matching you’r way to of working.

I really wish that DT will not forget about this and that it’s not measurable that they might loose potential (new) users just because of this little thing.

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That’s indeed a database design different from mine with its many nested folders and multi-level folder hierarchies; and probably different from what other longterm users of DT have. For the latter use-case, the left-pane (new sidebar or left side of old 3pv) has always been crowded and required many orientation brain cpu cycles. For those, the ability of focus on any folder level and to somehow ‘glue’ a bunch of folders splattered over one or more databases would be helpful. For you, with this rather flat database design, focus on database is and has already been sufficient.

I don’t have a flat Database Design. It was an example when you crosswork on multiple folders / databases maybe even with the need to create new folders during work. I don’t think that this is a matter of being a long term user or not (just think about a monthly register structure).
The vertical list will get big on flat structures as well as on huge nested structures that need to be expanded.

Furtheron it’s a waste of screen space if a folder does not contain at least (around) 60 files if you want to use widescreen view.
You need to have a balance of both and with the option of 3pane view I was flexible without the need to reorganize the structure itself. On a macbook you should use the space in a different way as on an 27’ iMac. I use both of them and want my folder structure to fit the content and not the possibilities of a view. That’s why the flexibility of the views is so important.

I have to add my vote for the 3PV. It was the most efficient use of screen space that let me see full document names while also showing a compact folder tree that kept large portions of the tree on-screen at once.

I’ve largely replaced it with the sidebar now that it shows database contents. I just have to ignore the other open databases now rather than them being hidden until needed. But using the sidebar as the folder view, selecting the standard layout and the ‘Show documents only’ from the View menu has somewhat given me back the 3PV. It’s not as good as it was since more screen space is wasted, but it functions.

The missing 3PV and the missing document URL being displayed in the document header are the main misfires for me.


:clap::clap::clap::+1::+1::+1:. See Feature request DEVONthink Pro 3: 3 pane view & tabbed windows

A screenshot of the window plus of the document’s Info inspector would be useful, thanks.

Just wanting to check (and I’ve lost track of the various workarounds in this thread) – is there any way in 3 for a group to retain the document it was displaying when last selected? That is, in my view, a real must. Seeing “No Selection” is an absolute productivity killer.

If I remember correctly, I don’t think this feature ever exist or have ever suggested in any version of DT?
Anyway, if u are asking for a “workaround” to remind urself on which item/s are last selected or are important in each group: the easy way is to remind urself to mark the item/s by using any one of the following methods: by flag, by label, by rating, or by creating a custom metadata field with data type Boolean.

Or, if you just want to find the items you have reviewed (opened) or changed (modified or created) today (or within a certain period), create a smart group at the root of each database like this (the example use “today”, but other range can be used, too). This is another handy way to recall the work without needing to remember which group/item has been touched,


You can then jump back to the relevant group by “Reveal” in the contextual menu for the items that are listed in the smart group: