A case for turning off exclude groups from tagging

I’ve started getting some mileage out of turning off the exclude groups from tagging option.

When using Devonthink as a document warehouse, it may not make sense to do so. When Devonthink is used as a tool for emerging knowledge out of disparate sources, or when building structure for a book, there are some cool things you can do.

Some groups may contain contributing information. For instance, a group containing facts about Teddy Roosevelt are all about a single topic, bully old Teddy. These contributing groups feed topics that are more aggregate. For instance, facts in the Teddy group could contribute to a group for the Panama Canal as well as groups for the Spanish-American War and San Juan Hill. Those groups aggregate facts from people, places, and political movements.

When I’m writing in the Panama Canal group and want to pull information from Teddy’s notes, I turn off exclude from tagging for the Canal. Then I can tag things in Teddy’s group with Panama Canal.

Each time I add a tag like that, it creates a replicant. I can remove such a replicant either by de-tagging it or by deleting it. If I remove all the tags from a document that no longer appears in any group excluded from tagging, the document isn’t gone. It whisks over to the document’s local inbox for later re-filing.

You could do the same things with just tagging, but there are advantages to this approach. You have groups that categorize your stuff and also create bonds between them.

It’s very intuitive once you play with it a little. I don’t think I would often turn off exclude for a whole database. Individual groups that by nature will contribute to other groups are good candidates.

Anyway, I searched the forums here and it seemed the option of including or excluding groups from tagging is probably not Devonthink’s most popular feature.

It’s actually quite powerful.


I’ve read your post, but don’t see benefit with groups as tags

I may use a group to bundle a set of records, however most of my records are stored ungrouped
I would not have Teddy/Panama groups
Tags are my tool for organization; I would have Teddy/Panama tags

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I have been doing something similar @Amontillado. Thanks for sharing, I actually think not excluding groups from tagging is a tremendously undervalued and too little known way of using DevonThink.

Another benefit next to the ones you mentioned is that it is possible to create a filtered view of the database while retaining its hierarchy.

For example, if one dimension of the database is “Author” and another is “Topics”, each with respective subgroups:

  • One could filter for the tag “Ryan Holiday” and see a narrowed-down view of the Topics dimension showing only Stoicism and Media Relations (incl. subgroups) because those are the topics that specific author writes about.
  • One could also filter for the topic “Stoicism” and navigate a filtered view of Authors that have produced contents related to Stoicism.

This becomes especially useful actually if the database has several layers of nested groups.

My database also has “Item Type” and “Context” dimensions to allow for even greater flexibility. For example, one could filter the database for only blog entries that relate to Business Model Innovation in the context of X.

It behaves almost like a relational database.

Cool - dimensions, that’s a good way to look at it.

I can see that. That works fine.

Un-excluding groups from tagging isn’t terribly different from inheriting tags from groups - functionally, a tag is automatically applied by putting a document in a group.

When you tag anything, it basically makes a replicant in the tag. If a group is un-excluded from tagging, the same thing happens. A replicant appears in the group when you tag a document.

It’s just another tool. In general, tags are how I create alternate groupings, too.