A plea for better focus control

I’m what you might call a keyboard-first user: as much as possible, I try to do everything with keyboard shortcuts because it’s faster for me. A problem with DEVONthink that has frustrated me for years now is it continues to be so effing difficult to change focus between components of the interface using the keyboard. Example: suppose you select an item in the list of documents in a group, and navigate up and down using the keyboard, then if you open an Inspector and type something there, focus is moved away from the list panel and even if you close the inspector window, focus does not get returned to the list. So now you can’t continue to navigate between items with the keyboard. Not even ⌘-↓ and ⌘-↑ will move between documents in the list anymore. Tab and shift-tab move between toolbar items or other interface items (and even repeated presssing doesn’t eventually cycle around to the list).

Contrast this to an application like OmniFocus, which has explicit menu items and keyboard shortcuts to change focus to different parts of the interface. This makes fast keyboard-based navigation and editing possible.

Am I missing something obvious? Is there really no shortcut, menu item or AppleScript way to simply move focus back to the list after doing something in an inspector? The closest I’ve come so far is to create a Keyboard Maestro shortcut that performs a Go ➜ Back and Go ➜ Forward, which has the side-effect of returning focus to the list. But, sometimes this fails, and anyway, it’s an egregious hack.

Can I please ask for a simple “move focus to list” function somewhere? Even if it’s just in AppleScript! Just some way to put focus directly back to the list …


Hi @mhucka,

I have faced this too (Although, once the focus did come back to the list).

For me, Pressing tab moved to the sidebar, and then to the list.

Try this and see if it works. I have tried CTRL-TAB (and this seems to work), but after pressing 2-3 times. I do not know or cannot figure out where the focus is once I close the inspector.

(Shift-)Ctrl-Tab is the recommend shortcut to switch between sidebar, main view, document view, inspector and tags bar.


Excellent! Control-tab does indeed cycle between the components of the interface. Thank you for the replies.

And evidently I need to spend more time with the user manual, because I see that it is even documented in the section on keyboard shortcuts … the very first one, in fact :expressionless:

If keyboard shortcuts ever get revisited by the development team, I’d like to vote for also having ways of deliberately setting focus to specific elements, so that one can write scripts and keyboard macros that can be certain of setting the focus to specific parts of the interface. But, even knowing how to cycle between elements gets me past some hurdles and vastly improves keyboard navigation. So, thank you!