Aliases, Tags, and WikiLinks... Where have I gone wrong?

I’ve read a lot on this forum and in the DT user guide regarding Aliases, Tags and WikiLinks… but a solution for my particular situation doesn’t seem obvious yet.

My setup:

• MacBook Pro M2 Max
• DEVONthink 3.9.6
• Automatic WikiLinks turned ON
• Nearly 400 Tags
• 26,000+ Documents
• Imported research material is converted to RTFs to make use of WikiLinks

In my research database I have created tags like:

• pulsars
• radio astronomy
• cepheid variables
• quantum gravity
• distance ladder

These work beautifully for quick filtering. However, there are numerous astrophysicists and authors I need to cross-reference via WikiLinks from within my documents. For example:

• Vera Rubin
• Jocelyn Bell Burnell
• Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
• Andrea Ghez
• Edwin Hubble

In an attempt to create this network of links I have been adding their names to the Aliases field of whatever documents reference them. My intention is that whenever I’m reading any document, these people’s names would appear as a WikiLink, which, when clicked, would take me to a list of all other documents where that person is referenced. It appears that’s not possible. Instead of seeing a list of Andrea Ghez’s documents when I click on the WikiLink of her name, it seems to merely point me to one random document where she is referenced.

If I am approaching this incorrectly, would someone be so kind as to set me straight? I simply want to create a network of people I’m researching so that I can quickly access all their works and sources wherever they are cited within my database.

Thanks much!


A screenshot of Preferences > WikiLinks would be useful as there are additional options.

Clicking a WikiLink just takes you to the referenced item. But the Document > Links inspector should be useful in this case as the lower pane lists all incoming links (both via item links and WikiLinks).

I think you’re overcomplicating things and trying to use WikiLinks and aliases in ways they’re not intended.

With aliases, you should not have multiple files with the same alias. Adding an alias of NASA to a document named National Aeronautics and Space Administration would make sense and be an appropriate use of an alias.
WikiLinks aren’t for creating context. They just link to an item, typically a document. If you had a document named Edwin Hubble, with info about him and his work, WikiLinking to that document would make sense.

Why aren’t you just tagging their documents with their names?

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You might want to try this:

  • Create a new custom metadata field (multi-line text).
  • When you review a document, add relevant people’s names to that field, one in each line. You can make your own script to eliminate the bother of opening and typing in the inspector, or pull names automatically from somewhere in the document.
  • Create a number of smart groups in the people’s names. Set the criteria of each to e.g. custom metadata field > matches > Vera Rubin.
  • Delete names from the aliases of your documents, so the wikilinks always point to a smart group bearing the person’s name.

One good thing about smart groups is they don’t create additional structure in your database.


Great solution. I’m not sure many non-power users use custom metadata fields but they’re so useful!

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An even easier way would be to combine the suggestions of both @BLUEFROG and @meowky. Tag each document with the author and use a smart groups to list all documents for that author tag.

Using tags you can also achieve an author view in the tag list in the lefthand navigation pane of the database. Create a tag group within the tag list (which you can make just a group not a hierarchical tag) and put all the author tags inside it. This will give you a list of all authors and inside it all documents with that author tag. I tend to organise my tags like this (tag groups for tags of person, document type, etc) so they aren’t all jumbled up in a single long list in the navigation pane.


The OP already has nearly 400 tags. DEVONthink is undoubtedly capable of handling many more, but the same cannot be said of the user.


Thank you all very much for this incredibly helpful feedback! DEVONthink has exceeded my expectations in every regard, so I knew there had to an easier approach to this particular issue.

I had originally considered making tags of all the author’s names, as @BLUEFROG suggested, but the number of tags I already had in place started to feel a bit unwieldy. That’s when I tried this alternate route, which I see now was not correct. Somehow I missed that Aliases are meant for one document only, but that makes perfect sense now.

Thanks also for the suggestions about custom metadata fields and smart groups. These ideas open up a number of new possibilities for me.

DEVONthink is truly a masterpiece. I have a feeling I could spend years learning about its capabilities without ever discovering them all. My thanks to the developer and to all the helpful power users on this forum!


You’re welcome and thanks for the kind words. They’re very appreciated!

I’m curious… were you creating tags as you worked or pre-populated tags anticipating their use?

I was doing both. Mainly I began by creating the tags that I knew would be needed, then added more as I ran across the need for them.

What I’ve learned here today will also be extremely helpful with a personal project I’m working on — mapping out every chapter of every book in the Bible with cross-references to people, events, places, dates, topics, personal study notes, etc.

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:heart::smiling_face: much appreciated!

Hi @_Phil. Looks like I have a very similar workflow to you. I took a slightly different approach than what has been suggested above:

  1. I have a folder called People
  2. For every researcher I want to have wiki-linked I create a markdown file in the People folder and give the file the researcher’s First and Last names.

The researcher’s names now show up as wiki-links in my documents. The advantage of this approach is that the markdown file with the researcher’s name becomes a scratch pad where I can leave myself ongoing notes about their work, make connections to other researchers, etc.

And if I want to get a listing of every place that researcher is mentioned, I just go into the researchers markdown file, open the Document icon in the info page and select mentions, or use Tools > summarize mentions to get a document with summaries and links to relevant locations in all of my documents

This approach also allows me to tag the markdown files based on theme, field, etc so that I can create groups of researchers who are engaged in particular topic.

I hope that all makes sense, but I’m happy to clarify anything.



Well done and thanks for sharing your approach :slight_smile:

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Interesting topic and great ideas shared above. I have played with them all.

Some of the challenges I have encountered, and haven’t really solved yet are:

  • Custom metadata links don’t show up in the links inspector as incoming or outgoing links - custom metadata links are “outside” of the normal link identification system. So I have tended not to go down this approach.
  • Tags are per database. I wish this could be an option and you could have consolidated tags. I have many databases which results in multiple separate tags with the same name.
  • Wikilinks - I have found they only work well in one database. The WikiLink “lookup” doesn’t work across multiple databases. It only does the lookup for files inside the database you are in.

If what I have said above is not correct and I am doing it wrong, please correct me!

When I started with DEVONthink I had one single massive database and so these problems did not arise. But I have since learnt that single databases are not ideal for lots of reasons and so now have a dozen or so focused databases. I still have a need for cross-linking though, hence the challenges above.

Current workarounds:

  • Tags - I use tags and have them synced to Finder Tags and I can use HoudahSpot or Finder to search on a tag. In the OS the tags are combined, even if they are separate in DEVONthink.
  • Linking documents - I use DEVONthink item links rather than Wikilinks. They need to be added manually but they are more robust.

This is my approach as well. And I don’t consider it to be a workaround. Scripting makes adding item links simpler, and also more powerful, than adding double-bracketed wikilinks.

Fair point. Not a workaround, an alternative approach.

What kind of custom metadata did you use? Cross-links, URLs and links in rich text should be recognized (just checked this).

Hi Christian

The custom metadata is the “Item Link”. I’m using it on any file type, from PDF to Markdown. The link is not in the document, it is in the metadata.

I played with it some more and I can see the that the link shows on the destination file as an incoming link, but it doesn’t show as an outgoing link, which I find odd.

Is this intended behaviour?

If it could show as an outgoing and incoming, that would be very useful and create a true two-way link from only adding the link once.

If it is intended behaviour and there is a reason not to change it, then perhaps an additional link type “two way” could be created.

A screenshot of this custom metadata in Preferences > Data would be useful.