Annotations vs Annotations?

There is a field for Annotations in the “Annotations & Reminders” Panel and there is Annotations in the Document panel. I know they really shouldn’t confuse me, but they do. From what I can tell after reading the manual and a few posts here, it looks like notes I want to make on a file/document should go in the Finder Comments. If so, then, what is the purpose of Annotations below the Finder Comments and when/how should it be used?


There isn’t a “when/how it should be used”.
It is used for taking notes about a selected file. This is captured in a separate Annotation file.

This is covered in the Help > Documentation > Inspectors > Annotations & Reminders.

There definitely seems like there is a when/how to using Finder Comments vs (File) Annotations. I realize there are no “hard rules” for using features in DT3, but here I think some guidelines that provide a “best practices” way of looking at things might be beneficial, especially to those - like me - who are just starting to dig more into the great features of DT.

For example, after digging into this and trying out each, if all I need is a simple comment about the file, using the Finder Comment seems best. I don’t need an entire separate document to store something like, “This was paid on 11-16-2019.”

However, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the benefit of having a separate annotation file, though it might be because I’m only thinking in terms of simple notes. The manual talks about both of these, but it doesn’t give examples of how to take advantage of these features for people like me who don’t intuitively understand what these features can do for them. Or maybe I just missed that in the manual?


There aren’t any specific instructions on the use since they can be used in a variety of ways. There are many people on these forums that use them, often in academia. For example, writing notes about a PDF file and keeping them in a separate file for sharing or adding other resources to that file.

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There are lots of ways it can be used - it all depends on what you use DT3 for

In one of my databases, I use annotations to create bookmarks to locations in a large document that I frequently refer to

In another database, I use annotations to mark key parts of a large document before I sit down to write a consulting report with my opinions on the document

In another database, I use annotations to give editing advice to my staff as they progress through writing/creating a new document

There are of course so many other possibilities depending on the circumstance. Remember that you can insert a “Backlink” in the annotation file which sends you back to a specific page in a specific document - that is a key feature for me

And of course you can edit the color/font/etc of the annotation text just as with any Rich Text content


RobH -

  1. Annotations (below finder comments): think of this as a meta annotation. It applies to the whole document at the highest level. Like a cliff notes or an abstract of article.

  2. Annotations (document panel): this shows the markup you’ve done in the document itself - like highlights and comments you’ve made on a pdf document.
    (it will show line by line what annotations are already done to a document)

I find both extremely useful in different ways. Respectively, 1 - keeping track of my summary of the article which I can then redeploy in other written work. 2 - seeing in DevonThink the work I have done when I marked-up or edited the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Hope this helps!


Wow, this is a great tip. I never would have thought of that.

Thanks @rkaplan and @Cali310 for the tips!

It seems that you’ve missed one of the greatest features of v.3 along with custom metadata and etc :wink:

  1. This annotation may be an MD or RTF file. We are asking to add OPML format, but devs would have to asses if it’s feasible.
  2. You can make your own templates and assign a hotkeys to them for quick add. With a set of placeholders (see the forum)
  3. As a separate file, you can open it externally and edit, save, share. Whenever you put this file, it’ll be connected with its main file. But by default it is stored in Annotations group.
  4. Since it is a separate DT item, you can fully use replicating and tagging.
  5. You can see this Annotation as a single place where you put all connections of main file with the database, since you may insert not only backlinks to main file, but any link to any DB item, or even to place in an item (e.g. page in PDF, topic in OmniOutliner, e-mail in appropriate client, event in calendar and etc)

Just to name a few general rules to how it can be applied.


I do like that the annotations are in a separate file; lots of flexibility. Much like a lot of the features in DT, I don’t need most of them, but it’s cool they’re there.

Thanks for the tips!

is there a way for this: if you move the PDF from one to another Database, Annotation.rtf moves automatically, too?

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There are new options in DEVONthink 3.8 to automatically move annotations, see Preferences > General


thank you so much!

I am not sure if its the default setting, but when I start an annotation in a pdf note, the annotation note is saved in a group named “annotations” within the database, which is alright, but what if I preferred to have the annotations within the same specific group rather than a general annotations folder for the database? is it possible to have multiple annotations groups in a database so that each group has its own sub-group storing the annotations with an that particular group? I hope I am making sense and that you get my question (I may be exposing my ignorance😁)

From page 122 of the user guide (also available through the in-app Help):

Maybe that helps a little.



:+1:t6:it does help. Thanks.

Thanks for this clarification, but let me add a little more, um, confusion. I would have called this original post “Annotations vs Annotations vs Annotations” since I see three types of annotations in the help files. Let me see if I can explain, and I’d appreciate some clarification if I’m incorrect:

  • First, there are Annotations(#1) below finder comments, that apply to the entire document (cali310 describes them as cliff notes).
  • Then there are Annotations(#2) in the document panel, that collect markup like highlighting, and provide link-backs. Devonthink 3 can also produce a list of all A#2 in a report for one or several documents, which is my main use.
  • Third, there are Annotations(#3) that you find by searching help, especially for DT2G, that simply refer to PDF markup, like highlighting.

Now, check me here, A#2 and A#3 may be the same thing, except DT2G can only do the document highlighting/markup part, and cannot access the DT3 #A1 or A#2 fields. But, highlighting in DT2G will show up in DT3 highlighting summary reports (and A#2 field?). If that’s all correct, my only remaining question is this: What lives in the remote annotations file, only A#1? The whole document notes? And Annotations like highlighting are just in the PDF and can be extracted via script. Right?

Have you used the Annotations file feature?
It is a separate document associated with the current document. It can contain notes, links, etc.

A2 and A3 are the same thing, however, you can annotate PDFs in both DEVONthihk and DEVONthink To Go. And those annotations sync between devices so they are accessible to both apps.

I have played around with adding file annotations, but the idea being able to mark up a pdf, in DT2G, even in an external app, and then (what’s the word?) transclude all the marked sections from several documents into a “notes” file is perfect for my workflow (educator). Am not sure I see the benefit of a document-wide annotation file.

Thanks for your support!

You’re welcome :slight_smile:

I know this is an old conversation but I found it very helpful for building the solution I wanted. There may be better ways to do this but I found if I adapted the existing template to have the record at the top as a header entry when I merge annotation files I can add TOC at the top and get a nice Table of Contents. I wanted to find a flexible way to pull summary notes together for multiple documents on the fly and be able to browse through. What I wish, but don’t have nearly enough knowledge to do, is that the TOC would manifest in the Markdown as well. It can be a pain having to go back and forth between the editor and the viewer. My template looks like:





Type your note here.

On merge I add at the top of the document:

Table of Contents:


And voila!