Bookends import -- what am I doing wrong?

I have imported reference from Bookends to Devonthink 3 Pro, but I am not ending up with what I expected. What ends up getting imported is the following:

  1. Under info/Generic – I get the name, which consists of the author and title of the reference. I also get the URL back to Bookends
  2. Under infro/Properties – all i get is the author and the keywords.

In Bookends I have set the Summary view, in Properties, to include all the data for a reference. From reading the manual and forums, I expected that data to show up in the info/Properties view. But it doesn’t.

Finally, I have made some custom metadata fields that I am updating manually. One of them is year of publication. Once I do figure out how to get the data properly from Bookends to DT3, is there a way to autofill that custom field with the year?


The Import Bookends feature in DT3 imports based on the Summary.fmt Format in Bookends.

You can modify the appearance of what is imported by using the Formats Manager in Bookends for Summary.fmt.

If you want to do something more advanced such as import the Bookends citation into specific custom metadata fields in DT3 then you would need to do scripting. Such scripting is eminently doable since both Bookends and DT3 are highly scriptable using either Applescript or JXA.

The redoubtable Devonthink for Historians duo appear to have mastered Bookends to Devonthink. You’ll need to buy one of their courses to get their scripts, but that’s OK in my view.

Motivation for creators is a good thing.


Ok. Thanks for the help. I have a few more questions.

First, however, a comment. There are two ‘Summary’ things in Bookends. One is the Summary.fmt format. The other is the Summary panel on the right side of the Bookends window, which is customised in Bookends Preferences. It would be nice if they were named different things. But anyway, thanks for clarifying which of these Summaries I should be changing. It’s confusing, especially if you change the Summary.fmt, the other Summary view also changes.

Second, I now realise I was looking in the wrong place for what DT3 imports. It was right in front of my nose, of course. It imports what is specified in the summary.fmt into the main record, i.e. the text in the main window of the record. That’s fine.

But what I would like is for the date of publication from Bookends to go somewhere that will allow me to sort the records by date. Having it only in the record itself won’t let me do that. That’s why I thought I could get it into either into a field in the Properties or the Custom metadata (I have a custom ‘date’ field).

If this isn’t possible when importing from Bookends, is there some way to script (not that I know how to script) DT3 to take the date of publication from its main window and stick it into a metadata field? Or has the data from Bookends been stripped of its tags/whatever once it is put into the main record field?

Thanks for any help.

What is the main record field?

And no data is modified in Bookends with any of the built-in integrations in DEVONthink.

What I mean that the information from Bookends goes into the part of the screen in the red box (see picture). I would like to put the year of publication into the ‘year’ custom metadata field (see arrow). Or alternately into a field in Properties. Sorry I don’t have better terminology!

No worries! Just trying to make sure I understand what you’re referring to.

The text shown in your selected document is not going to be consistent across the range of documents you have, i.e. not all docs will have Classical Quarterly preceding some date.

What does the metadata look like for that record in Bookends?

In order to put the Bookends metadata into DT3 custom metadata fields, you would need to write a script in Applescript or JXA.

Here is a screenshot of the record in Bookends with the Reference pane open on the right, with the metadata fields shown.

And here is the same record with the Summary pane open instead. Note that I’ve figured out how to modify this by changing the .fmt record, and so to control what goes to DT3. But the screenshot from DT3 (from previous post) shows an older import. And for some reason if I reimport, the record doesn’t update with the updated information.

By the way, even the Date metadata isn’t guaranteed to be consistent. I just looked in my test Bookends database (as I’m not an actual user of the application), and the Date listed on the first entry I selected is Jan 31 2023, not merely the year.

Hi Jim – In Bookends I have a ‘date’ field that I have consistently filled with only the year. In DT3 I have the custom metadata field ‘year’, which I would like to mirror the Bookends ‘date’ for each record imported from Bookends through DT3’s “import references from Bookends” function.

If I’ve understood correctly, if I want this, I will need a script to do it. Is that correct?

If so, would the script need to pull that date from the actual Bookends record in Bookends, and then fill it in the DT3 ‘year’ field? Or would the script be able to get that information from what is already imported into DT3, somehow?

I’m sorry, I’m a scripting neophyte, so before I try to figure out how to do it, I’d like advice on exactly what I should try to make it do.


Either strategy is possible - but it would be much more straightforward to get the information from the Bookends record and then fill it into the DT3 metadata or custom metadata field.

If you try to get the information from what is already in DT3, then you would need to deal with Regex or some other method to parse out the individual fields. That could be a challenge especially if there are edge cases.

On the other hand, if you retrieve the data from the Bookends record via Applescript or JXA and put it into the DT3 record, not only is that more straight forward but also once you master that for one metadata field you will find it to be extremely easy to generalize it to any other metadata you want from Bookends.

In Bookends

Custom metadata added

Comment added noting date file changed

Look about right?

Yes. That’s wonderful!

Hold the Option key and choose Help > Report bug to start a support ticket.

I will

This is not quite correct. The two are basically independent of each other. However, the fact that the Summary panel on the right side can also use the Summary.fmt format in the Formatting Manager to create its summary—if you choose to do so—is a bit confusing. If you do that, then changing the Summary.fmt format in the Formatting Manager will indeed also be reflected in the Summary panel on the right side.

I hardly ever use the summary view in the Summary panel, so it wasn’t until today that I realized that when using the Summary panel on the right side, we have three options. We can use:

  1. Summary standard view to show only the fields we want to see [in my opinion, the best option]
  2. We can also use our favorite reference format (MLA, APA, Chicago or whatever) [makes little sense to me]
  3. or we can use the Summary.fmt in the Formatting Manager [also makes little sense to me]

I would like to remind you that there are also two AppleScripts available for importing data from Bookends into DEVONthink. These AppleScripts can be accessed via the AppleScript menu (in the menu bar). They are called “Put Notes from Bookends into DEVONthink as rft” and “Put Notes from Bookends into DEVONthink as md”.

Yes, I noticed this too. It seems we need to put the previously imported record into the Trash and delete it. Then we can reimport it with the new changes.

And now to a question that hasn’t been touched upon yet. Could you please explain why you want to import data from Bookends into DEVONthink? Why can’t you just do everything in Bookends?

What information exactly is in the Summary.fmt that you are importing?
And what are you going to do with that information (in DT)?

Copy the field order in your Summary.fmt and paste it in your reply.

I’d appreciate any information you can give me on this.

1 Like

Hi devonti18,

Thanks for your interest. Please take a look at this post from another thread, where I explain how I am using Bookends, DT3, and Highlights together in a single workflow.

The TL/DR is that DT3 acts as a hub. The main record in DT3 links to the Bookends record, the PDF, and (this is the crucial part) my annotations of the PDF. I am not crazy about the Bookends annotations UI, so that’s why I prefer to export them into a rtf in DT3. Also, DT3 allows me to do searches of the full text of the PDFs. Having them linked to their record saves me time searching in Bookends. Finally, I can add custom metadata to the DT3 records more easily and with greater leeway than in Bookends, allowing for more specialised smart groups.

Here is a screenshot of a record. Note the links at the bottom of the rtf display in the middle. One is to the PDF of the article (Brémond 2022) and the other is to my annotations rtf (Brémond 2022 Annotations).

If you have any questions, let me know.