Can Tools ➜ Summarize Highlights be customized or controlled?

Is there any way to have Tools ➜ Summarize Highlights use a starting template? Failing that, is there a way to invoke the functionality programmatically from AppleScript and get the output, so that one could write a script to grab the output and insert it into a template of one’s choosing?

(Basically, I’d like to try a workflow where I highlight passages in a PDF while reading it, then create a “reading summary” kind of document where I write additional notes, but I’d like to put custom text at the top of this document and have the highlights be put below that. I also want to place the file in a particular folder structure.)

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It’s funny, I wanted to make this request last week but forgot to do it, so thanks for bringing it up!

In case you didn’t see it: There’s a thread with AppleScripts which change the menu output afterwards.

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Why not just use an Annotation file? :thinking:


Hmm. When I use the Annotation facility with the default template, it does not insert the highlighted text into the annotation document that it creates. I tested it just now by doing the following:

  1. Found a PDF file in one of my DEVONthink databases
  2. Used DEVONthink’s annotation facility to highlight some text in yellow.
  3. Went to the Document Annotations inspector and verified that it listed the highlighted text
  4. Went to the Annotations & Reminders inspector
  5. In the Annotations pull-down, selected New from Template ➜ Default annotation

The result put an annotation in the little annotation box, but that annotation did not contain highlighted text as your example seems to contain.

Maybe I’m not following the right procedure to get it?

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You can use the Insert Quote command in the Annotations dropdown.


And yes, you could define a shortcut in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts. You’d just need to open that dropdown once after creating the shortcut.



Well, that changes everything :-). Thanks for pointing this out!

You’re welcome. :slight_smile:

Something is not quite right in my environment. I’m looking at a PDF file that has an annotation listed in the Document Annotations inspector, but when I go to the annotation pull-down menu, the “Insert Quote” option is grayed out:


What are the circumstances where this can happen?

You need text selected. You could do this…

  1. Select text in the PDF.
  2. Press Shift-Command-L to highlight it.
  3. Inser the quote from the dropdown or via a shortcut you’ve defined.

Okay, now I understand.

This is not quite what I was seeking, but good to know about nonetheless.

I want to learn how to do this but have a dumb question – where is the Annotations dropdown? The Manual mentions a ‘down arrow’ but I don’t see either of these when I have the Annotations inspector open.

Open the Annotations & Reminders inspector (control-3), and look to the right of the word “Annotations”. There is a small triangle there. Very small. Very very small.


Thank you! I was in the control 6 Annotations inspector window and couldn’t see anything. Happy to have learned this.


If I am reading your question right, I’ve been looking at ways to achieve something similar - essentially a custom report that includes all the highlights from a PDF.

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a solution, but wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

First, the MacOS app Highlights ( - no affiliation) does some things that DT’s own highlighting / summary tools do not. It handles tricky PDFs better than most tools I’ve tried, is specifically aimed at the academic research crowd, and has some neat tricks up its sleeve.

The most valuable to me is that it allows you to marquee select portions of the PDF, which it captures as an image. You can then send the results to DT as a textbundle, which DT deftly handles as a markdown file plus images (which is exactly what it is). Handy.

I would love to see them allow users to design the template used to generate that markdown. Until then, they offer several options to customize it.

Also, I found this post, which has some useful related ideas, in the context of DT > Bookends:

It’s not directly relevant, but does cover getting annotations from Bookends into DT with AppleScript and generating reports for that.

Anyway, thought it would be helpful to mention those here.


Summarize Highlights is now scriptable, so you can take the output, read its text, and manipulate it from there.

An example:


Oh my goodness. This is pretty fantastic. Thank you for sharing it and all the other goodies on your blog.

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