Converting groups to tags?


I’m thinking about moving my DropBox folders into a DTP database, so that I can more easily use DTTP’s clipping tools (esp. in iOS) and sync those files. In the past, I’ve clipped files and and stored them on files in DropBox. If I move those folder into a DTP database, it seems like the best way to retain my folder structure is to covert my folder (or groups) into tags. In that way, I could save clippings in DTTG, apply a tag that mirrors my old folder(s), thus retaining the same organizational structure within synced a DTP database.

If this seems like a good way to go, is there an easy way to convert groups to tags? I’ve searched the forum, but haven’t found an answer.


You could disable the option “Exclude groups from tagging”, see File > Database Properties.

Ok, thanks. Just uncheck the box.

Following that, what else should I do to convert the folders to tags?


I’m not sure why you want to do this in the first place, but also what is Criss’ suggestion not accomplishing?

I agree. It’s a pretty bad idea, IMO, to put all your database into Tags. And you lose the benefits of the AI.

If you include regular groups for tagging, as Criss suggested, then you don’t need to do what you planned.

I agree with korm. Given a choice between database organization using groups but no tags, or tags with no groups, I would stick with groups.

That’s because if you use topically defined groups (by the content of the documents they contain), as your groups contain more and more content DEVONthink’s Classify artificial intelligence assistant will become more and more useful in suggesting appropriate filing location(s) for new content. But there’s no such support for tags.

Personally, I don’t have much respect for tagging, because of its logical and consistency limitations. I consider it a waste of time and effort to tag all new content. Tagging dates back to the primitive days of digital document management before full-text searching or artificial intelligence assistants were available. Back in the 1960s and 70s I ran a university computer information center to disseminate the results of federally sponsored R&D. Tagging (keywords) was the only means of search and retrieval, and its limitations became my biggest headache. No matter how much training was done for the tag assigners in the federal agencies that provided computer tapes, or my search teams attempting to retrieve desired information, tagging was the weak link. Believe me, it took a LOT of time and effort to tag documents at the provider end, a LOT of additional time and effort to design searches at my end, and even so, the results were often poor.

That’s why, when DEVONthink first appeared about 15 years ago, I fell in love with it. Powerful searches, topical groups and those wonderful AI assistants meant that I didn’t have to work so hard to find needed bits of information!

My main research database contains more than 30,000 documents and a total number of words comparable to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Even a million tags would probably not be adequate to identify all the bits of information and their contexts that might be relevant to my interests. Instead, I use very few tags, and most of those are created temporarily when I start a new project, primarily to identify documents that are pertinent to that project. When the project is finished, I delete those tags because they would be of little or no use for my next project. Think of the time and effort I’ve saved!

Of course, if I were running a database describing fine-grained details, such as items from an archaeological dig, I would be more likely to find the time and effort of tagging to be productive. :slight_smile:

Thanks for all of you input.

To clarify, so far I’m only syncing one database, and I’m using as a way to clip and save articles (in a PDF format) so that I can read and quickly annotate them.

In the past, I’ve clipped files by saving them as PDFs, and storing them in my DropBox, divided by subject folders. Because of DTTP’s recent improvements, and because DTP is the final repository for my files & documents, this is my new workflow:

(1) Clip documents on Mac & on iOS: Save documents, as PDFs, and save on synced DB while

(2) …I attach subject tag – in lieu of my old DropBox subject folder

(3) Then I read and do a cursory annotation on files in synced DB (reading/annotating with in DTTP if in iOS) and then…

(4) …move to files from synced DB to “WORK” database in DTP -> [subject group] and then…

(5) …use the following script do a more comprehensive annotation, notes, and tagging:

By the way, per @korm 's suggestion, I’m experimenting with Marginnote as an alternative way to accomplish the clipping, reading and annotating – within a synced DB. I’m told that Marginnote might soon integrate with DTP, and might even be able to port over their annotations into DTP tags.

Why not just make my old DropBox folders into DTP databases and sync them? In short, I’ve been advised to consolidate as much similar work-related subjects into a single DB rather than splintering them into over a dozen DBs. The other thing is that these DB contain a LOT of files, and might require a cost prohibitive DropBox account (or some such cloud service).

(I still haven’t figure out how to create an annotation & filing system that will provide a tag-like approach for grouping annotations for files for specific projects, as well annotations that crossover my projects and contain globally annotation - themes. But that’s a different topic.)

I’m happy to consider another approach, and welcome your suggestions. Just thought I’d clarify why I’m using the the tags for my synced DB, and how it fits into my current workflow.

Thanks for your help.

So, that makes sense. If your work database is too large for syncing to DTTG2, you have a smaller, intermediate database that you sync. Of course, you could just sync the Global Inbox and use it for collecting clips. If your work database has an already-developed complex hierarchy of groups, you might experiment with just moving the documents into the inbox of the work database (from the Global Inbox, for example) and using See Also and Classify to suggest destination groups. This might work just as well as managing a tag farm.

I’m with Bill with regard to tags. In the past I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time curating tag farms in the file system and in DEVONthink databases, with the result of achieving this much benefit: zero.

I don’t even pay attention to tags anymore.

Just out of curiosity, is there a reason why you’d suggest I set up the sync process in the Global Inbox and use it for collecting clips? Like I said, for now I’ve just been using a synced DB for reading/annotating clipped files with in DTTP and in DTP. I’m just wondering if there’s some functional advantages for doing this within the Global Inbox that I might be overlooking.


You should do whatever pleases you.

I was just asking if there’s some advantage in using Global Inbox – or if it provide some features – that users wouldn’t accrue through using regular DB syncs.

If you’re researching and clipping quickly, in a fluid and organic way, you might not know where something will be filed at that moment.

The Global Inbox acts like a big unstructured target for quick data entry and capture.
The Inbox of a database does the same, but with a narrower focus.

Also, the Global Inbox is omnipresent. :smiley: You may not have a database open, or maybe you didn’t Sync a particular database to your iPad yet. Clipping to the Global Inbox allows you to just keep working and moving.

They are both databases – Global Inbox and your private database. No inherent structural advantage other than what Jim said.

Thank you both for your helpful answers. Much obliged.

No problem.