Double clicking to "Open With" [feature suggestion]

+1 for the original feature suggestion

I want to be able to decide what application I launch by double clicking an item. This is would be in line with Finder (as mentioned) and other tools that allow for different filetypes to be processed (e.g. Eclipse - has nothing to do with DT but wants to be a SwissKnive as well :wink:). Adding such an option via Preference does not interfere with the current users and any default behaviour.

EDIT: Sorry for double posting. Did not noticed that the forum is moderated.

Here is an equivalent to what we should have …

default write com.devon-technologies.thinkpro2 “Edit Documents in Native Apps” -boolean “Yes/No”

Simple, intuitive, out-of-the-way unless truly desired, and immediately effective.

I can appreciate the inertia behind “… our Preferences are already massive …”. I can also appreciate that “… (other methods already exist to do what those of you who are distinctly in the overriding minority want) …”. Neither of these statements pro-actively engage us in how to solve a real problem that some users have in a way that is effective for everyone. These responses turn us away. That is the thrust of the rebuke made about replies being condescending.


Nice. There are already several Hidden Preferences, so there’s a good precedent for this.

DEVONthink is not the Finder, nor is it intended to be used as a Finder replacement. Although the developers have attempted wherever possible to use actions and commands that are familiar to users of OS X, many of them are intended to work within DEVONthink’s unique environment.

In the Finder, double-clicking a file results in opening that file in the app that’s designated in the Finder as that file’s creator. In that app’s environment, the information content of the file is largely isolated from the information content of other files available on that computer. Very often, files are opened in this way in order to edit them.

In DEVONthink, double-clicking a document results in opening that document in its own window but still within the DEVONthink environment. For many filetypes, this does not allow editing. However, it’s very important that the information content of that document is not isolated from other documents in the database, but is integrated into the information content of all other documents, including those of other filetypes. This is monumentally different from the Finder environment. It’s why most people use DEVONthink.

Here’s a somewhat trivial example of integration of information content: Option-click on a single-word term in a document opened within DEVONthink. A list of all other documents in the database that contain that term appears. That’s not possible if the document had been opened externally.

I make a lot of use of the See Also assistant in DEVONthink, which suggests other documents in the database that may be contextually related to the one being viewed. When I’m writing within the database, I can select a section of text I’ve written and invoke See Related Text, which will suggest other documents that may be contextually related to that selection. Commonly, I’ll have my draft document open in its own window, and add some of those suggestions as new tabs in that window for easy reference. Obviously, these assistants won’t be available if I’ve opened a document externally.

Here’s the rub about adding a Preferences option to DEVONthink that would change the double-click action on a document to open it externally: Choice of that preference allows it to be externally edited. But if the user wants to work with the information content of the document by double-clicking to open it within its own window in DEVONthink, it would be necessary to change the Preferences option back to allow opening it within DEVONthink. Back and forth. And some database views require the document to be opened in its own window to be viewed.

Most users spend a lot more time working with their documents within DEVONthink, making use of the environment and tools, than spend time editing their documents externally. That’s why the default behavior of double-clicking to open a document in its own window inside the database was chosen. It saves time and reduces confusion about Preferences settings.

But a simple keystroke, Shift-Command-O, will open a document externally for editing, as will the Open Externally button in the Toolbar of a document.

I could cite any number of apps that modify or change options commonly used in the Finder (including Apple apps). In some cases, a keyboard shortcut in OS X such as Command-I is used differently according to context. In the Finder, Command-I invoked on a file will open the Info panel, but in a word processing app it will italicize a selection. In DEVONthink, Shift-Command-I is used to open the Info panel of a document, because Command-I has a different but operational context, to italicize a selection of rich text.

The responses to requests for a change in behavior of Command-O (or a Preferences setting) are not meant to be condescending. Yes, the developers could accommodate those requests. But would that add to, or reduce the utility of DEVONthink?

Bill, your reply is very nice and well considered. I don’t think the suggestion from @DrJJWMac to make a preference to change Open With behavior to open the external editor was all-or-nothing though. I believe the implementation of such a hidden preference should just flip the existing behavior – instead of default double-click being edit in DEVONthink, the default double-click behavior would be open externally; and, conversely, instead of ⇧⌘O opening the document externally, ⇧⌘O could invoke the internal editor.

Apologies. I was not as clear as I could have been.

As @korm correctly notes, my request is for a default (superuser) setting to FLIP the behavior of the actions for double-click versus modified double-click. Those folks who have a more pressing interest to use a double-click to edit their documents externally can make this switch happen. Caveats should certainly be accepted when they would do this (i.e. the modified double-click would be required to open in DevonThink).

But would that add to, or reduce the utility of DEVONthink?

For those who need it, it would add to the utility of DT. For those who do not need it, it would make no change. Over all users, the net is clearly positive.


Well I’ll be damned. Never knew about that particular tool. Potentially very useful indeed. Without wishing to completely derail the thread, does this differ in practice from searching the database?

Edit: Goodness me, d**ned is banned by the forum?

I would agree with you in workflows where the number of documents opened externally for editing is much larger than the number of documents opened internally in their own windows. That’s more likely to be the case when notes and other new user-created documents are created/edited externally. But my experience in support suggests that the majority of users create/edit notes in rich or plain text, and so don’t want to open them externally in most cases.

Implementing the switch via a Hidden Preference would be less intrusive to the majority of users. If you’ve gone to the trouble of invoking an available option like that, you are probably going to remember what you’ve done. By contrast, for “normal” options in DEVONthink’s Preferences, over the years I’ve seen many support requests because the user had checked an option, then forgot about it and became confused when behavior changed. I’ve seen hundreds of support queries such as “Why are the names of replicants no longer red?”

As DEVONthink “knows” about the occurrences of terms in all documents in a database, the Option-click procedure on a term is similar to a search for that term. But you would have to do a search for a multiword term, enclosing the words within quotation marks for a phrase search.

Yes, the forum software is quite Puritanical. :slight_smile:

Also asked several times for a simple shortcut:

Double-Click on a PDF=> Open in Mac OS Preview.

But as often, Devon Team knows better what the majority should like.


No, it’s not that simple.

When you double-click on a PDF document in DEVONthink, it opens in its own window within DEVONthink. In that environment, important features and tools are available for working with information content, such as comparing the document to others in the database, use of the Annotation template (or Frederiko’s script) for making searchable comments and notes about information, Classify for suggestions on filing the document, See Also, tagging and other tools including Adobe’s annotation tools in the Toolbar. With a PDF open in its own window, related documents and notes can be added as tabs in that window, allowing easy switching.

When you open the PDF under Preview, it is divorced from the DEVONthink environment. There, Adobe’s annotation tools are available (but text annotations are not searchable), bookmarks (if they exist) are available and the internal search for terms - especially multiword terms - is far superior to Apple’s simple Find procedure available in DEVONthink. That’s about it, although I do open PDFs under Preview whenever I need to do searches within a PDF. Example: I bought a 2016 Subaru Outback Limited with all the bells and whistles. The PDF manuals are huge. I open them in Preview to search for items such as Adaptive Cruise Control, and Preview lists all the occurrences with a bit of context for each occurrence. That’s great! (So is Subaru’s Adaptive Cruise Control.)

The question is, which do you do most often? We think most users spend much more time working with their documents within DEVONthink than they do editing or searching them under an external application. For that case, the more “natural” action of double-clicking should be to open the document within its own window in DEVONthink.

For those who want double-click to open documents externally, perhaps a Hidden Preference might work, such that double-click or Command-O opens externally, and Shift-Command-O opens the document internally. That makes it less convenient to open documents in their own window within DEVONthink, of course.

If “the majority” requested the behavior, it would be the default.

Bill thx for the long answer.

The problem is

  • that the internal PDF-Viewer opens in a little window, it is hard to read.
    in the preview of MAc OS, it is much more lisible, at once, without further clic.
    Of course, you can open with “Open file with…”, but it would be easier to define in preferences “Open always with MAcOS Preview”. If you are looking very quickly on many documents, is is not funny to have the internal viewer.

Let me add a little remark to the internal viewers:
Working with internal viewers / and editors could be more “logic” as workflow, but i don’t trust the internal editors more than the MacOS editors.

Example (this happend more than once)

  • edit a RTF-document in the preview pane
  • double click on it

you have now two instances of the document, and if you work on the version in the editor, without saving it, and then you continue working on this document in the preview pane, you loose all what you did in the Editor Window. This can be much work lost if you don’t realize at once that you are writing in an old version…

If DTPO does not prevent such errors, why not trusting external editors, especially if they are more confortable to use…

Once again, i love DTPO for its Classify Intelligence, but there are many, many other items that are not confortable/not logic/mot intuitive. My Main Database is 25 GB and contains 25000 PDF, i use DTPO every day.

I am not sure that it would be.
I have often the impression that despite of many, many requests of users, a possible feature is not added, even if it would be simple to realize, because some members of the DTPO don’t want to realize that their way to work with DTPO is not necessarily the same way as users have.

Just my feeling, especially when i read some team answers here on the board.

The forums are a small, small view into our user base. Not only do we have our Support Ticket system (the majority interaction point with our Users) but other venues as well. Also, many, many Users prefer to not participate in open channels like the Forums. Their voices are heard as well in the channels you all aren’t privy too.

I use Bettertouchtool to map a three finger click in DT to Cmd-Shift-O. You could use a two finger double tap or almost any other option you can think of if you use a trackpad.


Bluefrog, what do you think about the behavior that i described (2 instances with data lost).

No user requires a fix of this bug?

If you are editing a file in a Document window (via double-click), you need to explicitly save the file. In a preview pane where switching the selection is readily available, the file is saved when the selection changes.

I know, this is waht i say. But DTPO should not permit to work on two instances and loose data, this is why i asked if there too, i am the only user asking for a bugfix :slight_smile:

You could start a Support Ticket to file this as a bug or feature request. This helps because we would have an internal record of the issue too.