Drag and drop for icons stops working

Hi all,
I’ve been using DTPO 1.3 beta 2 for a few weeks now, and have noticed this problem repeatedly. At random times, drag and drop rearrangement of document icons within the groups hierarchy stops working. When I click on the icon representing a document and then try to drag it, it gets selected, but simply won’t move. It is “stuck” in place. Even when I quit and restart DevonThink, the behavior remains. It starts at random times. Like today, DTPO was working fine this morning, but now it will not let me rearrange documents. It simply refuses.

Now somehow, the other times this happened, I got it to stop by semi-randomly clicking on various options and views, and eventually it started working again. However, I’d prefer not to have to have stochastic interactions with my computer to get the software to funciton properly.

Has anybody seen this problem? Bug in 1.3b2? Or something blatantly obvious that I’m just missing (like some kind of lock feature…)?


Hi, Morgan. I can’t replicate that behavior.

We’ve had a rash of reports of flaky behavior in DT PE, DT Pro and DTPO by people who had installed haxies such as ShapeShifter. Such haxies modify the operating system and can cause OS errors, usually as small incremental memory errors that can cascade to more serious problems. Christian has also noted in some crash reports problems caused by third-party QuickTime plugins that introduced errors into the operating system.

Personally, I keep my computer pretty much “stock” Apple OS X and am very cautious about installing routines that modify standard OS X behavior.

You might think about software that you’ve downloaded recently and see if problems go away when you uninstall it. Some of those neat little utilities that change the appearance or behavior of OS X may carry with them unintended consequences. :slight_smile:

By the way, there are other (often more precise) means of moving items (groups or documents) around in the organizational structure. [1] Select one or more groups and then Command-click (right click) on the selected item(s). Choose the contextual menu option Move To. This is what I usually do. Or [2] select Tools > Show Groups to invoke the floating Groups panel. In the Groups panel, navigate to the group that’s to receive items to be dragged from a view window, then select them in the view window and drag them over.

Hi Bill,
Thanks for the response.

I presently don’t have any of the haxies type stuff installed on my system, though I did in the past. So there is some chance it is due to a remnant with one of those that failed to be uninstalled. However, this problem does not exist in any other application. I use drag and drop in programs like Mail regularly, and have never encountered such an issue. I would therefore be surprised if this can be blamed on another program besides DTPO itself. I understand the difficulty of getting a modern, complex piece of software to work in all circumstances, but I hope you realize that there may be bugs in DTPO that you can’t reproduce because you haven’t regressed against the same set of circumstances (clicks, parameters, settings, etc). I’ve been developing software for OS X (previously NeXTStep/OpenStep) since ‘91, and I’m good at breaking software (both my own and others’). But I would never claim for my software that because I can’t reproduce something, it’s not a bug.

Whatever the problem, it doesn’t have to do with software I downloaded recently. This problem did not exist for my previous install of Devon Think Pro. It only started when I purchased, downloaded, and installed DTP Office beta, about two weeks ago. I’m running on a MacBookPro, 10.4.8.

I realize there are other ways of moving items around – I’m not sure what you mean that they are more precise – but I strongly prefer drag and drop. Having it non functional makes DTPO nearly useless to me. Navigating the huge hierarchy I have is just cumbersome the other ways because I can’t easily have it focused on just the area I am working on.

Regarding the keeping of the system in “stock” condition, I agree that modifications can have unintended consequences. On the other hand, a lot of people use haxies as scapegoats for problems in their own software. I’m not implying that you’re doing that - you could be right in this case - but, I know for a fact that a large company in Silicon Valley that starts with “A” and ends with “e” has used that excuse in the past when people are getting strange behavior from OS X. I’ve been working with this OS in some form or another for around 17 years, and with a user who introduces sufficient chaos into it (such as me), it still exhibhits relatively frequent flaws, even with no haxies. This week alone I’ve crashed (i.e. requring reboot) my MacBook Pro twice, and one of my G5 towers. And I’m not writing kernel code, either :smiley:. So, again, my only point is that haxies or other system mods are not the only way to get irritably flaky behavior from this OS, or from programs that run therupon.

But, in particular, since the DTPO that I’m running is labelled “beta”, I thought you might want to hear about its misbehavior, regardless of the root cause (since it is not user-friendly misbehavior). If I can further determine the set of circumstances in which it occurs, I will let you know. But so far, there has been no obvious pattern to it.


BTW - how would ShapeShifter or similar introduce memory errors that affect other apps? Are you referring to errors in the windowserver itself? Since the code should run in a protected memory space, I don’t see how another application could affect it.

Hi, Morgan. But the fact that you’ve had crashes or freezes requiring reboot twice within a few days indicates something is wrong. I’ve been running my MBP 7 days a week since I received it in March, 2006 and have never had a system panic, crash or freeze.

I’ve had one panic on my Power Mac G5 dual core 2.3 GHz since receiving it in November, 2005 – I tested a RAM stick that a friend though might be bad. Yes, it was bad. :slight_smile:

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t bugs in OS X or that there haven’t been bug-fixes in DT Pro and won’t be others.

I did test moving around some documents and groups after looking at your first message, using standard drag & drop. It worked. Which doesn’t necessarily prove that given different preferences and environmental factors, there’s not a glitch in DTPO.

So you could be right. We do want people to report problems, and we’ll be watching out for similar reports by others.

But over the past few weeks you may have noticed some posts in the forum (and I’ve gotten several Support messages) about the inability to reliably import PDFs into DT Pro or DTPO databases (in several releases of those programs, including non-beta). Turned out there was a common factor in most of them, ShapeShifter (another user reporting the PDF problem had installed WindowShades). Removing the haxie and restarting solved the PDF problem. Protected memory space? :slight_smile:

The people at Unsanity are good guys. They can do some amazing things to OS X, some of it fun or useful. But sometimes we do see haxies involved in reviewing users’ crash logs.

Even tiny memory errors can accumulate over time to produce flaky, sometimes inconsistent behavior. As you know, it can be hard to pin some problems down.

For the first few months after getting my MacBook Pro I spent time on the MBP discussion forum on Apple’s site. My week 12 MBP has been rock solid stable, but I noticed that some people were having frequent stability problems, and there seemed to be a pattern. I had decided not to use Migration Assistant to move stuff over from my PPC machine, and I had a stable computer. The people who reported stability problems had generally used Migration Assistant to move over data from PPC Macs that had gone through several releases of OS X. But that meant they were sending over a lot of old drivers, plugins and the like that can give an Intel Mac indigestion.

And then there’s preventive maintenance. OS X is remarkably stable, but it’s not truly self-healing. Little file and directory errors can accumulate over time to the point of causing problems. Caches and fonts and .plist files can be corrupted. So I’m a nut about running maintenance every week or two. One of my favorites is DiskWarrior, which only recently became available for Intel Macs. Sure enough, when it arrived and I ran it on my MacBook Pro it found and corrected several errors that my other tools had not caught.

Hi Bill,

Almost all of what you say I agree with. I think the only thing I want to point out is this. I need computers (and by extension, programs) that don’t require extensive maintenance. It’s just like with cars. Most people prefer to buy a car that requires less maintenance rather than more, unless it’s a “project car”. Hence the auto industry has drastically improved cars so that most require only basic maintenance periodically during the first 100k. (I’m not saying that the industry did this smoothly - it involved lots of pressure from the Japanese, and so on).

I’m far too busy to constantly be finicky over my systems. I supervise two sysadmins as well, and they don’t have time either - they’re busy maintaining my lab’s 60+ computer systems (mostly OSX).

I use OSX because it requires less “maintenance” than Windows or Linux. But lately I’ve seen an increasing push from Apple and others that I should be frequently doing the kinds of maintenance things you advocate. And avoiding things like migration assistant (which I used to transfer stuff to my MBP from my previous 12" Powerbook). This is just not a satisfactory situation. The whole point of buying a Mac is to have it “just work”. And the same thing with software that runs on it, which I spend money for (expectations are lower with freeware/shareware). If I wanted to finick over my systems, I would use Linux (actually, I have several Linux installs on my MBP under Parallels, but I use them only for testing my code, and I don’t waste time playing with them).

So, back to Devonthink. You mention a story about various people not being able to import PDFs due to problems with ShapeShifter. This points blame on someone else for users having a problem with your program. However, there are two things to consider about this:

  • Even though all the users who have the problem are running ShapeShifter, doesn’t mean that DevonThink is not to blame. Sure, it is possible that ShapeShifter causes some error that is only exposed by use of DT. But it is also just as possible that there is some underlying bug in DT that ShapeShifter exposes (or, a bug in the Finder or other system component that ShapeShifter exposes in combination with DT).
  • Regardless of who is “at fault”, it would benefit DT’s users for you to solve these kinds of problems. It would make your program more reliable, and would make your users happy not having to deal with conflicts or bugs or whatever they are. If you make it “just work”, flawlessly, you will gain many more devoted users than if users have to deal with issues like this.

I think the concepts in DevonThink are great (Same with DevonAgent). But as someone who has tried to make the programs work reliably for about 8 months now, and has run into multiple problems like this (mostly small ones, but nontheless time consuming*), I get frustrated and it makes me a lot more likely to just give up until another program comes along. It also makes me less likely to tell others how great it is or buy copies for the people in my lab, since I can’t get it to work consistently.

The only reason I took so much time to write back, is because I want you guys to succeed. I’d like to have a bomb-proof version of DevonThink. So I spend this time in hopes that you guys will consider this feedback, realizing that regardless of who is “at fault” for problems that occur, ultimately if the problem occurs when using your program, it is your program that gets the bad rap. Therefore, making it less sensitive to such problems can only make your users happy.

I do want to say I appreciate all the time you spend answering people’s questions on these forums. That is another important thing, that I am sure most users appreciate.


*most of the issues were small, but the time I spent many hours trying to create an Ebay plug in for DevonAgent, that would not work because it turns out you guys filter all Ebay search results - that was very frustrating. This undocumented issue wasted 6 or so hours of my time…

Hi, Morgan, system crashes and freezes indicate that the OS is damaged and maintenance is required.

DT Pro uses very many standard OS X calls and routines. If OS X has been damaged, those calls and routines may not work as designed by Apple.

It’s not that DT Pro is “sensitive”; it’s that it needs OS X to be in good shape. I mentioned the ShapeShifter/PDF import problem as an example. ShapeShifter had altered (inadvertently, I’m sure) portions of the operating system code called by DT Pro. That caused a problem for DT Pro, but would cause similar problems for any application that calls the same OS X code.

That, in a nutshell, summarizes the problem of bullet-proofing DT Pro. To bullet-proof operations, DT Pro would have to either incorporate a pristine copy of OS X that’s protected from change, or ‘lock-down’ the user’s computer in some way to prevent OS X changes. That’s beyond the resources of DEVONtechnologies, would not be appreciated by the vast majority of users, and still couldn’t avoid problems introduced by faulty hardware, disk errors related to power outages or voltage fluctuations, etc.

I sympathize with your problems of maintaining many computers. But Apple is right in urging maintenance, as there’s no operating system available to consumers that’s truly self-maintaining/self-healing (I hope that will come in the future).

I tackle maintenance on two fronts, although I’ve only got three OS X Macs to maintain. First, I try to keep OS X pretty much stock, avoiding most apps and utilities that deliberately modify the standard OS X.

Second, I’ve got a suite of tools including AppleJack, OnyX or C*ocktail (to run cron scripts, for example) and DiskWarrior. I run those every few weeks as a preventive measure, run them any time I see flaky behavior, and run AppleJack before an OS or Security upgrade (and run permissions repair immediately after the upgrade). My desktop Macs are on individual UPS power, as I live in an area with frequent thunderstorms and occasional hurricanes. :slight_smile:

My DT Pro databases are stable (even though I’m almost always running pre-release betas, a testimony to Christian’s coding). I’ve got data going back to my first DT database in 2002. I haven’t had to resort to a backup in more than two years (although I routinely make internal and external backups just in case). And my computers are stable. I need that, as my databases are much more valuable to me than the cost of the computers that host them.

You might take a look at AppleJack (donation-ware) as it runs a number of the Terminal maintenance routines, with options to ‘deep clean’ system and/or user caches, and can be set to restart automatically. I’ve heard from a couple of people who use it in their Mac labs.

As to Migration Assistant, I don’t hesitate to use it to transfer data from one PPC computer to another, or one Intel Mac to another. It’s a great convenience. But the jump from a PPC to an Intel Mac can carry over some potentially damaging junk, IMHO.

No, not true. While damage can be a cause of crashes and freezes, it is not the only cause. There are bugs in the kernel, and they can be activated by normal software in certain cases. If you doubt this, then have a better look at bug reports on RadarWeb, which I’m sure you have access to as a developer.

I have been writing software that relies on the same calls you refer to for 16 years. While it is true on rare occasion that another program can create a problem that interferes with these calls, in the vast majority of cases, they work as designed.

DT Pro is sensitive. Your statement will not convince me otherwise. I’ve tried 100’s of programs out on this OS. I regularly use 20+ software packages on this OS. There are some that are rock solid and almost never misbehave. These are complex applications that rely on just as much of the system as DTP does. There are others that misbehave regularly. DT Pro has misbehaved enough that it cannot be classified as rock solid. It is not in the category of showing major mis-behavior – if it was, I would have deleted it from my system. But plain and simple, it is not a program I can rely upon to function in a consistently predictable manner.

All this “debate” ignores the original point. The point is that periodically I cannot drag and drop within DT Pro Office Beta. It comes and goes. This is flakey behavior. It’s not the first flakey behavior I’ve encountered. This behavior does not happen in any other application that uses drag and drop. Hence your argument that the system calls must be munged is disingenuous. If they were, then all applications relying on them would stop working. But they don’t.

No, another way of doing this is taking user reports of bugs and errors really seriously, figuring out what is causing them, and figuring out a fix. Sometimes this may involve a workaround to an error in the OS or something caused by another program that’s in widespread use, but that case is rare. I know. Like I said, I develop software for this OS too.

Your responses to me indicate you are more interested in being right than listening to the problem(s) I’m having, and trying to get them into your bug tracking system for serious consideration by the developer(s).

I’ve seen this same thing with other bug reports on your forum.

You’re right, and I do what is necessary, far more so than the typical user. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not annoyed by it.

Regardless of that, it is not acceptable to have an ISV for a product that I’ve spent good money on making excuses that my problems are caused by lack of OS maintenance. You have still said nothing that convinces me that any of the issues I’ve had are due to anything but a bug in DT Pro.

It’s great that your use of the OS doesn’t require anything but the stock OS. But that is not true of all users.

All good stuff. I could give you a list of the stuff I end up doing, but I’m going to spare you.

It’s great for you that DT Pro is stable in your hands. But software can be 100% stable in one user’s hands, and crash frequently in another user’s hands. The fact that it is stable for you says essentially nothing. It is a matter of statistics. A sample size of one (n=1) is not sufficient to infer much of anything. As is clear from your user forums. There are obviously problems. This is not a condemnation - it is true of most software. That’s why alpha and beta test releases exist - to get the code out into the field to increase the sampling size from n < 5, to n in the 100’s or thousands. This reveals problems, bugs, issues, and incompatibilities that no single user can uncover alone.

The key is, how the developer responds to and uses the information. Mostly, I see you responding to people telling them how to work around problems, and generally “evangelizing” (which is after all your job title). However, I don’t see much of “that sounds like a serious problem, please send us more information that will help us reproduce it”. It is not by coincidence that the programs I mention are the most bomb-proof, come from the same developers whom, whenever I’ve made a bug report, have contacted me by email asking for as much detail as I can provide so they can figure out what is going on, in order to fix it. I’ve never had a single one start with the suggestion that perhaps I have not maintained my system appropriately.

While you have been friendly in this conversation, it is nonetheless offensive that you continue to take that approach, which blames the problem with your software on me, the user. It seems clear you are most interested in being right, and not very interested in actually finding out what was the cause of the problem.

Regarding databases, we run our own database servers connected to our Xserve RAID and Fiber Channel Fabric, that run no other software. We have one database that has upwards of 100 million rows of genomic data. If you want a stable database, don’t run it on your desktop (much less portable) machines.

Suggestion is appreciated, I will look into it.

That’s great, but this is a system tool provided by Apple, and if there is a big potential for problems transferring from PPC to Intel, Apple should provide warnings or fixes. Hindsight is 20/20. Obviously, Apple missed the boat on this one.

But it doesn’t change the central point: I reported a problem, and all this discussion (bordering on lecturing - which is kind of funny, given my experience with using and developing for this OS) misses the point. The point is there are issues with your software. It is disappointing that you don’t appear to want to get to the bottom of those, and are instead engage in word play to lay the problem with your software in my lap. Ultimately, I say, “whatever”. I don’t have any more time for this. I spent all this time to try to open your mind up about the fact that not all users are identical to you in usage patterns. I did that because I’d like to see DevonThink (and DevonAgent) become rock-solid applications that I can rely on, and that I can advocate to others (I regularly evangelize software I’m excited about, plus I control a large budget for software acquisition). So far, you’ve missed the boat. I’m not going to say that I’ll give up entirely. I’ve seen a lot worse (developers who get angry at feedback - they’re rare, but I’ve encountered a couple, and most are no longer in business), but I’ve also seen a lot better (developers who actively seek out bug reports, and never lay blame on the users). Ultimately, you can evangelize all you want and claim that DT Pro is perfect in your hands. But the proof is in the pudding. DT Pro may work flawlessly for you, but it doesn’t for me. And the fault is unlikely to do with problems with my system.



is anything logged to the system console (see Applications > Utilities > Console.app) related to DEVONthink when this happens?

This is likely a really dumb question, but I notice this kind of behavior when my sorting preferences are set for any kind of automatic sorting. This can change when in different views, such as individual group views. Your problem is probably completely different and you’ve likely already checked this, but I thought I’d toss it out anyway as a possibility.

Hi, Morgan. Didn’t mean to offend. I’ve worked with computers since the 60s and did a fair amount of programming many years ago. Heaven knows, I’ve seen all kinds of bugs and other problems over the years. :slight_smile:

Bug reports via the forum or Support are extremely useful to the DEVONtechnologies developers.

Sometimes, though, it turns out that a problem results from another application that has introduced memory errors or otherwise damaged the operating system. An example is the recent spate of problems involving PDF files on Macs that had installed ShapeShifter. Even then, sometimes the developers may be able to modify the code – as you suggested – to prevent a problem in DT Pro, which is why Christian asked if there were any Console messages related to dragging items in DT Pro. But often that’s not possible; memory errors may not be preventable or correctable by code in DT Pro. In this example removing ShapeShifter and restarting solved the problem.

Since your first post I’ve tried on several occasions to replicate the problem you reported, as well as a possibly related problem noted by Alexandria. I can’t replicate the erroneous behavior, although I certainly believe that you are seeing a problem.

Perhaps I sometimes come across as overly defensive of DT Pro, in emphasizing that it can be very stable on a computer with a clean and well-maintained OS and disk directory and that problems can and will emerge if one doesn’t do maintenance and installs software such as haxies that haven’t been checked out for impacts on stability. And another thing I continually emphasize is running Verify & Repair periodically, and making database backups after significant changes. (Although I haven’t had to resort to a backup in over two years, I do make them frequently.)

From the user perspective I do want to continue to ‘preach’ that message, because it’s important for users who value the information on their computers. It’s my ‘belt and suspenders’ approach to protecting my own valuable data. I’ve been a heavy user of DT for more than four years and am managing well over a hundred thousand documents in my topical DT Pro databases. I don’t lose data, and in any case I’ve got it backed up.

My attitude is that if a system crash or freeze happens, there’s something wrong with that computer, either a hardware or software problem. It will almost always turn out to be a software problem. My confidence in that computer will be lowered until I’ve found and eliminated the cause of the problem. In the worst case that could involved wiping the disk, reinstalling the OS and installing applications one by one; but I’ve never had to do that. Usually it’s a much simpler matter of running OS and disk directory maintenance, or uninstalling the last application that was installed and restarting. As noted, I’ve never had a system panic, crash or freeze on my 10-month old MacBook Pro, and only one (caused by a test of bad RAM) on my Power Mac G5 dual core since it arrived in November, 2005. So both are very stable computers. (But yes, I’ve used Macs for years and have been bitten in the past, always by software problems.)

That doesn’t mean that DT Pro is the only application on my computers. On the contrary, I’ve got many applications coexisting well with DT Pro, from MS Office to lots of other useful applications and utilities. But I’m cautious about applications that deliberately modify the OS and either avoid them or watch closely for flaky behavior after installing one. Even if such an OS modification works in the OS X version for which it was written, it may well break and cause problems after the next OS update.

I’ve meant to follow up for a while now, and thank everyone for the good discussion, and also hints. Soon after my last post, there was a new Beta version, and ever since I installed that (and now the non-beta release), I have not noticed this behavior. Maybe it was the new version, or maybe it was something else… Hard to say, but the important thing is that it works and isn’t doing this.

In any case, I also wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed using the latest releases, and they are coming in quite handy for managing my many PDF articles and such. I do give you guys kudos for a nice product.