DT3 - simple link between two pdf documents?

I am a relatively new user of DT and have just bought a licence for DT3 (so am obviously using the beta currently). I’ve conquered basics such as automatic filing by year of invoices (using a smart rule) but am at present completely defeated (even after extensive reading of the excellent DT3 help) by what seems to me to be a simple task. Sorry if I’ve missed something very obvious.

I have two separate pdf files in a group (in the same database) which I want to link without using tags. When I highlight one of those documents I want to see in the accompanying Inspector (ideally the Generic Inspector, which I display most of the time) something like “See also [[Other document name]]”. I’ve set my Wikilinks preferences to Automatic, Square Brackets, Only documents…but don’t know how or where to put the relevant link (I can’t, or don’t wish to, edit the pdf itself).

Sorry to take your time with what is probably a simple question with a very obvious answer!


I did not test this by now but I think you could use custom metadata for this. From the help:

  • URL: Accepts any valid URL, including filesystem URLs.

  • Link: A special dropdown that allows you to choose an item in your databases. a link for the chosen item is used.

If you choose to use the URL type you’ll have to copy the item link manually and paste it in the destinations custom metadata (I think).

If you choose Link you’ll be presented all your data to choose from (I think).

You have to set up the metadata of your choice in Preferences → Data (Daten in german)

Then you’ll find the new custom metadata in the sub-tab next to “General” in the Inspector. There you can link to another record.


To open the linked record either use the drop down menu or the normal menu item “Show in database” (in Datenbank zeigen in german) which opens the linked record if the tab is visible in inspector.

It’s also possible to link without using the inspector but you first have to add the new custom metadata to the columns menu (right click any column, choose “Customize metadata” (Metadaten anpassen in german) then in the next sheet you’ll find your new one at the bottom).

After that you can add a new column for your custom metadata. In case you’ve set up a Link metadata type you can now choose your link destination directly in this column. I like that :smiley:

@pete31 that’s really helpful and detailed, thanks so much. I thought it would be much simpler than that. I’ve followed your suggestions—in particular the one in your last post—and have made a lot of progress, although can’t at the moment just click on the link in the Link column to open the link. I have to open the Custom tab of the generic inspector and use Reveal.

I very much appreciate the help, however. Thanks for your time.


It seems like you are looking for cross-referencing of info in research. May I suggest a simpler method but it really depends on whether you want mainly a many-many or one-many linkage. If most of what you need is one to many (reading one article and remind yourself to review a few others articles that are also in the DT3 OR/AND reading one article and want to know which article/s are using this article as reference) then annotation note on the inspector bar is the easiest way:

(1) Open two main windows, (2) for the main window 1 that you are using for article review, create a new annotation note in the inspector bar for the article. Just type two sections in the note: “see also” and “referred by” (3) If you want to include a link for the other article/s, go search for the article in main window 2, use copy item link (in the contextual menu) to copy the article’s link and paste it directly to the annotation note of the article under reviewed in main window 1. You can add a few remarks in the note for each link and can add as many link as you want. (4) you can also copy and paste the link of the article under review back to the annotation note of the one being the “see also” article. (5) As you are building up your set of literature , you’ll create a network of citations cross referencing to each other. BUT bear in mind that this is still a one-many relation, because DT3 doesn’t have the ability to present the whole network of cross-referencing articles by any std ways - as far as I’m aware of.

If you are really looking for network of relations, some niche app such as TheBrain may be more suitable.

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Thanks for another detailed suggestion, which is very informative. Actually, what I need is more simple. The pdf files are actually two maps and I simply need a link, visible when looking at one, to remind me also to look at the other. (In fact, in my databases there are probably a number of documents like that: where I wish to see a link, when looking at one, to a single other relevant document.)

The annotations system would be perfect (as the hyperlink works perfectly) if only I could display the annotation at the bottom of the generic inspector pane. As it is, I need to remember that there is an annotation for that file and switch to the annotations pane to see it (because I’m always using the generic inspector pane).

I thought this might turn out to be a reasonably simple exercise—but at least I don’t now feel silly for asking the question!


Something useful is that one can also add more than one “item link”, by simply creating different Metadata types using different names.

So I currently have “DT3 Link1” and “DT3 Link2” added, which means – if I wanted to – I could link 1, 2 (or more, should I want to) item links to a record.

You will see this icon next to the file name if there is an annotation file:

Yes, thanks: I just discovered that. That’s helpful, thanks. I just thought this sort of thing might be a little simpler but I guess it’s just because I’m getting used to DT3 that I’m finding this particular aspect (the need for which I thought be quite common) a little more obscure than I’d supposed.

I’m very grateful to everyone for your help.

Edit: corrected typo.


Have a look at at a new app in beta; Hook.


It will do what you want and will work with DT3. I am playing around with it. Not sure I find it compelling but a quite interesting. At moment free download


Thanks for that suggestion, it’s appreciated. However, I don’t really want any more apps just at the moment :grinning:. When I originally posted I thought this was the sort of thing DT3 would easily do as I thought it a common need. Maybe I was mistaken.

Anyway, I’ll get by at present with the DT3 compromises mentioned in this thread.


@timaru would you share your experience with Hook.app? From the Hook.app forum I believe that @korm is testing too. Would be very nice to read what you think of it (perhaps in a new thread…)

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I’m testing Hook, too. I keep going back and forth between thinking this is the best thing ever, to wondering if I could do all of this just as easily and more permanently in DT3. Still testing, and glad to see others with the same interest.

I’m a long time user of TheBrain. Hook feels like TheBrain without the interface. I have used TheBrain as a Control Center of sorts for DT. For whatever reason, I’ve tended to lose my place within DT, especially when in the heat of a meeting and trying to find pertinent material while focusing on what is happening in the room. That happens to me less in TheBrain. It is probably more of a reflection on me and my thinking process than the software itself. For those unfamiliar with TheBrain, it works very well with robust item links to DT files.

Hook may be able to bridge the need for a more efficient Control Center, but as I mentioned in another thread that never got any traction, I’m still looking for a good way to put the “think” in DEVONthink. I still think there’s some way of doing this with a combination of creating Table of Contents files and links in annotations. That’s kinda what’s happening with Hook, but it is just so easily invoked that I’m getting addicted to it.

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I have not spent a lot of time with Hook and comment with hesitancy because what I say may prove to be incorrect. The concept of Hook seems to have the same underpinnings as the very interesting note taking app The Archive. The idea behind Hook and its use is quite well explained on its web page.

For me an apparent deficiency with Hook is it’s invisible. That is if you had two pdf documents linked its not obvious unless you go to the Hook menu bar icon. In this sort of circumstance I would want some icon or flag that was visible to remind me there is a relevant linked document.

I routinely need to group documents and to date I have found the most convenient method is having what I call multi dimensional file names that alway include a project or task reference. This means almost most of the time I can use a Smart Group to collect up the files I need without any further steps. On very rare occasions I may need to add a tag to identify a scattered group of documents, or even a new group containing replicants.

I can’t seem to find a practical use for DEVONthink item links or Hook for my use cases. However Hook seems to be a good attempt to tackle this issue and perhaps with time will be come more sophisticated.


This is possibly not precisely what you are after, but one option would be to use the “Add link” contextual menu.

I have a particular highlight colour that I only use to indicate text that I want associated/linked with other files. As in the screengrab below, I have highlighted an article that I have in green, and have selected the “Add link” with that text still selected. In the background, I have “Copied item link” of that PDF article, which I then paste in as the “link” over in the initial PDF.

That entire green highlight is now a live-link to the related PDF. Clicking on it, takes me directly to it – but then my view is switched. Right+clicking it, brings up the contextual menu, which (at the top) allows me to select that PDF opening in a new tab, or in a new window/instance.

This doesn’t do what you want exactly, in that one wouldn’t see any reference to that link (or others) over in the Inspector window – but if this is something you do frequently, then presumably getting into the habit of doing it two the first word on the first page of every PDF – or some other consistent ‘spot’ inside your PDFs – would allow one to quickly get used to checking the document to ‘see’ if there is a link to another document…

Thanks for that suggestion. I can see it would be very helpful in certain cases. However, (and I should probably have made this clearer at the start) my files are two maps in pdf format so in my case it’s not really relevant to highlight text. All I really want to do when I see one map is to see somewhere a clear reminder also to look at the other one. That seems not as easy to achieve as I thought it might be (especially bearing in mind my default Inspector is the generic one, which I like).


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I was asked in a PM what I thought of Hook, and I’m happy to share that here:

I like Hook. I’ve used it quit a bit. I am not yet convinced to be a serious user. On the one hand, Hook very cleverly works with existing features of apps and macOS so that we can weave a “mesh” of linkages between documents or pieces of documents (e.g., events in BusyCal, sheets in Ulysses). Hook works well with DEVONthink 3.

(If I’m only working inside a v3 database, however, there’s no reason to use Hook, IMO. Tags, replicants, smart groups, tables of contents, etc., are more efficient.)

The downside – big downside in my view – is that once you’ve created such a mesh with numerous nodes, there’s no simple way to find it. There’s no graphical interface, or report, etc., that supports discovering existing meshes. Discovery (smart groups, search, find, graphical maps, or whatever) is a basic feature of information management software and Hook doesn’t have it.(1)

So that’s where I stopped with Hook. If my assessment is wrong, I’d be happy to be corrected.

(1)There’s a “links” export that can be produced from Preferences – it’s XML and totally not meant for human consumption.


I keep coming to this, too.

Hook is still beta, and it will be interesting to see if the developer addresses this as the concept matures. A visual representation of the “mesh” as a mindmap is what I’d like to see, something similar to TheBrain’s, but without all the overhead. Coming at the idea from another direction, and recognizing this as totally tangential to this DT3 forum, I wonder if TheBrain could benefit from an always available item linker, like Hook.

I’d still rather keep it all within one piece of software, that being DT3. The challenge is developing a frictionless-as-possible workflow that gives me a place to do and track associative thinking as it relates to information found in a variety of files. I’m leaning toward concluding that this needs to be external to DT3 since I want it to have a cognitive value-adding visual element. The external options that are still in the mix for me are OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, TheBrain, iThoughtsX, and maybe Hook after it matures.

I can only agree with yours and @korm’s views…

I only scratched the surface for a few moments in Hook, but quickly realised that:

(A.) I do very little outside of DTPO2/DT3 – and so, Hook is significantly less useful; and
(B.) What would draw me out more frequently, would be an app that can produce a mindmap that automagically populates/draws a visual representation of the links that the app “sees” – i.e. TheBrain without all the overhead (as you so aptly described).

That all being said, for somebody who does do plenty of filing between different apps on the system/Finder-side of things, I can certainly see them getting some use out of it. Will be interesting to see where it goes, in terms of future development…