"exclude groups from tagging" - pros and cons?

I’m trying to decide whether to keep the “Exclude Groups from Tagging” selection checked in Database Properties–which is the default for new databases, so I’m assuming it’s better for most people. I’ve read the relevant manual pages, searched on the forums, watched this tag explainer, and read this blog post.

So far as I can tell, the choice to UNCHECK that selection and to ALLOW groups to be used as tags has the following pros and cons:
Pros: You can use Folders as a filter in Smart Groups, which isn’t otherwise possible
Cons: Depending on how deep your folder structure is, the Tag Bar on each individual item could get extremely crowded

Am I thinking about this right? Are there other aspects to the tradeoff? (In particular, is it possible to filter a complex search / smart group by Folders even if I keep the box checked and don’t let folders be tags?) Do I risk any permanent alterations to the database by unchecking it for a while and seeing how it goes, then re-checking it later?

There is no danger in using the group tags. Bearing in mind this is my viewpoint on it… I think it’s a very specific mechanism that’s likely unneeded in many situations. I feel this is especially true as you’re correct: the tags will blossom out of control in deep hierarchies.

In my blog post I discussed how they are used dynamically, e.g., moving a file from one group to another, e.g., an Active to an On Hold group would inherit the tag showing the state in a process.

For something more static, like restaurants in Savannah, Georgia, sure you could use group tags but why? Moving the files from a child group would lose the tags and unless the restaurant moved to another location, it wouldn’t make sense to me to use group tags. This is where ordinary tags would be good, including nested tags.

Also, if you enable group tags, it’s a global change except for indexed groups. You’d need to exclude other non-indexed groups as needed. If there were a large number of exclusions, I’d question why someone was using group tags. This is true since you can also use the Inherit Tags of Groups option if you just want that kind of tag inheritance on a smaller level in a database.

Just some thoughts…

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super helpful – thanks so much, Jim

two follow questions, if I may:

  1. My ears perked up when you said “it’s a global change except for indexed groups.” All of my folders in the relevant DevonThink databases are indexed. (These DT databases are basically the front end for my research PDF collection). Does that mean that Indexed groups will behave differently with respect to Group Tagging?

  2. If I don’t enable the group tags, is there a way to limit Smart Groups (or search) to look at only specific folders? Like say I have a different “Scholarship” folder in each of the following parent folders: “North America”, “Europe,” and “Southeast Asia.” And say I want to search/make a smart folder limited to those 3 folders, adding additional requirements (like, I don’t know, author name or “unread” status). Is there a way to do that without enabling group tags?

  • create a new group
  • replicate the “Scholarship” groups into it
  • set the Smart Group’s scope to the new group
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You’re welcome.

Yes, indexed groups are excluded from tagging by default when in a database with group tags. You can remove this exclusion via the contextual menu or the Exclude from section of the Generic Info inspector, as needed.

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Oooh that is smart. I just tried it and it worked.

QUESTION HOWEVER. (No good deed goes unpunished : ) ) Do you think this would work across multiple different databases? I.e., instead of parent folders “North America”, “Europe” etc, imagine hived-off databases “North America”, “Europe” etc.

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It won’t work as it’s not possible to replicate across databases.

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It could maybe be possible to use a modified version of Script: Add reference URL to aliases and create Smart Group.

The setup could look something like this:

  • Use a Smart Rule that searches for groups whose aliases contains the groups’ Reference URL

  • In the Smart Rule use an AppleScript to set each groups’ children aliases to their Reference URL and collect the Reference URLs

  • At the end of the AppleScript update the search query of a global Smart Group with the collected Reference URLs

Not sure but this could work, I think.

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fascinating – let me play with this a bit, it seems very promising. Thank you!!

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As someone who only uses indexing, I was confused by this when first setting up DT.

I was using tags to do all sorting/filing, and happy to see the files “move” to groups in dt. But then finding that was not mirrored in the indexed file system.

I still can’t quite wrap my head around it, to be honest. It’s like everything is mirrored (between DT and file system) with indexed groups, but with various, non obvious exceptions: “moving files” from tag sidebar, for example, or using the “groups as tags” option discussed here.