Exporting a database without breaking DevonThink links

Taking small and cautious steps, I have started to restructure all my data in two general directions:

  1. Towards plain text (with git versioning wherever meaningful).
  2. Away from proprietary databases.

I have gone a long way with regard to #1: most of my documents, within and outside of DevonThink, are now in Markdown syntax.

But #2 is still a theoretical exercise. Granted, I have gotten rid of such hogs as iPhoto and iTunes. But DevonThink is not a hog. I would very much like to export my DevonThink database and refile my documents in a DevonThink-indexed folder structure, thus combining the openness of the file system and the Finder with the AI facilities of DevonThink. Is there a way to do so without breaking the meticulously placed x-devonthink-item:// links that my notes are interconnected with?

DevonThink currently provides the “Format > Change to Plain Text/Rich Text” toggle, which converts an .rtf document to .txt, and vice-versa, while retaining the UUID of the original document. It would be very empowering, and logically consistent, to have an analogous “Change to Indexed” command.

(Incidentally, it might also be possible to make DevonThink databases remain consistent even when indexed items are moved around. The developers of BibDesk, for instance, have figured out a way to do this with PDF attachments to BibDesk entries. They use file aliases somehow, but I don’t have any further implementation details to share. Definitely worth a look, at any rate.)

  1. Create your folder system in the Finder
  2. Index these folders into your database.
  3. Move the documents currently contained in the database to the appropriate indexed groups.
  4. Select the documents, right-click, and select ‘Move to External Folder’ (this is your ‘Change to Indexed’ command).
  5. There is no step #5.
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Thanks for knocking this one down, @Greg_Jones. Makes perfect sense.

I am now trying to find out more about the BibDesk mechanism whereby the database contains aliases—rather than absolute paths—to external files. Indeed, if links to DevonThink-indexed files were not as fragile as they are now, there would be no more compelling reasons to lock our documents inside a proprietary database.