How do you manage PDFs and related notes?

I’m new to DT and already feel overwhelmed… :sweat_smile:

I come from Apple Notes and digest lots of Academic papers.
This is my workflow in Apple Notes: I embed the PDF into a note, and extract the important parts and my comments into the same note, so that I have all in one place.

I can’t do the same in DT because it’s a folder concept, so PDFs and the text of the comments would be in separate files.
This way I should have one folder per each PDF, so that I have all collected into one place.
After some time it would be unmanageable.

How do you manage such situations?

Devonthink also has an annotation feature that creates a rich text record stored somewhere.
The screenshot is of the Reminders & Annotations Inspector
Screen Shot 2021-11-01 at 12.34.43

I’m comfortable with a folder containing the PDF and any spawned records
Not just PDFs; I often have records that are logically grouped, so I create a group (folder)
I even added an icon to the toolbar to create a groupScreen Shot 2021-11-01 at 12.40.46


I don’t know how much annotation needs (per file) you have. But many of my use cases need heavy commenting in PDFs. Therefore I find the documents → annotation useful (after highlighting or underlining some text to comment) The screenshot may be of some help to explain this better. The comments are saved inside the PDF and can be accessed by other PDF viewer or editor software.

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@DTLow thank you for the reply.
What do you mean for “logically grouped”?

@konterbande your screenshot is super-helpful, thank you.
I’ve never thought of the simple annotation feature, along with the ability to read the annotations on other PDF readers too.
Very portable!

Then I can extract there annotations to a separate file with the same name.
This comes in handy because the PDF and the annotations file are one next to the other.

Your example was the pdf and notes
My non-pdf example is an online purchase. I get 4-6 emails and a bank transaction record. I put all these records in a group (folder)

Hi IvanPsy, the other cool feature you may (or may not) like is the Tool>Summarize highlights feature. Highlight all the relevant parts of your pdf, then use this feature to produce a markdown document or rtf file, and produces a summary with links to the actual page (very useful for large documents). Check it out in the help section or just try it. You can also choose in preferences whether you prefer the output to be highlighted or quoted text format (preferences>files>markdown)

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Thank you for the reply!
I like the concept and I’m testing it during this evaluation period of DT3.

It raises questions about how to best use tags and folders: I’ll search for it in this forum, and maybe ask it on another thread.

Indeed I’m using the Summarize feature a lot: I extract the annotations in Markdown format, so that I can process them further.
I prefer the quoted text format as I find it more clear to read.

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My workflow is a little different, because I take notes in Scrivener, rather than in DT itself.

Assign a short alias to the PDF file. (Jones2020a, for instance.)

Open DTTG and Scrivener side by side on my iPad. (Could also do this on the desktop, of course.)

Create a file called Jones2020a in Scrivener. (I have a dedicated notetaking project for this purpose.)

Read the PDF in DTTG, take notes in Scrivener. Use DTTG labels to indicate the status of the file (To Do, Done, Important, etc.)

Obviously you could use item links from either program to make a more robust connection between the PDF and its notes. Using an alias is (in my experience) faster and is platform and format agnostic.

Once I’m done with the immediate need, I export the entire Scrivener project and import it into DT.

Thank you for the suggestion.
I agree an alias is the best choice: I come from the Zettelkasten method and I like to stay the more platform agnostic as possible, while taking the best form the Apps I use.

Just a question, if I may: why do you use Scrivener in place of the DT built in editor?

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I also am an avid Scrivener writer along with DEVONthink. They are completely different beasts. And very complimentary. DEVONthink as a writing tool can be done but I would never use it for writing projects. Just like i would probably use Word or Pages on single documents stored in DEVONthink. Integration with other apps is a great feature of DEVONthink. Those who try to do everything in DEVONthink are missing opportunities.

Why wouldn’t I? Scrivener is purpose-built for writing in the same way that DT is purpose-built for managing large amounts of information.

But for this task specifically, Scrivener’s ability to put documents in an arbitrary order and Scrivener’s ability to split and merge document “chunks” at will are critical to my approach.

And since the ultimate goal is to produce a document that I can share with other people, Scrivener’s output options are vastly superior.

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I’m not a Scrivener user, but I use external editors when I need extended features
For example Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets

My daily journal note is a complex layout
It’s rendered well on my Mac with Devonthink but a mess with DTTG
My solution was to convert to Pages as an editor, which both DT and DTTG display well

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How do you keep your drafts in Scrivener together with your research in DevonThink? Do you use links between the two? Commonly named folders and tags? Index your Scrivener folder? Something else?

what i do is have Scrivener in a window on 1/2 the screen on left, and the relevant database open in DEVONthink on the right 1/2 of screen. simple.

Do you never need to close the apps, or put a project aside to work on something else, and then come back to the first project days, weeks, or months later?

As I said, I assign an alias to the document in DT, and then use that alias as the name of the Scrivener notes file. That works for simple one-to-one assignments, which account for most of what I need.

For more complicated one-to-many relationships, DT will create item links for groups, including smart groups, which can then be bookmarked in Scrivener.

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Sure. I’ve found my approach is pretty robust against all such interruptions.

Ah. Thank you.

Why use an alias rather than giving the documents the same actual name? Faster typing/fewer characters?

Faster typing, and therefore also faster searching. My DT titles are usually the full title of the paper, which is often long and unwieldy.

(Why don’t I use the DT alias as the DT title? Because using the actual title facilitates eyeball scanning of a list of papers. Also because I only create the alias when I’ve actually read the paper.)