How to finally delete single files from trash?


I think my problem can be solved very easy but I didn’t find the solution in this forum. I would not like to empty the complete trash, but to delete single files that have been moved to trash already. I kind of lost the overview about the files in the trash and to be secure not deleting something I still need, I would like to sort it out file by file. Is there the possibility to delete single files from the trash?

Best regards

The Trash can be opened and the individual DB Trashes can be accessed like any other group. You can empty an individual database’s Trash by right-clicking and selecting “Empty Trash” but you can’t delete select files this way.

When DEVONthink’s Trash is emptied, the documents go to the OS X Trash – where they can be retrieved individually, until the OS X Trash is emptied. “Retrieve” means drag the item out of the OS X Trash to another location. Don’t use “Put Back” in OS X Trash for documents that formerly were internal to a DEVONthink database because they will become orphan files in the database(s).

Better late than never: It’s a pity that there is no possibility to delete single files; nevertheless thank you for your answers. You helped me a lot.

Sorry for replying to this old thread but I’m having the same issue/question.

I’m using DevonThink since 2 years now and I’m very happy with it, but I do not understand why it’s not possible to delete single files from the trash? In literally any software, which has a trash folder, it’s possible to delete the whole trash as well as deleting single elements. This is common user expectation and it is very annoying in DevonThink, that this is not supported. I guess implementation would be very simple, so I assume it’s not working by design and I would like to know the reason for this?

If there is no reason, I would greatly appreciate if you could forward my request to your development teams.


Are you using Trash like a database – a place to store things? That’s not a great idea.

I’m sure they’ve read this thread.

No but sometimes I would like to delete some files first instead of all documents at once. I guess this is a normal behavior as such a feature exists in most of the programs which have a trash-function.
I just can’t see any reason to forbid this?

Why are you leaving your Trash unemptied? It shouldn’t be used as a filing cabinet. Items you’re not sure about deleting should be moved into a temporary location for you to curate at some point.

Why not using the trash as a place to think about, if documents are still useful or not? Some people might do that, including me.

If I had some paperwork at home I wasn’t sure if I should keep, I wouldn’t put it in the kitchen’s garbage can to sort out later. :mrgreen:

Sure I wouldn’t do this with real paperwork :slight_smile: but we are talking about digital files. Check your email software, I’m pretty sure it supports deleting single files from the trash folder… That’S a more appropriate comparison.

Another question would be why it’s possible to restore single objects from the trash and not only the whole trash? :slight_smile:

I just can’t understand why the software is forcing the user to work “differently” than (at least I) would expect. This should be the decision of the user, if he wants to use the trash as a storage container or not. For the software neither of them should be an isssue…

A typical use-case for me is that I accumulate a lot of files in the trash, and I want to go through them carefully before I fully delete. But a few of them are quite big, say, from the OCR process. It would be nice to be able to manually delete just those files, and save the careful going-through process for another day.

It’s a very common feature in applications with a trash can to be able to manually delete an individual file.

It’s not advisable to use the Trash in this way. If you have items you want to comb through before deciding to delete them, it’s best to just put them in a temp folder in a database. You could even tag such files with something like To Assess for Deletion and use a smart group to go through them at a later time.

Thanks, super helpful.

I’m not likely to change my long-ingrained work habits, though, without a bit of a deeper understanding of why it’s not advisable. Doing what you suggest would have the side effect of making everything I currently have in the trash available to search again. This is quite far from what I want.

If there really is a good reason, I’m all ears. I’m just not seeing it yet, and obviously I’m quite used to how the Finder works, which basically gives me more freedom to work how I want subject to disk space. That is surprising to me, since DT supports so many different styles and approaches. To be uncompromising by not including a standard feature of every system I’m aware of that uses the trash metaphor is a hard for me to fathom.

In the meantime, I solved my immediate problem by copying everything out of the trash except the 5 files I wanted to delete immediately, emptied the trash, copied the rest back, and carried on. Now my trash is back to a few hundred megs, and I’m sure before the end of the year I will find the time to go through it and make sure I didn’t accidentally delete something important. I’m unlikely to have a storage crisis before then.

- Eric

You can set the temp group to Exclude from Search in the Info inspector, hiding its contents from searches.

How do I rewire backspace to move the item there instead of to the trash? Is there a way to setup one of these per database, automatically?

How do I rewire backspace to move the item there instead of to the trash?

You can’t.

You could add the temp folder as a Favorite and drag and drop to it instead of using Delete.

And, sorry, why is all that worth it? Why is keeping stuff in the trash “not advisable?”

For the same reason you shouldn’t use your kitchen trash to file things. You set them aside, in a drawer or on a table, to sort through later. (You should also not be in the habit of using the system Trash as another filing cabinet.)

I’ve lost count of how many people have done this and deleted items they didn’t mean to delete.

I would call this an “argument by skeuomorphism” and it’s certainly a point of view. Apple in the past drank the skeuomorphic kool-aid big time.

If it is useful to compare my kitchen trash to the trash in DEVONthink, then we should consider that my DEVONthink trash does not start to stink or create a health hazard, and storage space on my computer is completely fungible thanks to the operating system, unlike in my kitchen. So a bunch of the attributes that drive a specific set of recommended behavior around how to manage trash in a kitchen are not present DEVONthink’s trash.

However, if we embrace a skeuomorphic view, then my kitchen trash has the feature I’m asking for: I can always just take fish guts out to the outside trash to avoid prematurely stinking up the place.

So, whether we go skeuomorphic or not, I think both paths lead to the fact that this would be a nice feature. Nice because my DEVONthink trash does not have the attributes which tend to drive “frequent emptying” of the kitchen trash, and nice because it’s a feature my kitchen trash already has.


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