Ignoring Groups to focus on Documents

Say I’m using DT Pro’s vertical split view to peruse documents in many existing groups. These groups are actually the indexed folder structure of a drive, so consider them set for puposes of synchronization.

For viewing purposes, I want to temporarily ignore the group structure (but not lose it!). For example, I want to see all documents from all groups listed in a single alphabetized view as if the group structure was temporarily absent, then later switch back to the normal grouped view.

I could not find the answer in the manual or forums.


I think the closest you can get to a flat listing of a hierarchy would be to open its top-level group in a new window, switch to View > as List (option-command-4), run View > Expand All (option-command-+) to expand the hierarchy into a list view, then adjust View > Sort > … settings to whatever’s most useful.

It’s not really possible to “lose” the group structure since you’re only changing sorting/viewing settings, although those will be saved for a particular group when a window it’s opened in is closed.

That’s an intentionally brief explanation based on my experience. Any clarifications/corrections are welcomed.

You can view an alphabetical listing of all the items in your database by selecting in the menu bar Tools > History. Then click on the Names column to view the names in alphabetical order.

As I’ve got about 20,000 documents in my main database, I don’t look at the History listing that way, at least not often. :slight_smile:

My DT Pro databases, which have evolved over the past 4 years on several computers, have almost no relationship to the structure of Finder folders and files. I don’t think of DT Pro as a “Finder replacement” or a “Finder extender”. Instead, it’s my working environment for mining information from reference material.

There are several reasons for that:

[1] More than half of the database contents represent downloads from the Web, mostly in the form of rich text Note captures but also including HTML and WebArchive files. These were directly created in the database and there are no corresponding files in the Finder, outside the database packages. Several of my databases were wholly created in this way.

[2] Because I wanted to be able to run my databases from a notebook computer – previously a PowerBook and now a MacBook Pro – I Imported (copied) files from the Finder to my databases. I’ve got way too many files on my desktop Macs to possibly fit on the smaller HD of a notebook computer, so I’ve broken my databases into topical databases with little or no overlap of content. That still allows me to have very comprehensive reference collections that are easily portable to another computer, an external drive or even a DVD. In many cases I’ve deleted the original PDF and other files copied from the Finder, so the only place those files exist in inside my database packages. Of course, I’ve got external backups of those databases, so I don’t need to worry about losing files.

There’s one pesky file type exception in the current version of DT Pro. Word .doc files only have the text content captured into the database and the files themselves remain externally linked. I’ve found that the best way to handle Word files is to place the originals into a folder just for that purpose, that’s placed into my Documents folder. So I first place any Word file that’s to be captured into that folder, then index it to my database. When I migrate to another computer, I just copy that folder of Word documents into the Documents folder of my, e.g. MacBook Pro and the links work properly.

The major disadvantage of my approach – almost entirely self-contained databases – is that self-contained databases require more memory to load than would a comparably sized Indexed database such as yours. And of course the database package is larger for a self-contained database. Therefore I’ve had to break up my databases by topical interest, rather than having a single large database (which in my case could not possibly run on my MacBook Pro’s 100 GB drive, and would be very slow in operation even if it could fit).

As a practical matter, though, my main database remains a very comprehensive reference source for my professional interests in environmental science and technology and associated policy, legal and regulatory matters, along with my interests in environmental science exchanges and graduate training. It covers a large span of disciplines from chemical analytical techniques to toxicology, statistical evaluation of environmental data, regulatory standards, risk assessments and approaches to remediation of hazardous waste sites.

Because this database doesn’t contain unrelated material such as my large collection about the Apple Newton, it runs very quickly on my machines – searches often take just a few milliseconds. And the artificial intelligence features such as See Also and Classify run more quickly and usefully because I’ve already “distilled” contextual relationships into the database.

Summary: You’ve made a good start by indexing your files into DT Pro. I think you will find that the information content is now far more accessible and useful than ever before. Just wanted to present some alternative approaches that may become useful as your collections of information grow over the years.

I was delighted today by Steve Jobs’ presentation of the upcoming features of Spotlight in Leopard. But Spotlight itself isn’t a working environment comparable to DT Pro, nor does it offer the artificial intelligence features of DT Pro. So DT Pro will remain my working environment. (DT Pro 2.0 will cooperate with Spotlight, but go far beyond Spotlight’s capabilities.)

Even though today Apple introduced a new generation of Mac Pro computers that are a big jump over the previous PowerMacs, and DT Pro 2.0 will reduce the memory requirements for databases and enable effective operation of larger databases, there will always be practical limits on available memory and disk storage. If you encounter such limits or need portability, you can always segment your databases to make them run more quickly on your equipment.

In the upcoming DTP 1.1.2 release it’s possible to select additional columns from the View > Columns menu in the History window to use for sorting.

[side note: still hoping for absolute dates in the Age column in a future release]

And I didn’t suggest doing that in my original reply since I was thinking about my large primary database at the time. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the insights, but I’ll assume the answer to my question is no: I cannot alter my main window to view and sort documents independent of their groups – that is, for viewing in any order except as first constrained by their grouping.

If I follow SVG’s method, I still have the groups retained in any new window. Maybe I missed something, SVG?

Also, I understand the history window listing, but that doesn’t have the functionality of the main window.

One very simple example, just to make my point: Let’s say many indexed groups contain pdf reprints (perhaps file names beginning with author’s last name). Any author’s reprints will be scattered among many groups. Now, I want to switch the view to a flat (ungrouped) listing so I can readily view all the author’s reprints. Or I might want to sort all reprints in some other way in this “ungrouped” window, after which I can then toggle back to the “grouped” window again.

If it can’t be done, that’s fine (I realize there are limitations to indexing, and indexing is my choice).

badger, a database-wide search on document title will pull a list of your example reprints for any author.

You may not be able to see all authors at the same time, but this is a very quick way to pull together across groups the list for any author.

I’m working with a beta that has added some features to the History tool. One can add columns for sorting purposes, and there are contextual menu options that allow several operations including opening a selected file, moving it, replicating it, etc.

Hi - I know this is an old thread, but I can’t seem to find it addressed more recently. I’m interested in viewing all of my documents in Devonthink Pro Office without having to delve into various nested folders; being able to quickly flick through them would be very helpful for my purposes. Is there now a way to do that? As an example, I also use Receiptwallet, which has a ‘library’ of all files, and when view the library, I’m able to see everything in the database, sans folder hierarchy. I’m wondering if there is something similar in Devonthink?

Thanks –

Yes, the History view (Tools > History) is a flat list of all the contents of your database. Although by default it’s sorted by Age, one can click on the Name header for an alphabetical list. I’ve got other sort columns including Created, Kind and Size.

When an item is selected, double-clicking will open it in its own document window. Command-R (Reveal) will show it’s location in the organizational structure.

As my main database usually contains from 24 thousand to 28 thousand documents, the list is a bit unwieldy to just flip through. But I often use it to check recently added content, or to identify image-only PDFs (the Kind of an image-only PDF is PDF; the Kind of a searchable PDF is PDF+Text).

There’ve been some rumblings (in which I’ve taken part) for a new view in addition to the vertical split, horizontal split, etc. Would it be possible for DTP2 to implement a new view that is basically a non-hierarchical view?

Aside from the point that the History view is a pretty bare-bones list (but with the ability to add user-selected columns), how would you like a new non-hierarchical view to look/operate?

I can think of two ways for it to work: as an option or as a separate view. The separate view, which I suggested above, seems asinine after further contemplation.

If it were an option, it could appear in the View menu as “Show contents of subgroups” or something similar, and in all of the existing views it could act much as I think EagleFiler does by default (which I complained about with EagleFiler, I think) – instead of showing the documents in the current group only, it’d show all of the documents in the current group and all of the current group’s subgroups. If you are at the root of the database, it’d show every document in the database.

The functionality (simply revealing contents of all subgroups in a flat view) isn’t any different from the History View or a Search for, say, all unchecked documents. The Search window, of course, even allows the user to view all documents existing in subgroups of a specified group. In two different ways, this functionality already exists.

The main problem with using the History Window as a flat view is that it’s unintuitive. You know that as well as I do, seeing how many people post in these forums about this very issue. The other problem is that it is a floating window for functionality that, imho, ought to be in the main window.

(My hatred for floating windows extends to the Inspector window. For the record, I immensely prefer having that functionality exist in the main window á la Scrivener’s excellent solution. I even prefer it exist in a drawer)

The problem with the Search Window is that it seems a bit barbaric to me to have to select that I want unchecked files or unlabeled files or something like that in order to see a list of all documents in the database. Also, the pop-up hierarchical menu for selecting the root of the query is not, IMHO, the best solution, especially if your folder hierarchy is as ridiculous as mine.

Simply put, I think that the ability to view all items in the database (or in subgroups of the selected group) in a flat view is functionality that belongs in the main window.

I agree. If I have a folder (group) with sub-folders (groups) and I click on the top level folder, I want to see the union of file heirarchies (iView Media nomenclature) as an option.

This way, in the right-side pane I can either see documents at the top level and sub-folders, or I can see trhe union of all subfolders and their contents (essentially all sub-files and not the sub-folders.) Does that make sense?

Yes, I see your point. Once in a while in a project group I’ve wanted to do that.

Here’s a kludge. Duplicate (don’t replicate) the enclosing group. Select the subgroups (Command-click on each) and invoke the Ungroup command, Data > Ungroup (there’s a keyboard shortcut). After inspecting the linear “union of contained hierarchies” contents of the enclosing folder, I’ll delete the duplicate enclosing folder.

Don’t know whether or not such an alternative to the current views will make it into DT 2.0.

Yup. No one wants to see DTP become MS Word, with 1900 options, each phrased in six different ways in two menu locations, four custom interfaces, two AppleScript commands with slightly different syntax, and a hidden command line interface accessible only through smearing your Terminal.app with chicken blood on nights of a full moon.

I’m a bit late to the party (again), but anyway …

“Date Modified” (aka “Age”) isn’t a selectable Columns choice and unfortunately still uses relative instead of absolute dates/time (like “Date Created” thankfully does). I’d like to re-request an absolute date/time “Date Modified” column in the History window, whether it be separate from or a change to “Age”.

I’ve got ideas and opinions about that but want to finish considering the other replies before chiming in.