Keywords stored in Spotlight comments (DT 2.0)

I’ve noticed that programs such as Leap and Together use the spotlight comments to store tags/keywords (In Leap’s case its a preference, in Together’s automatic) for which they use a common format: ‘&the_keyword’. This has an enormous advantage over a propriety tagging system that’s application specific. Personally I use Papers to gather and organise books and journal articles and DT as a catchall for indexing the Papers library and then research, notes, etc. With some minimal applescript I can export the keywords used in Papers to the Spotlight comments of the files in the Finder which are then mirrored in other applications. Similarly keywords are effectively kept in sync between applications

So, my request is that (if its not too late already) DT 2.0 uses the Spotlight comments for keywords/tags, or otherwise writes/reads from them (given correct formatting)

Related topic: GUI and tagging

I’d strongly object to DEVONthink using Spotlight Comments as the primary storage location for its tags. Lacking superior alternatives, I’d prefer a closed, proprietary tagging system in DT 2.0 that could optional share with other applications via Spotlight Comments (similar to Leap. not automatic like Together). I certainly don’t want to risk losing DT 2.0 tags to any Spotlight Comments “accidents”.

If anyone’s interested, I’ve recently posted (@Noodlesoft Forums) some concerns about Spotlight Comments becoming/being a de facto standard for tagging. I’d like to see more awareness and discussion of any important issues that might otherwise be ignored or trivialized.

Is there any way the whole tagging/keywording thing could work consistently?

For me tagging is an on-going process, I keep adding keywords at different times (so I’d like to be able to do it with different apps), and having each app storing them in different places and in different ways is quite inefficient.

Consistently between different applications?

The de facto standard of using Spotlight Comments for tag storing/sharing is one attempt to solve that problem. I just don’t want to be forced to use that solution even if it’s currently the best one and other people are satisfied with it.

Check out Paul’s recent post in the Noodlesoft Forums thread I linked to earlier for some interesting post-WWDC comments related to this topic.

Still hoping for feedback from DEVONtechnologies about this, too.

We have not decided about how exactly the tags will a) be generated and b) be stored. However, if there is a standard way, we’ll at least consider supporting it next to any proprietary system we might implement. Vague enough? :slight_smile:

Both approaches seems like a great compromise! :slight_smile:


Any reason to discuss those kind of details here, i.e. could they possibly influence your choices?

I’ve already explained that I don’t want reliance on Spotlight Comments, and generally why.

Perfectly, since I’m glad to know you’re listening. :slight_smile:

Like the developer in the Noodlesoft forum stated: Apple needs to get in on this for a final solution. Everything else that we as developers come up with should be considered transient. That said I agree with you that using Spotlight comments is a bad idea in general because it is completely unstructured data that is prone to be destroyed by a user. The only viable technical alternative that is available on the Mac besides the retired resource forks is xattr. But I’m not entirely sure if that survives transportation on a non-HFS+ file system (maybe on Leopard, definitely not on Tiger or earlier versions). So as Eric said we are trying to come up with a decent solution given the constraints that we face.

Hopefully Apple realizes that and is eventually positively responsive so we’ll avoid being stuck in a “Spotlight Comments are good enough for tags” rut. What influence developers might have (or not) with Apple about it is too speculative and wouldn’t be productive to discuss here; that’s rumor forum fodder.

Right, like this comment on macoshints warned:

Be careful. In my experiences, many of these renaming utilities will delete all of your Spotlight comments. So beware and test!

How many people don’t realize that also applies to any tags they’re unaware certain software is storing there?

I don’t want to be diligently vigilant for known and unforeseeable issues when using Spotlight Comments for tags.

From my post last month on the Ironic Support Forum:

On a test I just did on Leopard, Spotlight comments were saved in .DS_Store files and (unexpectedly) as extended attributes on a MS-DOS FAT32 formatted filesystem. It wasn’t convenient to test FAT16, a more common default for USB flash memory (“USB keys”, as you called them), but I’d avoid using it for this purpose.

And in a recent post there I questioned the vulnerability of xattrs compared to Spotlight comments, also adding this:

This reminds me of the lack of detailed information about different OS X backup/cloning utilities before the plasticsfuture articles. […] If anything analogous to that for file tagging has been published I’ve missed it.

Another alternative has been to use kMDItemKeywords for tag storage/sharing, which I think Journler and Together both do, though other developers have objected to that method.

I’m confident you will and appreciate your feedback that helps me believe it. :slight_smile:

I’m absolutely terrified of using anything in the file system or related to Spotlight for storing any information whatsoever, and would end up hacking out in-database or in-file functionality, which would make me an unhappy kalisphoenix since I don’t trust my code. I don’t have any objection to in-database storage coupled with writing things out in Spotlight storage and syncing them in a sensible way.

In other words, I have absolutely nothing to say of any value :smiley: