Looking for some workflow ideas

Hey Devonthink Crowd. New user here getting more familiar with the features and am really seeing some potential with the progressive summarization techniques. Here’s what I’m currently wanting to do and looking for ‘how best would you handle this’.

  1. Import a long form document and / or transcript as a PDF+Text. (Potentially label as 'Source-Unreviewed)
  2. Review PDF and Highlight with highlighter any key elements.
  3. Export Highlights to another document. (I love this, because it links to the source document and includes the HIGHLIGHTS in a standalone document. (I’d potentially label as 'Reviewed-Highlights)

So here’s my dilemma. Sometimes these Highlights range across multiple topics… and I want to distill the highlights ‘further’ into individual documents per topic…

I had HOPED to be able to create multiple annotation files from the document but it seems that I can only create one.

So Question for group:
What is the best way to create MULTIPLE documents that contain the reference to the original (highlighted document)?

In other words, I want to have multiple documents that contains ‘nuggets of wisdom’, that each have a link back to the summary document of highlights that I created from the actual SOURCE document.

Any ideas/insights appreciated.



This is a high-level overview of my workflow:

  1. Highlight relevant passages in PDF
  2. Review the highlights after completing the source document and copy those that stand out as particularly insightful into individual markdown notes
  3. Tag these “atomic notes” based on their topics and add a link back to the source document (incl. page) into a RTF custom metadata field
  4. Add cross-links between the atomic notes within the Markdown contents
  5. Transclude all insights with a specific tag for a topic-specific review

I would add that, from my perspective, it makes sense to actually go through these in stages. I find that when I’m looking at digesting a new input, it’s counterproductive to try to categorize each highlight then and there. There is actually more and deeper learning by doing one at a time (understanding, categorizing, reviewing, etc.), as there are different types of mental processes involved. My 2 cents anyways :wink:

Good luck setting up your workflow - DT is incredibly flexible and adaptable, you’ll surely find one that works for you.


Welcome @Brandon

I had HOPED to be able to create multiple annotation files from the document but it seems that I can only create one.

That is correct.

In the highlight summary, you can select, copy and paste to another document and the link to the original highlighted document will be preserved.

Interesting! Does it save the link in the document itself as a hyperlink, or in the attributes somewhere in the inspector panel?
That seems like it’s worth a shot I will test when I’m back at my laptop.

Does it work in both DT and DTTG?

ok so I just tried this on my Mac and it is not functioning like you make it sound. I have a PDF+Text document and I highlight. I then create A summary of all my highlights which has a hyperlink back to source. (LOVE)

When I copy and paste from the summary/highlight document and paste, I do not see it pasting with the source document attached. I also tried using ‘Services’ to Create a Rich Text Note… Neither seemed to include a link back to summary/highlight.

I’d appreciate if you let me know what I’m missing, thanks!

I actually like this and I guess I could do the same thing. I guess I was looking for the ‘auto’ link back to source document (like the summary highlight and the annotations document provides).

I do see this working though for taking the highlights and parsing out the different ideas into different files. I guess manually linking back to source is an instant solution.

Hoping @bluefrog has some more insight on the copying/pasting option that includes link.

Thanks for the response and your workflow!!

Check out the Highlights app. I used to do something similar to what you describe, but my workflow has evolved a bit. You may find useful nuggets on my blog:

I omit your step 3 (Export Highlights) and just work with the original document

I select items of text and create new records, linked back to the original
An applescript assists with this
The script uses the page link for pdfs; record link for others

Hang on… are you wanting a link back to the PDF or to the item in the summary document?

If the latter, try selecting the highlighted section with the link in the summary document, Control-clicking it, and choosing Copy Paragraph Link.

While I like the idea of linking to the item, I was thinking link back to the summary PDF.

If I only have one topic to distill from the summary document, annotation is best option. Just trying to find best method to get multiple docs created that are like the annotation file which has the link embedded in the annotation file.

But I like the copy paragraph link, and some good options emerging from the replies.

This may be too fiddly for your taste, but I maintain all of my notes in Obsidian, a markdown editor that functions as a knowledge base. I keep my Obsidian “vault” (directory) on iCloud and index it in a DevonThink database.

Obsidian is just a little easier for working with the notes and it creates automatic back links. I link notes in a zettelkasten-ish sort of way.

DevonThink helps me analyze the notes and find relationships between concepts.

I keep my source files in a separate DevonThink database. This way if I have a focus on an Obsidian note it will also pull up relevant source material.

I make an annotated summary for each source PDF or web archive using DevonThink To Go on the iPad because it defaults to markdown and can be dragged into my Obsidian vault. Working on the iPad is a nice end-of-the-day activity that I do while watching TV with the family.

Have you looked at DEVONthink’s Document > links inspector?

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You know, I’ve seen the Links inspector but haven’t made much use of it. Thanks for bringing it up.

I really love the idea of Obsidian’s graph view. But in practice it’s not as useful as DevonThink’s links inspector.

What I really, really like is the graph in TheBrain. But unfortunately I haven’t found a super-simple way to get TheBrain and DevonThink to work together.

Not to hijack this convo, but I’d love a workflow that would go something like,

  1. Push source material to DT for “read later”
  2. Read source material and annotate in DT
  3. Archive source material in “Library” database in DT
  4. Push annotations to a graphical interface (Obsidian, TheBrain, Tinderbox) and enrich them in a zettelkasten-ish way
  5. Use the graphical interface for visualizing ontological sense making (relationships between ideas)
  6. Use DT for pulling together ideas that are related but may be out of scope of the linked notes

This sounds incredibly useful…

I’m not sure what “zettelkasten-ish” entails, but can it be done within DT
I prefer to keep everything in one place

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@Brandon Another option you can try is taking the summary document with the highlights, inserting your cursor where you want document splits, and using the contextual menu item “Split Document”. It will split the document right there and all backlinks will be preserved. Yes, it is manual, and for a large document would be laborious, but there may be a way to automate it to some extent.

I have an AppleScript that allows document splitting within DT, maybe you could fiddle with it to get it more apropos for your needs. It will use any text delimiter to split a document at that location. Unfortunately it does not keep the backlinks like the manual method described above, but maybe you or someone could adjust this for that. Here is a link to the script: Split Document

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frmoses, I actually think this is the best option that suits my workflow! Most documents I’m highlighting that have multiple subjects tend to have the same subjects together, so parsing them out via the Split Document feature seems like a worthwhile option.

Thank you sir I will be giving this a shot!


I’ve been pondering whether Obsidian would add any value to my workflow here but after tinkering today I have decided not. To steal someone else’s phrasing (they were referring to Evernote), Obsidian is an elegant solution to a problem that I don’t have. I like working in DT (I did end up spending my lunch tweaking my stylesheet to make my markdown even nicer though :roll_eyes:).

I separate my highlights manually when I want to. I can see the appeal of an automation here, but I think there is value in manually processing these highlights and deciding what might need its own note.


That’s something I enjoy doing as well :relaxed:

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