Multiple Page PDFs

Hello all!

I’m in law school and hope that DT/A will take some of the tedium out of the crushing number of documents that I have to deal with.

I know almost nothing about this software or Macs; I bought a Mac in order to use DT/A.

My question concerns multiple paged PDFs. I have a number of large PDFs to deal with and I have placed them into some smart groups, using keywords concerning general categories of law (eg tort). The smart groups locate the PDFs containing the keywords just fine but I can’t see how the location of the keywords within the PDFs can be flagged. IOW I would like the smart group, or some other mechanism, to grab the, say 50 page, PDF but also locate, or flag, the instances of that keyword within the document. Having the terms highlighted or the pages excerpted would be just 2 ways that would work for me.

Oh and I’d love to hear from anyone else in law school and using DT/A.

Thanks in advance!

For large documents, you might want to consider breaking them apart into single pages. That way, search will return and hilite pages with your search terms on them, not just a big chunk of text.

The downside is that if you need to read a previous or next page, you need to go back to the database window to pick up the numbering. This awkwardness is pretty minor in my book.

Acrobat will break apart big documents. Not sure about alternatives. Stay away from PDFpen as it would only crash on me for big jobs…

HTH, Charles

Thanks Charles but I’m afraid that in law there’s always a next and previous page! Also most of my documents are read only, so not much I can do with them. I really need to keep the overall context here, yet still have the term(s) easily accessible.

I don’t split my large documents, PDF or other filetype.

Instead, when I’m making notes, I do that in rich text notes that can link to the source document. I usually use an Item Link to link to the source and, in the case of PDFs, may also use a Page Link to refer to a specific page, e.g., the page location of an extract. I may use other tricks to link to a specific area of a document, PDF or other filetype, such as a text string that can be used in a Lookup (Command-/) search.

The ‘Annotation’ smart template (Data > New From Template > Annotation) is a convenient way to start a note about a source document, as it is automatically linked to the source. Often, I’ll use DEVONnote for note-taking, as it can be set up as a floating window that can be minimized to the Dock when not in use; a DEVONnote rich text note can then be clipped or copied/pasted into a DEVONthink database.

Some notes may refer to a single source document, others may refer to multiple sources about a specific topic. I might, for example, use See Also or See Related Text to explore my database for similar (contextually related) items, and broaden the note by referring to (and linking to) other useful documents. Suppose I wish to see all the documents that contain a term, such as ‘tort’; Option-click on ‘tort’ and a list pops out on the right. Or suppose I wish to see if other documents contain a particular phrase, “biological diversity”; select the phrase, Control-click, choose Search Selected Phrase and a list pops out on the right.

Tip: Usually, when using one of the above tools to explore terms and concepts I don’t want to lose my place in the document I’m viewing. So I can open a document suggested by See Also or Search Selected Phrase, for example, by Control-clicking on one that looks interesting and choosing the contextual menu option, Open in Tabs. Now I can switch to the tab holding that document, perhaps copy a quotation from it, return to the tab holding my note in progress and paste in the quote, then go back to the tabbed document, choose Edit > Copy Item Link and paste that back into my note, so that I’ve got a link to the source. (That link to the source of the quotation will come in handy if I wish to footnote the quote.)

I mention these tools and techniques to illustrate two points:

  1. There are other useful tools in DEVONthink, in addition to smart groups, that allow one to quickly aggregate documents that contain desired information (Tags offer still another tool, and there are others available in the Search window); and

  2. Creation of such searchable notes in the database can serve as an alternative to splitting large documents, as the user is in effect creating new summaries and overviews of them, especially for the user’s primary interests in their content.

And a third point, gratis: I’m still awed by the tools that Christian and Eric have designed in DEVONthink to help me explore information in my databases. When I’m fishing for an idea or have hit a writer’s block, DEVONthink almost always saves the day.

Tip: You might create a ‘cheat sheet’ containing a list of terms and phrases that you might otherwise use to create smart groups.

Select any item in that list, Control-click and choose Search Selected Phrase. A list of all the documents that contain that phrase will pop out on the right. That list will be the equivalent of a smart group created for that phrase.

Select one of the results. You will find that the search phrase is highlighted in text documents (and the view has scrolled to the first occurrence), but not in PDFs. Bummer.

However, if you had enclosed the list of phrases in your ‘cheat sheet’ within quotation marks, you can select the complete string including the quotation marks and press Command-/ (the Lookup Service command). A new Search window will open with the query entered. Press Return and the list of results will appear; that list will be equivalent to the contents of a smart group created for that phrase. Select a result and the view will scroll to the highlighted first occurrence of the phrase, including a result that’s a PDF. You may choose Go > Next Highlight to see the next occurrence of that phrase in the PDF. The keyboard shortcut to jump to next highlighted phrase is Control-Command-Right Arrow.

This may not be quite as convenient as having phrase highlighting show up in your PDFs within a smart group, but the Lookup search for a phrase (enclosed in quotes) will highlight the occurrences of the phrase within PDFs.

Thanks all!

A lot for me to absorb! Hopefully during reading break I’ll be able to get some work done and dig deep into what DT can do me.

I may be back…