Navigate and search tags and groups

I’m trying to understand the ways to navigate through the documents stored in DevonThink in order to choose better archiving strategies.

I’m collecting informations about software (bookmark, manual, case histories and so on) and I have a group named “Software”.
Inside it I have about 20 main subcategories (let’s say “Audio”, “Office”, “Productivity”). Several items in the groups are tagged with “GTD”.

How can I simply do a search of everything tagged with GTD inside the Software group?

Also, is it possible do an exclusive tag navigation, that only show tags already present in items corresponding to a selected tag?
Let me explain with an example: I have three tags in my database: “GTD”, “Omnifocus” and “Recipes”.
I have some documents tagged with GTD, other with GTD AND Omnifocus, and others with just “Recipes”.
I go in “View -> as tags” and select GTD: since I don’t have items tagged with GTD and Recipes, I’d like the tag “Recipes” disappear from the tag list.
Is it possible?

Last thing: is there a “recursive” option for group navigation? I mean something to show me all the documents in a group and in every subgroups contained in the group I have selected?


  1. To find all items that have been assigned the “GTD” tag:

Choose Data > New > Smart Group. Name it, e.g., “GTD Tagged”.

Control-click (right click) on the new group and choose “Edit”/

Select the All criterion, for the condition “Tag is GTD”.

  1. I don’t understand this question. If you click on “GTD” in the Tags list, all the items that are so tagged will be listed. Some of those items may also have other tags. It would be undesirable for other tags to disappear from the Tags list, as one might want to look for the intersection of multiple tags. If, for example, you had assigned the tags “GTD” and “Recipe” to one of those documents, it would be revealed if you now selected both GTD and Recipe from the Tags list (using the Command key for multiple selection).

  2. To generate a flat list of all the documents that are contained within a group (including a group that has subgroups), open the Search window (Tools > Search). Select the group as the ‘search area’. Enter a query such as “[a…z]” to pull all documents that have an alphabetical character.

Referring back to your first question, this trick could be used to create a smart group containing the documents within your Software group, then edit that smart group to add the criterion for the condition, “Tag is GTD”. That will filter out all items tagged as GTD that are not also within the Software group.

To create a smart group for that set of criteria, click on the “+” symbol to the left of the query field. Control-click on that smart group and add the “Tag is GTD” criterion. When next opened, this smart group will update to include any new content that meets the criteria.

Thank you Bill. It’s not so fast create a smart group for every of this need, but I’m really new to DevonThink so maybe I will not need this feature so much. Or maybe I can advance a feature request :slight_smile:

My request (probably bad explained) is just to help intersection.
I want that tags NOT assigned to the items listed disappear.
If I search items for GTD tag, and no items with a GTD tag has also a “Recipe” tag, I want the tag “Recipe” disappear, and let me see just tags that intersect with GTD.

Useful, but also in this case I think that having such a functionality in the main window could be more useful. When I was on Windows, I used a music manager named Helium that had this functionality: right click on a directory in the database and choose “Explore recursive” (something like that) shows all the items, i.e. all the songs of every album of an artist (since my dir structure was Artist\Album\Songs)

Thank you very much for your precious explanations.


I have a similar issue.

I have a Group called Bank Statements with each Bank Statement in the group tagged with either my name or my business name.

I wanted to quickly find out how I could find all the Bank Statements with my name but there was no way to do that. I knew that creating a Smart Group would accomplish the task, but I thought that since this was such a common use case, there must be a faster way to do it… I was surprised to see that I was wrong.

A simple fix would be able to 1) Select the Group 2) and type “@myName” in the search field to search within the group. Or if you select a group, the tag panel across the bottom shows all the tags in the group and you could choose one to filter on.

Searching is very iterative. By that I mean is you rarely find something on the first try. Having to edit a Smart Group every time to modify a search seems unnecessarily long-winded.

Assuming that you have not excluded the Bank Statements group from tagging, you can go into Tags view (Command-6) and command-click on the Bank Statement tag and your ‘my name’ tag to locate all documents tagged with both tags. If you have a large list of tags to scroll through to find both tags, this quickly becomes frustrating also-but it does work.

My thoughts on searching in DT is that it works well for searches that the user may be looking for connections (AI-See Also) and on the other end of the spectrum where the user knows exactly what she or he is looking for (Smart Groups). Iterative searching on tags leaves room for improvement. What I would like to see is the feature that the OP asked about exclusive tag navigation. The tagging app Punakea really does this nicely in my opinion. If I were King of Devon, something like Punakea’s browser view is what DT’s Tags view would look like. I’ve actually exported one of my DT databases and then indexed the database so that the tagged documents are available to search on in Punakea.

Another option that would be nice, although not as nice as a Punakea-style tags browser, would be where the user has focused on a group by double-clicking on a group. Switching to the Tags view of this window would then limit the tags displayed to only those contained in the focused group. In your example, double-clicking on the group ‘Bank Statements’ and then switching to Tags view would limit the tags displayed to ‘myName’ and ‘businessName’. Click on ‘myName’ and only the documents in the group Bank Statements with the tag ‘myName’ would be returned. Unfortunately, switching to the Tags view from a focused group now just switches the document list to all tagged documents in the database.

Totally agree!

Yes, I also agree - the points mentioned by magobaolff and Greg_Jones are very good and to say it a little shorter and more provocative:
“a kingdom for a dynamic tag cloud
and Greg_Jones shall be king”