Need help on how to use links

As a new user of DT, I’m becoming a bit more comfortable with it day by day, but one area I’ve yet to use at all is links and cross referencing. Now, I think I understand the basics of regular links, but I’m just not sure why and how one would use this functionality. And I’m not getting wiki links at all.

it appears I can use links to link a non-supported file in my file system to the database. So now I don’t have the file itself in the db, but a link to it. This seems to mean I obviously can’t search on file contents, but I can search on the file name (or comments), but this seems to be about all the value of this I can see. So it seems that the value of doing this would be in making finding the file easier. And that seems to mean if I have no trouble finding these types of files (either because of organization structure or other tools like EasyFind) then this isn’t going to do much for me.

so first question is am I missing something here?

second question, can someone either give me a basic idea of what wiki links are and what they can do for me? I’ve gone through the user doc and it’s not overly helpful on this point.

Finally, if someone can give me an idea of how they use links/cross references to further tap into the power of DT, I’d really appreciate it. My gut tells me there are tools here I’d benefit from using if I knew how to incorporate them into my work flow, but i’m too clueless on them at this point to start getting traction here.


[1] One can get into fairly involved stuff about links to external files, but here’s a quickie on getting information about an unsupported file into your DT database. For example, I use Stone Designs Create app for some page layout and HTML generation purposes. Create isn’t supported, and because Create docs are packages, it’s not a good idea to import them.

As you suggest, merely linking to external files doesn’t do much for me. I don’t view DEVONthink as a Finder substitute.

But I can select all the text in a Create doc (while I’m viewing it under the Create app), and create a new file in DT using Content > New > With Clipboard. That gets the text into DT. Here’s another trick: paste the UNIX path of the Create document into the Path field of the new DT file’s Info pane. Now I can quickly jump to the original Create file from DT. What’s really important to me is capturing the text information into DEVONthink so that it is available for DT’s “knowledge mining” features – searches and contextual recognition – that make it such a unique and powerful program.

[2 & 3] Check out the automatic Wiki link preference settings in DEVONthink > Preferences > Editing. One option lets you link to any existing DT file by simply typing or pasting its name. If you select a phrase and choose Format > Make Link, a new “Wiki” document will be created with the selected phrase as its file name. You can add text/images to that new document as you wish. If you wish, type or paste in the name of the originating document to create a convenient way to “jump” back to the originating document. NOTE: Even if automatic Wiki linking has been set, the underlining and activity of links just created doesn’t show until you’ve done a Command-S save.

Basically, “Make Link” and automatic Wiki links are just very convenient ways of creating hyperlinks among documents in your DT database. Simple, yet very powerful and flexible.

Hope this helps.

thanks for the reply, Bill.

Re #1, what I’m reading is that you will copy the text from non-supported apps into a text or rich text file in DT to be able to use the intelligence features of DT. Makes sense to me provided there isn’t a convenient way to do the same thing natively within the respective application.

Re using wiki links to link to other groups/files within DT, I just don’t get WHY anyone would want to do that? From my perspective, the powerful search features of DT make it a piece of cake to find whatever I’m looking for. I just don’t get why I would want to create internal links within DT to a file already in DT. Seems redundant to me. I’m guessing there are usage scenarios where this makes sense and I simply haven’t envisioned them yet, but after playing around with wiki links a bit i can’t see any reason to create them.


Why would I want to use Wiki links? Depens on what I’m doing.

I could write a novel in DT. Start with the table of contents. Each chapter name can become a Wiki link. I create the new Wiki documents and fill them in. When done, the novel is complete. :smiley:

More realistic: I’m writing an article. I’m reviewing reference material in my DT database and making notes. In the process, I create a topical outline, link my notes to it, and start drafting the article. Yep, I actually do this. Hyperlinks help me organize the material any way I wish.

Another one: I keep journals in DEVONthink (daily journals, project journals). In the process of adding new material to my database, such as an article in Science Magazine, I may flag it in a journal as an interesting reference for an article I’m writing. All I have to do is paste the item’s name into my journal (and perhaps accompanying notes, comments, and bibliographic information), and I have a live link to the item.

In other words, you can actively create information in DEVONthink, as well as passively download other people’s information into your database. Tools for information creation in DT include writing, grouping, labeling, highlighting and hyperlinking. Vannevar Bush could only dream about such a tool as DEVONthink! :smiley:

I also have a link question, but it pertains to web URLs.

The scenario: I’m cranking along in DevonThink, and I type some text I want to link to a website (not to another document in the DT database, but to a website). So how do I do that?

If I want to Wiki link to another document in the database, I select the text, and hit the “make link” icon or use the keystrokes Shift-Command-M. And if I capture a web page and put it into DT, the URLs work perfectly without me having to do anything.

But how do I make a URL work from scratch, without making it an html page?

rmathes23, I am still demo-ing this product and only just learned what Wikis are. So cool. I already use these Wikis for my genealogy timelines.

As my timeline progresses, I document each date in my ancestor’s life with a Wiki link to the documentation that proves the date. I enter the date, write that Mr. Ancestor got married to Miss Ancestor and his roommate Joe was the best man. Then I link to the document in my DT database that holds the scan of the wedding license.

This way, if I want to see that scan I can quickly pull it up without having to search for it. A Wiki link like also looks like a regular hyperlink, indicating to me that I have something on that event–so I can kind of glance over the timeline and tell what else I need documentation for.

I can link to photos of that ancestor, maps of his land, transcriptions/scans of tax deeds, probate files, etc. In the past, I was always losing track of scans/images/transcriptions in my hard drive and now I’ve got them all within a click.

I was very happy to improve my timelines in this fashion.

Can I select text and link it to a website? No, not directly in the current version of DEVONthink. There is a workaround. I can create a bookmark file for the Web site and change the bookmark’s name to (for example) EurekAlert. Now the Web page will open whenever the term EurekAlert appears and I click on it (if DEVONthink > Preferences > Editing is set for automatic Wiki linking including file names). How’s that?

Note: A “bookmark” file is easy to make. Copy the URL of the desired Web site into the clipboard, then go to DEVONthink and choose Content > New > With Clipboard (shortcut: Command-N). The name of the new file is the URL.

Example: I have a group named Bookmarks. It holds a subgroup named Scientific Journals. I copied the URL to the clipboard, went to DEVONthink and pressed Command-N. Then I changed the bookmark file’s name to EurekAlert. The bookmark resides in the Scientific Journals subgroup.

Hope this helps.

ok, thanks guys, i think i can see how one could incorporate such links within DT.

Creation of documents that need to refer to other files within DT can benefit from this functionality. My problem here is that while I think DT is an exceptionally strong tool for storing and organizing information, I don’t see it as a very effective tool for writing and complex project creation. There are other software tools I’d rather use for those kinds of tasks. DT needs to add some serious functionality before it becomes a legitimate writing tool for me, and even then I’d still probably use other ‘best of breed’ apps.

What would be very cool is to find ways to create links in other apps to files within DT. If I could create links to DT files within Notebook or Ulysses (for example), that would rock. I’d love to see an item added to DT’s Services sub-menu along the lines of “create link to DT item” that when selected brings up DT and allows the user to select a file. but that would probably require more integration with other apps than currently exists. I’ve no idea if Apple provides a framework for the avg app to link to DT files.

First, thanks so much to rmathes for posting the EXACT questions I wanted to ask about links, but was too shy to ask. I’m working on a heavily researched biography (in addition to my usual journalistic stories), and one reason I bought DN was that I thought that its linking ability could help me replace some of Hypercard’s ability to view the same info in different contexts. But I just couldn’t figure out how to make that work. The DN manual explains how to make a wiki link, but it doesn’t show how such links might be useful to my project, so thanks to Bill for providing some concrete examples of how I might use it.

Nevertheless, I’m still a little vague on exactly how wiki links can help me on my book, so I would appreciate more examples like those he gave from anyone who uses links. This whole thread might be more appropriate in the Usage Scenarios, but it’s fine here, too.

I feel pretty dumb at not being able to imagine how to use this obviously very useful functionality, but it’s new to me, so I guess I just need to try setting up a few links in other articles I’m working on and then maybe that’ll help me figure out how to use them.

One use that did occur to me was using links as precursors to footnotes. So if I’m writing a chapter in DN and refer to an event, I could make a link between that sentence and the Devon note containing the info I based the sentence on. Then when I export the chapter to a Word or AppleWorks file, it’ll be easier to make footnotes there. Obviously I agree with the suggestion of making DN links work in other apps, so that if I’m writing the chapter in AppleWorks or TextEdit or (someday) Pages, I could link references to original sources in DN.

Anyway, thanks to all, and please keep providing examples of useful links. I’ll probably be posting more questions or examples as I figure this out.

Bwa ha, that works perfectly. Thank you so much. :smiley:

Edited to add:

I do think the manual needs to be beefed up a bit. The whole “paperless office” thing is an entirely new paradigm for me and–while very exciting and exploding with potential–is difficult to wrap my brain around.

The forum’s power users have rushed to the rescue by fleshing out DT’s capabilities. If it weren’t for them, DT would be completely beyond my reach.

[1] Right. DT is not a full-fledged word processor. BUT it uses the Cocoa text engine (like TextEdit), and I find it competent for journal files, notes, bibliographic references, etc. while I’m researching reference material. The ability to set up hyperlinks on the fly is important for these purposes, and makes DT a very good “research assistant.” Try it; you may be pleasantly surprised.

Of course, I do move my notes and drafts to another app for final polishing and publication.

[2] “Create link to DT item.” You can already do that in many Cocoa applications, thanks to OS X Services. I happen to use NoteTaker for refining drafts. If I type or paste in the name of a DT file in a notebook, I can select the file name, go to Services > DEVONthink > Lookup. That opens the Search tool in DT. Especially if the search option is set to Name, the search will instantly find the desired DT file. No programming required; your feature is already there. :smiley:

In just the same way, I can initiate a search for any selected term or phrase from my notebook by using DEVONthink’s Lookup service.

Those procedures will work from your CP NoteBook also. I don’t know about Ulysses, but I rather doubt it.

There are several other things I like about AquaMinds NoteTaker for interfacing with DEVONthink:

I can initiate searches in any or all of my NoteTaker notebooks from within DEVONthink. That can be very useful.

NoteTaker allows me to clip text and/or images to any existing NoteTaker notebook, and to place a clipping in the desired page or section on the fly, without any prior setup. That really speeds up transfers.

When I export a NoteTaker notebook to MS Word, Word recognizes my header styles. That’s neat and saves formatting time.

The layout of PDF documents exported from NoteTaker notebooks is ideal for many of my projects. Export to Web notebooks can also be convenient.

Life is good. :smiley:

Have to agree that the manual needs some work. For example, after struggling with it for half an hour, reading the manual and help files, I have to admit that I haven’t figured out how to make a simple link between a phrase in a DN document and another DN note (the footnote capability I mentioned earlier). Whenever I try to “make a link” or “link to,” I’m offered the option of either 1. a dialogue box that lets me choose a non-Devon file (sometimes useful, but sort of defeats the purpose of storing all my notes in DN, unless I just don’t know where to look) or 2. a new, blank wiki note in Devon with no text, but that I can then add text to. again, a useful function (I guess – anyone show me how?), but not for this purpose. (Bill’s suggestion of using the “lookup” function in services doesn’t work in DN, and I don’t have DevonThink.)

I’ve been hesitating to post out of fear that it’s going to turn out to be a REALLY easy procedure that’s clearly identified in the manual, but it’s easier to blame the manual than admit my own lamebrainedness. So, apologies in advance for wasting anyone’s time, but if you can tell me how to link a word or phrase I’m writing in a Devon note to another Devon note, I’d appreciate it.

I actually have been using DN to write short columns, because OSX or various services offer practically all the WP functions I need (spellcheck, doublespacing, ruler, font control, etc) and, most important, a live word count. I write it and then export to a text edit rtf, which I then email to my editor. I’m thinking of trying it for my next book chapter, too, and using each note as an outline point, giving me effectively a sidebar outliner like Mellel and CopyWrite offer. Then I’d export to rtf. We’ll see how well that works.

Bill…great point about using services/DT/lookup, i hadn’t explored that yet. Cool.

I’ve read you say that you can initiate searches of Notetaker files from within DT. How is that done, through Services? That’s one thing I wish Notebook had, although I’ve worked around that using QuicKeys. I can initiate a SuperFind search from within any other application using the macro I constructed.

(aside: have you seen the new features list for NoteBook 2.0? Very impressive.)

and DT Lookup does work from Ulysses, which is great.

it would be nice to create explicit links to DT docs from within other apps but the lookup functionality will suffice nicely.

Brett, the scientists, journalists, software developers and cineasts populating these forums do seem to be ultra-brainy people. They appear to instantly grasp DT’s concepts and integrate them into their lives. And then you and I come along, Brett, with burning questions like “can I do Wikis, too?” and "what the hell is a “cineast?”

We crashed their party–but they’re passing us some dip anyway. They’re actually a lot nicer than we pegged them for.

The Wiki Scenario as I Learned How to Do It.

Say you’re working on an article. Several paragraphs into it you want to cite a source, which is in this case is already tucked away in your DT database, entitled “Source”

You type “Source”, making sure you are spelling it exactly as the source document is titled. (If it’s an even longer title, just go to that source document and select and copy the title so you can paste it into your article.)

Now you select what you’ve just typed (the title of the source document) and go to Format–> Make Link, or hit SHIFT–COMMAND–M. The text “Source” now looks like a regular hyperlink.

I’ve discovered: I can move the linked source document or the original article anywhere within the database and the link is still good. I can also change the linked source title in my article without breaking the link–instead of “Source” you can change it to “Footnote” or whatever, and the link still works.

What you can’t do is change the title of the source document itself. That does break the Wiki link.

I customized my toolbar so the “Make Link” icon is easily available.

Hopefully, I didn’t mess up the instructions.

I hope this is not how you feel here? We know, DEVONthink is an ultra-open concept and we try to make it both looking nicer and being easier to use. We’re also already working on a complete new manual that is more a documentation and so should be much easier to use as well. It explains all commands, options and window gadgets in a documentation manner, not like in a novel.

So, what ever question you may have, post them here or send us e-mail.



Usage strategies! A suite of usage strategies to get people thinking on their own about how all the various DT features can be tied together to accomplish projects would be more valuable than anything else. You might even throw in a few about how to tie in some of the other outstanding programs (e.g., NoteTaker) that we users are using with DT to accomplish projects in a more efficient manner than traditional approaches.


Eric, my husband says I shouldn’t do humor–I hate it when he’s right. I actually feel quite comfortable here. I just need more details on how to do things.

For example, your current newsletter features a user describing how he uses DT to organize his thoroughbred bloodlines and I want to know exactly how he did it. What was his folder organization? How did he link his documents?

Does he have his automatic Wiki thingy turned on or does he do it manually like I just learned how to do? Does he set up key words in the info fields or does he just let DT do the classifying for him? Tell me ALL.

Another example:

The thoroughbred researcher says: “I use DEVONthink for the whole project, including tossing all valuable data into DEVONthink and intensively using its fuzzy search to match names spelt differently over time.” Later in the article he says his favorite part of the program is the fuzzy search capability.

His fuzzy search procedure may be just one of countless ways to do a fuzzy search, but watching him do one helps me understand how I can use fuzzy searches, too.

I want a description of a situation where he needed a fuzzy search. A step-by-step example of what he needed to find, how he set up the search, adjusted it to get the right results if necessary, analyzed the results he got, etc.

Thanks for all your help!

DTwannabee…that post was funny, your humor is fine.

Now pass me the dip, will ya?

ok, i’m having trouble with the wikis. I’ve got a folder called “General Health”. There’s an article inside it called “Soy and the Brain”.

So I created a new rtf document, typed some misc text, then typed the text string “Soy and the Brain” (without quotes). Turned it into a wiki link. clicked on the wiki link and it brought up the article.


went to something else, then went back and clicked on it again. This time instead of bringing up the link, it created a new rtf file, going into the “this doc doesn’t exist so we’ll create a new one” mode, and it titled it “Soy and the”.

not cool.

clicked on the link again. this time it did the same thing, except the new doc was titled ‘Brain’.

not cool.

when I hold the mouse over the original wiki link, above it it says go to “General Health > Soy and the Brain”. it just doesn’t go there any more.

what’s up?

note: further testing revealed that if I left click, I get what i describe above. If I right click and select open link from the context menu, it does what it should.


OK, this is !!!EXACTLY!!! the behavior I reported somewhere previously on these forums only you are describing it better and in more detail. Glad to know it’s not just me but sorry you’re having the problem too.


Many thanks to DEVONTechWannabe for the step-by-step Wiki instructions (and for the good humor! Turned out I was making two mistakes: not getting the exact filename, and using an imported rtf file as my original doc rather than a DN note.

I can already see how this functionality will help my future work. I do wish we didn’t have to type the exact name of the title of the other note and just link ANY word or phrase to ANY file, either within DN or between DN and another app, as rmathes suggested. So maybe put that down as a Request and Suggestion.

Also, Eric, we don’t mean to be overly critical of the manual or anything else. Actually, I’m a college professor, professional journalist and have two advanced degrees, so if I’m not getting some parts of the manual, I do suspect it needs some work. It’s not that what’s there isn’t clear; it’s just that Devon’s technology is so revolutionary that some of us Devon newbies need the kind of step by step procedures and scenarios that others have suggested here for us to fully grasp just how useful your excellent concepts can be to us. (Especially those of us raised in a Microsoft environment that clouded our brains.)

I appreciate all your good work, your responsiveness to suggestions and questions here, and the other members of this community who’ve posted how-to’s for the rest of us. I expect I’ll be posting a lot more questions – and, eventually, maybe even some answers!