Nested Smart Folders

It doesn’t appear possible to nest smart folders. Have I missed how to do this, or an I the only one interested in this?

I am working on several writing ideas. Instead of just having a smart folder with “book publishing” as a tag and getting too many results to focus on, better to have a smart folder that tracks all of those and also one with the tag “yellow” and another for “green” (light).

I can keep building smart folders of course but they do have little triangle down arrows and nesting folders is standard Mac Finder behavior. For visual efficiency sake, It’s worth asking the question.

Curious if others share this challenge and how they have learned to approach It?


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Smart folders do not nest. They are saved searches, so “nesting” has no meaning in this case – the folders do not contain anything. (E.g., smart searches in Finder – the same idea – are not nested.)

You can of course build smart folders that have nested predicates and accomplish the same result. Read Help or the Manual. It’s always interesting to experiment with the program to the greatest extent possible.

Although a smart folder or smart group appears similar to the icon convention used for folders or groups used for organization or files or documents, there’s a significant difference.

Smart folders or smart groups do not hold files or documents. They are instead search criteria that display a list of items that meet the criteria, when opened. The listed search results are not “located” within the smart folder or smart group.( While you can select a smart group and search “within” it in the Toolbar query of DEVONthink, smart groups are not selectable for searches in the full Search window.) In DEVONthink 2.x you can select a smart group for search in the Toolbar query, but cannot search for a tag; in the full Search window you can search fir a tag, but not “in” a smart group.

Your concept of a hierarchical smart folder or smart group gets tricky, because the files or documents to be included in the subfolders or subgroups are not really located at the top level of the hierarchy (or in a subfolder or subgroup), but instead represent a new search of the search results listed in the top level, but with one or more added filters. To implement that in the smart group editor would add complexity.

I usually create smart groups from the full Search window, when I’m satisfied with the results of a search and want to turn it into a smart group. All I need do is click on the “+” button to the right of the query field, then name and save the new smart group. Very easy!

Operationally, as in your case, if I see that the initial search criteria are too general to isolate a set of results that would be useful to me, I won’t yet create a new smart group. Instead, I’ll refine the search. In your example, I might add a new Tag filter by clicking on the Advanced button and creating a search for items tagged yellow (create new smart group) and another for items tagged green (light), creating a new smart group. Or perhaps instead a search for items that meet the original criteria plus a tag of yellow OR green (light) and turn that into a smart group. Not hierarchical, but not complex.

Or I might select all the initial search results that were too general, replicate them to an empty group, then search that group using different criteria, such as tags, etc. This approach doesn’t result in a true smart group, as it doesn’t properly accommodate new or revised items, but can be useful for additional “slicing and dicing” of existing database content.

You are right of course, I had in mind another app I used to use when I first discovered tagging, Leap (Yep, etc). Leap allows you to save searches just as a smart folder will. But It also allows you to nest them in a folder and have that folder be a menu Item within the document. So technically, Leap does not have nested folders either. But since I am probably not the only one who wants to have more than one search criterion saved for a specific project, I was just wondering if It was possible to gather all those searches under one place, in Leaps case under one drop down menu.

Since that was done by Leaps developers I was just wondering if DTPOs developers allowed any such thing?

I guess not but It was worth asking. Not sure what you meant by “nested predicates “ but I will look into It?

ADDED: OK, I see, you meant adding ANY, ALL, Not, etc as sub branches within a defined search. I Was thinking more along the lines of when I did technical writing and proposals. There were iterations of a project and different levels of writing and edits. There was pink, and gold, and others.

To apply this to myself as an independent who is working on several projects I might work on a book on landscape and have the basic research that I select be at a base level of a saved search. Then when I start working on the book I get to a pink level. Then after some edits are done I get to a gold level. At any point I may review what I already passed over just in case I forgot context for an idea or changed my mind about an edit.

Having more than one edit or version of my work instantly viewable in smart folders makes sense to me. Changing the search criterion each time may work but It really Isn’t the idea.


Here’s what I’d do.

  1. Create a folder “Status”.
  2. Make several smart groups as children of “Status”. Each smart group looks for a color tag. Say, then we’d have a smart group for “Red”, one for “Pink”, and so on. As many as you need.
  3. Select “Status” and then File > Export as Template

Now, whenever you have a new project

  1. Create a folder “Old Yeller” (or whatever)
  2. Data > New from Template and choose the “Status” template – you’ll get a new instance of your set of smart groups.
  3. Edit the smart groups inside that new folder so that each smart group only searches in “Old Yeller”

When you create a draft, tag that draft with both “Old Yeller” and the appropriate color tag. The structure you finished in step #6 will collect info about your drafts and status.

The setup in steps 1-3 is a one-time investment. #4 you’ll do anyway, and the adjustments in #5 are fast.

Thanks. For some reason I wasnt even thinking about Groups. That is a good idea for grouping smart folders. (Duh). :unamused: