New Baby Database

So, it seems that, quite unexpectedly and late in life, I am going to become a father for the first time. Should be interesting.

My digital life has been, to this point, quite scattered across all kinds of different hard disks, cloud drives and NAS. It’s been difficult to find what I want to, and it’s been OK for me, but… now with this new person showing up, I wanted to start fresh with a system that could house all the data I wanted to keep which someone else could also use, including, but not limited to:

  • official documents
  • silly things the kid will say
  • information about his/her ancestors
  • audio clips of his grandparents speaking (they have all passed but one, so it’s what I’ve got)
  • journal entries I will write about how I feel with regard to parenting
  • All the crayon drawings and miscellany the kid will produce that we won’t have space to keep any other way
  • etc.

Basically, I know throughout my life, I’ve wanted to have so much more information about me and my family and elders and stories and things, and all the things I created that are now gone forever because it just couldn’t be kept, and I never got that. I want that for my kid, if I can offer it. These days, all the data you can keep is available, but it’s super hard (at least for me) to keep track of it all, which is the main reason I came to DEVONThink. I’ve been ghosting the software for years, but couldn’t really come up with a compelling use case before now. This was what pushed me to purchase, and I hope it’ll help me with this.

Another reason is that I absolutely DON’T want to live this kid’s life out on social media as is currently ‘de rigueur’. I want this kid to not have his past sneak up on him because I posted it somewhere thinking it cute. At the same time, I DO want to capture it all in a way that will work.

So, I bought it, and I installed it, and I’m a little scared of it already. Last night, I was sitting there with a picture of my grandfather, the kid’s great grandfather. I put it into DT, and I wanted to attach a note to the picture, just to identify the man in something more than a file name, and I couldn’t figure out how to link a text file to the image.

Seems I have a long, long way to go. I hope this gets easier, or it’ll just become yet another mess of data.

Anyway, I’m hopeful that maybe someone can offer up a thought or two about how to best get on with this, or if I’ve made a terrible mistake.

Thanks so much for reading. :slight_smile:

First of all, congrats! :smiley:

Secondly, here’s a simple question: How would you do this in the Finder? Would you try to do that in the Finder or would you add a Spotlight Comment to the file?

Both are possible in DEVONthink, but I’m asking because I don’t know what purpose you have in “linking a text file to an image”.

PS: DEVONthink can seem daunting at first, but its learning curve depends on what you bring to the situation. It can be used very simply, or in very complicated ways.

Thank you for the congrats (I’m terrified) :wink:

Well, for this particular thing, I was hopeful that I could add some context to an otherwise context-less image. In this case, it’s just a shot of my grandfather. So, I figured ‘how best to add some information about it?’. I haven’t ever done that with Finder. I suppose one could add the info as metadata to the information on the file in the info?

Honestly, I’m a little lost, having been just creating files for the last 35 years and stuffing them in folders. Another example that may be better is I have a different photo with a group of people. I thought it’d be useful to identify everyone I could in the photo, and also possibly link up to an audio file where my aunt was talking about them while looking at that photo. That seems really high-level to me, but I’d hoped it was something I could do with DT. Currently, all these files are just in folders across four different hard disks. I could consolidate them to one HDD, which I was going to do in any case, as it’s neater, but it doesn’t solve the issue of association.

That is:

  • Enter search criteria (say, Johann—my grandfather’s name)
  • Photo displays.
  • With the photo, some kind of reference that says “here’s who it is, here’s where he appears in other photos, here’s where he’s spoken about at time index x in this audio file”

Maybe I’m asking too much, I don’t know. Maybe I won’t even have the time to maintain all this, although part of me thought that DT could simplify that a little too.

Thanks so much for your response. :slight_smile:

The photo has to have metadata attached to it to be found in the search. However, metadata is dependent on the fileType… unless you use Spotlight Comments or Tags.

You can add “Johann” to a Spotlight Comment and search for it.
You could also add a Tag of “Johann” and find it in Smart Groups or browsing Tags.

Either of these approaches would help accomplish some of the “here’s who it is, here’s where he appears in other photos" if other photos were Tagged. As far as noting places in audio that would be more likely an entry in a Spotlight Comment.

PS: Terrified is understandable, but I’m sure things will be fine. Nothing ever fully prepares you for parenthood but we make it through it. :smiley:

All right. So I suppose step one is to get better at meta data and spotlight comments. :slight_smile:

Thank you very much for your time in responding to my questions. I’ll keep playing with it. I know eventually something will ‘click’. Thank you as well for your vote of confidence. :wink:


I might add a few thoughts.

First, being overwhelmed is not unnatural. I have faced and even now am facing similar issues of restructuring my collections of data to fit with potential life-chaning events ahead.

Second, take the steps forward in two phases. One phase is to start totally anew from now forward. The other is to rebuild the clutter from the past into something new. These two phases can run sequentially or in parallel at different points in time. They can merge or not. But they must at least start as separate paths.

Third, consider that one app may not be the ultimate toolbox to do everything that you need. You would not use a drawing app to create a table of numbers (although you could), so why believe that a database app is the best tool to handle photos?

Finally, allow yourself this period as a grace to explore different options and make mistakes. You would not expect to install a tile backsplash like a pro on your first go around, and you would likely expect to practice somewhere first before you went after the kitchen wall.

I will defer to comment on the utility of DevonThink or the details of its operation as I am unqualified beyond the basics.

Hope this helps if not directly for your question perhaps tangentially on aspects of the bigger picture.


Congratulations and what a great idea you have come up with! I will preface this comment by saying that I have DEVONthink Pro Office and I can certainly do this in that version and think you can do it in all versions, but someone else will be able to confirm that.

The way I do this in DEVONthink Pro Office is to add an Annotation from the Data>New from Template tab. I do this so many times that it this feature has become invaluable for me and I would suggest if your version does not have this facility that you seriously consider upgrading to the Office version.

Good luck with your project.

This is great! It’s really helpful to have this kind of feedback, as I wasn’t really sure of direction, but reading what you’ve said, I think I may have intuited my way through to this point pretty well.

My ‘phases’ are mostly as you say. I plan to do things in parallel as I go along, partitioning different areas as it makes sense. The original idea was a database for kid’s stuff alone. So, that’s my ‘start from fresh’ database. It’ll only contain things related to the kid. It’s a good way to keep that database purpose-driven. I also started a separate database for family, which will deal with ancestry and people who may be important to the kid, along with all the records I can find. This is obviously going to be a retrospective database. It’ll travel back in time as the other travels forward in time. So, I’ll be adding all the sundry material I have all over the place as time allows and hopefully make it a good resource for the kid whenever (s)he needs to know something about the people and events of the past.

Although I’m not going to go there yet, it’s also probably not out of the question that I could simply create separate databses for all the other stuff that’s gotten out of control. A DB for all the bills and house stuff, for instance, or web searches I want to keep, or whatever. But I think those things can wait until I know what I’m doing.

I completely appreciate that DT may not become the ‘ultimate toolbox’. I kinda see it as an information repository more than a living story, as it were. The obvious outlier will be photos, as I’m told there will be hundreds, and I’m not about to go into using a DB to index all of them. For that, I think we’ll be OK with Synology’s new Moments app, backed up to google photos or flickr. I haven’t yet decided. Today, I kinda do it that way, and it seems to work. I may just keep on. The only photos I want to have in DT are ones that can stand alone as information, such as photos of the kid’s great grandparents or the brilliant piece of fridge art that won’t stay on the fridge forever. Another example is that I’m a prolific diarist, and I currently keep all that stuff in Day One for daily musings and Ulysses for weekly long-form journals. These live in their respective applications and get published annually to hard copy through Lulu. I don’t see them finding their way into DT (except perhaps as a standalone PDF of the annual books–that would make sense; but the day to day will stay out of DT).

Thanks so much for this. It’s nice to think of things in terms of the big picture as well as the nuts and bolts. If you’ve got any thoughts, or want to share your processes, I’m all ears. :slight_smile:

This is precisely what I was looking to do! Thank you very much… this way there’s a note that lives with the original source material that references back to it. Perfect! You’ve been a real help!

I only bought the Pro version, not the Pro Office version. I don’t know if I’d need it. The main sell for me to get it is the OCR, but most of the documents I put in there are either raw text, and so I imagine they are searchable by default, or PDFs that have already had OCR run on them, either through PDFPen or ScanSnap’s own OCR capabilities. Do you know the benefit of DT’s OCR over that? My current process for PDF (at least with regard to paper documents) is to scan them to PDF through the ScanSnap’s native functions, dump them onto the little server I have and let Hazel organize them. The process is seldom as smooth as all that, but I do believe OCR is part of it…

Anyway, thanks for the tip. That was exactly what I was looking for. Cheers!

I started what could have been a long post. I’ll summarize a few other notes instead.

The processes and apps that I use for database-like activities have evolved over time. I anticipate they will keep doing so. For where you seem to be heading, I can recommend two other apps to explore: Curio and Reunion/Ancestry. For brainstorming and other activities, I find the free-form Idea Space paradigm of Curio refreshing to develop layouts and build stories as projects. For tracking family-history, I find that having an app that is designed strictly for genealogy keeps me from going down rabbit holes.


I concur completely with the necessity of a genealogical specific app and I also use and recommend Reunion which is very good indeed. In fact I would say that for what you want to do it would prove to be indispensable.

Hi all,

I once did look into genealogy applications. I believe I tried out Mac Family Tree at the time, and I found it to be… I dunno, too much? I’m not a professional family scholar, and it seemed to collect far more data than I have (or ever will have). But I will take a peek again. If it’s better to keep that information more purpose-driven by way of data collection, then perhaps it’s the better way to go.

I hadn’t heard of Curio… will take a peek. Thank you again for your recommendations. Very nice to have the community offer up ideas. :slight_smile:

I would not say that a genealogy app would be better than DEVONthink which I believe will indeed be best overall for your purpose as you will no doubt want to keep stuff in the future that Reunion, say, would not handle well. In fact you could use DT exclusively for what you want to do.

Think of DT as a tardis-like shoebox that you throw anything into and then it sorts all the stuff out for you, shows you relationships between them all and can do lots of cool things with it all!

I imagine a lot of the magic happens as things are actually added to the databases. I truthfully have very little so far, but I’ve been impressed with the capture-ability of things. The web archive feature is pretty nifty–I never had a decent way to save all the web articles I liked that would remain no matter what, and I picked up DT to Go and it seems pretty solid too. I didn’t know you could use as a back-end as well as dropbox. I signed up for Box many years ago when they had a free 50GIG sign-up incentive, and so I’m going that way. It’ll take a while to fill up 50 gigabytes. :slight_smile:

I have a feeling this’ll be a lot like my forays into Photoshop. I will probably use 3% of what it’s capable of. :laughing: