Newbie Q - why does DT3 create multiple files for an imported Evernote note?

Disclaimer: Newbie here. I’m still learning, testing, reading the help documentation, and reading Taking Control of Devonthink.

I am testing a full migration away from Evernote to DT3.

The DT3 Import-from-Evernote requires an installed Evernote Legacy client (I have this working, though :grimacing: as Legacy is end of life)

My Q is – I have thousands of Notes in Evernote. Many of the notes have embedded images or PDFs.

When I import them into DT3, it creates multiple entries per note.

  1. one entry for the Note
  2. a subfolder with the same name as the note
  3. that subfolder then contains one file for each embedded or PDF, AND ALSO a link back to the note

As a result,

a. my List is cluttered. Before I had one item. Now I have 1) an item, 2) a subfolder, 3) contents of that subfolder, with links back to the item. Viewing/using the list is encumbered by all the extra.

b. my List is not sorted. the List groups subfolders up top, before items. So in the list, an item’s subfolder appears far away from the item itself.

Q: Any DT3 pro tips on how to approach this issue?

e.g. is there a way to hide the subfolders, but still have the note items display in their entirety?

Do I just have to deal with multiple files per note in DT3?

Many thanks in advance for any and all support :pray:t2:

There were several discussions here on migration from EN to DT. Did you read those?

As to your question: what would you expect DT to do with a EN note containing several PDFs, instead of saving the PDFs separately? If you don’t want that, maybe DT is not the right tool – it takes care not to lump stuff together in containers so that your original data remains intact and accessible even if/when DT goes away.

The technical term here is “group”, btw, not “subfolder”. Groups are a virtual thing with no representation in the file system, while folders are part of the file system.

Thanks for the post. I’m not ready to jump to “DT isn’t the right tool”, I’m just today working to learn it :slight_smile:

I’ve read several threads here re Evernote migration, and they’ve helped answer a lot of my Qs. but I haven’t found this topic addressed. (thanks also for the clarification on Groups v Folders – I have read that, but am clearly still internalizing the Group construct.)

From your post, I’m realizing there is no way to have one (rich) item that contains embedded content – which I guess makes sense if the atomic artifact in DT3 is a file system document. This would mean, I will have to live with my content migrated from Evernote having some single files (those notes without embedded content), and also some Groups.

Given that’s how DT works, my next Q = is there a way to change the way items in the List are displayed? E.g. to have Groups sorted alphabetically interspersed with files, rather than having Groups all together up top, and files below?

1 Like
1 Like

perfect - thank you!

My experience was the import creates a group (folder) for every note
In the group is the actual note in Formatted Note format
plus any file attachments, except for images (images are embedded in the note)

Do I just have to deal with multiple files per note in DT3?

A cleanup script was provided at


One alternative, at least for a subset of your notes with appropriate formatting (and a need only for archival/reference and not future editing), might be to export those notes as PDFs. That would preserve formatting and images within a single convenient file per note.

Obviously that won’t work for notes that themselves have embedded PDFs (or other files) in them, but it might at least help minimize clutter.

I didn’t import from Evernote, but to address your wider “plan” (in inverted commas because you may not have one, and that’s ok too!): it makes logical sense (in DT, but I would argue in life generally :joy:) to have your reference material as independent files separate from your notes (I.e. you do actually want PDFs separate from the notes about them - both for access/storage reasons mentioned in this thread, but also because you might in future wish to refer to the same PDF across multiple notes).

If it was me, I’d be starting to think about my long-term file structure, and start a gradual process of heading towards that goal. Perhaps groups with specific PDFs in them, a new naming convention, etc. - whatever works for you. In the notes where the PDFs used to be, I’d then start linking to the PDFs as appropriate, to maintain the referencing you had in Evernote.

You don’t have to do this work all in one go - it can be overwhelming. You can just start a bit of tidying up for a few mins every day, or maybe schedule an hour a week. Or even just tidy files up as you handle them. I went the “blitz as much as possible in a week” route when I started, but you need time to be able to do that, and I never actually finished and still do admin every few weeks or so as I come across things that need sorting. I’m fine with that and I just try to make time if I come across files that need sorting out. It’s an investment in my future self to make life easier the next time I interact with that info.

I won’t talk about database structure here because that is a whole library of thinking by itself (there are lots of threads, or you can start a new one with your specific queries and I will probably reply to it as I love this topic :joy:). The “Starter for 10” questions for you would be:

  • How did you use Evernote (search, manual navigation, blind luck?), and do you want to replicate that in DT?
  • Was there friction with some of your process that annoyed you? What worked well?
  • What is the purpose of your database, and how will future you interact with it?
  • How do you like to interact with other apps?

As an example, I like to navigate manually for the most part, so I need strong naming conventions for files and a rigid folder (group :wink:) structure. I have therefore made rules around these that work for me. Some folks love tagging. Others just use search and have a big soup of all their files (the horror, but whatever works for you!). My “life admin” database is structured far more minutely than my research database. Life paperwork follows clearly divisible lines and can be subdivided fairly minutely (this is an energy bill, this is an Apple receipt for a game app, etc.), and I have assumed that if I am looking for a piece of life paperwork I might be stressed and not willing to search for very long, and structured my database to support that.

It can feel like “productive procrastination” to spend time thinking and researching about file structure and how best to make your databases (and computer in general) work for you, but the investment is very worthwhile in my opinion. You’re doing this work now to set your future self up for success and once you have processes that are unique to you, everything ticks along nicely (and if it doesn’t, you can just tinker with your set-up!).

1 Like

I agree totally with @MsLogica. I have played with many different structures from ‘Johnny Decimal’ (couldn’t remember the numbers half the time, ‘PARA’ (archive and reference got huge) and other structures. I also had a good think about tagging. I tried using tagging exclusively but soon ended up with hundreds of tags which I also couldn’t remember either. For me, the answer was my own system that uses bits from other approaches.

  • I use tags when I want to be able to see across a group hierarchy (mainly the type of document and status)
  • I use a not too deep group hierarchy that make sense to how my brain works
  • I split data into databases based on main projects and what I do and do not want to sync with DevonThink to Go.
  • In some parts it makes sense to prepend files with dates (for example; purchases, banks statements, agendas etc.), in others it doesn’t (like thoughts and ideas) - I found cluttering these up with numbers or dates made them hard to read when scanning down a group. All of which effected how I structured and applied smart rules etc.

I started DT with mainly indexing Finder folders, but this can cause issues if you move files in Finder about. Apart from a few external folders used by other software, I have moved everything, over time, into DT, cleaning up, renaming etc. as I went. I dropped a lot of out of date things I had amassed. Doing it bit by bit as @MsLogica suggests gave me a ‘clean’ DT without much of the old rubbish. A bit like declutterring your house.

I would suggest in the migration from EN you do much the same. It is surprising how much stuff is no longer relevant or needed.


Both @saltlane and @MsLogica have some very good points here.
After years in the corporate world, having to build systems that deal with (sometimes decades of) legacy items, I quickly came to realize not all legacy data is needed and the cost to convert it all – in currency and time – wasn’t worth the massive effort. Instead I focused on what was needed now and what I knew to be needed in the very near future. Anything beyond that was handled on an as-needed basis.

And to underscore @saltlane’s decluttering comment, indeed think about cleaning a garage or an attic and consider how many things you’ll pick up and say ”Well, why in the world do I still have this?!??” :wink:

1 Like

thanks all, i really appreciate you taking the time to share thoughts and context.

all of this makes sense to me. And in fact, it was my annual decluttering and purge process that prompted me to finally get out of Evernote this year, after years of intending to. (I purchased DT3 a couple years ago! and am just now moving into it.)

decluttering aside, I’m still learning how to best navigate the items that will remain :slight_smile:

Overall it’s been a good learning curve and experience so far. The two remaining items I’m pondering are

  1. The very many Groups that contain two items - a PDF file, and a note containing only a link to that PDF file. I believe in the thread here is a recommendation on scripting to clean that up, I’ll have to explore that. (Really wish there’d been away to avoid creating that mess on import, but what’s done is done.)

  2. It seems from the Forums and this thread that folks in DT3 don’t consider a document that contains embedded content (a photo, a snapshot, a PDF) as an atomic item. Rather they view it as a container, and each embed is it’s own item. I’m still working to reprogram my brain to find peace with this. In my view, if I’ve done the work to assemble a document that contains embeds, I want to see that document as a complete item (not have to navigate a list of embeds). Yes I understand that if I convert my document to a PDF, DT3 would treat that combined PDF as an atomic artifact. (This does not work for me as I’d then lose the ability to edit it further.)

Anyway, I’m all in now! I deleted Evernote yesterday. So for my ~15,000 items (notes, RTF documents with embeds, and document attachments), I’ve ripped the bandaid and am now working within DT3. I’m confident this will be an effective tool for me, and part of that stems from how active this community is in lending wisdom. Many thanks. :pray:t2:


Glad to have you on board :slight_smile: