Open documents in their default apps

Is there a preference setting where I can a check box such that all documents will open automatically in there respective apps without having to click the additional button "open with the default …app?


Kim Marietta

Mac Book Pro 13" notebook (Mid 2010 -Aug 2010), 2.8GHz, 8GB, OS X 10.6.8, Fujitsu S1300 Safari 5.1, Text Expander Devon office Pro 2.2, 1password 3.6.1., PDF PEN PRO: 5.4.1

Double-clicking a document to open it in its default editor might be useful - over here I rarely edit things in DTPO itself, so I’d maybe make use of it.

Though, doesn’t that take the same energy as single clicking the “open externally” toolbar icon - which is already available in DT, and uses the same default-app filesystem settings that your suggestion would have to use?

Hi thanks for responding. I view a lot of PDF’s to determine which I want to mail to other physicians, etc. I like seeing the document in PDF Pen and then mailing from inside the document. With PDF Pen, I can attach notes and annotate the document adding information specific to the person I am sending the PDF. So I am trying to bypass a step in an editor that I don’t use for this purpose.


Your request is one that I understand, but is similar to a recent long thread in which another user, ronsard, is of the opinion that DEVONthink is violating Apple’s UI and his own rights because the default behavior of DEVONthink is to open documents in its own environment rather than under the parent application of the document - in his case, he wants HTML documents and URLs to always open under his default browser, Safari, rather than within DEVONthink, if not on first click, then on double-click. If this is not the default behavior of DEVONthink, he requested a user option in Preferences to change the behavior so that documents are opened externally rather than within DEVONthink.

My responses in that thread can be summarized as follows (I didn’t mention the numerous instances in which Apple itself departs from its own “standard” UI conventions in its own applications):

  1. The UI of DEVONthink emphasizes the unity of information content in documents rather than the accident of the various parent applications that may have created those documents. Thus, within a view, search results set or smart group displaying documents created by different applications one can view the content of the documents without jumping about among external applications.

  2. The DEVONthink environment makes available tools and commands available to help the user compare or analyze content, that would not be available if the documents were viewed under an external application. Thus, whether a document is displayed in a view window or in its own document window (after a double-click), there are tools such as Option-click on a term (which displays a list of other documents that contain that term) or See Also (that displays a list of other documents that may be contextually related). For example, if I double-click on an HTML document in DEVONthink and invoke See Also, I can create a ‘bundle’ of interesting documents conceptually related to it, by adding them as tabs in the HTML document’s window. I couldn’t do that (and perhaps might never be aware of this possibility) were that HTML document to have been opened under Safari.

  3. Adding user options to Preferences to do various things differently creates two problems: 1) Preferences become more complex and possibly confusing to users; and 2) in Support, one of the more common kinds of user problems results from a change in behavior related to an option choice, which the user has forgotten having made.

ronsard wasn’t impressed by those responses, stating that he didn’t want to use DEVONthink that way and simply wanted it to use Apple’s standard UI to open all HTML documents and URLs under his default browser. He dismissed my responses as those of a hired apologist for DEVONtechnologies. I took that as somewhat of a compliment, in the sense that Thomas Huxley was often described as an apologist for Charles Darwin. :slight_smile:

Kim, in looking for a procedure to minimize the number of actions to go though in selecting and acting on a PDF to edit it under PDFPen, you are asking a perfectly reasonable question. It’s true that from one perspective the simplest approach would be to add a user option to always open a document under the application that has been defined in the Finder as its parent. That would minimize the number of clicks to open your PDF for editing under PDFPen. But your PDF would then been viewed outside the DEVONthink environment, and if you wanted to use some powerful features of DEVONthink, you would have to go back to Preferences and change that option again (assuming you remembered it). I don’t think that’s the best approach.

Another possibility that wouldn’t require Preferences changes would be to present the user with an option every time one clicks or double-clicks on a document, such as “Do you want to open the document under DEVONthink or under an external application?”. That might save you a click if you indeed wish to open and edit the PDF under PDFPen, but would add a click if you wish to work with the PDF within the DEVONthink environment and in that case would become very irritating. In our experience, most users prefer working with documents within the DEVONthink environment most of the time, so the ‘Open Externally’ icon in the Toolbar (View > Customize Toolbar) or the 'Open With…" option present a reasonable alternative for those cases in which the user wishes to open a document under an external application.

All excellent thoughts that I did not think of. Thanks for the well written and comprehensive response. The part about having to go back and reset the preferences to use other DevonThink Pro features really hit home. As always in the past you (and Korm) have been great in helping me become more proficient in using this excellent software. And you know what?, I can think of being called worse things than a "hired apologist for Devon Technologies. :laughing:


Here’s my scenario under which I would like to use the parent application.

Lately I’m doing more work in markdown with plain text. It works to edit the raw text in DT. Lately I have started using markdown friendly editors (Byword is looking like the eventual winner).

One trick I’ve been doing is to leverage Typinator+Quicksilver to go directly to my target documents. For example, I keep a running log of standup status. I capture the DT URL for the document, define a shortcut in Typinator to expand that url. This combination let’s me:

  1. Launch QS
  2. Type a period, followed by dtstandup (expands to x-devonthink-item://C43F8EE5-95F5-4A57-9F0F-8316115EA670)
  3. Hit enter to open the URL
  4. Start updating the file.

Two possibilities on opening the parent application…

  1. Perhaps add some kind of qualifier to the URL to indicate DT should use the parent application when opening. Perhaps a ?default suffix like x-devonthink-item://C43F8EE5-95F5-4A57-9F0F-8316115EA670?default

  2. Allow something like ⌥ double click on the file in DT to launch straight to the parent application. (doesn’t help my launch case but I would use this too).

3. If there was a way (Applescript?) to convert that URL to an absolute file path. The great thing about the URLs (at least from my testing) is they appear to follow the file from the global inbox to their eventual database home. If I can convert that URL to absolute file location, I can then launch the default application myself.

That looks like a lot of effort to automate opening 1 text file. Is there any reason why you are not just launching Byword opening the file using the recent items menu?

For me, it’s all about the keyboard. I don’t think there’s a way to open a recent files menu without using the mouse.

I have a couple reasons for the hoops to get to a single document. It’s a frequently updated document I want to be able to quickly access from anywhere. I use DEVONthink but don’t live in it. For this document, and a few others, I want to open it, edit briefly, and then close it. If getting to it isn’t fast, it becomes an incentive to leave the document and window around cluttering things up.

Looking a little deeper into DT, I found the ⌘⇧O will open a document in its native application. For me that means Byword for .md files. This isn’t too bad once I build the muscle memory for it.

Over the holidays here I have been refining and practicing some workflow changes. Just added the QuickLook viewer for markdown/multi-markdown to my system. What I wish for now is a way to create .md extension files on ^⌥⌘N (new plain text) is pressed. Renaming after creating is a minor pita. Maybe it’s somewhere here in the forums or someone knows the answer.

Perhaps you could create a .md file, place it in the DEVONthink Pro or Pro Office Template folder with a name that will work as a keyboard shortcut, and afterwards update the Data > New with Template folder display.

That approach would let you create a new .md document without touching the mouse. :slight_smile:

Or try this tip from the Blog: … r-own-hud/

Personally, for a great many operations on a Mac I don’t find that the GUI slows me down, as I’m multitasking - thinking about what I’m going to do, or what I’m going to write. But I’m getting interested in Keyboard Maestro.

Hi all,

I have the exact same issue as the OP. I want to attach certain file types for which I have programs that serve my needs much better than DT-solutions. That is PDFpenPro for PDFs and an editor for txt and markdown/html files. When I open such a file I always need the specific software. Neither textedit nor DT-solution does help me.

The question remains: why shouldn’t I as a mature user not be able to adjust the default software for a specific file type? I think I am old enough to make my choices and really dislike if programmers think they know what’s best for me. Often they don’t…

EDIT: Also not providing PDF bookmarks and not letting the user choose a different default application to open them with is a very inconsequential mind set. If you force the user to use on-board-solutions - those solutions better not lack basic functionality, right?

No big deal with missing basic functionality when allowing third party default apps, though. I don’t care.

But as the situation is atm: that’s a classical dilemma and bad policy.

Nevertheless, if 1) it were the case that users always need to open documents in an external application, and if 2) it were the case that there are no special advantages to opening documents in their own windows inside DEVONthink, and if 3) it were the case that DEVONthink prevents the user from opening a document in an external editor, I would agree with you. If those premises were true, the default of double-clicking a document in a view window should be to open it in the default external application.

I don’t agree with those premises, and think that the argument that double-clicking on a document to open it under a default application is like arguing that Apple should have reserved ‘Command-I’ either to open the Info panel of a file selected in the Finder, or to apply italic formatting to selected text in a rich text document - or to further extend the argument, that the user should have a Preferences option to choose the environment in which ‘Command-I’ is functional.

DEVONthink provides several views of database contents. In the Icon and List views, and when a group is selected in the Columns or Split views, a view of document contents is not provided. The natural command to open a selected document, double-click, is used. The document is opened in its own window. That command is also applied in other views, even when a view of document contents is available.

There are advantages to opening a document in its own window. That window can persist as long as the user wishes to work with a document, and it is in the rich environment of DEVONthink, which provides tools and assistants that would not be available in an external application. For example, I often open a document in its own window and can open a set of related documents using tabs, so that I can explore See Also, See Related Text and Option-click on a word to explore a set of related items, regardless of their filetype, and relate notes to documents in tabs.

True, there are times when it’s desirable to open a document in an external application, not only for editing, but for formatting and other features that cannot be duplicated in DEVONthink, which cannot attempt to render all documents as they were originally created, or provide all editing functions of a filetype. For example, MS Word’s display in DEVONthink provides access to the body text content of the document—and so contains its primary text information—but cannot render the actual formatting and layout of the document as it can be rendered externally. But when external access is desired, there are at least three ways to do that.

I understand this topic has been beaten to death for years. And I read all the “purest” arguments and see their point… SORT OF. But after using Devon Think Pro since 2010, if there was one thing I would want for Christmas, it would be to set a preference button such that all PDF files open in an app of my choosing. Yes I know there is a “open Externally” button in Devon. It sits dead center in my tool bar all by itself. Yes it takes the same energy (but NOT in my case). What I can’t change is that 100 times a day when I open a PDF file I choose it in the Devon window NOT use the Open externally button. Consider it a hard wired issue in my brain. I can’t explain it. I know it frustrates me to no know end. One button somewhere in the preferences. We can even label it something like “Devon Purest approach with caution”. Can that really hurt? I guess in my experience. It actually takes more energy with a little cherry of frustration on top of the cake. Sorry just my humble opinion.

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Kim … it’s February and you’re thinking of Christmas already? :laughing:

Good point Korm

Ideology aside, has this feature been added?

Still not as a Preferences setting. :slight_smile:

But the keyboard shortcut Shift-Command-O will open a selected document under its parent application (as defined in the Finder).

Thanks Bill. I did not realize there was a keyboard short cut.

In my special case, I would like to leave Preview as my default system-wide PDF reader, but also have a second default app (PDF Expert) which I use to annotate files. So, here’s a small script to open a file in PDF Expert. I have added this to the scripts folder by the name of “Open in PDF Expert”, and added a keyboard shortcut COMMAND+O for it in Keyboard Preferences in macOS. (So this basically overrides open-in-DT shortcut, although double click still works for opening files in DT’s own viewer)

tell application id "DNtp"
	repeat with thisRecord in (selection as list)
		if type of thisRecord = PDF then
			tell application "PDF Expert" to open (path of thisRecord)
		end if
	end repeat
end tell