Option to disable automatically marking items as read on open

The current implementation of Read / Unread in DT is similar to email: an item is marked as Read right after you view it. I think for many users, the email paradigm doesn’t make much sense in DT, and a forum search shows this feature has been requested all the way from 2009 to 2019.

My rationale

Email messages typically don’t have long-lasting value. When users decide to open an email, they tend to read through the email in one sitting and act on it at once (reply, delete, etc.) rather than having to take several reading sessions to view the entirety of the email content.

DT on the other hand, is fundamentally different. It is designed to be a paperless office housing complex information that takes much time and effort to process, rather than an inbox for short, ephemeral messages. In my use case, my databases contain 1000+ PDFs, many of them hundreds of pages long. The current implementation of Read / Unread effectively renders this functionality pointless for me because I am almost never capable of reading the entirety of a PDF file in one sitting the first time I view it.

I am aware that workarounds exist, e.g. utilizing labels or Reading List for Read / Unread, using keyboard shortcuts to revert a Read item back to Unread. But honestly I’d be much happier if Read / Unread can be configured the way exactly suited for my workflow, since they are essentially a pair of already existing labels dedicated to reading status.

My proposition

I think it would make much more sense to add an option in DT preferences that allow users to choose whether items should be marked as read automatically or manually. I’m sure many users are happy with the current implementation, but please allow us who aren’t happy with it to change this behavior.

Rant over, thank you for developing and maintaining this incredible piece of software that literally transforms my workflow!


I second this.

see Disable "unread" flag for added items how to sort this for yourself now.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see how the post you linked is relevant to this post.

Is it possible to make an item stay Unread unless I manually mark it as Read simply by creating a smart rule?

I believe @rmschne wass referring to this…

You could make a smart rule that matches certain files and you can change the read status On Demand.

Thanks for the help!

I’m not adept at smart rules and still can’t wrap my head around this. Could you please explain in detail how to configure this smart rule so that imported items are always marked as Unread unless I manually mark them as Read?

Could you please explain in detail how to configure this smart rule so that imported items are always marked as Unread unless I manually mark them as Read ?

This is what what suggested, though you’re talking about setting things to Unread.

Also it’s not going to work automatically except for On Import or On Demand. You’d also want to set stricter criteria for an On Demand rule, otherwise you’d be affecting far, far too many files, i.e., ALL of them.

I don’t believe you can, and I think two wishes are being thrown together in one pot here:

  • wish for newly added items to be marked read - easily done with a smart rule
  • wish for items to remain in unread status until manually changed to read, even if they have been “read”, i.e. shown in preview - this to my knowledge cannot be done using a smart rule and would require - as you suggested in your original post - a change to DEVONthink (which I understand was what you were asking for).

Jim, maybe I have misunderstood, but I don’t think a smart rule can solve this. My understanding is that @xurc wants to e.g. import a 100-page document (which is of course automatically marked unread), then browse that document repeatedly, only manually marking it read when he has actually finished reading it - instead of it automatically becoming read simply because he displayed it in preview for a moment or two, or read the first 2 pages.

Whilst I probably wouldn’t choose to use that function (being conditioned, as @xurc suggested, by e-mail, where unread to me means to do) I can very much understand the advantages of having such a function.

That’s why I suggested one could create a stricter matching smart rule, e.g., using custom metadata, and use an On Demand event trigger to mark it as unread. Depending on the situation, it would also be possible to effect this with an On Quit or On Startup for somewhat of an automatic action.

Either way, it’s not going to happen as proposed at this time. A document is read when it’s viewed. Also, you could easily create your own custom metadata to satisfy this instead of changing the existing behavior with the only requirement being running the Pro or Server edition.

Thanks for clarifying! It’s good to know your opinion on this request, even if it’s a hard “no”. :stuck_out_tongue:

For other potential readers of this thread that want this feature, I hope you’ll find my workaround somewhat useful:

Treat the built-in Read / Unread status as their email counterparts. For “actual” reading progress, incorporate these two habits into my workflow,

  1. Add all items that I’m currently reading to the Reading List
  2. Make sure to rate any items I’ve already finished reading

This way, the reading status of any item in my databases is always one of the following three,

  • Not on Reading List, no Rating: haven’t started reading yet
  • Reading List: currently working on
  • Is rated: finished reading

@xurc interesting suggestion to use ratings to mark read status.

Makes me think — since I don’t use the ratings function for anything else, I might use it to mark reading progress: one star = read a little; three stars = halfway; five stars = finished.

It’s not a hard “no”. It’s just stating it’s not possible in the current state of the application. Development would have to assess your feature request.

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That’s an interesting use of the ratings.

I wanted to do a quick review of new items in email archives without losing which messages were new to me.

A smart rule to add a tag called “New” to unread items did what I needed.

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I have been browsing the forums for this function as I would like it too, and I see it’s been discussed here so I just wanted to add my vote for having the option to disable automatically marking items as read.

Outlook gives you the option to disable “mark email as read when selection changes” when viewing an email in preview. I was trained to leave emails as unread until they had been actioned, regardless of whether I’d skimmed them (in Outlook, you have to double-click the email to actively mark it as read). I’m afraid this is built into me now and where possible I always disable any “mark as read” feature so that it is manual instead of automatic. Not being able to leave my DT files as unread until I’ve actually interacted properly with them is a wee bit frustrating. Particularly at the moment when I am new in DT and adding lots of files and moving things around. I’m having to actively remember to mark things as unread again if I need to follow up with them, and since I am inevitably the weak link in this process, an error is likely to occur at some point!

It’s worth noting that since file managers don’t general mark items as read/unread, in previous systems I had folders for “To be actioned”. However, since DT has the read/unread function, and because I think there’s more value in having a file located in it’s final location rather than kept in a TBA folder (for months on end :upside_down_face:), I didn’t want to set up the same file structure in DT.