Organizing Question

I know what I am trying to do, I don’t know if DTPO can help. I am using DTPO To index files on my drive. I don’t think what I am about to ask is possible but, I don’t know for sure.

I know that if I imported files into DTPO and then exported them, the changes would be permanent. What I don’t know is if I arrange files within the indexed folders is there any way to have DTPO arrange my files on disk to match this?

If not, and I am assuming not, I will have to continue to rearrange my hard drive files and folders and continue to allow DTPO to update the index.

Yes? No?


DEVONthink does not automatically rearrange hierarchies in the file system to match the way you organize indexed files inside the database. There are techiques that help, however. If you “move into database” all the children (folders and files) of a root folder, rearrange the children inside the database, and then “move external” the rearranged children you will have created a match between the external hierarchy and the indexed folders/files. There are several dozen threads on the forum showing how to do this in more detail. (Since this is a common question here; answered before.) The best way to understand this technique is to experiment yourself.

OK, that would be a no. I thought so but It was worth asking onse. Thanks.

Not sure if that’s a “no”. I do this routinely. I have thousands of academic articles in Dropbox, indexed by DTPO. Prior to using DTPO the organization was haphazard. Steady I’ve been improving the organization and reorganizing on a regular basis. When I add new material I usually IMPORT to DTPO First, use See Also & Classify to find the appropriate home for it, then move to external folder to plop it into the appropriate folder in Finder/Dropbox.

When I have done much more significant re-organizations (such as disaggregating a folder), I have tended to do my reorganizing in DTPO, then once I’m satisfied, i’ll “move into database”, then “move to external folder” immediately after.

In general this works very well (even if it does through Dropbox into a bit of a tizzy). The only issue is that sometimes when changes are fairly drastic and when new content is also added (e.g., new stuff, and existing stuff, all totally reorganized), you might lose the “move to external folder” option. I think this i because DTPO no longer knows what external folder it could possibly refer to because there is nothing that resembles the past (prior to reorganizing and bringing them into the database) in the indexed directory. When this occurs, I export the highest directory level I can that pertains to the reorganized content, delete the (now duplicated) imported content, move the exported content back to the desired directory in finder, and instruct DTPO to index again.

This is clearly rather labour intensive and it is certainly error prone. I almost always end up with some issues when I lose the “move to external folder” option, such as massive duplicates/triplicates, or whatever. Dropbox doesn’t help either, if you move too quickly, Dropbox might screw up your attempts. But again, it is rare that this happens.

If you turn off Dropbox updating before you go through these changes – or merely turn off the network – you’ll get less flutter from Dropbox. You’ll also get a more accurate flick in Dropbox’s record of “deleted” files.

Yes, that is where I am now heading. I assume that Export --> Files and Folders is similar to your “move to External Folder”? The idea seems to work the same, move folders into DTPO, do the work with classify, then export again. Once my folder structure is intact - which is most of the work at hand to do, then I can go back to the index way.

The ‘Move to External Folder’ command relies on only two conditions-a) is the document (or a minimum of one document in a multiple selection of documents) contained (imported) in the database, and b) is the document (or a minimum of one document in a multiple selection of documents) located in a group that is an indexed folder. Beyond that, DEVONthink does not maintain a past history of where the document may have been located prior to a reorganization.

Using an example, if you have an indexed document in an indexed group and move that document in DEVONthink to a non-indexed group, the document is still indexed and is still located in the original indexed Finder folder. If you were to now move the document into the database, you lose the ‘Move to External Folder’ command as the document is no longer in a group that is indexed. You could then move to document to any indexed group in the database and the ‘Move to External Folder’ command will again be available.

So true.

Where are you guys getting this Move to External Folder command? All I See is Export --> Files and Folders?

  1. Open the PDF of the DEVONthink manual
  2. Search for ‘Move to External Folder’

You really don’t want to be indexing documents into your database(s) until you fully understand how indexing works, how to make it work, and what pitfalls to avoid.

I did search the menus and I did use the Help menu for Move To External Folder BTW, - no results there. I will look into the manual as you suggested. Thanks.

I am always happy to learn more. So far indexing has not seemed too dangerous to my file structure. Sure hope I didn’t miss something?

ADDED: OK, I see It now. It wasn’t easy to spot because It will only appear when the conditions are met. I see better now what the meaning was of earlier comments as well. It is possible to move Group contents to indexed folders - and vice verse.


Hope the following is taken in the spirit intended, as I don’t want to appear callous about this. Based on your comments in this, and other threads, I do not believe your current approach to using DEVONthink is going to serve you well. In fact, over the years I’ve seen others take similar approaches and sooner or later they abandon DEVONthink, stating something along the lines of ‘DEVONthink just didn’t work for me’ or ‘the learning curve is just too steep’.

I say this because you appear to want to jump in with the more advanced usages of the app, while making many assumptions about what DEVONthink will, or will not, do without first becoming familiar with DEVONthink by actually putting it to work with the data you are working on right now. It also complicates things somewhat in that you want to take on DEVONagent with the same approach, similar assumptions (hint: DEVONagent’s searching is MUCH more powerful than using Google alone) at the same time that you are still just beginning to learn DEVONthink.

For now, forget about data from past computers that is stored in layer after layer in your Documents folder. If you haven’t needed that data in years, odds are that you never will. With the ephemeral state of knowledge today, I suspect that most of that data is obsolete now anyway.

Assuming that you do have volumes of unorganized data that has value, using DEVONthink as a Finder substitute is not going to be beneficial. You also cannot just ‘move folders into DTPO, do the work with classify, then export again’. The classify function of DEVONthink requires a level of group organization to begin with to effectively classify newly-added data to the database.

Forget about the preoccupation to work with scripting (beyond the scripts that are included with DEVONthink), utilities to organize window position, means to shortcut opening data with external apps. Fiddling with this now just adds complexity when the time would perhaps be better spent learning the basics of what DEVONthink can do.

Forget about all the rebuilding/repairing/verifying of your databases. If you are getting error messages indicating that you need to do this on a regular basis, something is very wrong.

But to get to your specific question, I would forget about indexing documents unless I could state a very explicit reason why your needs cannot be met by importing documents into discrete databases. There are multiple reasons why I say this, but perhaps the most significant reason is that replicants are one of the more powerful features of DEVONthink, yet when indexing they will totally frustrate an inexperienced user that expects the filesystem (Finder folders) to match document by document the organization of indexed groups in the database.

In summary, my recommendation would be to create a database, or databases, that relate to what you are working on now as well as current interests for your development. Import/capture data into DEVONthink that has value. If you know you have captured data in the past that adds value, search with Spotlight, review the results, import the data into DEVONthink that has value, and delete or archive the rest. Over time you will become familiar with how DEVONthink works and you will have built an organizational system in your databases that will allow See Also/Classify to work effectively. In reality there is more to it than this, but I’ve already spent more time drafting this than I could afford today. Hopefully some of this will be helpful to you.

Very good suggestion korm, I’ll be sure to do this next time I redecorate my literature folder!

No, that is incorrect. I am doing nothing else but working with the data I am working on right now. My workflow is a mess. I am going through a process - with the help of others - I have a professional organizer come into my home once a week for 4 hours, so that I can learn how to organize my work area. This is about organizing, period. I have come to a point that without getting my organization challenges sorted, there is no way to actually do my work.

As far as jumping in goes, from all I have read on these forums there are too many ways to use DTPO for anyone to be able say, “here is how to do this”. I learn from all ways and opinions but what works for me is to first keep a reliable backup, and then to roll up my sleeves and wade in. I learn best by trying things out. I do not think very well in a linear fashion i.e.; if B follows A then C must precede D.

I think in a relational fashion, i.e., first I have to understand how indexing folders affects what is in DTPO and then I have to understand how indexed folders in DTPO affect external folders, THEN, and only then do I start to understand the steps which are necessary to that process. The good news with this way of thinking is that, once I understand what has to happen I acquire the skills much more quickly to make It happen.

It would be better if we could leave my questions about DevonAgent to a separate thread. Aside from how Devontechnologies makes DTPO and DA and how they can work together I am asking totally unrelated questions about each program.

I can’t do that. My data is scattered all over and I am in a process of recovery from some pretty severe learning disabilities. This is where I am at. Step one, organize in some concrete fashion so that I know what my folder structure looks like and keep that consistent. Step Two, evaluate all my information to find out what I still have that is useful and what to archive and to delete the rest. Step Three, create a daily workflow that works, for me.

As I work through using DTPO I believe my way of using It is going to change over time. In my current phase I see using It to organize. While I am doing this I am using smart searches within my structure so that I can continue work on projects.

Eventually I plan on active project work that would include connecting with better calendaring, etc.


Hi. In this case, I don’t think the severe learning disabilities you mention are necessarily the problem, because I know many people (myself included) without learning disabilities who struggle with exactly the same problem. Every so often I set up a new way of doing things (sometimes once ever few years, sometimes more often than that) and leave all of my old stuff behind. As was mentioned before, if you haven’t used it recently, then you probably don’t need to waste your time sorting through it.

BUT, I would recommend HoudahSpot. It is a brilliant app that has time and time again managed to find anything I have in my archives. I went paperless a few years ago and have since accumulated about 3,246,446 items, which add up to 2.66 terabytes. That is a lot of stuff to sort through if I want to get organized! Even if I somehow managed after a few decades to do it, I’d mainly be sorting stuff I don’t need. Thanks to Spotlight (Mac indexing / searching software) and HoudaSpot (a front-end for Spotlight) I just don’t worry about leaving it unsorted, because I am certain I can find anything.

Starting out with a clean slate will save you a lot of time and allow you to get moving forward tackling other challenges.

I appreciate the thought and It sounds like you can relate. I do use Houdaspot all the time. I used to think that if I could just put tags on what I wanted to find I could find them again. But then I could never remember what tag sounded good the last time I thought about the idea, or remember the idea for that matter. Finally someone suggested putting my basic file structure in order and It has helped tremendously. I am still thinking there will be more folder categories that come up but that is still the point here, to realize what all the categories are and then to get rid of all the duplicates.

With DTPO I see a way to keep organized at the folder level and still use tags. I still get confused when It comes to working on a project since the basic documents I am using may well come from another folder but for the project, I need then associated.

All in in, using the DTPO AI and the folder to file relationships with tags built in is a much better way to work than I have found before. Finally browser bookmarks make sense. I would always save them before in Firefox of Safari but It was hard to remember why, let alone where I saved them.

This is about starting over and the only way I Know how to do that is to come to grips with the past. Not to dwell on It but deal with It enough to learn where my categories are and put away what makes sense to put away.