Outlining in DT Pro the Mori way

I know, I know… it gets annoying for developers to always have to field requests for features from other programs. But I’ve been looking at the gradually improving feature set of Hog Bay Mori and I can’t help but think: Why can’t Devonthink do this?

The two programs are superficially quite similar. While Mori will surely never match DT’s AI and Web/document features, one area where it outshines DT is outlining.

So I have one simple question.

Is there any hope that DT will someday allow groups to have notes of their own? Or to put it another way: will we ever see the day when DT items can be nested under other notes, not just in folders?

Either way this would provide sorely needed core outlining features and transform DT into a tool that is as useful for writing notes as it is for gathering, storing and finding them.

It seems such a no brainer feature-wise; and is clearly not an impossibility programming-wise. I’m not asking for whiz bang fancy outlining a la OmniOutliner here. Just the possibility of attaching a note to a folder. Now when I choose a folder in 3 Pane view, the screen is largely filled with a galling blank square and the words “No Selection”. It just seems such a waste, all that empty space waiting for an editable field.

After all, If Mori can do it, why can’t DT?

Sigh… :wink:

Count me in. The Three Panes View in DT Pro is odd (to say the least).
I use Mori as a daily planning tool. DT Pro stores everything I have to know, gathers all my informations, but I can’t use it for outlining all the things I have to do, though I’d prefer working in one tool.

Eiron, you are reading my mind. This is also my own secret wish. I would dearly love to see basic outlining features make it into DT. I am totally spoiled by Mori’s ability to quickly move entries back and forth as nested notes under other entries at differing levels. For some projects, it’s a necessity. This one feature would really make DT work for me as my ‘all-in-one’ program save for projects that need footnotes.

I know, there are so many others who wish this same thing regarding other requested features. So, this is my wish. :slight_smile:

It seems to me that DT is so close to this. It just need to take it another step. Of course, I have no idea how difficult this would be to implement!


If there is one request/suggestion that I hope the developers are paying attention to, it’s this one (the original post and the follow-up).

Or, as I recently put it in this post, any document could also be a “group”.

Basically paraphrasing what I wrote there, I still think outliner support (or whatever you want to call it) in DT is hindered by its hierarchical document/group database structure too rigidly mimicking the file/folder filesystem structure.

If the database used a more open outliner metaphor it could still support a nested structure without restrictively differentiating between documents and groups as it does now. A “group” might just be a document (possibly empty) with children, able to behave more like a Finder package than just a simple traditional folder.

I only tried Mori briefly, but it looks like its folders can have content added at their root level. That’s essentially what I hope DT will allow in the future.

I would second (or sixth, as it were) this request in an instant. DevonThink is great for its ability to find and create unorthodox connections between documents, but quite often I want to associate two documents in more conventional ways (an article and reading notes, for instance). I could create a group for each article, of course, but that strikes me as a substantially less elegant approach than the one Mori takes. Any hopes of seeing this happen?

This thread (or javito’s) seems like a good place to mention this month’s About This Particular Outliner article:

Outliners: Outlining Interface Futures

… which I’m sure a few readers here have already discovered. :slight_smile:

That would be very useful - and elegant.

Me too (seven?).

This is an interesting discussion. But the logic discussed above often implies a somewhat different hierarchical structure, e.g., documents nested under another document.

As louise noted in another thread, links are interesting because they have direction.

Think of the “Welcome” page in the Tutorial Database. It is a document, not a group. Yet it subsumes (a bit like a group) all the other documents in that database, using links. The possible flows of links are complex and non-linear, and are often bidirectional. So this is not a simple hierarchical structure, but it is a structure. That structure allows DT Pro to publish the Tutorial Database as a Web site simply by bringing up the Welcome page and clicking on File > Export > as Website.

sjk, I know I’ve said this before, but I often use a “Table of Contents” note that serves to “pull together” a set of other documents, whether they are in the same group or not. Sometimes this note has an explicit hierarchical structure, as when I create a list with sub-elements as an outline of an article or project I’m developing, and link the list elements to other documents that “flesh out” each of the list elements. I might choose to make some of the links bidirectional, as when I add “TOC” links back to the original note in those linked list element documents. Or I may add other links to still other documents, such as a list of reference sources in one or more of my “section” documents.

Yes, I’ll file that “TOC” note in a group for my article or project, but I’ve created a note that refers to one or more other notes and provides a great deal of logical power for establishing relationships between documents. Although this can be done with Wiki linking, I usually prefer to select a text string, do a Control-Click and select the Link to contextual menu option. This static link approach prevents possible confusion that might result from the Wiki link approach.

I’m initially limited to using a rich text document to establish these relationships. But my final product could be an external (to the database) Web site, MS Word or PDF document(s) that maintains the structure and cross-linking I’ve established. (Pages 2.x allows me to copy/paste my rich text to Pages and export to Word or PDF with all links working.) So, with a little tinkering, I can transfer an article or project developed in DT Pro as a very well laid out and formatted final product. I can make that final product linear (e.g., a printed article) or non-linear, as desired.

I’m sure that we will see additional and powerful new features for “collecting” documents through other relationships than group or link organization, in future versions of DT Pro. Just wanted to emphasize once more the potential of using links in a note as an alternative to a hierarchical group structure for relating documents.

Yes, links are powerful features to have, and DT does links well enough for me. I use them constantly.

But the ability to quickly ‘nest’ files with/under other files is something I also use constantly when working on projects, which is why I have to turn to Mori for those projects. For instance I make extensive notes on reading material, then make notes on the notes, and it is out of those notes I create my own work. I find myself wanting to nest the secondary notes underneath the reading notes, as I can in Mori. Or if it’s a piece of fiction, I often make notes on chapters I’m working on or characters I’m devloping. Yes, I can use links and sometimes do. But linking them keeps them removed, visually, and, for me, conceptually. And having them all flat within the same folder, not nested or ordered hierarchically, well I just can’t get a grasp of the whole that way. For me, I need to be able to group these files together in a visual way that works for me. It’s as much the visual aspect thatI need. I have to ‘see’ the organization, which is why Mellel, despite other drawbacks, works so well for me in managing large projects. I can see everything at a glance, all together, in the outlining pane, move it around quickly and easily, whatever. I can do this in Mori by hitting a key or a button and move the item back and forth wherever it fits. It’s quick and powerful and fits the way I work. It allows me to fiddle with the organizational structure and see the ‘whole’ of the project and how things fit together.

I’d rather have this all in DT (save for the really big projects or ones that require footnotes where I use a word processor like Mellel) because then I can have all my work in one place—much easier to find things and use DTs AI features on all that material.

So, again, as is often the case, it’s a matter of how people work and what works best for them. I find it a little curious when some users are making a request and then someone else comes along and tries to show why they don’t need it or that they should/could do it differently. Sometimes that can be really useful and I’ve learned a lot that way. But often it can seem to be a way of not listening to the needs of those other users. We all have a different way of working which largely evolves out of the way programs work and what we find that works for us within them.

So count me as one who would love to see Eiron’s suggestion. I’m certainly not talking about some huge set of outlining features. I think it’s much more along the line of what other users have suggested about taking what’s inherently there already in DT and enhancing it to make it even more useful.

Just my two cents!


Hi, eiron and Alexandria:

Christian has hinted several times that more powerful outliner features are under development consideration, and the idea of notes attached to notes has been discussed several times – I would like to see that, myself.

Some past threads have talked about a related concept of notes attached to notes, such as marginalia. I would love to be able to attach comments and notes to a PDF or HTML document (or a group), with more flexibility than the Info panel Comment field provides – rich text formatting and so on.

My comments about using links isn’t meant to put down those ideas, but to talk about how some of the features of notes attached to notes can be currently accomplished using links. Not all, unfortunately. I can’t, for example start from a PDF or HTML document, as I can’t establish a link within those file types (at least, not without more effort than it’s worth taking). So I would have to start from a rich text note, reference the PDF or HTML document and then indirectly “attach” notes. Another one of my “make do with what I’ve got” kludges. :slight_smile:

Development priorities right now are a very powerful suite of Boolean search operators for DT Pro, and of course the revised file structure for version 2.0. I’m looking forward to NEAR/x, BEFORE/x, AFTER/x, and of course NOT and XOR and wildcard operators. So there will be continued advances in stability, larger database size potential and very high-level search procedures. More power with greater simplicity.

Also in development: auto scan > OCR > save to database (I’ve been doing a lot of scanning lately), and enhanced email archiving. It’s likely there will be special editions of DT, as such features involve a lot of code (and possibly third-party license fees) and not everyone may need them. Think of people like attorneys, who need to manage thousands of pages of documents for a case and would benefit from quick access (with DT Pro’s smart assistance) to information. Or my interest in compiling historical files about the development of U.S. environmental regulatory programs, with said files now in numerous boxes and file cases. Needless to say, it’s far more useful to manage and distribute that data in the form of DT Pro databases than as hundreds of pounds of paper.

And some other nice touches.


Thanks so much for the information on development priorities. It all sounds like very good stuff! Auto scan to OCR, etc., yes, that would be awesome, as would better email archiving.

I see that the current emphasis may not be on the issue under discussion here, but that perhaps it is in the minds of the develpers to make it a priority at some point. Until then, I’ll continue to wish for it. :slight_smile:


PS And you are the very best at helping with “make do with what I’ve got” kludges! :slight_smile: