Preserve my Hard Disk Folder Structure

I am currently exploring DevonThink, and how it might work for me. I already have been organizing and filing a lot of digital files in my own folder structure, and I’m a little confused why DevonThink uses such a bizzare filing organization for things I import into it.

Is there a way to use DevonThink to reference the files I already have organized on my disk/folders, and still use DevonThink to tag/OCR/etc?

From what I can tell, anything I import into DevonThink, gets put into a folder for the file type, and then a sub-folder 0, 1, 2, 3… A, B, C, D…

I can’t figure out what the organization scheme is (which files get put where - doesn’t seem to be by file name, date or anything obvious).

Is there a setting I’m missing to ‘leave files in original locations’?

Is this just something that DevonThink isn’t designed to do?


Since posting this, I found some posts discussing indexing vs importing. This is half of what I’m looking for… but I’m still learning about it. Still a few questions:

Will drag-and-drop always ‘import’ and I have to select ‘index’ from the menu? Can I change the software’s default option to ‘index’ instead? Through the Inbox?

Can DevonThink’s groups (folders) be used to actually relocate where files reside in Finder? Dropping a file into a new group actually moves it there?


Select from the menu works. As does holding Command-Option when you drag and drop into DT or on its dock icon (though this does not work for the global Inbox). An no, you cannot change the software’s default action.

Generally speaking, the folders in DEVONthink are not a view of your filesystem. With indexed folders changes are not automatically reflected on your machine (though you can affect this with File > Update Indexed Items).

Ok, thanks. I have figured out a bit more, and am slowly getting there - but I’m still frustrated at the inability to file things into the filesystem through DevonThink. It makes the idea of dumping things into the inbox to sort out later a bit limited (ie - useless if you later want to file the item into an indexed folder)

What is the procedure for relocating (in the filesystem) a file that has already been indexed/tagged?

Also, I have figured out I can move into/out of the database, but I’m not given an option to choose where to move into external folder (it just goes back where it was originally)

EDIT: I have now discovered that moving an item into the database, then into an indexed folder, then back out of the database places it into the externally indexed folder. Ultimately, this is what I’ve been looking for - although its not nearly as easy as I was hoping :frowning:

I guess I have a lot more learning to do before I can decide how to organize my workflow.

I’m still excited though, the software is clearly powerful and flexible


DEVONthink is not a file system browser. The “dump into Inbox / sort later” strategy is very successful for documents stored in the database. It is not at all successful if you expect the filesystem’s folder structure to automatically, or with minimal effort, mirror the group structure in DEVONthink. Don’t think of DEVONthink groups as being the physical equivalent of filesystem folders – they have virtually nothing to do with one another. DEVONthink groups are a visual representation of how documents relate to one another and nothing more. As opposed to Finder or PathFinder, etc., which physically manipulate documents in filesystem - but those apps offer minimal help in showing how documents relate to one another.

IMO, it’s important to understand the distinction, else the “why can’t DEVONthink look and act like FInder” question is frustrating.

There is extensive and definitive discussion on the forum about import vs. index – I recently counted almost 900 threads on the topic. If you read them all (I’m not suggesting you do!!) you’d find lots of clever advice about working with indexed documents.

But - the basic question to answer before you go down that path is: why do you want to index your documents? How you sort the “why” affects how you proceed – and helps folks here give the most pertinent advice. Don’t take this wrong, but if “preserve my hard disk folder structure” is an absolute requirement, then DEVONthink isn’t a good option.

Well said, korm.

I decided long ago that “preserving my hard disk folder structure” is actually a very bad idea, especially after migrating my databases over a succession of Macs. :slight_smile:

Obviously, I prefer Import rather than Index captures, as I think the tools for organization in DEVONthink make it much more powerful and flexible than the Finder.