Removing old Finder tags from imported documents

Is it possible to remove embedded Finder tags from all imported documents? I don’t use indexing, and I don’t use Finder tags. Nonetheless, in the past, some tags got saved to a few of my documents. Perhaps I exported them and re-imported them many years ago before I enabled the DisableFinderTags hidden option. Who knows, but they are there and crop up at certain times.

For example, occasionally when I OCR a pdf, after the OCRing is done and DT replaces the original pdf with the OCRd version, DT creates new standard tags that weren’t there before using the old Finder tags embedded in the file (at least that’s what I assume is happening).

Here’s an example. I had a 4 pdfs in this Court Cases > Opinions group that I OCRd.


After OCRing, 3 new standard tags were created, “Court Opinions,” “Legal,” and “U.S. Supreme Court.”


Those tags match old Finder tags embedded in the originals (again, which are remnants from a long time ago and must have been added by mistake).

I’d like to strip these straggling Finder tags, if they exist, from all of my imported documents to avoid this behavior, and some other annoyances. Is there a safe way to do that? Is it as simple as using Finder to remove the tags from the documents in the dtBase2 package, or will that kind of manual intervention cause problems?


Is it as simple as using Finder to remove the tags from the documents in the dtBase2 package, or will that kind of manual intervention cause problems?

Do not go messing about in the internals of a database unless instructed by Support. Also, that would have no effect as the tags aren’t added to files in the database’s internals.

Just delete the Tag groups you don’t want to use (and ideally empty your database’s Trash). Easy. :slight_smile:

I understand the risks of messing with the database, hence why I’m asking for a better approach.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as you suggest because I think you misunderstood the underlying problem I’m describing. Let me clarify. I have removed the tags I don’t want in DT, but because they were created from the embedded Finder tags, they still exist. Which means they will crop up again in the future if I (1) export them, (2) re-import them, or (3) remove the OCRing and re-OCR them. For example, here is one of the 4 pdfs I mentioned in my original post:

The Finder tags are still there, even though that file is not assigned any tags in DT. Is there a safe way to remove them, absent starting from scratch by exporting the documents, removing the tags via Finder, and re-importing them “clean” into DT?

Hopefully the problem I am trying to solve makes more sense.

When you import a file into DEVONthink, it has no relationship to the file in the Finder any longer.
Deleting the Tag in DEVONthink would not affect an original file outside the database. If you reimport the file from the Finder without removing the Tag there, it would obviously import with a tag.

I think you are reporting a bug, but @cgrunenberg would have to confirm or deny this.
If you have removed the tag from the imported file and export the file out to the Finder, it should not have a Finder tag any longer. However, I am seeing Tags on the exported files.

Yes. Here is what I have noticed over the years, which matches what you’re saying.

For imported documents, DT doesn’t touch the underlying Finder tags. If they are there on import, they will always be there sitting in the background. Other than duplicating them as DT tags during the initial import, DT doesn’t care about them going forward.

But since they are there in the background, they follow the file wherever it goes. So if I export the document (drag it from DT to Finder), the Finder tags are there. Not because DT created them, but because DT copies the original file which of course already has them.

So maybe not a bug, per se, in that I don’t think DT is doing anything wrong, but it does lead to unexpected behavior when exporting files or OCRing them (which, in effect, is like exporting the original and re-importing the OCRd version in its place, which is why the persistent Finder tags get pulled back in).

Aside from finding a way to clear the embedded Finder tags, perhaps two changes in DT would help. First, clearing all Finder tags upon import after the equivalent DT tags are assigned. Second, ignoring embedded Finder tags when a document is OCRd.

I’m unable to delete tags in finder which are still associated with files within the DT database despite having deleted the tags within DT (and emptying trash). Any advice?

I’m unable to delete tags in finder

? We don’t have any control over deleting Finder tags.

Sure, but they were all tags created (and exported I guess) from DT (mostly auto-generated by RSS feeds before I switched that off) that were difficult to delete. Tags created within Finder were deleted as standard (Finder > Preferences > Tags > Right-click > Delete Tag).

A number of ‘sticky’ tags created by DT simply wouldn’t delete using this method, and required a more laborious process of Finder > Preferences > Tags > Show these tags in the sidebar, followed by selecting the tags in a finder window sidebar, selecting all associated files (including DT files), Right-click > Tag > delete tag.

I had activated the hidden preference to not export tags to finder before making these changes, and have subsequently de-activated it. All now seems fine.