request: child items vs folders

I would like the ability to make a note “contain” child notes, as if it were a folder.

Often, there will be a set of related documents with a natural “parent”, and I’d like this to be visually explicit, so instead of just having nested folders, one could have nested anything - rich text, pdf, image, whatever. (And the ability to collapse the note tree as well.)

For example, there would be a parent note about some issue, and the children would be related pdfs, images, emails etc. The current alternative is to make a folder, with one particular note being the folder’s main note, explaining what all the others are. But there’s no obvious visual way to highlight that main note, so when I open a folder, I have to search around to find out what the folder is about. (Or I have to follow some convention like always making a rich text item called “index”, say, or using a particular highlight colour.)

I do something much like that using rich text notes that contain links.

Such a note may contain multiple links, some of which link to other notes, which may in turn link to other notes, and so on. If it gets complicated, I can enter some text to remind myself what the heck I was doing.

I would like to see that as well.

I “solved” the issue by having a main note (as you call it) named the same as the containing folder as the first item (I work in split mode unsorted). The main disadvantage of this workaround that I have to expand the folder bevor I can select and view my main note.

So it would be a solution for me to assign a file as main file to the group and have DTP show it instead of the folder content in split view (which I never use). In three pane view this file would be the file that is displayed before something else is selected in the top pane.


Same here. Scrivener implemented this solution, which many users find indispensable.

I’ll throw in my 2 cents of support behind this request as well. The ability to hierarchically arrange notes on notes as child items would be great. I really like the folder tree, but miss the ability to tree notes within a folder.

This is the only feature I miss from Scholars Aid, the wintel program I used for my dissertation.

For me, it adds an extra layer of context for my data, without sacrificing the more free-form possibilities of DT.

I’d chime in here. It’s a feature that I appreciate in Scrivener and Tinderbox, and that woud be a huge improvement to DT as well, imo.



Love it in Scrivener too

Bingo. One more vote. Scrivener rocks this feature. Simple, effective, intuitive. Wish DTP2 had it also.

+1 for child items


Yes! Yes! Yes! Do it, please. It would help so many of us, and increase the love for DT immeasurably.

I’d like to vote against this. It’s one of the things that drives me crazy about Scrivener and other programs. I never know whether a note-folder is empty (folder) or not (note), so I end up looking in it anyway to find that it usually is empty. And it’s no good saying I don’t have to use it. Even if I’ve only used it once or twice, or even if I think I might have accidentally used it (as is easy to do in S), then I have to check everything.

Devon, if you do decide to implement this, please make folders with text visually different from those without.

In Scrivener, an ‘empty’ note-folder is clearly distinguishable from one having text. The icon of an empty one is plain, whereas one having text has squiggles. Same can easily be done in DT.

Thanks, Asif. I did say I hoped that, if they implemented this, Devon would make note-folders and proper-folders visually distinct. In fact, I’d go further: please, Devon, if you do this, allow a preference to turn it off for those of us who regard allowing notes to be folders as a step backwards. If that were done, then I guess I could have no objection to the proposal for those who really want it - although I still regard it as muddled thinking, as I shall explain.

Here’s my picture of the world. We see a number of different types of hierarchies in nature. One of the most common is what might be called the container-hierarchy. This is where the individual elements of whatever you’re studying are collected together in a group, and the groups are themselves collected together in bigger-groups, and so on - but where the groups (or groups of groups) aren’t themselves elements. In short, the container is a different type of thing to the contained. For example: a book called the short stories of Arthur Conan Doyle is not itself a short story by him; the entity known as the Beatles is made up of John, George, Paul, and Ringo, but is not itself one of them or any other person; there is no such animal as a feline - only cats, lions, tigers, etc. To mix these levels up is to commit what logicians call a “category error”, and it leads to many wild goose chases in metaphysics and elsewhere.

The container-hierarchy is the natural structure for classifying things; and this is purpose of DT, at least for me.

Another type of hierarchy might be called the tree-hierarchy. This is where nodes still contain (in some sense) those branches below them, but now they are of the same type. Examples are a family tree, where all the ancestors of a person are themselves people; or a flow chart, where the steps to be done are all still steps, regardless of where they are on the page. As these examples show, tree-hierarchies are primarily concerned with process, or one thing following another. There’s a sense of movement or flow of time from the top to the bottom. There might well be a place within DT for these type of object; but it is not DT’s primary purpose. (There is plenty of other software that does work like this - my favourite is Flying Logic.)

Now, normally, these types should be kept logically distinct, but it is interesting that very powerful theories sometimes make links between them. For example, Darwin saw that the container-hierarchy of living things (Linnaeus’s system) resembled a tree-hierarchy; and he posited that it resembled a tree hierarchy precisely because it was a tree-hierarchy. That, in a nutshell, is the theory of evolution: “feline” isn’t just a group of animals, but itself corresponds to a real (though extinct) animal, the ancestor of all modern felines. So, there is a use for mixing the two hierarchy types - but to do so is to put forward a theory about the way the world happens to be. It can’t be done just on a whim.

All this is just what I think about the way we should organise the world, and obviously other people will feel differently. That’s fine with me, providing, as I say, Devon gives me and others like me the opt-out on this feature.