Search by text highlight?

Is it possible to search DT for text passages based upon the text highlight colour?

eg. As I collect articles (often converted from PDF, TXT, HTML to RTF) I read through them and when I see a passage or quote worth remembering I often Right-Click on that text and give it a yellow highlight (like a real highlighter pen). This makes it easier to later find the bits that flagged the article as interesting in the first place… and means I can quickly scan the article rather than read it all next time.

Even better…
I wan’t to be able to search for these highlighted passages (while using other search combos), but this does not seem possible!?

If this is not supported, perhaps it will be a nice option to add to the search pane in the future?


thank you for the suggestion. Searching for highlighted text is not yet possible but we’ll consider this enhancement for a future release.

I would also find this very useful.

I had given up on this being a possibility, good to see it’s being considered again.

Ditto. (That’s the point of highlighting isn’t it? - finding it again. :slight_smile:

Actually I’d add a little more than this. I’d like to be able to bring up a list of highlights, in any selection of items or within a whole group or even several groups - a sort of ‘see also’ mechanism so as to scan over what I’ve already selected as the most interesting or relevant items of text.

I do really agree, with Andrew! I think, highlightet text has a special meaning, is verry important for the user, so it shouldt be extra indexed and be found especially. Good Idea

Presently, only rich text can be highlited. Opening a pdf with preview, it is also possible to anotate pdf’s. Is there a possibility that some future version of DTPro can also search for anotations/highliths in Pdf files? (’:D’)



Please note that annotations made to PDFs using Preview are not saved as text, and so are not searchable as text. I found that out the hard way, after making a number of comments on a large PDF file. I had to do it all over again using Acrobat 7 Professional.

Whether it might be possible to search highlighting added by Preview depends on how the images are saved. I’ll note this to Christian, as I have no idea.

Bill, annotations I’ve done with Preview are searchable with DT! I had no problems so far finding my annotations. Is it possible that your last try was in an old version?

By George, you are right! Thanks both for correcting me, and for letting me know that text annotations in Preview are now searchable!

Yes, I tried doing this several OS X levels ago. I used Preview to do text annotations on a large document, only to find out that the annotations at that time were only saved as unsearchable graphics. I spent a few minutes cussing Apple for not saving the annotations as text, and cussing myself for spending a couple of hours of wasted work without having first verified that what I was doing would be useful.

I just tried adding text annotations to a PDF in Preview, saved the file and imported it into DT Pro. Wonderful. As you said, the text of the annotations was searchable in DT Pro. :smiley:

Thanks, Bill and physicistjedi.

Yes, this works if the annotated Pdf is imported from the finder into DTPro. We can also annotate the Pdf within DTpro (with Preview) and export/reimport the Pdf. Annotations remain searchable. I thought that DTPro was able to convert annotations on Pdf’s to text (and it seems so), and was asking wether DTPro could do this conversion systematically? In this way, there would be no need to export/reimport the annotated document. (But I have no idea if this is easy or difficult, or even possible.)

(Note: I use"import pdf into database folder", so that my Pdf’s are really located there.)


You could use the File > Synchronize command to update annotated documents.

Any progress on this? It would be very helpful to me.

Even better, a way to move highlighted text to a separate file.


I know this is an old post, but I, too, would very much like a way to limit searches or narrow searches by whether the text has been highlighted in a PDF, and possibly by highlight color.

I read a lot of articles in PDF form, highlight them and file them in DEVONThink. When I search them I am generally only interested in highlighted passages.


In the meanwhile (while waiting for this enhancement :frowning: ), Skim is an alternative for searching comments and highlighted text.

Thanks Korm! Skim is very nice. I vote for DT to adopt much of the functionality there, from searchability of highlights and notes (adding searchability limited by highlight color), to the notes panel that appears on the right, the keyboard shortcuts for tools like the text selection tool and note tools. Being able to keep fingers on keyboard as much as possible is very nice for me.

Looking for the same feature, I discovered in another thread (Search results in longer documents) that we could go rightly from highlight to highlight with GO > Next highlight.
Since DTPO is able to detect highlighted passages, would it be a too hard-to-build improvement to include search on highlights in the future ?
All that can improve DT search capabilities is strengthening the best soft for information management !
Anyway, I feel everyday very grateful for DT developers!

I rather naively was glad this was being considered. But I see my post is from 6 years ago. Time flies when you’re using Devonthink!

An update: So I used Skim for a semester. It’s a great PDF annotator in terms of usability but not compatibility. It only highlights one line at a time, creating multiple highlights for one paragraph. And those highlights, though searchable by Skim, are not fully compatible with other PDF readers, though they “appear” fine in DTPO.

I did discover how to do this with Acrobat Pro, which I’m now using. The key is to go to Preferences, then the Commenting tab. Tick the “Copy selected text into Highlight, Cross-out and Underline comment popups.” That’s a barely intelligible statement, but what that check box does is copy the highlighted or marked up text into popup comment metadata. That popup note is searchble in the comments tab in Acrobat Pro and probably Reader, and it is fully PDF compatible.

It seems it would be easier for DTPO to implement search of this popup text than the highlights themselves.