Search for symbols

Great to see DT3 coming to life. I am excited to explore it.
One thing I’ve always wanted to do in DT2 and hoped I might be able to do now, but so far have not found the way:

Of course we can use tags to help find whole documents
But I’d like to be able also to use keywords to help me find sections within individual documents
The obvious way is to create personal keywords using symbols like @, #, or !! - and slip the appropriate keyword into the relevant paragraphs
But the search only finds alphanumeric characters - so there is no way to retrieve the keywords later

Is there any way round that?
How do others annotate specific paragraphs or sections within documents for future reference?

Any suggestions gratefully received!

Have you had a look on the new data section in settings? Here you can create your own meta data like text. Those data get displayed by the inspector and are searchable ?

The index still only contains alphanumeric characters (and now also $€£¥%§).

Thanks for rapid reply!
Yes I saw that - but I think it still refers to whole documents, not to lines or paragraphs within documents. Unless I have missed something?

Thanks to you also for rapid reply!
Actually I would be happy to use one of those symbols as my keyword symbol - I even tried some as part of my experimentation.
I’ve tried them again now and see it is not that they don’t work but that they behave oddly.
For example, if I add $keyword to a text, and search on $, nothing comes up.
But if I search on $k, it finds my keyword!
Is that a glitch or something intentional?
I guess I could learn to live with it that way - but it would be better if I could search on $ and see all my keywords without having to remember which ones I had used.

Or maybe there is a better way to reference individual paragraphs within documents? I am sure I am not the first to have wanted to do that!
Thanks again - appreciate your help.

That’s intentional, e.g. to search easily for legal stuff or currencies.

Sorry I don’t quite get that - how does it help to restrict search so the $ doesn’t show up till the next letter is shown?

And of course I am wondering now what the reason is for restricting search to alphanumeric in the first place - and for now adding just these currency symbols but making them work in an odd way?


The option “Prefix while typing” is only applied if the last entered character is an alphanumerical one. In addition, indexed search engines usually use only alphanumeric characters (and often ignore also stop words or apply stemming or ignore numbers or too long words etc.).

OK - so do you have a recommendation for how to do what I want to do?
Which is to systematically reference, group and search for items within documents, rather than just for documents as a whole.

I’m an academic and use many long documents that contain items related to multiple different projects.

I feel sure I am not alone in this so it seems likely there is a good solution out there somewhere, even if my first thought (using personal keywords prefixed with a special symbol) is not viable.

Thanks again for your help.

In 2.n, I use tags tree to categorise Journal articles, each paper may have multiple categorical tags (e.g., by author, research subject and context, theoretical perspective, etc), then set up smart groups by one/multiple combination of those tags. Then conduct name or content search within the smart groups.

Now in 3.0 is even better, customised metadata fields can be used to hold static or unique info such as authors, published journal and year, key words specified in the paper’s summary, etc. That makes the tags tree more streamlined.

Smart rules can utilise multiple filters, such as tags, ratings, labels, metadata fields to narrow down the scope of reference articles before more specific search and review. Annotation note is now directly accessible in the inspector bar of each article. if you dig thorough this forum in scripting topics, you will find there are some excellent customised scripts contributed by other members that can highlight and copied the selected text in the pdf articles and create a link in the annotation that helps you jumping to the exact location of the highlighted text when you come across the link/citation in the notes.

I never use specific symbol to help searching because the search in DT, combing with all those filter elements, is already powerful and flexible for my purpose. However, using special symbol as first letter in group’s name is one handy way to create an arbitrary sort order in the database.

Thanks Ngan
I do appreciate this power of DT, and especially of DT3, which is definitely much more streamlined.

I guess my point is I would also appreciate the ability to quickly add $keywords into notes I am taking in an annotations text about my pdfs.

I’m still struggling to understand why there is this complete restriction on alphanumeric searchers. I can see the need to exclude the symbols needs as wild-cards etc, but I can easily think of many reasons users might want to search for various symbols, and it seems odd not to provide some way to allow that.

Bye for now and thanks again!


Have you thought about using a not so obvious character as a symbol placeholder? I tried some greek letters, such as Δ, Ω, Σ (in a rtf and in a comment within a pdf) and it worked. And then you have also the all cyrilic alphabet as well. :slight_smile:

For instance: I’m using Ѳ (the fita letter in Cyrillic). Like:
Ѳ also see Valente 2018, p. 77.

Since my keyboard does not have the Cyrillic keyboard set, on Typinator I automatize it by typing @+@. (You can also use the text replace feature in System Preferences > Keyboard > Text.)

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Hi Valente and thanks for your suggestion (sorry for delay - for some reason I did not get a notification of your message).

I did try all kinds of symbols to use as keywords markers, but I could not get any of them to work. Even now I have tried your Cyrillic symbols, but search does not find them for me as it does for you. Perhaps I am doing something wrong. The only thing I found to work is an unusual combination of ordinary letters (like xx). That does find my keywords but also finds lots of other irrelevant things.

I just have to hope that other people will see the value of adding quick keywords WITHIN documents and then a system will be developed to make it easy!

In the meantime I remain surprised I seem to be the only one! What do you all do if you want to note a quick to-do, or a thought about a different project, while you are typing annotations??

Thanks again Valente and others for taking time to address my issue.

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What do you all do if you want to note a quick to-do, or a thought about a different project, while you are typing annotations??

In many cases, I press Option-Control-N (my hotkey, set in Preferences > Sorter > Take Note) and quickly jot it down.

If I’m done, I press Command-S to save the note.
If I’m not done, I close the Sorter, which preserves the content until I save it explicitly. (Note, it will not persist after DEVONthink quits and relaunches.)

For some time now I’ve either used § as a tag prefix, or I’ve used an idea I picked up from Macdrifter, which is simply doubling the first letter of anything I want to use as a tag. It has the (potential) advantage of distinguishing between “Freud” (name) and “ffreud” (tag – all my tags are lower case). YMMV.

Thanks for this. But I was really talking about something different.
I’m writing in an Annotations note about an article I have stored in DT. Both the article and the annotation can have tags and keywords.
I’d like to be able to add keywords INTO THE TEXT IN MY ANNOTATION - for example when something in the article has to do with a topic other than the one denoted by the tags assigned to the article as a whole.
These in-text keywords would later draw my attention back to the relevant section - without the need for me to interrupt my annotation to make a new note.
I’d through to do that via some kind of in-text-tag symbol, distinct from the symbols used as wildcards in searches.
This would be useful in allowing a search on in-text-tags, and a way of keeping track of all the in-text-tags I have used (to keep them consistent, avoid near-duplicates etc).
Hope that makes sense - it is hard to explain these things clearly with text only!

Thanks for this too.
§ would make a great in-text-tag prefix for my purposes (see recent reply to Bluefrog). The problem is, as with the other symbols discussed, it doesn’t show search results until you type the next letter in the search box.
If it were possible to search on § (or any such in-text-tag symbol) and let a list of all in-text-tags to choose from, this would (to my mind) be much more useful in helping remember and keep track of which in-text-tags I have created and used.
Double first letters are a nice idea but (to my mind) have the disadvantage of not allowing all in-text-tags to be grouped together.