search problem?

I encountered a search result that I didn’t expect, and I thought I’d report it to you. I have a folder named “Did You Know? (video)” that contains 3 video files - same video, different formats. When I type into the search field, that particular folder is the first result as I type each character until I get to the “?” - then it disappears from the results list completely! Is that unexpected?



That’s because the question mark is a Wildcard symbol for any single alphanumeric character.

When you typed the question mark, the search returned the null result, because nothing was found for the text string, ‘know + an additional alphanumeric character’.

Thanks, Bill - I suspected that, given the allowability of those characters in the group or filename, the search engine would somehow handle it.


I’m searching for a way to find all files in my database which contain the string “???” (in words: three question marks), but as the question mark is used as a wildcard, it does not work.

How can I search for the question mark?
I did not find any hint on that in the manual. :frowning:

Kind regards


You cannot search for a punctuation mark (or a hyphen, underline, etc.). Searches are for alphanumeric characters.

Thanks Bill for making this clear.

But… WHY?

Doesn’t it make sense also to be able to search for such signs?
just to make my point clearer:

I’m writing summaries of technical articles I’m reading.
If something is unclear, must be checked later with other references or …, I’m writing something like “???”.
I wanted to create a smart group searching for all files containing “???” and had to find, that I can’t.

For sure, I could find another abbreviation for this made of “real” characters, but what would be more natural than the question marks?!

Is there any reason not to implement a search for “?” or “!” ?


Most users want to search for the words used in languages, and the Concordance (and AI routines) treat strings as words. Excluding characters such as punctuation marks from “words” greatly reduces the size (and memory requirements) of the Concordance.

I’m not the developer, but I suspect that Christian would point out that such exclusions greatly improve database performance, including search speed for “real” words.

So DT searches are not like the customary Find routine, which can find strings such as “???”.

If performance is the issue, could that kind of search reasonably be implemented via an optional setting - such that if the user changes that setting, he/she is acknowledging and accepting the performance consequences of being able to conduct such searches?

DEVONtech must be of two minds on this. Their freeware EasyFind utility (download from here) will find documents named, or containing, the ??? string. Just use the Include > Package Contents option.

Strangely, EasyFind is not DEVONthink-aware enough to reveal the group that contains a search result inside a DT database.

Another example: Apple Mail supports ??? finds (people tend to use strings like ??? in subject lines), but we would never find any imported message in DT that contains ???.

It’s not that “most users want to search for the words used in languages”. The point is, all users get to decide what their data are, and want to find them.

I expect that rather than being of two minds, it is related to the Concordance routines in DT as Bill mentioned. Making accommodations for Concordance in EasyFind is not an issue.

EasyFind is not going to read the internal structure of a DEVONthink database-it is only going to locate the database documents as they are located in the filesystem (Finder) such as ~/MyGreatDatabase.dtBase2/Files.noindex/pdf/b/somedoc.pdf. There are no folders in the filesystem that correspond to the Groups in a database, so EasyFind will not be able to tell the user that my somedoc.pdf is located in a Group in the database named ‘MyGroupName’.

Yes. Maybe now. But my point is that EasyFind and DT are made by the some folks. So, a little cross-app functionality such as ‘reveal’ would make both products stronger with very little investment. (Says I, merrily spending someone else’s money 8) )

I would also second KeithKendricks and korms suggestions.

any kind of “idiot-type brute force search” in DevonThink which also could find an arbitrary search term containing special characters like "!?..) would be appreciated, even if the performance would be inferior to the AI search…

“It’s not that “most users want to search for the words used in languages”. The point is, all users get to decide what their data are, and want to find them.”

very good point, indeed - aren’t all (mac) users thinking differently?

I submit to you that you should be able to “escape” the wild-card characters with a backslash in searches. Afterall, that is common regular expression syntax.