Tag Awkwardness and Accidental Data Delete

I keep getting bitten by the way DT tags work that causes me to lose data. Technically its my fault, but I wanted to share this and maybe get some feedback or suggestions.

Try this:

  1. Create a new tag (name doesnt matter)
  2. Within the tag selected, create an item inside the tag (for example, a Rick Text note)
  3. Delete the tag. The rich text note is also deleted.

ok, this is expected behavior, and yes I get that tags are really just groups with a few changed behaviors. But it’s too easy to create an item INSIDE a tag, and then not realize it’s not in any other group. Later (perhaps months later), you delete the tag and POW … a bunch of items get deleted as well. That’s not nice.

One thing I’ve noticed is that tags are special in that tags do not count as “replicas”. I get why this is, but it means that there is no easy way to scan though a tag and see if any items ONLY exist in that tag (because the replicate icon is suppressed for tags). All the items look the same; those that ARE in other groups and those that are ONLY in the tag.

So I’d like to suggest something. When an item is ONLY in a tag, add a new icon next to the name (like the current replicate and duplicate icons). Then, when you click on a tag and see all the items tagged, its easy to see those items that are ONLY in that tag (and hence will get deleted if you delete the tag).

(An alternative would be to NOT delete items that are only in a tag, and move them either into the root folder or create come kind of lost+found group for them)


But it keeps biting because of the odd way in which tags behave. If I replicate an item to multiple groups, I see a nice little “replica” icon next to the item name. But this doesnt happen w

My suggestion is simple, just don’t create documents inside a Tag group. I just don’t see the use case for doing that. If you create a document inside a tag, you now know from experience that it doesn’t exist anywhere else, so why continue to do it?

Well yes I agree, and I’m not doing this deliberately, but it happens to me from time to time. People make mistakes you know :slight_smile:

My point really is the behavior is a bit odd. I don’t think deleting a tag should EVER delete any of the items that it tags (certainly not without a warning). It’s just not what a user would expect.

And how can you tell if its going to happen? Let’s look at groups for a moment. Yes, when you delete a group, the contents are also deleted, but this isn’t surprising, because users understand that groups are a container, and they have been conditioned to this behavior from using file systems.

But this is NOT the case with tags. An item that only exists in a tag is indistinguishable from an item that is also present in a group elsewhere, since DT suppresses the replica icon for tags. So not only does DT delete an item when you delete the tag, it hides the fact that this is going to happen.

Hence my ask either for an icon to make this clear (or a warning when the tag is deleted), or (even better) to NOT delete the items when the tag is deleted.


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This behavior is not hidden from the user, if the user had read the manual. Groups and Tags in DEVONthink are interchangeable, and are specifically described in the manual as such. Tags are Groups and Groups can be/are tags.

I’m not saying that my way is the only way to work work with tagging, but I create/add documents to my database and then decide if/how those documents need to be tagged. I’ve never thought 'Let me create a tag so that I can then create documents in that tag’s group." In all the years that DEVONthink has had tagging, I can recall only 1-2 other times on this forum where what you are describing has been mentioned as a problem before.

Look, I apologize if I’m appearing to be harsh about this but you asked for feedback and suggestions and my thoughts are that it may be advisable to change your process rather than request the developer to change the code to address a very limited use case. Tagging in DEVONthink certainly can use improvement, and I’d rather see that development time spent implementing broader changes such as a usable tag cloud, etc. Sincerely, I hope this helps rather than give the impression that I am looking to be confrontational.

If you are creating a file inside a Tag, deleting the group would very logically delete the file since it exists nowhere else in the database. This is no different than creating a file in a regular group, then deleting the group.

The mechanism for properly tagging a record creates a type of replicant in the Tag group, ensuring the “safety” of the file in the database.

I personally disagree with these approaches. I think the optimal solution is to explicitly disallow creating files inside a Tag group.

That would be fine too, I’d rather prevent the issue in the first place rather than cure it.