Ok, here’s what happened. It’s a side effect of one of Devonthink’s most flexible superpowers. Tags are groups. From that simple idea, much flexibility descends.
For background, I want to have a select few groups act as tags. I can have all groups act as tags, and that’s pretty cool in some situations. It also means every group adds its tag to every document down the chain in nested groups.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. I can turn off “exclude groups from tagging” in the database properties and then re-enable the exclusion on parent groups that don’t need to behave as tags. Once “exclude groups from tagging” is disabled, you have a choice on every group - include as a tag, or exclude from tagging.
If you have groups that run ten levels deep and only the deepest level is included in tagging, its tag is the only one seen down at that level, not all nine of its ancestors.
Mostly, I wanted groups that remained excluded from tagging even if the option were enabled.
Being not quite as bright and bushy-tailed as I thought, I created a smart rule like this:
The astute are cautioned against injury from overzealous face palming.
The script invoked was this:
The problem is that wonderful concept of tags being groups. As long as I tagged documents by dragging them into an existing tag, no problem.
When I added a new tag to the tag bar on a document, causing a new tag to be created, the rule set the tag to “exclude from tagging.” A tag excluded from tagging won’t appear as a tag because it shouldn’t.
I edited the smart rule to this and all is well - tags are working as expected again:
The change is to make sure the rule is set to “all of the following are true”, which now includes both “kind is group” and “kind is not tag.”
New groups are flagged to be excluded from tagging on creation, tags are left alone. Happy, happy, happy.
So, why is this something I’d want to do?
Imagine you’ve got a few hundred factoids, PDF’s, and stuff you’ve found while researching a topic. The next step is to write your paper.
Create a group called “outline”. In there, make groups for each chapter or section of your manuscript. Make a subgroup in each of those named things like “chapter1-ref”, “chapter2-ref”, etc. Set those “ref” groups so they are not excluded from tagging.
Now you can write topic notes in the chapter groups for what you want to say. Elsewhere in your database, you can tag each document that supports chapter 1, for example, with the tag “chapter1-ref”.
Double click on chapter 1 to open it and you have a focussed view of your chapter 1 notes with a subgroup containing replicants from every document you tagged with chapter1-ref. Each of those supporting documents can appear in any other “ref” group/tag as well.
Regarding excluding a tag from tagging, I think that’s a good feature to leave in place even if it’s of only very rare use. It’s part of the symmetry between tags and groups, and it opens the possibility of having groups of tags. You might want to group tags in buckets without the buckets cluttering up the tagging.
Anyway, mea culpa. Devonthink did exactly what I asked of it.