(Excuse the longish post, but I was so excited by the ability to create “tags” in DevonThink that I wanted to provide a summary.)
When I first used DevonThink, one of my fundamental questions had to do with metadata and tagging. Sites such as del.icio.us had spoiled me. I wanted some visual representation of the various topics contained in my database, some way of perusing the database by keyword or metadata.
While the concordance is an exceptionally useful tool for browsing through all the words contained in the database, it is somewhat broader than a keywords search. And while DevonThink is unparalleled in its ability both to locate specific information quickly and to suggest related information (See Also and Classify), I was looking for a more casual way of browsing the main categories in my database or doing searches that would bring up all items I had tagged “bookreviews” and “Marx” (for instance).
My first attempts at tagging involved replicating items to subject groups. This method, however, was a little cumbersome and time consuming; I ended up having to use the contextual menu a lot, since the “Move To” button would remove the item from its original (and permanent) location in my database. At the same time, this tagging system was highly unstable, since one accidental click of the “Move To” button would erase all other instances of an item (and thus eliminate its “tags”). Likewise, the “Ungroup” command raised the deadly possibility of losing all my filing work, since the “tags” were not actually attached to the item.
Since then, posts on this forum alerted me to the possibility of using comments and smart groups to create tags. The results have been nothing short of spectacular! Now I can have the best of all possible worlds: both DevonThink’s powerful organizational and search tools AND the simplicity and flexibility of a Web 2.0 tagging structure. Meanwhile, the basic underlying structure of my database (organized by source and/or date) remains very stable.
I know this all may seem fairly basic to many of the readers of this forum, but I wanted to take a moment to present my own method of tagging in DevonThink, which is wholly indebted to scripts and advice already posted here:
Here’s my basic method. Though it requires a bit more manual maintenance than web-based tagging systems, it nonetheless provides most of their features–and some others besides. (I would welcome any suggestions on how to tweak this method):
1)Everytime I create a new note or clipping in the database, I enter single-word tags in the comment field in the info box (e.g., history illness nineteenthcentury bookreviews). [There are also scripts for adding tags to multiple items, but I haven’t had time to check these out yet.]
2)Just to be on the safe side, I keep a list of all my tags in a sheet (which I can sort alphabetically). This might be overkill, but it provides a quick reference for all the keywords in the database and helps to prevent inconsistent labelling.
3)Using the Smart Groups [Comments] search script provided in the links above, I create a new Smart Group for each new keyword. With Quicksilver, I can create a new folder with just a couple of keystrokes. From now on, everytime I open this folder (filed in a group called “tags”), it will contain all of the items labelled with that particular tag (e.g., “Iraq”).
[One caveat: The Smart Group doesn’t update unless you click on it or open it, so the number of items in a group is only as accurate as the last time you accessed the group. Does anyone know of a script to trigger all the scripts associated with Smart Groups, so that one can get an up-to-date representation of their contents?]
4)And now for the really good stuff: Once you’ve built up your system of Smart Groups, you can use the classify button to suggest tags or keywords for each new item, as the classify button will show groups with related items. Think of this as something similar to the “recommended tags” feature on del.icio.us.
- Even better, if you have the “auto links” feature turned on, every time one of your keywords appears in a document, it will link to the relevant tag (i.e., smart group). Sometimes (especially with mashed keywords) you’ll have to create aliases in the info box of the Smart Group to make this work properly. (E.g., the keyword “nineteenthcentury” might need aliases such as “nineteenth,” “19th,” etc.)
This feature provides just one more way of discovering fortuitous links within my database. Since I now do all my writing in DevonThink, I’m never more than a click away from relevant sources, whether through auto-links, Classify, or See Also. In my opinion, the addition of tagging makes DevonThink by far the most robust and flexible personal information management software ever!
I now also have a way of browsing my notes by topic (something I do to generate ideas, especially when I’m not always sure what I’m looking for). Also, I can do keyword searches by searching only the comments field of my database.
I’m not sure what type of tagging or metadata capabilities will be included in DevonThink 2.0. My only concern is that my current metadata will not become obsolete. If there is a new keyword or tagging feature, will I be able to transfer my keywords in comments to that?