The Apple Press review

As the Devon blog noted on May 6, The Apple Press did a nice review of DevonThink. However, the blog does not mention the review’s criticisms, including the following:

“Another gripe with DEVONthink is the fact that there’s no easy way to change a document’s creation date once it has been imported into the database. This is a glaring shortcoming for anyone who needs to organize files by date and doesn’t always create PDF’s on the day the documents were issued or received. Only when you scan documents directly into DEVONthink do you get a chance to enter a custom date. Mr. Böhnisch-Volkmann states that this “omission” is actually a “feature” since some government agencies may not allow date-changes for paperless workflows.”

I really like DevonThink a lot, but this is my most frustrating gripe with the product. How can you have a database and not be able to organize items by whatever date you want to organize them by? And be able to change those dates when it suits you?

This is not a feature, it’s a terrible terrible omission, and I hope others who agree with let Devon know they need to allow this.


Eric’s comment is correct. There are many users of DEVONthink who maintain databases for purposes for which there are regulatory restrictions or other considerations against changing the creation or modification dates of documents. The old “What did you know, and when did you know it?” question is important in many circumstances. If one is keeping laboratory notes, for example, the validity of the date of creation or modification of a note can become highly significant, e.g., for a patent application.

Is it possible to change such properties as the creation or modification date of a file under OS X, UNIX, DOS/Window/Vista, Linux, etc.? Yes, and many regulatory agencies require the administrator of a database to certify that such procedures are not used, Inclusion of a specific feature for creation/modification date changes in DEVONthink would create a problem for a growing number of users.

Other users want total freedom to modify document creation and modification dates, e.g., to use them for classification and sorting of records in, for example, an archaeological dig or a catalog of medieval manuscripts in a collection.

So the designers of a multipurpose database application such as the DEVONthink applications must be aware of the needs of users of the databases, some of which might be in apparent conflict.

There are in fact multiple ways in which documents can be assigned to specific dates or to ranges of dates without modification of the creation or modification date of records. That could be done by a searchable and sortable prefix to the document name, by creation of a classification by date group structure, to which documents can be replicated, or by tagging. For example, the “Registers” smart groups provide examples of ways in which documents can be assigned to various kinds of date classification (such as year, month, day) without modification of creation or modification date.

DEVONthink is becoming more and more widely used for serious legal, business and scientific record management and must be sensitive to the special needs of those users as well as to the general population of users.

Sorry you’re having a bad day. You might want to re-read the review you mention. The paragraph after the one you quote has a link to a script provided by Christian that let’s you change the create date for as many records as you select.

Korm, I did see that paragraph. It’s a kludgy workaround.

Bill, thanks for the suggestions (and for your always helpful presence in these forums.)

I can understand not being able to change modification dates for legal reasons, but I don’t understand at all why a database application as powerful at DevonThink doesn’t allow a user to easily make custom dates in a dedicated column. The programming wouldn’t be difficult and it seems like an obvious and powerful feature.

Again, thanks.



Thank you for the link to this script. I was able to modify it to create a new item which I would call a “tickler” with the new dates associated with the record and any comments. The new item has a link to the old one (which remains unmodified). A nice work around which is better than modifying the dates of the original item.

Though you could argue that this is a better approach in that it allows you to add notes about the document, in HRM’s defense, I’d still rather be able to create new metadata for the original item with date characteristics rather than a new record. But I think this will do nicely.

Tom S.

Thanks for all the feedback! A future release might either contain an enhanced script or the possibility to change dates via the Info panel but no promises yet :wink:

I agree with Bill. However, I do prefix each filename with 9 characters: YYYYMMDD, taken to mean whatever date I want it to mean for that document.

+1 I use a TextExpander snippet that prefixes date in this format (and sometimes with an HHMM suffix if granularity matters) to everything I create/save from everywhere - not just DTPO. It’s a great fast & easy sort mechanism that’s not dependent on OS X dating or anything else.