Unable to search for "- [ ]"

I am trying to set up a smart group that finds the string “- [ ]” and for some reason, DEVONthink REFUSES to find this in the content of my notes. What am I doing wrong?

Steps to recreate…

  1. Create a .md or .txt file
  2. Add the line “- [ ] Try and find me” and save changes
  3. Attempt using the search box (or advanced search" and search for the “- [ ]” in quotes

I sometimes will do checklists in markdown documents using iA Writer and I want to set up a smart group to search for uncompleted tasks. For whatever reason, this is an unsearchable string.

I’ll get search hits if I enter - [ ] without the quotes, but that is not relevant as it is interpreting the minus as NOT and getting a bunch of other documents.

You are not able to do that as DEVONthink searches only for alphanumeric characters. Some non-alpha characters (e.g. ‘-’) are used as wildcard shortcuts, but all others are ignored.

Shouldn’t placing the query in the quotes force the special characters to be treated as a string literal? If I wanted to use it as a wildcard it should be outside the quotes.

To explain more fully, there are non-alpha characters, such as ‘-’, which are used as shortcuts for Boolean operators, such as NOT (which you discovered) as well as other non-alpha characters that are used as wildcards. Non-alpha characters, regardless if they are or are not assigned as a shortcut for a Boolean operator, are never searchable. Wildcards and Boolean operators are discussed in Search Operators section of the DEVONthink manual.

I understand the use of boolean operators, but I’m pointing out that DT is not treating them correctly in the context of inclusion within quotes.

For example:

oranges NOT apples should find items with the string oranges but not including apples

“oranges NOT apples” should find the phrase “oranges NOT apples”

Yes, but that will not match non-indexed characters, so DEVONthink is treating them correctly.

Thank you, I understand now. This is what Greg was getting at in his very first response but I focused in on the special operators comment which shouldn’t have mattered in the quotes.

Appreciate the help from the both of you. I’ll have to figure out another way around this use case.

No problem! :smiley:

Is there is list of special characters to be avoided? I have a habit of typing [] during meetings so that I can quickly spot something that should be turned into an actionable item in my todo system, or brought up later in a conversation. I generally process these after a meeting, and a search within the document works perfectly at finding []. I never took the time to think about why the shift-command-F search didn’t work, too. I think I should change my habit to something that works in all cases, probably something like typing a three letters back to back, ooo, for instance. (Thinking out loud.)

Yes, all of them! Non-alphanumeric characters will be ignored in a document search.