Using comments


I have been away from DevonThink for a bit and I wonder if something has changed a little while I’ve been away. I’ve done a quick search on the forums but not found anything that seems to answer this.

I’d like to know the difference between the ‘Comment’ field and the ‘Spotlight Comments’ in the info window. I added comments to a database a while ago which are showing in the Comment field but I don’t seem to be able to edit them now. I’d like to move these to the Spotlight Comment field instead as this seems to be more accessible - how would I do that? I tried to set up a smart folder but couldn’t work out how to do a search on “has a comment”.

I’m sure I’m missing something obvious here!


“Comment” and “Spotlight Comment” are not the same, despite the similar name. Many, but not all, document editors use “Comment”. For example, if you use Aperture or Lightroom to edit image metadata you might make a change to the “Comment”. Or in Microsoft Word. Etc. These document editors usually know nothing about “Spotlight Comments”. Unlike DT, which does.

In DT, to edit “Comments” or other metadata you open Tools > Show Properties. You can also show “Comments” by adding that column to a view. (If you are adding columns to a view and right click on the column header bar, you will see “Comment” – and a number of other metadata fields accessible via Show Properties – in the section of the dropdown list underneath the second horizontal rule on that list.)

“Spotlight Comment” is the field you see in Finder when you look at the top portion of Info for a file. In DT you can change the Spotlight Comment in the DT Info panel or in the Spotlight Comment column of a view.

Spotlight itself distinguishes between “Spotlight Comment” and “Comment”, using the same terms. It is confusing, but sort of a legacy artifact of how file types developed over time – which is also why DT didn’t deviate from common practice and give “Comment” a different name.

Thanks for the reply Korm - that’s a really useful description!

The issue I have is that I can’t edit the comments. If I add the column to a view, or show properties, I can’t access the data to edit it. I only have a few entries with comments to move and it’s frustrating that I can see them but can’t work out how to move/delete them.

Any further pointers would be really helpful!

For what kind of document do you want to access “Comment”?

I’m having the same problem. I remember that clicking in the comment field in a column view made the field editable which is a faster way to add comments instead of show document properties.

@Korm: - I need it mainly for recording metadata about work documents, stuff that DT won’t be able to get from the text alone. I’ve taken the jump recently to put all my files in DT, and I find I often need extra metadata for work files. Research and reference docs seem ok as they are well covered by the native indexing.

@nestor: Same here, I’m sure I used to be able to edit comments in the record field, which made adding this kind of metadata really straightforward. This behaviour works for ‘Spotlight Comment’, but not ‘Comment’.


I think korm was asking what file type(s) are the document(s) where you want to access the comments field-PDF, RTF(D), etc.

It’s a range of files - txt, pdf, doc, xls, jpg, tiff - and Comment does not seem to be editable in any of them. It was mainly .doc files that I had added comments to before, but these are also not available to copy or edit.

The slightly odd thing is that if I open the Word file externally and view its properties, the comment is not reflected there. As the comment was added in a previous version of DT it’s now not available to edit or delete in either DT or Word.

It’s not a job-stopper as I can just hide the comments and not have to see them again, but I’d like to know where is best to keep this metadata going forward.

I’m afraid I didn’t clearly state that the most reliable way to edit metadata fields is to use whatever program created the file in the first instance. DT does not have the ability to access every metadata field that a given type of document might have, and in many cases can only display the field content.

These metadata fields are the ones you see in Tools > Show Properties, namely “Author”, “Company”, “Copyright”, “Title”, “Subject”, “Keywords”, “Comment”, in addition to the ones you see in the dropdown list used to chose column headers, namely: “From”, “To”, “Recipient”, “Headline”, “Description”, “Subject”, “Organization”, “Copyright”, and “Album”. You might recognize that many of these fields are from iTunes. Others are from the image metadata standards EXIF and IPTC. And others from the PDF standard. These are not the only file types that use these fields, but I don’t have the time or space to list all the culprits here. :neutral_face:

DT does a better job of displaying metadata than editing it. AFAIK, the only file type for which you can reliably edit every field in Show Properties is RTF.

But, remember that tags are also metadata and are infinitely more flexible and content-rich than the metadata mentioned above. You can accomplish the results you mention using tags.

Another very excellent approach is to use the annotation templates – look in the forum for Bill DeVille’s meticulous descriptions of his approach to using them. In many ways Bill’s approach is merely another form of metadata, but far richer than the static metadata fields that are available on a limited basis for a limited range of documents.

@nestor - the editable field you can edit is now called “Spotlight Comment” and is always editable when it is a displayed column in a view, and in the Info panel. See my original response, above – the field that cannot be edited that way is “Comment”. (The change that made a distinction between “Spotlight Comment” and “Comment” was the release of DT version 2.)

@nigeldgreen - very very few Mac programs will display Spotlight Comments. They are, however, always searchable in Spotlight.

Sorry for the very long responses. Unfortunately, when it comes to metadata fields, confusion often reigns. :confused:

Thanks for the explanation Korm :wink:

Hi korn

Where can I read Bill’s descriptions please?


Try searching the forum. Click “Advanced search”, in the upper right portion of this page. Use “annotation template” as the value in “Search for keywords” (without quotes). “Search for author” should be *deville.

It’s helpful to play around with Advanced search to find useful answers to frequently posted threads. :wink:

Thanks for these posts.

I wonder if there’s a straightforward way to view the comments field for podcasts – MP3 files, mostly – in the split view.

I can see comments in the list of files/groups via View > Columns > Comment, but for long comments it’s difficult to read them.

Instead, I’d like to see them in the right-hand pane where I can already see the title, artist, album, and time.

Is that possible?

Michael U.

No, it’s not possible to add fields for viewing in the right hand pane of split view. You might turn off widescreen and reduce the number of columns in the list view, then spread the comment column as wide as you can. Or, you could put the info panel next to the window and open the “Additional Information” section of that panel. The comments will be in that section of the panel. As you browse the file list, the info panel will change to show the data for the currently-selected file.

DT does not support wrapped text in rows.

korm’s advice is good, as usual, but I’m with Michael, I’d like to see a right hand pane just for comments, or at least improvements in the info panel to make viewing comments easier.

My biggest problem with the info panel is that it disappears when I switch from DT to another program. There are many times when I would like to view the comments when I’m using another program. Not currently possible. It would be nice to have comments pinned to the DT window so I could find them when using another program (or at least keep the info panel visible when switching programs).

My other problem with comments in the info panel is that there is a lot of information packed in there and I can only collapse “General” and “Additional Information”. If I could collapse some of the other information, comments would be easier to see. See screenshot:Screenshot.jpg

I quite agree. That columns do not word wrap to display longer entries is a shortcoming in the UI that I’d be happy to see go away. The workarounds have limited use.

Here’s what I assume ntahall was asking about:

Bothers me that Additional Information doesn’t retain its expanded/collapsed state when the Information panel is closed/reopened, like General does.

P.S. This topic reminds me of some old ones, e.g.: Info panel