watching external folders


I’m sure this is covered somewhere, but I’ve just spend 30 minutes looking on the forums, tutorials, tips and tricks, and the help file without success. Topics on the forum are about or over a decade old.

How do you watch an external folder on a mac? (automatically import files put into that watched folder or its subdirectories)

The closest information I found is … r-actions/.

I’m not clear if that’s what I’m looking for. Regardless, it’s not not written very well. For instance, what disk image is being recommended to mount? Why would I have a DTPO image? I run it from the applications folder.

Next, it instructs to “Open the folder Extras/Scripts/Folder Actions.” Where? In this mystical disk image? Cause these folders don’t exist in the DTPO application package or anywhere else that I can find.

Can anyone kindly link me instructions for this process or explain it to me? I appreciate any help and apologize for asking about something likely answered elsewhere (I couldn’t find it).


Those instructions are a bit out of date. Here’s one way to make a folder which adds things to DEVONthink:

  1. Create the folder you want to turn into a DEVONthink drop folder.

  2. Run Automator, and select New Document.

  3. When the dialog appears asking what kind of Automator document, select Folder Action.

  4. Now you’re editing the folder action. At the top right is a drop-down which will let you select the folder you created in step 1.

  5. Use the search box top left (where it says Actions and Variables) to search by name for DEVONthink, and it’ll show you all the available DEVONthink actions. Choose “Add Items to Current Group” and drag it over to the right side of the window.

  6. You should now have a workflow which goes Folder Action, Set Current Group, Add Items to Current Group. Edit the Set Current Group action to choose the group where you want the items filed.

  7. Edit the Add Items to Current Group action to choose how you want them filed (copy or index).

  8. Save your folder action.

Now try it out – drag a file to the folder and see if it works.

Hi Meta!

That worked very well. I appreciate the help. The only issue for me is that it doesn’t work with subdirectories. If I drop anything into that folder, it works, even if I drop folders into it. But if I drop anything into the subdirectories then the script doesn’t catch it. I suppose there’s no way to work that out?

I don’t think so. The problem is, the folder action will only be triggered if you make a change to the folder the action is attached to.

You could, of course, attach the same folder action to the subfolders.

Love your handle. Is that from Pali or meta as in metadata?

Thanks again,

As in metadata and metadiscussions!

That’s cool. Meta in Pali means loving-kindness.


Isn’t this what the DT Inbox folder is for in the Finder sidebar?

I’ve got folders with subfolders that I would like to stay synchronized with groups in DTPO. That would save me a lot of time. I’m not sure that the DT Inbox folder in the Finder sidebar is any kind of synchronization.

It’s not. It’s for importing data into the Global Inbox.

PS: To keep things clear, you may not want to use the terms “sync” or “synchronizing” in regards to this situation. “Sync” means a very specific thing in DEVONthink. You may want to use “updating”, “keeping folders up to date”, etc. Just something to consider. Cheers!

I didn’t in my OP, but did here for clarification since it is the correct term and my previous attempts to describe the situation without it failed. Anyway, I guess it isn’t possible. I do appreciate the help.

Hmm, @meta instructions fail for me at step three I think it is. When adding/dragging over “Add items to current group” Devonthink action does nothing.???
Also there are several others that do not function or can not be added to a flow.

Do you need Devonthink whole disk access for this to work on Mojave 10.14.3?

I turned it on but did not reboot, maybe that is the problem, be right back.


Outside this issue: For the best operation of our applications, you should enable Full Disk Access.

Note Pro / Pro Office install Folder Actions (unless you explicitly disabled them when it launched. They can be installed from the DEVONthink menu > Install Add-Ons, if need be). You can attach them to a folder in the Finder via right-click > Services > Folder Actions Setup. Try one out and see how it works for you! Also, the Folder Actions are editable for those so inclined.

One other note: With Folder Actions, it’s best to:

  • Start with an empty folder, then attach the Action.
  • Remove files from the watched folder after the import. Scripts like Import & Delete do just that.