What is best way to hack "publication" or historical dates?

A lot of my research is from old documents, and I often need to sort them in some chronological sequence. Not always the publication date, but the date of the event discussed.

In EagleFiler, I managed to do this by hacking the “From” field with a date such as 1942-10. I have not found an equivalent hack in DTP. I want to Sort and Find records by this date. Here are the alternatives I have found so far:

  • Most records have an “author” who can be overwritten. But some file types don’t allow that field to be edited. The same for “title” and other fields in the properties section.
    *I can embed a code in the text e.g. ##1942-10. But that will not allow searching on a range of dates, nor will it allow sorting.
    *I can use tags for each date, but that has the same problem as codes. It also clogs up the tag list.
    *I can put a date into the file name. It has to go at the front of the filename, and it is awkward to search on a date range.
    *I can wait for general purpose metadata to arrive.

What do people suggest?? How do you do it? (There must be may historians using DTP.) For now I’m planning to use the Author field for a date.

Here is a thread with relevant discussion:

My initial thought was to create annotations but I suppose if you need to create hundreds of them it might be impractical.

There are three built-in date attributes for any record (document) in a database: addition date, creation date, and modification date. These are normally, respectively, the date the record was added to a database, the date the document was created, and the date it was modified (edited). Of these, users can change the last two: creation date and modification date. Since modification date can also be changed by editor programs and other events, it’s not safe to change it for a purpose such as the OP’s.

So, academics here have occasionally used creation date for the purpose of identifying historical event date. It is a manual process – you can can creation date for a single selected record in Get Info. Or you can use a script such as this one that was contributed by Frederiko. A forum search will reveal similar.

I have seen other researchers here and elsewhere use tags for the purpose successfully, since they are free-form and can be read externally (if the document is indexed and/or exported so that DEVONthink writes the tags to the file), or Spotlight Comment (for the same reason as tags). Another approach is to create a master document for each event you want to connect to other documents, and add links to the other documents into the master document so that it is a sort of index. Or, use the date in the name of the document – which can get cumbersome quickly.

Of course, yes, eventually there might be custom metadata. Anticipated for many years; not here yet.

Thank you - creation date sounds like a good approach. And thanks for th efast response. I have to create dates manually anyway, since it often requires judgments. I could also imitate what I did in EagleFiler, and use an alphabetic field in Properties, such as company or copyright. I enter dates as 1941-12-07 so alphabetic sorting works fine.

I notice that a few fields can be entered directly into the Three Pane view, such as Name, URL and Spotlight comment. But almost all require going to the relevant properties page - even things like Title. (Request) It would be nice if more fields would allow overriding the default without going to a properties page.

One of the main ways I use dates is for sorting. For example, I want to examine aircraft manuals for American Navy jets, looking for trends. Tags are very awkward for this unless I accept very granular time periods such as 1960s or WW2.

I had not considered building a master document (which could I suppose be in Excel) that lists particular kinds of documents by date. That seemingly requires having some idea in advance of what I will search on. It’s also rather circular - create a special database (in Excel) to reference documents in DTP. I wonder about using something that is more date savvy, such as Bookends, for this purpose. There are other reasons to use Bookends (in parallel with DTP). I may look into this.