Tuesday Tip: The Ideal Groups Structure

When you are getting started with DEVONthink, the top challenge is to set up a useful groups structure. It should be flexible, extensible, and reflect your very personal work style. Here are some tips for you.

Use Sub-Groups

The basic rule for creating a useful group structure in DEVONthink is to extensively nest groups. Don’t use just one group called “Business” and throw in hundreds or thousands of emails. Create sub-groups for your clients or, even better, your projects. This helps DEVONthink’s classify functions to easier locate an appropriate group for a newly added item. The fewer documents a group contains and the more focussed its contents are, the better the classification.

Mix Documents and URLs

RSS feeds in DEVONthinkDEVONthink has the unique ability to hold both documents stored locally on your Mac and bookmarks to relevant information on the Web in one group and display both equally next to each other. This way you can keep e.g., all project-relevant data together in one group regardless if they are files or live Web pages.

Use Replicants

A replicant

Replicants enable you to have a single document appearing at multiple places in your group structure. Unlike an alias, there is no “original” and multiple “aliases.” A replicant is like a second phone book entry for one and the same person. You create replicants by selecting an item and choosing “Data > Replicate,” by control-clicking it and choosing “Replicate To >” from the contextual menu, or by dragging an item with the Command and Option keys down.

Replicated items appear in dark red so that you can immediately tell that this item has at least one other instance. When you delete a replicated item, you only remove this very instance. You can also delete all instances of an item by choosing “Data > Delete All Instances.”

Create an “Inbox”

The Groups panelIf you are the collector type of user, it could be useful to create a group that functions as an inbox for newly added items. Use it to throw in all documents you want to add to your database, and later, when you have a minute, you come back and sort them into the most appropriate groups, e.g., using the classify functions.

Simply create a new group and name it “Inbox.” You could even add a “•” in front of the name which makes it easier to locate in the group list or in the Groups panel. Then, open the application preferences, and on the “Import” tab, select the new inbox group in the “New Notes:” pop-up menu.

3 Responses to “Tuesday Tip: The Ideal Groups Structure”

  1. Daniel O'Donnell says:

    Thanks for the note about using subgroups. I’m using some (like subfolders in the Finder), but not much.

    One limitation I find with them though is that I can’t put an item into multiple folders. Actually I can by recreating the item multiple times, but that’s a kludge. What I’d like to do is to tag an item with multiple tags. This way I can put it in one place but have DT “think” of it in multiple contexts.

    This is how 43F, Digg and Delicious work, and it seems to be a useful notion.

  2. webmaster says:

    Daniel: You can! Simply ‘replicate’ an item (like an alias, but without the distinction between ‘original’ and ‘alias’) and put the replicant into another folder. You can replicate items as many times as you want!

  3. mlnichols says:

    If you’re using links, be very descriptive when naming your groups and documents, and don’t make names a common word! A group/document simply named ‘Nature’ will be linked every time you type the word. For example, ‘human nature,’ ‘nature calls,’ and ‘the imperatives of nature’ will all be linked! And it seems that renaming a group/document breaks all previously made links (please correct me if I’m wrong).

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