One-Click DevonThink Markdown Journal Entry

With COVID-19 running wild here in Quebec we are homeschooling this year. One of the ways that the government evaluates the progress of homeschool students is by asking parents to submit a portfolio. Since I’m primarily responsible for English classes I need to have records. I already use DevonThink as a data repository, so that’s where the homeschooling records are going.

English Journal

Every time we spend some time working on English I create a journal entry as a new Markdown in Devonthink. I thought about keeping one large document and continually appending to it but several small documents seems more searchable and gives me accurate timestamps and geolocations, (if we ever travel again). The journal entries are all kept in a Homeschool > English Journal group.

Since creating a new markdown document several times a week is kind of slow I made a template, and added a button to the menu bar in Devonthink to create a new English Journal entry with one click.

Creating a Devonthink Template

As a fairly new Devonthink user this was my first foray into using templates. I assumed there would be some sort of template editor in Devonthink but there isn’t. You can create an existing document as a template or copy an existing template in Finder. There are also two kinds of templates: normal, and “smart” templates. Normal templates aren’t completely dumb – they have some placeholders that can be replaced by dynamic values, (things like Date, Time, or the user’s name). Smart templates are a bundle of files, including an AppleScript file. The AppleScript file is the main file in the template and controls everything. There can be other files in the bundle, (like a template.md file), and the AppleScript file can refer to those files. I ended up with a Smart template, with some minimal smarts.

A screenshot of the directory structure of the English Journal Devonthink template.The script in my template opens my “Home” database, makes sure the Homeschool > English Journal group exists, then creates a new markdown document in the English Journal group based on the English Journal.md file. The script is relatively simple:


-- Import helper library
tell application "Finder" to set pathToAdditions to ((path to application id "DNtp" as string) & "Contents:Resources:Template Script Additions.scpt") as alias
set helperLibrary to load script pathToAdditions

-- Get the template file path.
set theTemplateFile to helperLibrary's pathToLocalizedResources() & "English Journal.md"

tell application id "DNtp"
	
	
	-- Open the database.
	set theDatabase to open database "/Users/John/Databases/Home.dtBase2"
	-- Get a reference to the group I want.
	set theLocation to create location "/Homeschool/English Journal" in theDatabase
	
	-- Create the document based on the template file.
	set entry to import theTemplateFile to theLocation placeholders {}
	
	-- Open the new document.
	open tab for record entry
	
end tell

The markdown file is pretty simple too. %time% and %longDate% are Devonthink placeholders to put the date & time into the journal entry.

# English Activity Record
## %time% %longDate%

### Activities
- Pages ### - ### in _Toute ma 3e année_.

### Parent Reading Aloud

I may adjust it to prompt for a title for each entry, and to add my current location to the text of each entry.

One-Click Template Use

With a working template bundle, (in ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink 3/Templates.noindex), it was time to put a button in the Devonthink menu bar:

How to put a template in the Devonthink toolbar:

  1. Move the template bundle into ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink 3/Templates.noindex/Toolbar
  2. Restart Devonthink
  3. Go to View > Customize Toolbar in Devonthink
  4. Drag the “English” button to the Toolbar.

While View > Customize Toolbar is open you can choose to show the Icon and Text in the toolbar if you want.

Set an icon for the toolbar button:

It is possible to set a custom icon for the toolbar button, (by default it’s a gear). Devonthink has a weird way of setting the icon, (weird in a good way): set the icon of the template bundle in Finder. Devonthink takes whatever icon Finder thinks the template should have and puts it in the toolbar.

How to customize a file’s icon on macOS:

  1. Open the image you want to use as a custom icon, (in Preview, or wherever).
  2. Copy the image, (Command-C, or Edit > Copy).
  3. Option-click the file that will get the custom icon.
  4. Select “Get Info” from the menu.
  5. Click the file icon in the “Get Info” window so it’s highlighted.
  6. Command-V to paste the image you copied in Step 2 as the custom icon.

If you ever want to remove the custom icon to back to the Get Info window and Command-X to remove it.

The new “English” button in my Devonthink.

Mobile Entry?

This system only works on my computer. I’d like to have a mobile option but in this moment it’s not a pressing need.

What do you think?

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Made by John