Spending Some Time with DEVONthink for Mac

Spending Some Time with DEVONthink for Mac

(Justin DiRose) #1

Originally published at: https://productivityguild.com/2019/spending-some-time-with-devonthink-for-mac/

As I’ve mentioned previously, there are emerging classes of note-taking applications, one of which are reference libraries. I’ve always had some sort of a reference library in my workflow, but I never quite figured out how to use it well. Part of the reason is I didn’t have a clear enough use case for it.…

(emilio_n) #2

I am using DEVONthink Pro Office lightly by the moment but I am very happy with most of the things.
From the point of view of a not crazy productivity guy my pros and cons are:


  • Total control of the data and the privacy
  • Reliable sync with all my devices (iOS and Mac)
  • Container for all kind of files and great OCR system.
  • Flexibility to organize big about of data using several databases, saving the documents in the databases or just referencing the original location.
  • Good integration with the others app I use (Airmail, Omnifocus)
  • you can clip everything to DEVONthink. No just webpages, everything from the context menu


  • Really outdated interface (Big con)
  • Lack of customization in UI (Font size in the search is a good example)
  • The support forum is useful but not always very responsive and sometimes I feel that some answers and arrogant and not friendly.
  • you need to buy the Pro Office Version that is quite expensive, but the have sales at least 2 times per year.

I am waiting for the version 3 of the software. I think the v2 is around 10 years old. While in my opinion mayor version update is needed, the upgrade the software quite often with big fixes and some nice improvements.

I tried Evernote and I liked the design and functionalities but not the business model and subscription plan.
I checked Keep it! That looks a promising software but not so complete as Devonthink by the moment.
I used OneNote and I liked a lot. The integration with the pencil in the iPad pro is great but at least when I tried the synchronization was a nightmare.

(John Johnson) #3

I’ve used DTPO for quite a few years. I send receipts to it from Safari or Airmail. Anything tax related goes in a folder. I don’t bother with the Sorter/Inbox, and just choose the right folder when I send things it’s way.
Other than that, I have it indexing my Bookends library of PDFs, and my zettelkasten files from The Archive. Using the magic hat shows me everything related to whatever I need at the moment.
My use of it is fairly minimal, but it’s good for what I use it for. Some of the other features might be interesting, like creating sidecar note files fro PDFs that I read, etc. but I’ve never felt the need.
There are definitely a lot of possibilities, and I can see how that could be overwhelming, but there’s also more minimal use cases such as my own.

Edit: the included OCR is excellent, even on creaky old PDFs scanned from journals.

(Ed M) #4

For close to 12 years, DEVONthink Pro Office has been the first app I open in the morning on my desktop, and the last one to close at the day’s end. Most likely I am too familiar with every corner of it to be able to look at it with beginner’s eyes. The DEVONthink interface doesn’t bother me, though I know it troubles some folks to the point that they cannot use the application.

If the wrench is ugly but does the job a pipe fitter needs to do better than any other, then it’s the right tool for job.

For my purposes, the most interesting aspect of DEVONthink is that is is highly scriptable. I’ve contributed several hundred scripts to the community – as have others, such as Rob Trew, Frederiko, and more – most of which are responsive to specific needs of a community member at that time. There was a time when folks wrote lots of scripts for Evernote, too. Those days are over.

I agree that the community in the DEVONthink forum has become somewhat testy in recent years. Up until perhaps four years ago, the community was frequented by academics, researchers, and educators who discussed their use cases in depth and sought ideas from their peers. This has ended for reasons that are not apparent. Maybe the “average Apple user” today is different than 5 or 6 years ago? Twitter? I don’t know. Of course, like any application, the support community is self-selecting. Very few of the writers and researchers who use DEVONthink ever make their presence known in forums.

My main guidance for anyone contemplating DEVONthink or similar software is to first, always, think hard about why they need software to begin with. What are they looking to do. There are several valid ways to look at that question, and I think one useful way is to consider “how much information do I need to handle in my job / personal life”, and “how many projects do I need to juggle at the same time (for a extended period of time)”. I’ve developed a sense of how the DEVONthink aligns with similar software – outlined here. This is just opinion without science:

(emilio_n) #5

Really interesting @quorm
I am not using too much DEVONthink yet, but it’s clear that has big potential for manage most of my digital life. I will check it out the different scripts to get some inspiration.


I agree with quorm’s viewpoint.

(Bruce Maples) #7

I have looked at DevonThink at least three different times, and each time decided to go back to Evernote, even though I’m not thrilled with EN.

The DT interface was hard for me to get used to, for some reason. And, I always had the feeling that there were features I just wasn’t using. (Like learning it can be scripted, which I just found out.)

As a journalist, I really need a good way to keep story research organized. But it seemed to me that I was working too hard in DT to do that. The word I think I’m looking for is “friction.”

Of course, EN has its own friction: it’s ridiculously easy to get stuff in, but you’d better go back and do a good job with tags if you want to review everything for a story without getting flooded with other stuff.

Perhaps I’ll take another look at DT. Thanks for the article!

(John Johnson) #8

Have you considered Notebooks?
It seems like a nice way to organize artifacts related to some topic, and seems to do so better than Bear, Ulysses, et al.
I typed in some notes using off-the-cuff markdown, and it presented me with a nicely formatted document. I am impressed.

(Justin DiRose) #9

I’ve been researching this the last few days actually. I think I’m going to give it a go! I’m working on increasing the quality of information I consume (and incidentally I want to make sure I have a place I can store thoughts and annotations). Notebooks looks like a promising solution.

(John Johnson) #10

A few samples:

### Global Intensity Normalization
The mean intensity levels of subjects can vary due to uninteresting causes such as caffeine levels. Ideally, the same mean signal level will be found across all voxels and timepoints, that is, in 4D. Each 4D dataset is scaled by a single value to obtain an overall 4D mean. This is automatically performed in FEAT.

Technique                      | Effect
Reconstruction | Create image and remove gross artifacts
Motion Correction | Get consistent anatomical coordinates (always do this)
Slice Timing | Get consistent acquisition timing (use temporal derivative instead)
Spatial Smoothing | Improve SNR & validate GRF
Temporal Filtering | Highpass: Remove slow drifts Lowpass:Avoid for autocorr est.
Intensity Normalisation | 4D: Keeps overall signal mean constant across sessions


# Simple Single-Session Stats


[NBI1]: NBImages/20190103-151334.png

## The example experiment
- Three types of events
- 1st type: word generation “jelly fish” -- “catch”
- 2nd type: word shadowing “giggle” -- “giggle”
- 3rd type: null event (fixation cross)
- 6sec ISI, random order
- 24 events of each type

becomes (with the help of an image):

(Ed M) #11

@JohnAtl, OT, if one needs to do a number of markdown tables, TableFlip is useful to have around.

(John Johnson) #12

Thanks! Added to the wish list.
That’s one thing I liked about Notebooks, my Markdown was all janky, and it still laid out the table nicely.