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DEVONthink: Integrated Information Manager

The latest release of DEVONthink [download] seems to scratch several itches I’ve been having lately. Specifically, I confess that I’ve been dashing (very unproductively) between a mountain of txt files, Mail.app, Entourage, two Moleskines, and an Instiki wiki trying to fashion the best solution for managing an amorphous collection of work, web, writing, and extracurricular projects. No single solution has been just what I needed, and, frankly, it’s been debilitating to try and maintain it all (Danny calls me the “patient zero” of productivity fads). It’s like tending rabbits, I tell you. While I know DEVONthink won’t solve all my problems, it looks very promising at corralling some of my thornier information management issues.

So far, I love the way that DEVONthink imports and manages stuff as well as how it draws informal but often rich semantic connections between documents. It has taken everything I've thrown at it so far (incl. Word files, photos, and Quicktime movies), and it still feels fast and stable (knock wood). I’m still getting my head around all the features and am still trying to find the best way to keep a database maintainable and well-organized, but I’m definitely intrigued.

I might also add—coming as this does on the heels of my reviewing two products that many of you found too costly—that DEVONthink rings up at just US$40 (further discounted for students). Given the power behind this app and the flexibility of things you can build with it, I find that gobsmackingly affordable.

So, DEVONthink nerds: if it suits you, consider sharing your thoughts on how to put the app to best use. I’m looking at you and your buddies here, Mr. Fred Reynolds. I know you guys have some pretty hot-rodded setups, and I’d love to hear how you do it. Ditto for good links to tutorials and tips on other sites. Also you can trackback this entry with posts about personal setups and novel uses you've found.

Richard Sandilands's picture

I'm using DT as a...

I'm using DT as a big, fairly flat filing cabinet for mostly PDF, rtf and txt content, although I did just dump a bunch of mov's in there as well. Images get looked after by iView Media Pro.

So, if I quickly need to grab whatever stuff I have on, say using spot-color channels in Photoshop, or everything I have on transparency in InDesign (I'm an IT trainer amongst other things), then a quick search in DT gets me there.

Again, I'm curious whether Spotlight in Tiger will supersede DT for me.

I have all my DT prefs set to "copy to database folder" (even for unsupported file formats) so everything ends up in one big directory in ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONThink/Files/ and and I then delete the originals from wherever they originated on my drive.

It feels a bit weird doing this but it seems to work and it keeps my ~/Documents directory nice and tidy!

Prior to 1.9 my main bugbear with DT was speed: I'd get the spinning beachball quite a bit on my 867 PowerBook with 512mb of RAM, but 1.9 seems much more responsive.

So DT for me is really about maintaining a freeform reference database of sorts. Files that get worked on frequently don't find their way into DT. They stay in ~/Documents

DT has nothing to do with my GTD setup whatsoever, except to the extent that it represents my digital filing cabinet. I use Vim to manage my todo.txt, with folding for each context, and for any other files that are in play on a regular basis.

I don't use the outlining or wiki features.


Richard Sandilands




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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