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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.

Doug's picture

Jeff, I think the best thing...


I think the best thing about DevonThink (and the thing that sets it apart from a lot of the other programs) is its ability to pull in a lot of different formats. You can drag in text and RTF, of course, but it also imports Word files, PDFs, graphic files, any Quicktime-based multimedia, etc.

When DevonThink imports PDFs, it pulls out all the text into it's database so all your PDFs are fully searchable. For example, I have about 100-150 research articles that I am using for my dissertation. I've imported them all into DevonThink, which allows me to not only view them all in the program, but do (superfast!) searches through all of them.

In fact, when I do a search for a term in my DevonThink database, not only does it pull up all the articles with that term, but it pulls up all my relevant notes, and any of my articles (which I also keep in the database).

All in all, it's a pretty cool program. My biggest dream for it, is to incorporate some sort of map view (a la Tinderbox). Then I could live in it all day!

The closed database does make me nervous sometimes, but I do keep backups (both of the database) and a full export backup (which saves all the included entries as regular Finder-based files and and folders).




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