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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, Yeah, PDFs in DevonThink really...


Yeah, PDFs in DevonThink really become an integral part of the database, rather than just "linked to the interface" (which seems to be what's happening in MacJournal). It's been a while since I've checked out Dan Schimpf's excellent program. I always like it (and I can't figure out why he doesn't start charging for it), but DevonThink covers what MacJournal does and more. DevonThink does a great job of pulling all PDF text into the database, so it can be searched (and if you have TextLightning you can even have it convert your PDFs to RTF format; although I've never felt the need for that feature).

DevonThink really seems to be a program you can both write it and store in. I would imagine some users could stay in it all day. It can handle your text, your PDFs, your images, your Quicktime media, etc. Additionally, the upcoming Pro version is going to have the ability to insert tables (which seem to indicate some sort of database fields - a nice feature of Tinderbox) and the ability to download and store whole web sites in the database (a la Sitesucker).

I sound like I work for them (I don't), but it's a great program. Some caveats, of course: I'm always wishing for a Tinderbox-like map view, the outliner will never replace Omni's or Inspiration for that matter, and the closed database makes me continually wish for something XML based. Additionally, everytime I get into a "nothing but ASCII text" mode, I want some other sort of tool. But, so far, it's the best thing I've found.





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