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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

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.

David Balluff's picture

I've tried DevonThink and Agent,...

I've tried DevonThink and Agent, Xnippets and other apps, but have forsaken them all. Instead, I'm just organizing manually into folders, and searching with OS X. I don't have to worry about data holes because Program A doesn't recognize certain file types. I can search PDFs. I can add rudimentary "metadata" automatically (date created, modified, etc.).

For an organizational tool to be truly superior to my laissez-faire approach to organization, it's got to embrace open standards and integration. If I decide I want to build upon the info I've collected, I don't want to worry about how I'm going to import/export it to another program.

It also has to be easy to add metadata that helps me to further organize what I've got. I'd like to see future GTD apps enable automatic embedding of metadata. iTunes is great in this respect, I can easily edit searchable data for multiple songs at once, and then create smart playlists based on various criteria. It wouldn't be difficult for future apps to embrace this model.

Lastly, multimedia aids are often necessary when doing research, and I'd like an app that allows for the management of images as well as text. If I had a collection of, say, 100 famous paintings, and wanted to link it to textual data or video clips, I'd be hard pressed to find one application that could handle them all. Ideas aren't specific to a certain file type, so software that presumes to aid the brain in this respect shouldn't be either.

My two cents...




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