Well, Alex Payne’s understanding of Devonthink seems to be derived from Steven Berlin Johnson’s descriptions, or something less, but not usage. I think most users, at least those in this forum, don’t use the database at all in the way he’s suggesting.
What I like about DT is exactly its ability to structure data, and make connections across that structure when the data violates or sidesteps the strictures of the structure. Finding and relating information in this way is continually the challenge for people who analyze qualitative data.
Sure, in the Finder (and increasingly in Path Finder), I structure my files in nested hierarchies that relate to their function- teaching, research, manuscripts, committee service, hobbies (for me those are all about bike racing), music, photos, etc. I know where to find pretty much anything I need to find.
Spotlight is a powerful indexer and search tool-- but not for the type of search functions my research demands-- fuzzy spelling, context of categories, boolean operators, often restricted, etc. I’m not looking for files, but bits of data. It’s not the same thing.
I guess I could make Spotlight act more that way with extensive attention paid to tagging in Spotlight comments- maybe using Default Folder X. But, the returns are still unwieldy. Spotlight for me works best as an application launcher or to find whole documents- which I can find in Finder just as easily.
I can’t comment on the other programs-- I played around a little with Yojimbo, Tinderbox, Evernote, Together-- but they didn’t work for the way my brain processes my research. I may well be, though, that is because of the type of research I do. In any case, Payne does seem to get the real utility of a program like Devonthink for qualitative researchers.
And why back on rtf and pdf files? If one really wants plain text, that’s an option too. Still, in my experience through the years rtf and pdf are much more durable file types than all the notes I took in WordPerfect back in the day, even more so than .doc files now being replaced by .docx. Is there a single word processor on the planet that can’t open an rtf in either mac or wintel platforms? Is there movement anywhere away from pdfs for online book and article databases like jstor?
Apologies for the longish counterrant.