Basic info needed for prospective new user - help pls:


I’m hoping someone can advise me as to whether DEVONthink would be useful for me. I’m a researcher and use OmniFocus to keep a hierarchical database of all my projects in the lab. Many of my actions have files attached, with info associated with each one. The problem is that OmniFocus doesn’t do well with attachments - it crashes with big databases, so I tried to use links to files in Dropbox instead of storing the files directly. Unfortunately the links go bad somehow with time - apparently Omnifocus just isn’t set up for this kind of use. What I need is

  1. an extremely stable database of files, which wouldn’t get corrupted even with gigabytes of information

  2. a way to link to files in the database from OmniFocus actions such that the files would open on any of my client machines - desktop, laptop, and iPad.

    does this sound like it would work for me? how’s the stability and linking from different clients - does that work well?

    how does the sync work - is there a central database on a server somewhere that all the clients connect to?

    also, is it possible that I can replace OmniFocus entirely - can I use this as a database for hierarchically-organized ideas (not just files) and see the same database on all my devices once they’re synchronized?


Mike, DEVONthink and OmniFocus play well together in several ways.

There is a script that is installed in DEVONthink’s Script menu (in the Reminders group of that menu) – “Add as To Do in OmniFocus”. One selects and document in DEVONthink, and runs the script. This simply creates an action in OmniFocus’s inbox with the name of the document and places in the “notes” section of that action a clickable link back to that document in the DEVONthink database where the original document resides.

This simple script is just the beginning. If you search this forum for OmniFocus you’ll find many tips, scripts, and techniques contributed by DEVONthink users. Some of the most helpful and robust scripts were contributed by Robin Trew - houthakker - who is a master scripter and an active participant here and in OmniFocus’s forums.

In the DEVONthink Data menu you’ll find a command Copy Item Link. When you select a document, and click the command, this puts a link to the document on your clipboard. You can paste the link into OmniFocus, a document you are writing, or many other locations. Clicking the link tells DEVONthink to open the document. Even if you move the document into another group or another database inside DEVONthink, the link will always open just that document and will always find the document as long as it has not been deleted. It’s a very useful feature, and users have found many ways to use it in scripts, templates, while taking notes, etc.

One advantage is that while making research notes in DEVONthink you can place links to your references into your note file without having to attach the document. There are scripts available with DEVONthink that help you create different kinds of annotations, with links to the annotated document.

You’re looking for a stable database - DEVONthink is a very stable database (actually - you can create as many databases as you wish). Many authors, academics, and researchers use DEVONthink. I’d suggest you browse for Steven Berlin Johnson’s essays in the Times Book Review and elsewhere. Or, read Joe Kissell’s Take Control book about DEVONthink.

Excellent, thanks. What is the synchronization like? That is, if I open my OmniFocus database on another computer, will the links to the DevonThink documents still open? Does Devonthink sync its databases among multiple computers on which it is installed? I saw a sync application for this from a 3rd party company - that makes me nervous - is it not a built-in function of DevonThink?

DEVONthink does not (yet) have a synchronization feature between desktop or laptop machines – it is currently under development (stand by) – but it does have synchronization between a desktop/laptop and iPhone/iPad. For that, the DEVONthink to Go app is available from the iTunes app store.

DEVONthink document links are universal - they will work on any machine that (a) has DEVONthink installed and (b) has a database open which contains the linked-to document. This includes links added to OmniFocus desktop or iOS (or any place that links can be clicked.) If your iPad has DEVONthink to Go and OmniFocus, and the document is on the iPad, the link will work. The links don’t work across machines, however – clicking a DEVONthink link on one machine doesn’t open a document that’s on another machine.

DEVONthink is not, strictly, a network application. Though it can use features of your local network. In the DEVONthink Pro Office version there is a web server that enables you to expose databases in a browser interface for access on your local machine and on the Internet if you have sharing turned on for that machine. The web server was broken by Lion/Safari – due to a Lion bug – but works in Netscape for now.