Better DT PDF viewer?

Hi all,
I feel good to use the default DT PDF viewer to read my PDFs, the “Note” functionality that displays notes on the margin.
I usually use the “Note” functionality to take notes and the “Highlight” to highlight. The problem is, when I’m selecting sentences and found I want to delete a note, I have to click the “Note” button to enable selection of notes.
So, why am I supposed to click the “Note” button before any operations to the notes? This step is absolutely redundant!! The viewer may be improved if it can detect what kind of region the mouse is pointing to, whether notes, highlights or texts, and dispatch to the corresponding operations.
Any suggestions are welcome.
:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

I might ask to add the following:

  • ability to view thumbnails on the left side (analogy to several other pdf viewers)
  • smaller search, if possible similar to how it works when viewing and searching a pdf when viewed in safari. Possibly an extra control to pop-up additional stuff like replace etc. The way it is now takes up way too much screen estate on a macbook. Additionally on multimonitor systems the search pop-up tends to pop up somewhere, often quite away from where you are reading. (this happens with most, if not all applications, haven’t found how to control this yet) (similar to color picker popping up just about anywhere even hidden under other windows…)

Just my 2 cents :laughing:

Also the ability to utilise bookmarks and table of contents within PDFs.

I LOVE DTPO and I use it most hours of most days, but my wish list for the PDF viewer is so long I rarely use it, and use PDF Expert on both Mac and iOS about 95% of the time.

If I need to do a bit of a deep dive or use the AI, I’ll use the built in PDF viewer for that, but once i use the AI to locate the file(s) I need I open those newly-found files in PDF Expert.

May I ask why PDF Expert and not Preview?

PDF Expert suits my needs better.

  1. I used it on iOS and adopted it on Mac for consistency once it was released on Mac
  2. On Mac: Split View a single PDF means I can look up a reference in the references section of a paper in the bottom pane without losing my spot in the top pane.
  3. On Mac: Split View between to PDFs means I can make comparisons between the contents of two PDFs
  4. On Mac: Tabs means I can have a single window with many PDFs, since in my research I live and breath PDFs, I often have many open at once. This keeps the clutter down.
  5. On Both: Better at rendering large PDF files. I had, as part of my research, some PDF documents that were in the 2000-10,000 page range (anywhere from 100mb-700mb or more). These tended to be handled badly in Preview on Mac, while PDF Expert did a decent job.
  6. On iOS: Fantastic annotation, particularly with the Apple Pencil. This is critical for me since I often will markup drafts of my manuscripts in PDF Expert. (On Both: The highlight and note tools work great for my annotating of journal articles. These are standards-compliant annotations so they show up, without issue, in basically any other PDF viewer).
  7. On Both: Exporting annotations summaries means I can export a document (Markdown or HTML among others) that contains a list, with page #s of all the highlighted passages and notes.
  8. On Both: Better manipulation of PDFs files, such as merging, re-ordering/deleting pages, etc.

There are other apps on Mac and iOS that can do some combination of these, but PDF Expert does all of the ones I need the best. There are some apps that might do some specific tasks better than PDF Expert does but since PDF Expert is my daily driver for PDF reading, it’s where I attempt to do everything PDF-related first, before I bring in some other tools if needed (Which is very rarely).

I’ll second the PDF Expert recommendation. I often want to view a PDF, but at times I realize I need to perform additional operations - PDF Expert provides these operations. I’ve noticed that in this forum and elsewhere, PDF Expert is the most suggested app for working with such files. I also have other PDF viewers/annotators (e.g., PDF pen pro, and of course Preview) but no longer use them.

To be clear though, what DEVONthink needs is not to add these capabilities. These are not why I don’t use DTPO’s internal PDF reader on a daily basis. They’re why I do use PDF Expert (it’s a subtle but important distinction). A few subtle tweaks could switch this scenario around! I’d use it a whole lot more if the reading experience was a bit more elegant, the annotations a bit less complicated, and the interface made to be a bit more clean… lots of UI chrome that I find rather unpleasant to look at for hours on end. Better search, as mentioned by someone above, would be great. the floating search window that has a hard time circuling back to the beginning fo the document is infuriating.

I also find the behaviour very unpredictable when clicking a link. I don’t know if the new content will replace the old content, whether it will open a new tab, or open in a new window, and I don’t know what the modifier keys will change when clicking on a link… I’m sure if I diligently experimented I’d figure it out but… but it’s not worth the time because solving that problem alone won’t get me using the internal viewer as my daily driver.

DTPO is a very capable PDF viewer with a lot of features. It’s clearly been carefully crafted, but it just doens’t work for me needs. For my workflow, there’s just a lot of friction. This may not be the case for most other users, but it is for me! Different brains need different things!

I would like a better search function, equivalent to Advanced Search in Acrobat. I would like a list of my search results so that I can see how many there are and I can click into each page from the list. (I hope this makes sense!)

I run DEVONthink maybe 14 hours a day and have nearly 70% of my regularly-used document stored in it, but I use it for document creation, editing, annotation maybe only 3% of that time at the most. But, I’ve never understood the interest in making DEVONthink work like something else. What’s the benefit for the developer? Say, DEVONtech invests to make it’s PDF features “as good as” PDF Expert or Acrobat. So, who’s better off in that scenario? Us? Why? We can already use those other apps seamlessly with DEVONthink. The developer? Why? Not likely they’ll generate demand or grab share from Readdle or Adobe – certainly not enough to cover the cost.

I’m with you, Korm.

Of course I’d like it if DTPO’s PDF viewer was more closely aligned with my expectations and needs so I can cut out some additional applications and use some slightly shorter keyboard shortcuts, but it is so easy to use outside applications that I’m really not that bothered.

The DTPO viewer is a very capable and powerful viewer and I didn’t mean to imply that it’s “Worse” than X Y or Z. It’s just different. Different in a bunch of small ways that makes it less pleasnt as a daily driver PDF reader for me. (Even though I use item and page links regularly, so I end up having to open things in DTPO anyway just for those purposes fairly regularly… alas, such is the life of a picky user.)

Easy to answer that, Korm. Users like me will be better off. You don’t much use DTPO to annotate documents, but I do. I use it to hold my documents (copies of archival documents, scholarly articles, newspaper articles) and take notes on those documents. As it stands, I prefer to keep DTPO open and not open extraneous applications. That’s why I take notes in RTF that be edited in DTPO rather than in Word files that cannot. I also like to annotate PDFs in DTPO because it has a cleaner, simpler interface, and because I can skip through files quickly in a pane. This wouldn’t be nearly as pleasant in Acrobat, since I’d have to open and close each document.

I imagine that the DTPO developers seek to refine the application to meet the needs and desires of its users. Adding some additional functionality to its PDF features would benefit this user.

I too agree with korm.

Fundamentally, DevonThink sells itself as “knowledge management”, a way of organising and - yes - working with documents in a variety of formats, not just PDFs but also text and images. (Personally, I use DT to curate documents mainly in rich text.) But given that running a small business like DEVONtechnologies is always, but always, about choices, because where you put your effort next may mean reducing it somewhere else (I know, I’ve run a small business), and given also the admirable propensity of macOS applications to work in harmony with each other, it seems to me that to put a lot of work into competing with software like PDF Expert (it’s excellent at what it does - I have a copy) makes little sense.

Other applications and other examples in other industries demonstrate the risks of trying to do too much and as a consequence spreading one’s effort too thinly and ending up a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t favour upgrades in DT’s PDF tools - at some point. But personally I’d put a higher priority on the development of the “actions” that Christian wrote about last year, and previously. If they turn out to be what I expect from what’s been written in these forums, they would help to upgrade central parts of DevonThink’s “knowledge management” functionality. And they’d be different from what other developers currently offer (for, as korm implies, it’s a mistake “to re-invent the wheel”). As far as I’m concerned, they’d do more to increase my productivity than anything else that I can envisage DT could do.

Just wanted to say that I think this was an excellent way to add value to the discussion. So many times people talk about what they don’t want or like instead of what they do, and often they don’t seem to be aware that there is a difference.


what is really missing is the ability to create / view and modify bookmarks / outlines (viewing of outlines was implemented in the iOS version shortly).

Adding of (programmable with e.g. actual date, Text, picture, signatures, etc.) stamps / watermarks would also be a killer feature! This could be realized as a floating window. It is very time consuming to do this in other programs.

Setting up simple resubmissions for documents in DTPO directly would also be extremely exciting.

Other functions would not be worthwhile for the developers, in my opinion. There are Adobe Acrobat or other apps!


Can you clarify what you are referring to here? Thanks!