Better guides, please

Good people of DT Tech,

Being part of several forums like ‘Scrivener’, ‘MacHeist’ and occasionally visiting the ‘Mac App A Day’ I’ve noticed how many people don’t really get the potential of your products. I even confess that, although DTP has become essential to me, D Agent is still an app that I hardly use… most especially because I work quite well with Safari + Google, but also because the approach to DA is not easy. There’s a long path to run until one becomes comfortable with that product.

You have invested a big deal on MacHeist and MAAD, by giving or selling at low price some of your applications (I for one profited by getting DT Note, older version). I suppose that you were thinking of returns (of course! ), most probably by reaching people that would not buy your products normally, but that now that they have them will find them good and purchase future upgrades. Given this I think your bet on those initiatives (MH and MAAD) makes all the sense.

However, people that don’t seek your products won’t have the patience (or will) to dig into this forum to find out answers to their most common user problems. Neither will they stick to the pdf guide that comes with the products. And, from what I read, not many people really get the products potential by seeing DEVON Academy.

It’s like the scripts: you provide some in your website and all the other ones can be dig inside the forum. It may not seem so to you – but that is hard to do. I sometimes searched for more than an hour for what I wanted.

Anyway, all this to say that (in my opinion) you should improve your guides to the products (pdf, DEVON Academy, FAQs of the problems most usual in the forum, examples of scripts, templates, etc.). All the users would profit from that – old faithful ones and new potential costumers. And your enterprise would, of course, be the one to profit the most.

– MJ

There have been numerous requests for better documentation for Devon applications over the last few months. I seem to remember a fairly defensive response from Devon to the suggestion that perhaps Devon invest in one of the new ‘Take Control’ emanuals which are produced by TidBits ( The response was along the lines of ‘we regard any problems with documentation as seriously as a bug in the software’. I wonder if this misses the point.

I’m tempted to think that different people have different approaches to software documentation. Some people like a logical, feature-by-feature manual, giving comprehensive descriptions and instructions for each menu item. Others (and I include myself in this category) want to be walked through the main features of the software and then have easy access to more detailed instructions if necessary. That is where, in my opinion, the TakeControl books excel. They are written in a very accessible style and gradually open up aspects of the subject they are describing. (I don’t have any interests in or links with Take Control, by the way).

For me, the Devon pdf guides, tutorials, and forums don’t quite come together and I’m left with the impression that I’m not quite intelligent enough to fully understand the applications. So I still haven’t worked out how to make good use of DevonAgent, and I don’t understand the AI aspects of DevonThink, even though I am a registered user of both.

As an avid fan of Scrivener, I would like to see DevonThink as the research arm of my writing, but somehow I just haven’t managed to master the software.

So, good folks at Devon Technologies, you have some amazing products but please consider those of us who perhaps do not think in quite the same way that you do.


Funny you mention Scrivener since this exact problem has been posted there too. (It seems there are lots of DT+Scrivener users.)

I, of course, agree with you. I’m also a big fun of “Take Control” (have 5 of their books) and that would be a very good option if the people at DT Tech don’t have the time or means to do it. (I would very much welcome a DA “Take Control” book.)

– MJ

Good documentation is tough to create. I really like the User’s Manual – that lengthy PDF – but wish it had a sequel.

I know there are a few people (including me) that are interested in helping fill out the site a bit:

  • going through the forums and finding questions and answers that seem particularly important or frequent and adding them to the FAQ or other section of the site.
  • uploading sample databases to show how they work with DEVONthink.
  • uploading more AppleScripts.

I’d say anything would be helpful. I’d rather the developers concentrate on developing, as much as possible :wink:.

I like the idea of the Take Control book. That’d be groovy.

Put Joe Kissell on the case. I’ve enjoyed his writing since I read “The Nisus Way” years ago. That was my realization that technical guides don’t have to be technical to get the point across :wink:

I posted in another thread some weeks ago (I doubt I was the first to suggest it thought) the idea that the DT products employ something along the lines of what the Linux community has been doing, well since forever, user led documentation teams. Given the wealth of knowledge in the forum as well as the wide variety of users we have here we should be able to work up not only a techie manual that explains work arounds and FAQ’s for various annoyances, but also a user guide for flow and methods of using.

I am thinking that since we use DT and perhaps DA they themselves would be perfect tools for gathering and dealing with this data. How about a DT database for each of these two major types of areas that would be available online and could be dropped into our system at whatever intervals we chose? I am thinking outloud here in a way and surely imagine there are other thoughts.

DT Guys - DT and DA are awesome tools and while I could envision you taking care of the techie issue for the most part, the user application area would certainly benefit from the user base. Could you start a forum thread dedicated to this idea perhaps and see where it takes us?