capture Bento customers?

This may be an unreasonable stretch for sheets, but Bento just came out with a version 2.0 that has no upgrade path, and the user forum is jammed with irate 1.0 owners. I have been using Bento to maintain a simple database for which I was easily able to design a customized form. Since sheets already has a form view associated with it, is it feasible to dress sheets up a bit so that people could easily use it to have customizable table-databases for collections of personal information?

DEVONthink is so much more than Bento, but I have found the user experience to be a very positive one, and there seems to be an opening into the hearts and minds of people who have been using Bento thus far as a personal information manager thus far.

Thanks for developing such a thoughtful and useful product, and for having such a positive attitude toward your interactions with the user community.


Interesting suggestion. There is a discussion on “semi-structured” documents that’s kind of along those lines.

If I understand you correctly, I have high hopes that something like what you discuss will appear in DTP 2.x. I’ve asked a couple of times (and a few other people have too) for a way to insert values from sheets into HTML documents to create templated views. That’s not as spiffy as Bento’s drag ‘n’ drop view creation/editing, but a heck of a lot more versatile and something that most power users will have experience with (or at least be able to learn quickly). I think that HTML views for sheet data might have been one of the things I asked for in my first whiny post on this forum, around two years ago :slight_smile:

I see this as being a big opportunity to take frustrated customers away from Bento, to create a small sub-community (people who make nice templates – just as people make templates for phpBB, Wordpress, et cetera), and to draw new people who might interested in some developed database capabilities in DTP2. I can’t think of another feature request that would require so little code on the part of the developers and open up so many possibilities.

No one’s officially said anything either way on this particular issue (or if they have, I didn’t notice, and will commit seppuku with shame), so I wouldn’t hold out hope… but I think it is an excellent opportunity to expand functionality and steal customers and sway undecided buyers.

I want - I need - Devonthink to do custom metadata. In particular, I’d like the ability to add due date information to notes and folders, but lots of other things come to mind. Add custom metadata, and smart folders for collecting material based on that metadata, and DT’s power could be extended exponentially. And I wouldn’t need a separate task manager.

Anyone want to take bets on how long it will take for the 2.x wishlist to appear after 2.0 is released?



I’m sure it’ll be under one day, probably a couple hours. Pretty much whenever I wake up on actual release day :wink:

2.x wishlist? Items on the 2.0 wishlist but unimplemented in DT 2.0 are already potential candidates for the 2.x wishlist. A virtual wishlist for every DT version exists by including items excluded from the current implementation at any time. You asked. :mrgreen:

The sometimes suggested “workaround” of using document comments for custom metadata doesn’t cut it for me.

I agree. Tinderbox has this, so I know it’s at least theoretically possible.

Custom metadata is on the list for 2.x, but in its current incarnation with the file system there is a huge drawback: Open a document externally, say, in TextEdit. Save it. All metadata is gone. This has nothing to do with DEVONthink but with the application that does not ‘carry over’ the metadata when saving the edited file. So, we’re thinking about a workaround.

Thanks for the feedback, Eric. I personally don’t mind if custom DEVONthink metadata won’t be preserved if a document is externally modified. And if the workaround would be to write metadata to Spotlight Comments I’d like the ability to disable that.

I don’t understand the problem here. I would expect that the metadata added within DTP to be stored in the database not in the file or the filesystem itself. Perhaps with an option the export them into the comments field. So open the file and save with an external App would not touch the database and the tags. But it sounds I am wrong with that assumption.


I thought the same thing. That might add a lot of overhead to the database, though. I just don’t know.

I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with metadata only visible in DT. That’s the point of a database, to organise stuff. The other applications that I would use to interact with DTPO have their own specialities, but I wouldn’t expect them to read DT’s metadata.

Or am I reading you wrong, Eric, and are you saying that opening a document externally somehow wipes all metadata used by DT? Bummer if that’s the case.

However, I have faith in DevonTech to work around it. I bought DT as soon as it hit the market, and it has been the ONLY program that has stayed permanently in my Dock ever since. Not that I don’t find it infuriating at times, but only because of what it doesn’t do. What it does, it does peerlessly well. I hope I’ll be able to say the same of custom metadata. Soon :slight_smile:


The summarizes my DT experience quite well. :slight_smile:

There are some subtle things it does that many casual users will never notice but have been invaluable to me and easily missed when I’ve tried “competing” products. I appreciate attention to details I care about, including being implicitly acknowledged as a veteran user during correspondence (support related and otherwise) with DEVONtechnologies staff …

Too frequently with other companies I get the frustrated feeling of understanding more about some issue I’m stuck trying to troubleshoot/resolve on my own better than anyone who’s responsible (and being paid :wink:) for providing that product’s support. It’s a relief Dt staff knows its products deeper than I ever will and wants to genuinely understand and try to resolve the toughest problems I could give them. And I’ll usually find at least one item in the change log for every DTP release addressing some issue I’d previously noticed but hadn’t mattered enough to mention.


Though, waiting for the 2.0 release has proved very tiring. Some of the things I’ve been looking for (tags, smart folders, a GUI I can live with) have shown up in other products (Together, EagleFiler) and I’m always tempted. Heck, the EagleFiler 1.4 update is outstanding, and its search, for me, is as good as DT’s. Given I don’t really use DT’s brain for research, it may be enough that I’ll jump ship before DT 2.0 shows up :frowning:

Of course, switching back and forth is relatively easy, so I guess it could be temporary. We’ll see. I’d really like to see that 2.0 release.

For me EagleFiler seems the strongest temptation to jump the DT ship, especially with some of the 1.4 enhancements. When DT 2.0 is released I may do a serious comparison with EF (which I haven’t tried recently). I’m hooked on DT’s multiple views and not sure EF has anything comparable (yet).

Together was too slow/buggy with minimal content when I tried it about six months ago.

PS: This thread’s title begs to be chanted, adding an emphatic “ooomph!” and assorted imagery. :smiley:

Similar forum discussions about limitations of DT have come up before. I know what my dream software package would do–but that’s different than what other people’s say/want? No point in rehashing that issue. Right now no single “tool” fits the jobs I have. I currently use DT, Bento, Evernote and Address Book–it can be a cumbersome workflow and if I muck up something it may be lost for all practical purposes.

In this pragmatic reality, what I think is really confounding is that there’s no way to move metadata around packages. I’m no expert and certainly no programmer, but what about a RDF- (or just XML-) based crosswalk and API in DT 2.0 to allow savvy people among us to work out customized solutions and spin off products to support niche markets?

My 2 cents…


It’s not that hard, with tags and notes, to use Spotlight comments to pass stuff back and forth. Set a prefix for tags (e.g. @) and pass the rest as a note in the comment field. It would be like XMP metadata for photos, but it’s text and tags for files.

All that’s necessary is application-specific preferences to delimit what’s a tag and what’s a comment. Of course, you can’t go to every file constantly to get this info as it’s slow. So there needs to be an in-app index or a “dirty bit.” The devil’s in the details but I don’t think it’d be all that tough.

I’m a refugee from DEVONthink Pro (starting with DEVONthink in 2003), who toyed with EagleFiler for a year, and recently returned to DTPro. I admit that I am looking forward to some of DT 2.0 features, such as having more than one database open concurrently, and (apparently) storing things in “the Finder” as EagleFiler does, editable by 3rd party apps, instead of in a proprietary database.

However, IMHO, DT is a much more polished and professional product, and I’m glad to be back.

For me, the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was this: In EagleFiler, searches are not recursive. That is, assume I have a folder/group “A” which contains documents and also subfolders “B” and “C” within “A” which also contain documents. In EagleFiler I have two search options: (1) search the entire database (EagleFiler term is “library”) and possibly, Spotlight-like, have to deal with lots of unordered, irrelevant results, or (2) search folder A; BUT the latter search applies ONLY to the documents in folder A, and DOES NOT include the documents in subfolders B and C. Unlike Finder, Spotlight, DEVONthink, etc. etc. Definitely not what I expected. (OK, I can select “A” and also remember to also select “B” and “C” to search the subfolders as well, but I find this counter-intuitive.)

So I filed a feature request to search subfolders. And in EagleFiler 1.4 came (apparently) a response: You can now set up a Smart Folder which includes the contents of both folder A and subfolders B and C, then search that Smart Folder.

I have two problems with that:

(1) You must be running OSX 10.5 to define the Smart Folders. I’m on 10.4.11. OK, that’s not the developer’s “fault”, it’s mine. However Smart Folders can be implemented in 10.4; see as an existence proof.

(2) While I haven’t tried this (since I can’t define Smart Folders under 10.4), the Release Notes read as if (assuming I could), I would have to manually set up inclusive Smart Folders for each folder in each level of my hierarchy except the leaf node folders. In other words, this “solution” might be appropriate if I have one sub-hierarchy that I want to search repeatedly, but does not seem to be a workable solution for the general task of “search this arbitrary folder and all of its subfolders recursively”.

Needless to say, DEVONthink “just works”; if I search “In Selection”, it searches all sub-groups of the selection, just as I expect (and, seemingly, just as every other “searcher” on the planet, with the exception of EagleFiler, does).

DT also has lots of other features that are lacking in EagleFiler. I’m looking forward to 2.0.

The developers of both EagleFiler and DEVONthink each have visions of how their “ideal” product should work. I personally find that my vision of an “ideal” product corresponds more closely with the DEVON vision. YMMV.

The problem with custom metadata is a bit complex but I try to explain: First it will, of course, be stored in the DEVONthink database structure. However, we want DEVONthink 2 to be also as open to the world ‘out there’ as possible so writing it as additional metadata to the file system is a must. This is also important because export/import in DEVONthink 2 shall be completely reversable and rebuilding the index from the actual files shall lose no metadata.

But now, when a file is now edited externally, the external application could make meaningful changes to the metadata or wipe it out intentionally. Or accidently. We simply don’t know.

In any way: Custom metadata will come, likely not in 2.0 but in 2.x. It’s just a matter of priorities and at the moment we’re heading full steam towards the first beta that will get into the hands of our beta testers.