Courtroom blitz

I use DTpro on my MacBook Pro. I am principally an environmental and local government lawyer in beautiful New Zealand. Environmental cases involve a lot of paper including vast technical reports. One of the great features of DTpro is downloading data and material from the web straight into a nested folder system which is easy to customise. Doing cases away from home involves lots of case luggage which is tedious and difficult to cart around.

This week after 3 years using DTpro as my principal database manager I used it in an appellate case lasting 1 week with 1.6 gig of data as a complete substitute for paper. I also worked on making oral submissions in rich text using the linking function which I have finally mastered.Yep slow learner. I also linked my pre-circulated written submissions in pdf to case book and statutory referenced material using the link function in the pdf viewer. This all worked marvellously. I liked using the browser view and moving backwards and forwards from my rich text document to the reference material. Didnt really get that each page of a pdf is assigned a page url in DTpro until recently when I followed a thread on the forum about www.organogosi and read some detail in that. I also tend to have a number of screens open on the multi desktop viewing platform.This is opened by a pre-selected range of open screen using the “go” function. Great to just turn up and open the computer and populate the screen with pre-selected windows.

What I learnt is this. First, immerse yourself in DTpro to understand its power and a great way to do that is make success in using it mission critical. Weaning yourself off paper in a hearing when you are used to paper takes a bit of courage. Secondly devising the meta data methodology at the start is the best use of your time . You need to have a good group and file naming. tagging and comment system to have confidence in accessibility of the raw data. Thirdly OCR everything after scanning at a reasonable resolution. Fourthly, know how to use command-F to search in a document quickly. Fifth, with use, this system kills reliance on paper. The only reason it sometimes is slower in a courtroom is user unfamiliarity or poor metadata inputting. Sixth get comfortable moving across the different viewing options as each has attributes useful in different contexts. Seventh, dont underestimate DTpros editing of pdfs feature set. I didnt appreciate this until recently. But for the absence of a page-numbering function, DTpro does almost as much as PDFpenpro and that is pdf software alone at a third of DTpro’s cost

Things I need to learn or work on include the following. Increase confidence in using the local not universal search window rather than relying on 12 desktops as this is probably faster for unexpected searching in a single selected group. Learning a faster way of substituting the default hyperlink text with a different and more relevant text. Im also looking forward to learning more about linking generally as this has been a big help recently.

I am exceptionally pleased with my DTpro software. It has saved me from being overwhelmed by a tsunami of paper. I moved to macs 5 years ago and cant remember how I stumbled on DT pro but that was a huge stroke of luck! Its like a one stop shop for being an efficient information worker. :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

This is an excellent use case summary. Thank you for taking valuable time to compose and post it. It will helpful to many readers regardless of profession or interests.

I agree. (Other than that tags are not yet as easily searchable as names and content.) Could you describe your “system” a bit? Even if your method is very specific to your purposes, this part of the use case is often essential for many readers.

Thank you for posting this excellent account of the way you use DEVONthink Pro.

It would be a great help to many I am sure to have the extra desciption of your “system” so I second Korm’s request. Thanks.

I’ll third the request. Thanks for the awesome account (and encouragement), John. I’d love to hear more too (when you have time, of course). Cheers! :^)

+1 on the above!

And thanks for putting down your thoughts - very comprehensive…

No longer in Practice - but had I still been, can only imagine the possibilities of DTP in the litigation context… It’s doing a pretty fine job keeping tabs of things in the academic side now! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the feedback. Well here is some more , …hope the rave helps someone as I have been helped a lot by the mac community on line and DT on line.

There are two preliminary points. First when I refer to metadata I mean all data that is especially useful for searching other than the text in the document. So keywords , comments and tags are included in the definition as well as file names. This may be a slightly enlarged meaning from the term “metadata” used in DTpro menu of search choices. Second , I have used the nested folders system in a larger database but there is a strong argument for a single database on a big job where you need to navigate promptly “real time” as you can open the database alone and use all search tools available that will be singly devoted to searching that database. Again the flexibility here of DTpro come into its own as general spotlight searching cannot achieve this. Incidentally, in this case if you set up a workspace then set it up when the single database is open because if it is open with others when you go to the workspace later with only one database open the “open workspace” function (⌥⌘ x) will seek to re-open the other databases open at the time the workspace was created.

The metadata methodology for a courtroom context is driven by one major feature which is that other participants often only have paper and therefore the electronic referencing in your database must be a mirror of what their hardcopy looks like. So, if there is a bundle of technical documents filed as a bundle called “Common bundle- Technical Reports- vol 1” then a database subfolder needs to be created with the same name. If within each bundle reports are divided by numerically sequenced tabs then again the filename needs to include this. So it might be “tab3-Common Bundle-Technical reports-vol 1 -Roygard et al “Nitrogen cycle and groundwater N leaching” ” or some variation of that. The importance of getting the filename right is also that when you link to another rich text document (and possibly convert it to plain text for distribution) the linking function will reference the whole file name. If you set the file names up correctly you can then just add the page number to the link reference and everyone is using a common language for the source of the information.

In a court proceeding the court documents may be supplied by the party you are acting for or another. In the latter case the courts are (now) receptive to making directions for e-copies to be produced as well. In this case you want to be very specific (in writing) as to the directions you want down to grouping and file nomenclature and all pdfs OCR’d. Without that specificity the product can be next to useless.

Beyond this the metadata used is based on personal workflow. It may be that one file has a lot of sub-components that you want to easily access but are not reflected in the file name. Then tags highlighting these components are very useful when searching later rather than trying to remember where it is located. General text searching doesnt cut it here. As the DTpro pdf viewer doesnt show a “Table of Contents” this is especially important . This is a reason I use Preview sometimes when viewing. I also use comments to quote key extracts from smaller documents.

In an appellate context the “record” is static in that new evidence is not (generally) presented. Hence what you are doing is demonstrating what happened and why the answer gine by the lowere court was correct or valid or not. Hence my emphasis on the discovery of linking and rich text as a key method of using the database and computer to their full capacity rather than using paper.

When I am collating case data for the first time the metadata methodology is even more important as the data is “raw” and input for the first time is for the purpose of creating a repository that will later be collated in a variety of ways. In the past with paper I would put it into folders and read through the material making notes of documents. Then every time I came back to the case I was relying largely on memory and the ordering and management of the material was no more advanced. So I have started to be more systematic only because I can see the benefits with my knowledge of DTpro. That method means having a plan and often communicating that to the person doing the leg work ie scanning and inputting.

Below is the framework for a sheet I put in the front of each hardcopy document to be scanned ( I do not know how to upload the pdf page on to the forum although I have uploaded it as an attachment Im not sure how to embed it but plainly that can be done). It is a work in progress but it tells the inputter what to put into the metadata fields. The date is the date given to the “date created” field in the open metadata system used by macs etc ( see file info(⌥⌃I)). The importance of this is that sorting based on “date created” is easy use the DTpro “sort” function. I use a priority number with say 5 levels, P1 being the highest. This helps when you want to refresh your memory on the key materials. You can use it to create a smart group as well based on meeting certain criteria eg P1 or P2. Same with keywords.

			Metadata Sheet

Doc No :
Folder Name :

Date Author Keywords Comments Filename Priority Number

Filename : Doc#-folder name-date-description-P#

Date format : eg 21 July 2012
P# = priority number

Contemporaneously I use a nice timeline program called “Timeline 3D” where I input data into its data fields to get a graphical overview of key events.This software has entry fields including a url linking field. You can later use the DT urls to fill this in once the data enters the database. So when you go to an event on the timeline you can press the link icon and open the pdf viewer in DT. The 3D file is OPML and sits nicely in DTpro. An example of awesome integration that you get on a mac.

All of this takes a little time and I acknowledge is tedious but one organised “sweep” at the start sets you up permanently to work intelligently with the material.Tedious to me is having to rely on memory and paper time and time again.

I use the annotation template a lot to prepare cross examination of a witness as the witness statement and the annotation are linked at the hip allowing seamless to-ing and fro-ing. In addition the annotation template is rich text enabling linking to other documents that I want to put to the witness.

When I was young(er) (1985) I worked in London in a large corporate law firm. I was working with an Australian ( later lifetime friend) on a case involving re-insurance fraud by some Lloyd underwriters on an American insurer. We had a room full of paper to collate and it was frankly time consuming and wasteful of resources. At the time I spoke to the senior partner about software to speed everything up. It went no where. Now almost 30 years late amazingly, I stumble( having years in the wilderness of paper) on macs and DTpro. The latter has all the tools needed to not only manage the data but use it in a courtroom. All for what , US $150? It makes data management available and affordable to the small guy/gal and that can only help to improve the delivery and administration of justice. Having recently done an expensive computer/server upgrade largely to support trust accounting and other windows base software for the commercial side of the office I know value when I see it. And it cant even do this stuff which is part of my core business. My son is at law school in Wellington and DTpro was my gift to him.

Thanks also to the DT business owners for doing lots of upgrades and only charging when there is a major step change in the software as promised in their business values statement.

Thank you, John Maassen, for doing the DEVONthink community a generous favor with these two postings. I’m sure future readers – not limited to your profession – will locate your writing and benefit too.

Reading the second post about metadata and method, I generalized several principles that coincide with my own approach - two of which are worth mentioning here:

  • Define the framework for metadata before doing the data collection – adapt later if needed, but have a starting point
  • Collect and record metadata up front, while collecting documents, and don’t fall behind – it becomes difficult or impossible to catch up, especially with abstractions like tagging

In addition, your step of aligning the structure (and naming conventions, dates, etc.) of the document repository to the real-world purpose for collecting the documents is obvious, but I think I think frequently not given sufficient weight. When doing research, the time spent designing the method has its reward in ensuring the value of the archive.

John, thanks for taking the time for these summaries. I’m a barrister in Brisbane using DT in a very similar fashion. It has, to be frank, revolutionised my practice in many ways. I’ll post something a bit more detailed about how I use shortly, but the major improvements are whole practice is at my fingertips - when solicitors call about a matter I no longer need to locate the brief from the shelves - every issue is at my fingertips tagged, marked up and searchable. Everyday this is saving me small chunks of time that accumulate quickly.
2. trial preparation is made an absolute pleasure with DT - cross-linking marked up pdfs forces me to think in terms of relevance in an associative way.

I combine DT with Stamp and Number Pro which electronically inserts a PDF notation on every page of a PDF in the form of “Smith v Jones [45] of [1267]” and so on for every page, all data being customisable. I can send the marked up PDF back to my solicitor so we can talk about the same page, and of course the PDF annotation is searchable.

DT is not yet “perfect” for legal practice. I’ve been requesting for a little while now:

  1. Boolean searching within an opened PDF rather than just at the browser level - eg open a PDF and search “dog NEAR/10 box” within that document and only find the relevant hits
  2. linkage between PDFs directly rather than all via the hub of a RTF
  3. searchable annotations within PDFs - ie the ability to search the little yellow text boxes and notes that I insert within the PDF

Would it be OK if we spoke directly about our respective usage? My email address is


Very interesting software suggestion David. Yes I would be happy to talk further and will email shortly. I can imagine you are blowing away your instructing solicitors with your versatility and speed of access to documents.

Hi John , I’ve been playing around with a trial version of Timeline 3D and I can’t figure how to pull a DT url across to Timeline so that it stays live - ie so that link works when its clicked on in Timeline - I can cut and paste the url but it doesn’t remain a hyperlink - simply converts to text in the URL field of Time line - any idea what I’m doing wrong?


I believe John may have been referring to linking rather than a “url” if his documents are not on a website. They way I use Timeline 3D in this capacity is to go to the document in DTPro and select the Copy Item Link command. I then paste this into the Website Link window on the Timeline 3D event, then evoke open URL, which will then open the document in a DTPro window. Hope this helps.

Thanks JRPars - I’ve been very impressed with my trial of Aeon Timeline - If you don’t need the fancy 3D feature of Timeline 3D, Aeon offers all sorts of interesting data comprehension tools such as parallel narrative arcs, and character/incident correlations - invaluable in legal matters where chronologies of dense factual circumstances become relevant.

Seems to play nicely with DT also in terms of importing and viewing pdfs.

I am, like David, at the moment trialling Aeon Timeline and very impressed with its capabilities so far and I would very much like to link DTPO to Aeon Yimeline as JRPars is with Timeline 3D. Does anyone know if this is possible and if so how to do it?

I am, like David, at the moment trialling Aeon Timeline and very impressed with its capabilities so far and I would very much like to link DTPO to Aeon Yimeline as JRPars is with Timeline 3D. Does anyone know if this is possible and if so how to do it?
I’ve played around with Aeon, as well, and don’t believe you can link to DTPO in this manner. The developer has developed linking with Scrivener where you can link an Aeon event with a scrivener document (Aeon evolved out of a forum discussion originating on Scrivener boards), so he may be able to develop something similar for DTPO. I’d suggest sending an email to him or posting on Aeon boards if you haven’t already done so. Good luck.

…I’d suggest sending an email to him or posting on Aeon boards if you haven’t already done so. Good luck.
I have indeed posted to the Aeon boards asking for this and the developer has indicated that he will look at it, so I live in hope.

thank you very much. that was great. one question though

you let dtpro ocr the documents?
at what resolution do you scan and at what resolution do you store the pdfs?