Since I started using DevonThink two years ago, I have tried several times to use it as a commonplace book, clipping any interesting article I found on the web to Devonthink. Subject matter includes professional articles about developments in the cloud and telco business world, and also articles of personal interest, about politics, current events, history, science fiction, etc.
The last effort began a few months ago, and now I have a big, useless database of articles. “See Also” does nothing for me here. Thinking of deleting it all and just starting over again. Maybe on raindrop.io — if DevonThink won’t differentiate them, why have them cluttering up my hard drive?
Has anybody tried something like this and succeeded? What are some best practices for creating a useful archive without spending a whole lot of time on curation?
Yes, I do exactly that - using DT3 for a variety of personal and professional uses with multiple databases.
Everyone’s use case is different so you need to experiment with what works to retrieve things. My professional use databases are consistently organized via groups and custom metadata. My miscellaneous info, including professional articles to read someday but not linked to a specific case at present, are all lumped together without any particular organization strategy.
For me, the “Ahah” moment was drying Devonsphere for search as opposed to the built-in DT3 search. They each have their advantages, but I have found that with regard to speed and ease of quickly retrieve a random item, Devonsphere works best and is particularly nice since it is in the menu bar and thus always instantly available.
Booleans for various levels of alerts if a client requests an update on a case - which then trigger other smart rules
Rich Text field for internal office QA/commenting on a case
Quoted fee for the case
Paid or not paid for the case
Booleans for various processes in handling the case, such as receipt of needed documents --> with smart rules or smart groups to alert if something is missing
Overall I essentially use it as a project management system for the consulting part of my practice. But the document handling and search capabilities of DT3 are infinitely superior to actual project management software, so it works well. Plus part of my work involves identifying applicable academic research applicable for a case - and thus I can create links in a case to relevant articles.
Very interesting ideas there. I haven’t looked into custom metadata at all, although it sometimes occurs to me it might be useful. For example, when clipping articles from the web, often the publication date isn’t included in the clipping.
I use a group for each project, and include a document in that group containing the assignment, fee, deadline, etc. Later I drop the invoice in the same group, and replicate the invoice document to another group called “unpaid invoices.” Later still I move that replica to another group called “paid invoices.” (Hopefully! Almost all the time!)
Recently I remember reading a comment, here or elsewhere, from someone who says they use groups and replicas like tags, and I said to myself, “Yeah.” In my use case above, another person might tag that document “invoice” and then add another tag “unpaid” (later changing “unpaid” to “paid.”) To me, it seems to make more sense to use groups and replicas. As Bluefrog has noted, DevonThink is flexible and fluid – easy to start with one organization system and switch to another.
Query related to this thread, which I started as a new topic, for convenience of future searchers:
The relation between these queries is that a primary reason I’m creating this commonplace group is to find connections, and I want to maximize the opportunities to find those connections automatically, while minimizing the work involved in creating the commonplace book.
I used to employ a variety of other services for this, though they all suffered the same problem: me! However, I’ve since recognized that I’m not going to change. My appetite for new headlines will always exceed my capacity to read the ones I’ve already found. So, I’ve come to rely on DT to address that issue directly. I save everything interesting, use a deliberate and systematic tagging system to give it some context, and then I let these finds inform later work through search or browsing those tags.
It may be that I’ll never directly use many of my finds. Still, I’m neither a librarian: I don’t want to make tough, ambiguous decisions about whether something meets an arbitrary threshold for keeping every time I find something to save. Nor am I a janitor: I don’t want to make tough, ambiguous decisions about whether something meets an arbitrary threshold for not getting trashed in some sort of regular clean-up.
This is the most stable and frictionless setup I’ve had. A couple of key mechanisms make it possible:
I don’t sort things myself. I have an automation that automatically places new items into a year → semester group hierarchy, based on date added.
I use a “closed” tagging system. I tag every item using an automation that allows me to choose tags from a few lists. This makes tagging quick and effortless, and prevents tag overgrowth.
I have a commonplace database in DT3. I’ve set it out as a series of folders A - Z, another labeled ‘Quotes’ (because I like quotes!), and another labeled ‘Ideas and Words’ which are basically whimsical thoughts of my own.
I try to use the alphabetical entries fairly obviously as a main subject heading but use tags for additional subjects within the entry. It works well enough for what I want, but I’m not really pushing the envelope here, just collecting stuff as and when. Power user I am not.