Sometimes it’s quite interesting to look at an old thread, as well as to look at alternative document management systems.
I read the comments by Amber (recommended by jams) about Boswell and DEVONthink with interest. Boswell does have some unique features. But it’s not appropriate for me because I depend on so many non-text files among my reference resources. See http://www.atpm.com/11.08/boswell.shtml for Amber’s comments.
Amber emphasized DT Pro’s dependence on organizational hierarchies to support functions of the AI features. That’s obviously true of the “Classify” function, but it’s true to a lesser degree of the “See Also” AI feature, which often gives me very good ideas even in databases that contain thousands of unclassified documents.
Amber made a very interesting observation about AI. She uses Boswell to store material that she herself wrote, and noted that she understands her own writing better than DEVONthink Pro could. That’s true. (But I think DT Pro could sometimes pleasantly surprise her.)
I was trained in chemistry and have published research in several disciplines (biochemistry, physiology and molecular biology). I’ve also got publications about science and environmental policy and public administration. My main database contains references bridging a number of scientific, technical and engineering disciplines, as well as policy, legal and regulatory matters. I’m reasonably competent in some of those disciplines but a rank amateur at best in many others.
DEVONthink Pro has no degrees or formal training in any of the disciplines mentioned above. It doesn’t “know” chemistry or conservation ecology, for example. The “See Also” feature in DT Pro depends on analysis of the terms used in a document, the “patterns” of their usage, and comparison of the appearance of those terms and "patterns’ to the other documents in the database.
So, when I view one of the 20,000 documents in my main database and click on “See Also”, DT Pro will present a list of “similar” documents. But it’s up to me to evaluate the usefulness of the suggestions.
It’s an interactive process. I’ll probably immediately reject some of the suggestions as “dumb” or simply not useful. Others I may judge to be relevant, but not particularly interesting. Once in a while a suggestion pops up that is really interesting, and that I would never have thought of – that’s what qualifies DT Pro as a very good research assistant. It has led me to a conceptual breakthrough.
A while back I wrote an overview section about research directions concerning a particular environmental issue. I got some favorable comments about my grasp of some of the research potentials. Guess what? That “grasp” was served up to me on a platter by DT Pro, although it was my responsibility to recognize the usefulness of the suggested relationships.
About my working environment: I do most of my note and draft writing directly in DT Pro’s rich text environment. My reference resources are immediately available. To finish and polish, a more competent vehicle is necessary. These days I’m using Papyrus 12 for word processing and spreadsheet work. Why? Because Papyrus 12 can save in a hybrid PDF file format that’s completely compatible with my database. I see such database content as PDF+Text. Yet it’s also completely editable (without having two versions) in Papyrus, and Papyrus is actually editing and saving the PDF file contained in my database. So document features such as outlines, lists, hyperlinks – in short, everything – looks the same in DT Pro as in Papyrus.
That means I can send my Papyrus documents from my database as email attachments or to a CD or Web site, and they are universally viewable as PDFs on any platform. Yet a colleague who uses Papyrus 12 on a Windows or Mac computer could edit or add internal comments on that same PDF file (unless I had encrypted it).
So Papyrus 12 doesn’t add to the “Tower of Babel” problem that has resulted from so many proprietary file formats. A Mellel document, for example, shouldn’t be sent as an email attachment to people who don’t have Mellel on their computers.
Wouldn’t it be great if Word, Mellel, Nisus Writer Express, OmniOutliner, Excel, Pages and other applications were to adopt that hybrid PDF trick?