Devonthink cross-platform alternative is actually Typora (markdown + folders)

I’ve explored various note-taking and knowledge management tools such as DevonThink, Logseq, Obsidian, Emacs Orgmode, Evernote, Siyuan, Flomo (memos), Typora, and Notion. In terms of functionality, DevonThink excels, particularly within the Mac ecosystem. It allows for the creation of multiple databases, each dedicated to a specific topic, with powerful tagging and searching capabilities. However, its limitation arises when you need to access your knowledge on other operating systems.

DevonThink’s practicality diminishes when shifting to Windows or Linux environments, effectively confining your knowledge within the Mac ecosystem. Personally, I experienced a sense of loss when compelled to use Windows at work, where a Mac wasn’t an option. Previously, during my school years, I had seamlessly organized all my notes and snippets within DevonThink on my MacBook.

The web server feature proves less effective when managing numerous databases. For instance, with around 30 databases, keeping them all open in memory is necessary to access them through the web server. This poses a significant challenge for remote access, making the process cumbersome.

In my search for a cross-platform solution, I’ve discovered Typora, paired with Obsidian and Logseq, to be a compelling alternative. Typora serves as a simplified cross-platform counterpart to DevonThink. Organizing data is straightforward – each folder represents a database, containing markdown files and associated assets (e.g., with images in assets/ABC.assets). This structured approach makes it easy to locate referenced images or attachments when moving files.

Moreover, this simplicity lends itself to seamless integration with various Unix tools for maintenance and search operations. Whether using grep, find, sed, Python, Vim, Emacs, or other tools, the straightforward structure of Typora facilitates efficient data management and retrieval.

While DevonThink is robust within the Mac environment, for those waiting for a cross-system version (and seems the developing team does NOT have plans for windows/linux version), Typora offers a plain Markdown-based solution. This flexibility allows seamless collaboration across platforms using tools like Logseq, Obsidian, Emacs, or Vim to edit the same folder (database).

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Time to find a new job! :grinning:

But really, I think your solution would only work if you use DT primarily as a notetaking app. I’m sure those people exist somewhere. But I use DT for so much more than just taking notes. Typora doesn’t replace that.


Typora is a simple Markdown editor. It is not directly comparable to DEVONthink except in the minor fact that you can compose Markdown in DEVONthink and DEVONthink To Go as well.

Organizing data is straightforward – each folder represents a database, containing markdown files and associated assets (e.g., with images in assets/ABC.assets). This structured approach makes it easy to locate referenced images or attachments when moving files.

This is nothing new nor anything Typora invented. It’s a very common mehotd, having been used in web development for decades now. In fact, I have long used and advocated this approach in DEVONthink.

But if Typora suits you, by all means, enjoy!


The argument is valid. While Typora is primarily known as a Markdown editor, upon using it extensively, one can appreciate its capacity to function as a more accessible alternative to Devonthink. By treating folders as databases and limiting the index/documents to Markdown, Typora can serve as a ‘poor-man’s Devonthink.’ This is particularly valuable as Devonthink is exclusive to Mac, limiting accessibility for those using other operating systems. Many individuals face constraints in using or accessing Mac systems. Thus, I posit that Typora offers valuable functionality to assist users in organizing a structure akin to Devonthink’s database.

I want to clarify that I’m not discrediting the merits of Devonthink. Rather, I aim to propose an alternative for situations where access to Devonthink is not available. In an ideal scenario, a robust note-taking and knowledge management system should be accessible from any platform, ensuring flexibility and convenience regardless of the user’s system or location.

In a perfect scenario, we would have Devonthink seamlessly available on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, but achieving such universal compatibility is not practical at this moment. Recognizing this limitation, a reasonable tradeoff emerges. By transitioning the knowledge management system to a format based on pure Markdown with links to images and attachments (such as PDFs, DOCX, and Excels), we ensure accessibility from any device and location. This approach facilitates synchronization across devices and harnesses the power of Unix tools, offering a more versatile and widely accessible solution.

It essentially boils down to a tradeoff, serving as a rescue for individuals who wish to manage their knowledge across diverse systems.

I think the big problem with Typora, actually also with markdown, is how to migrate files with images or attachments?

I do use Typora as a Markdown editor and it is actually my default one for DEVONthink 3 documents. However I can’t see any way or in any degree how it could in any way organize a structure similar to DEVONthink 3 overall, cross platform or not. I just can’t see it at all. I am not a ‘links’ whizz I admit.

Typora has none of the features that DEVONthink 3 has and that I use all the time? A knowledge system based on links to outside documents from within Markdown files I would have thought would become hopelessly unwieldy at any reasonable scale?
I recently found I still needed a dedicated bibliography for some things in fact, the ‘link’ and notes system I was using was too cumbersome and overloaded. Sometimes you just need to see citations in a list.
Bookends works well for me with DEVONthink 3 and I keep double copies of the PDFs if I store any in Bookends so they are searchable from DEVONthink 3.


Yeah, I initially faced similar challenges. I attempted to set up an image server (Chevereto) on my NAS and use frp to expose it, but it wasn’t entirely stable, still requiring internet access.

I settled on the following structure:

  - assets/Physics.assets
  - assets/Quantum.assets

I placed all the images/attachments referenced in into assets/Physics.assets (Typora has this feature to specify where to store images/attachments).

When moving the Markdown file, a simple bash script or manual relocation (moving and assets/physics.assets) suffices. Each attachment folder corresponds to a folder with the same name—simple and doesn’t lock your data within one OS (like Devon) or within a specific server (like Notion).

However, it comes at the cost of losing some advanced functionality provided by Devon or Notion, making it a tradeoff.

I suggest foregoing fancy functions; a combination of folders, Markdown, and attachments covers most tasks. Searching and tagging can still be achieved with a simple Python script. Within Mac, I continue to use Devon to index (without placing files inside its database; it renames files and organizes them into folders with random string names).

Again, it’s a tradeoff and a solution for Windows/Linux users. If you are a Mac user, and uses mostly only one Mac, DevonThink is very powerful.

I completely agree with your perspective. There’s no contradiction between your statement and the approach I’m suggesting. I’m addressing the challenges faced by individuals without access to a Mac.

In the hypothetical scenario where there’s no Mac, Typora can still serve as an effective tool for organizing knowledge/documents. My suggestion revolves around structuring your documents using Typora and placing the root of the docs into Dropbox/OneDrive, ensuring they remain in plain text (md). This setup grants you unrestricted access to organize and sync your notes.

Devonthink remains relevant in this context, as it can index the root of Typora markdown structures, preserving its functionalities. In summary:

  1. Organize your data assuming there’s no Mac (acknowledging that some individuals may find themselves in this situation).
  2. Constrain most of your knowledge to Markdown + images, with other file types (docs, pdf, ppt) stored in the assets folder.
  3. Use Devonthink to index these folders, treating them as a database.

This way, your data is accessible across Linux/Windows/Mac, and when you’re on a Mac, you can still leverage Devonthink. Since your files are text-based, it becomes easy to employ shell or Python scripts for effective management.

I would think that there’s not a lot of those in a forum dealing with Mac-only software.


Does Typora offer anything more than what other markdown editors can do? I think if you’re setting up your folders like this and using relative links to assets you could use just about any app. Is there a reason you name dropped Typora other than it’s one you like?

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Typora aligns well with my preferences by doing things right in most aspects, offering simplicity, neatness, and a comprehensive set of essential functions. The structure of markdown + folder + link is versatile, allowing compatibility with various tools like Logseq and Obsidian (even emacs/vim), provided they are cross-platform. I exercise caution when adopting tools that lack cross-platform compatibility or tend to store/lock data within their proprietary servers or requires internet to access (e.g. link to a image server). The ultimate solution is to have everything stored locally, easily synced for stability in access (Dropbox + NAS + local copies), and primarily in plain text (preferably Markdown) whenever feasible.

Typora offers features above out-of-the-box, agrees it should be achievable using Obsidian along with its plugins (I haven’t research into which plugin yet). But that’s the beauty to organize this way, it’s pure text + link based. Additionally, it boasts cross-platform compatibility, catering to users on Mac, Linux, and Windows.

When evaluating note-taking tools, the options are somewhat constrained. Noteworthy choices encompass Logseq and Obsidian. However, several tools are platform-specific, with examples like Devon and Bear exclusive to Mac, while others like Craft cater to both Mac and Windows users. Additionally, there are web-only options such as Notion and Roam. Consequently, my approach involves employing Typora as the primary tool for organization. I also utilize Logseq, Obsidian, and Emacs for editing the same folder. When on Mac, I leverage Devon to index these folders (each top level folder is corresponding to a database within Devon).

Feel free to inform me if you come across other tools that fall into this category (or more powerful than Typora). There are some tools (e.g.Joplin and Siyuan), which are cross-platform, they utilize SQLite3/json to store data rather than pure Markdown, limiting the effectiveness of Unix tools like grep, find, and sed.

The majority of the reason I still am using Apple platforms primarily is because of apps like DEVONthink, now you’ve got me dreaming of a Linux version.

For me, Markdown isn’t the issue, I’m a heavy Obsidian user at this point so all of my notes live there; DEVONthink is the perfect container for organizing and working with anything reference material related. I use Typora almost every day but I don’t think it’s a reasonable replacement for DEVONthink unless you are primarily using it as your PKM.

Ha, ok, well you don’t ‘completely agree’ as you put it with my perspective really! Anyway lets not get picky on that kind of thing.> it becomes easy to employ shell or Python scripts for effective management.

it becomes easy to employ shell or Python scripts for effective management.

I know what a Python script is, roughly, but I have no idea how to ‘do’ one and again it defeats the purpose. There comes a point when one is really making one’s own app. The whole point of DEVONthink 3 for me is to avoid complicated (for me) scripts and so on.
Just out of interest will the DEVONthink 3 server, which again I don’t really understand though I am tempted by it, work with Windows computers as I call them still? From other posts here, which I checked, it seems you can read and share a file on a windows computer? Not that I would really need that, but ‘just in case’.
I might even go at some point for the server version of DEVONthink 3 instead of spending on a over powered MacBook like I have done in the past. Just almost for the heck of it.

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A key and salient point of distinction :slight_smile:

There are many of our customers who have not used (or don’t care for) apps like emacs or vim. And many have grown up with Apple or defected away from Windows and other OSes. So while it’s good and descriptive for you and other of like mind, it’s not prescriptive for the whole. Just something to consider.


One thing I would like to raise is that DevonThink fully supports Multimarkdown which includes citations, glossaries, critic markup and more. Typora and Obsidian have a more limited implementation of markdown. (I think Typora is Common Mark and Obsidian is more GitHub flavoured, but I could be wrong) :expressionless:

If you want to get geeky about it, this project I linked to in another thread was about creating a document manager that was open source and server based. It was far too webtechie for my skills and tastes and lacks encryption but maybe they’ll work that out eventually.