DEVONthink for Note-Taking?

I want to know if you use DEVONthink for note-taking? If so, in plain text, rich text or markdown?
If not, then what application do you use?
Thank you

There are so many posts on this topic already!

Some people here do use DEVONthink for notes, some people can’t stand DEVONthink for notes and they say so. Is it really that important? Frankly I don’t think it’s worth yet more on such an unimportant topic since DEVONthink is not really a claimed to be “note-making” application, although it can indeed be used for taking notes and for me it does it very well. 'nuff said.


I prefer wysiwyg editors
The Devonthink note editor works well for me; format - Formatted Note (html)

For extended options, I use Apple Pages
For handwriting, I use Apple Notes or the Notability app
exported to pdf for archiving in Devonthink
For spreadsheets, I use Apple Numbers


Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

I use iA Writer AND DT for note taking - not one or the other but both in combination. iA Writer only serves as the markdown editor, file management etc in DT. One can open iA Writer and create a file/note in DTTG. In DTTG I can go on the share menu, edit a note in iAWriter, and changes are made in the file in DTTG.

1 Like

I use the note taking function from the sorter sometimes now. I am not sure what that is called in the guides. I think you can set it to Markdown if you want or rich text, I keep it on plain text. It is really very good and all I need really, I am slowly dropping other note taking methods. I do some in regular paper notebooks though, I like that and for the time being will continue.
I like Markdown, though I have found for personal notes and snippets I don’t really need it. If I want to work something up a bit I will move it out into Ulysses or whatever. I do, as a matter of course put a book title or journal name within italics, so if it ever moves to markdown it will render properly, to my own eye it ‘looks’ italicised already though.

With a hot key and command s it is very doable using only keys, I put them all in the same folder which I leave the sorter window’s settings on. I also put notes in the Finder Comments. With a prefix and date, so I can find them independently. I don’t know why more people don’t do this really. It also, of course keeps notes automatically with a particular document or clipping or whatever.


Like Wolkenhauer I use IAwriter with DT as I mainly use markdown for notes and writing. Both support the full ‘Multimarkdown’ specification and wiki links. However DT and DTTG are more extensive with Mathjax, Mermaid and critic markup support. The only other editor I have found that covers all these is iWriter Pro (available for both MacOS and IOS) but it doesn’t yet do wiki links. I prefer the interface of IAWriter to iWriter and its additional grammar highlighting so can live without the Mermaid support for now (as I can preview it in DT/DTTG)

1 Like

May I ask a potentially stupid question? I know more or less what Markdown is and how it works. But what is the advantage of writing something / a note in Markdown if what is written never ends up on the internet?

1 Like

Not stupid question at all. I didn’t see the point initially. What does markdown give you? Although it started with geeks, with more powerful editors and tools like Pandoc, you can generate docx, pdfs and epubs in addition to html pages. The trouble with wysiwyg editors like Word, is you can get caught up with the formatting as you type, distracting you from getting the words down. Markdown (and editors like Scrivener) separates the writing from the formatting. Get the words down and then worry about how it looks afterwards. I can write quickly with markdown and then apply a template (CSS etc,) to get a docx or pdf with the standard look I want.

From one markdown file, I can generate an item for my blog or a multi page pdf to send to people.

If you write academic stuff, markdown can quickly be turned into Latex (a common language used to produce academic papers) and into correctly formatted double column pdf with citations etc.

So two main advantages: the separation of writing from formatting and a single source that can easily be turned into multiple types of output.

Ooh and one other thing, text files will be supported for ages (future proof) but propriety formats (like and old .doc) may not be readable/supported in the future.


I am glad you ask this question? Thank you

1 Like

This greatly helps & thank you!

Thank you @saltlane Mm, it could be me, but I still don’t get it.

If formatting actually distracts me from writing, then I just write and format later.

But, to take a simple example, if I need the text bolded, then I type ⌘b write, and when I’m done I type ⌘b again. What is distracting about that? Analogously, this works with everything I need.

Maybe that’s true, but it’s really just a hope. Why should rtf soon no longer exist?

1 Like

Regardless of “never ends up on the internet”
some people prefer to use a text format file
and enhanse their notes with things like bold, italics, and headings, …
Devonthink provides a note view that shows the enhancements visually

1 Like

Of course, I do that too. :grinning:

⌘b, ⌘i, headings ⌘space.

This happens quite automatically. My eyes stay on the text.

1 Like

To add to @saltlane’s comments:

  • Markdown is a very fast format to compose in. At its base level, it’s just plain text – quick and dirty :smiley: And plain text is as close to future-proof as we can get. In the computing timeline, it has been in use for well over 50 years.

  • Markdown being plain text also produces very small files. Even if you have a very long format document, it’s going to be a very small file. For example, the full text of the King James Bible in Markdown has over 850,000 words in a 4.4MB file!

  • If you want some formatting, the control characters for the basic formatting you’d find in e.g., rich text is simple to learn and type. And in DEVONthink, you can use the same shortcut keys you’d use in rich text, so pressing Command-B would add the bold characters for you.

  • Markdown is more efficient in making global changes to the appearance of a document. Whether using an inline styling or linking to an external one, you could do things like globally change the font or turning all bold text to orange.

  • Markdown supports the same kind of features as rich text, e.g., headings, lists, etc. it also supports things rich text doesn’t, like built-in blockquotes or section-linked tables of content. Due to its relationship with HTML, it also can be formatted in dynamic or complex ways that are beyond the abilities of rich text or even bespoke word processing applications, like Pages.

PS: I do over 80% of my writing for work in Markdown, even if it’s just to quickly record instructions or responses, then using the rendered output in a reply.

Why should rtf soon no longer exist?

Rich text is not a native format on iOS/iPadOS, so even Apple doesn’t see longevity in the format. We had to implement our own rich text support in DEVONthink To Go.

Also, generally speaking: use what format suits you, not what other people are using. If Markdown clicks for you, use it. If not, don’t. Simple :slight_smile:


First: Just use what you’re comfortable with.

But the main point, from my perspective, is that MD (like other text formats, eg TeX or even the venerable *roff variants and even HTML) is exactly that: TEXT. That’s the most basic format you can have on a computer, and there are gazillions of programs to work with TEXT.

Not so much with older doc files. Much less for WordPerfect or whatever the hot sh*t was at 20 years ago.

MD is compact, it’s portable (there simply is no Office365 for Linux), it’s sufficiently versatile. To do bold or italic, I need only one key. Same for different levels of headings: one key for each level. Formatting (aka representation) is separate from the document.

Now, the (in)famous WYSIWYG programs like Pages and Word are also “just text” under the hood nowadays. Very, very deep down under the hood. And you do not want to work with that kind of text directly if cherish your sanity. There’s no real separation between content and representation: Word et al. do have something like “styles”, but they are inside the document. Inside every document. With MD (or rather the HTML generated from it) I can simply point the viewer, the browser, or the document to another style sheet to change the appearance completely.

And all that is defined in standards (well, MD isn’t, but there’s a fairly broad common denominator, I’d say). If Microsoft decides to change their docx format tomorrow, all other companies will have to scramble to make their stuff compatible again. There’s no body controlling the format and discussing it openly, like with HTML and CSS.

Again: Just use what you feel comfortable with. But be aware of the pros and cons.


How about one of my favorites, transclusion?

It’s sometimes nice to aggregate a number of short notes into one. Markdown supports that.

It’s also nice for a map of contents. Manual sort order doesn’t survive syncing, but a list of document links in a note does.

In source mode, you see the links. In preview mode, you see an aggregation. Better yet, the order stays the same after a sync to another machine.

Rich text or other document format strikes me as a special purpose thing. I’m not a fan of MacOS RTF styles, so I use Nisus for RTF files in DT, anyway.

Markdown for everything else.

1 Like

This may or may not help understand why I use markdown. Attached is a PDF, and its corresponding markdown file used to generate it (as a pdf print to upload it here). And how it is on the internet (admittedly with the links bit taken out)

Avocet.pdf (1.5 MB)

Avocet md file as pdf.pdf (22.2 KB)


True but also (1) a higher end feature so I didn’t mention it :slight_smile: , and (2) not supported by all Markdown editors.

1 Like

Ok, thank you all. I think I understand the basics now. A lot of what obviously makes MD unique, I actually don’t need. So I’ll stick with what I do use.

One last question: An RTF document logically contains the unformatted text as well. Is it not always possible to “extract” this text, even if this format should no longer exist? Or would the plain text also be lost?

Or asked in another way: Is it imaginable that nobody supplies a “converter” that transforms rtf into a new standard format?