Devonthink for PARA + mindmapping + zettelkasten + read me later

I wonder if anyone is using devonthink in a similar way and can share any interesting ideas on that scenario. Specifically I am interested in an intersection between 0) personal management system 1) integration with mind maps 2) zettelkasten storage 3) read-me-later service on ios.

For me DT is a central storage management tool for all my files on the mac. Locally on mac, i index stuff (w/o importing it into dt).

A few specific use-cases which I am interested in are:

  • all my files are organized as PARA - this is a great strategy which actually allows to integrate some aspects of project management into file storage (P = projects).

I wonder if anyone using some aspects of project management with DT. Specifically, I see that there is a script to add files to Things3/calendar but I did not find a way to add DT’s “group” (i.e. “folder” on mac) to a reminder/todo.

  • usage of mind-maps for conceptual thinking. I discovered for myself, that mapping works very well for me when tackling new complex topics. As branches of threes can be easily re-organizing while working on material. What I am experimenting with right now, is after a topic is “done” I am exporting the end result additionally as a markdown file into my zettelkasten archive. I.e. in the end I will have a mindmap file and markdown. iThoughts works great on that end, and its files are also displayed properly in DT. iThoughts supports encryption of single maps so there is no direct need in storing them inside DT/DTTG - but that is what I wanted to try next as per default encryption feels right.

Anyone using DT with mindmaps with some interesting work flows?

  • specifically for notes, I ended up with a combination of nvalt + DT / occasionally atom/typora) on Mac and 1writer on IOS. I am also experimenting with notebooksapp which also has a really good support for markdown but feels like a substitution for DTTG to me. So I am still not sure how it fits into my use-case. Where I am struggling with right now, is actually DTTG search as it seems to be very basic and normally I want to see all occurrences of the search term in the document - other apps (like notebooksapp) solve this. 1writer on IOS is able to work with md files residing inside my DTTG database which provides a great combination of encrypted storage of DTTG and nice markdown interface of 1writer.

This workflow feels pretty good now w/o needing to copy-paste between multiple apps. But I really wonder how folks search on IOS with DTTG?

  • i also use DT/DTTG as a read-me-later service. For articles which I would like to read later from my RSS reader, I use a simple smart rule which places all #longreading clippings into a distinct group in DTTG. Still experimenting with this to find the most straightforward solution - as DTTG supports clipping into Inbox only (why?), basically this workflow relies on DT/Mac to be able to run the smart-rules. I think it would be nice to have a reading list supported in DTTG. My RSS reader (Reader) has a nice read-me-later support but I do not consider it a great place for long reading (especially if I will want to annotate stuff and make notes)

Is there a “better” way to us DT/DTTG as a read-me-later service?

Thanks for your ideas!


Just a quick comment on PARA: I have implemented my own variant of PARA using DT’s Labels, which work wonderfully for this kind of exclusive-or scenario.

Interesting approach - i did not think about this in that way. My approach was very old school: basically folder-based structure although I do use labels in addition to colour my main areas (as they tend to look more distinct on IOS when coloured in my perception).
How do you handle combination of labels and your view on the left side of DT?
Do you label your folders and/or files in folder? Do you use additionally tags in any capacity for PARA?

I see some interesting advantages as files can reside e.g. inside Area (label: area) and then some of them can selectively build up a project (label: project X). Is it your approach?

I use smart groups and rules to present different views of labeled items. All Projects will get a Project label, etc. Then, I can easily view current Projects in a given database by looking at a smart group that only includes items labeled Project.

I do use a personally customized alternative to PARA where I still keep topic area folder hierarchies.

I need to write it up more substantively.


Interesting approach. If you want to share any more insights e.g with screenshot of your exemplary structure - that would be highly interesting :slight_smile:
I was hesitant to far to build a lot of intelligence using smart groups as this is not supported/replicated to IOS but inspired by your suggestion here I will re-visit that decision. Looks like I am missing on lots of interesting opportunities.

I initially planned to sync my entire DT databases to my iPad with the thought that it’s nice to have everything possible with you.

Eventually I realized that just is not realistic for a database of any reasonable size, nor is it necessary.

What I do instead is to routinely sync only one specific database that I routinely use on iOs, and if I know I will need something else then I duplicate it into a separate database I use only for documents to be shared between desktop and mobile.

In other words, I only use iOs for a limited portion of my databases which I am likely to need while traveling.

Beyond that, I can always find a spare computer somewhere to login and get anything else unexpected I might need.

Thanks @rkaplan. I guess my fundamental issue right now is how to embrace the structure of Project - Areas - Resources - Archives (which i really like and it feels right to me and how I think about stuff) spread across Mac + IOS devices with no feature parity in DT and DTTG.
My approach so far was kind of similar to yours in a way that I ended up with one DB on Mac which indexes all my local stuff and one DB for sync with my ios devices. Then I kind of tend to off-load stuff from my synced DB into Mac once this material is not needed/relevant. But this is a very clunky process for me so far, so I am looking for optimizations and automation. Synced stuff tends to fall into Projects + Areas category as this is really the stuff I tend to refer on the go and main non-sync DB has all 4: P + A + R + A with really a huge R (Resource) area and lots of cold storage in A (Archive).

I started to explore the power of smart rules + tags to allow for some form of automatic sorting. Suggestion by @ryanjamurphy feels very powerful - I yet need to discover the power of smart groups in combination with PARA.

From what I read on the use-case part of forum (that is my understanding so far at least), a great avenue to explore is to actually create multiple niche DBs which can also focus on some of the topics where one want to build expertise in and then experiment with slicing and dicing of information in there. Probably some combination of replication from the main DB into these “specialized” DB might be a good idea - i do not know yet?!


Don’t know if you have already seen it, but Kourosh Dini just released an e-book on taking smart notes in Devonthink. He follows the zettelkasten approach more than than the PARA approach. I’m about 200 pages into it and have found a few areas of his workflow I intend to incorporate into my own, particularly how he uses some notes as index notes, which act as a sort of table of contents to a series of other notes linked together for any given topic.


I use PARA on the folder level. I do have one folder where I keep all my notes which are also synced to IOS (i use 1writer there).
I tend to create a “dashboard” which links back to main assets in some of the categories I work with a lot (this is basically a md file with some wiki +x-links).
I attach an example:

Unfortunately, for this to work on IOS, one needs to also create x-links as DTTG does not support wiki-links … I would love to avoid x-links as this is not an open technology and creates friction as it will only work with DT.
I would be curious to hear from you what the TL;DR of the book is once you have implemented it :slight_smile:

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I’m following this thread with great interest. I stumbled upon it after downloading Kourosh Dini’s just-released DEVONthink book and I wanted to see what people were saying about putting his “smart notes” methods into practice.

Prior to this thread, I hadn’t heard of P.A.R.A. Now, having spent a few hours reading and thinking about it, I see a lot of potential for bringing greater structure and uniformity to the digital tools I use personally and professionally.

That said, I haven’t wrapped my arms around how to translate P.A.R.A.’s four-folder hierarchy to DEVONthink and OmniFocus — especially since I tend to think of DEVONthink as one big archive.

OmniFocus, meanwhile, is mostly for completing project, not storing and organizing support materials that seem to make up the bulk of what goes under Areas and Resources. Additionally, OmniFocus has its own built-in archiving capabilities, making me question whether there’s a use for a P.A.R.A.-inspired Archive folder, or “Group,” in OmniFocus.

Hei @Brian_B.
My take on PARA is:

  • my local files on mac are organized in PARA. This help to structure information into high level buckets like P> stuff i actively work on with a time deadline A> things which are always around and are important for me R> tools, assets, basically anything I refer to R> anything else/cold storage.
  • i replicate A(reas) + P(projects) in Things3. I do not have any R or P in my todo app as you say it is primarily for tracking active todos for existing projects
  • I tend to use similar A(reas) structure around all my apps (like e.g. iThoughts for mindmapping) as it helps to establish a familiar structure everywhere
    If you search around for Tiago’s stuff on PARA, there is lots of material incl. some seminars of youtube. I really liked this one link. And i mean Devonthink is an ideal tool for it !:slight_smile:

One of the challenges for me so far is the implementation of progressive summarization. This works greatly with RFT files (or PDFs) but unfortunately is a challenge with markdown as there is not support for colour highlighting. I haven’t found a great method for it (yet).

I realized soon after posting here that in Tiago’s example, the full P + A + R + A folder structure was only used for file storage apps — which is what @jooz is already doing by limiting Things 3 to P for Projects and A for Areas.

That’s what I’ve now done, moving all my existing projects (bonafide projects with clear outcomes and external deadlines + any big tasks with multiple tasks (a la GTD)) into a holding pen for now.

Side note: I haven’t figured out where to put active projects that aren’t Projects in the PARA sense of the word. These are projects that relate to an area of responsibility or interest, but definitely don’t have deadlines (other than, perhaps, a loose sense that I don’t want it drag on for weeks or months).

Meanwhile, I am still in the early days of figuring out where DEVONthink fits into my knowledge management system. Tiago Forte’s schema for deciding what goes where has been very helpful in this regards, if only by helping me think more clearly about what type of files are well-suited for DEVONthink (or Evernote, etc.) and what should remain in Finder, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. (for me, this is a mix of large files like videos, shared files, photo libraries, etc.).

One of the most appealing features of DEVONthink is its ability to “index” external folders. I’ve not previously given it much consideration (except in one very specific example) because it seemed like a poor fit for my tendency to treat Finder and cloud storage as a junk drawer prone I periodically “organize” by dragging, dropping and renaming.

If I can make PARA work, that should make indexing to DEVONthink a viable and sustainable option for me.

Hei @Brian_B,

re indexing - yes, that is exactly what I am doing as my files do not only live on a mac but also in Dropbox, Google drive and I use devonthink in combination with 3rd party tools like editors for markdown. For instance I index my mindmaps in dropbox from iThoughts , i index books from iBooks, etc.

Quite interesting method ! Thanks for the link to PARA
I subscribed to Thiago’s newsletter.

I am just beginning to use smartfolders. But linked to Tags and Keywords, it seems to be powerful.

I’ll follow this thread further.

I took Thiago’s ‘Building a Second Brain’ course recently and I really wish he would take a deeper look at DT3 as for me it’s the perfect app for PKM/2nd Brain.

Right now I have P.A.R.A pretty well established in DT3 using a single database with a group structure for my ‘2nd Brain’ along side Projects and Area’s in Things3. I have P.A.R.A set up in my iCloud and OneDrive folders but I tend to move items into DT3 rather than index.

I’ve been using this system to study an online course recently and combined with Readwise & it has totally changed how I capture and process knowledge. The only issue is having to rely on RTF to fully ‘progressively summarise’ due to the lack of support for md highlights within DT3, I’d much prefer to stay with md. (Side note, I wish there was a native Readwise sync to DT3, having to go via Evernote is annoying and I’m worried it will just break with the way Evernote is heading).

Just got started with Kourosh Dini’s book and my idea is to build a Zettleksten in a separate DT3 database to use as a destination for my interpretation of key ideas/insights coming out of what I process in my 2nd Brain.

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hei @obbiie - how exactly are you leveraging Things3 in your setup?

I tend to use it for “P” to manage project todos and deadlines as well as organize them into “A”=areas.

I agree with you re RTF, I came to the same conclusions when evaluating PARA system and DT3. In fact, lack of support for highlighting has nothing to do with DT3 - it is md standard which is indeed just plain text not supporting highlighting. This leads sometimes to me saving files into DT3 in RTF format knowing that I want to process them via summarization approach although my default would be actually md. I wonder if there is some better workflow for this?

Where I am still a bit not sure is the connection between something like Zettelkasten System in Obsidian/DT with markdown files (which are also indexed into DT3 - this is a great combo) and Tiago’s approach with highlighting (and RTF in DT3). It seems like any summarization one is doing in these RTF files, as you suggest below, requires creation of “evergreen notes” or “zettel”'n in the the other database.

It seems that summarization ala Tiago is more or less “on-demand” and “passive” (you highlight text, etc).
Whereas Zettelkasten System with evergreen notes forces one to re-frame the the words of other people and consolidate the knowledge across multiple sources - i.e. it is an “active” approach which can build upon those summarized sources.

So, in summary, so far, I came up with:
DT: mainly PDF, RTF > uses highlighting and summarization
Obsidian (+indexed folder into DT): all MD, only “my thoughts” linking back into files in DT using great DT’s linking feature. I got inspired for this by the approach @ryanjamurphy is mentioning on this as well as obsidian forums.

I use Things for both projects and areas and currently run both personal and work projects in it. I don’t nest projects under areas as, like Thiago, I prefer to have all of my projects at the top of the list (see screenshot) So I have all my projects at the top (defined as any discrete thing I want to achieve by a certain date or to a certain outcome) and then a set of work and personal areas at the bottom (defined as longer-term interests/responsibilities that I work on over time but do not have a definite idea of ‘done’)

Each Project will have a goal, and I track these goals in lists in DT3 that I have in my favourites.

I exactly replicate my Projects and Areas in DT3 and use item linking from DT3 to tasks within projects in Things so that I can easily get to an item I need to work on.

I let Things take care of Archives through how it completes/cancels projects when I finish them, and the logbook. Anything I want to re-use as a resource or refer back to in archives will be a tangible item either in DT3 or file system rather than the task in things.

Re: markdown highlights, I’ve seen a few threads on this, and there is syntax for highlights, and it does work in some other apps.

I’m still in the exploration phase on how to use a Zettlekasten, but what you describe is exactly how I’m currently thinking about using it. I’d prefer to keep it all in DT3 so I will see if Kourosh’s ideas help me achieve that, if not I like the idea of indexing the files that I can then use in Obsidian but still search in DT3.

Thanks for the details @obbiie!

I’m still in the exploration phase on how to use a Zettlekasten, but what you describe is exactly how I’m currently thinking about using it. I’d prefer to keep it all in DT3 so I will see if Kourosh’s ideas help me achieve that, if not I like the idea of indexing the files that I can then use in Obsidian but still search in DT3.

I do keep all in stuff DT3, that is my main workhorse so to say. Obsidian provides a very nice graph feature which is beautiful add-on to all the features DT3 is giving. You can read more on this e.g. here on the forum or Curtis’s blogpost on this.

@obbiie i just came across this {==some text==} creates a highlighted text in md in DT3: image