Devonthink for PARA + mindmapping + zettelkasten + read me later

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That is pretty cool!

I’m curious what you came up with for handling these.

I have pressing projects that have a definable outcome but rarely a deadline more specific than ASAP.

I’ve been practicing PARA in DT3 and have created four separate databases for this purpose.

The question is: how do I tackle the increasingly large AREA database (DT has a size limit for smooth running databases)?

Because the content inside the AREA fields is where I often need to maintain, a large number of files are constantly being added :exploding_head:

How many items & words (see File > Database Properties) does the database contain? However, there’s no real limit, only a recommendation. And that depends in the end a lot on the used computer.
For my mac with 8G of RAM, 200,000,000 words seems like an appropriate limit for a database.

Because I have a large number of books PDF, reaching this amount seems to be a predictable thing :exploding_head:

Maybe the best way to solve it is to upgrade my Mac?Or do you have a better suggestion? :blush:

Unfortunately 8 GB of RAM isn’t that much anymore these days.

Why does my M1 Max order with 64G memory show that my bank card balance is insufficient? :upside_down_face: :sob:


I’ve been practicing PARA in DT3 and have created four separate databases for this purpose.

Interesting. I was thinking about doing the same exactly because of the reason you mentioned, Areas part tends to grow very fast in terms of assets and might deserve a separate db.
Also i could imagine syncing Projects DB over to iPad would be more handy as I am doing this today (using a completely separate DB not related to PARA). I think your post has motivated me to try this out! :slight_smile:

What is your summary overall after using this approach?

Hey jooz! :grinning:

I’m sorry for the late reply to you.

In my long practice of P.A.R.A, I have found that the most important value of the system is that it allows me to distinguish what areas are important and what areas I can ignore.

As a result, I am no longer creating 4 separate databases for PARA.

My method is: I add numbers to the name of each database to distinguish whether the database belongs to AREA, RESOURCE, or ARCHIVE. e.g. 02 for AREA, 03 for RESOURCE, 04 for ARCHIVE. this helps me distinguish which database to focus on.

Also, multiple databases help me to reduce the pressure on my running memory and reduce the risk of data loss (avoiding putting them in the same basket).

What do you think of this? I’d be happy to hear if you have a better way to practice P.A.R.A.


Thank you! I truly need to experiment with it!

Hi Ryan: This post is from 2020. Do you still use DT or have you moved everything over to Obsidian??? I saw you on MacSparky - David Sparks Zoom call last month.

I’m not that strict to PARA/Zettel thing.

In the past, I spent a lot of time on trying to find the “magic methods”. But years later, I would say, that thing does not exist at all. Everyone has their own gimmick. So here’s mine:

I use DevonThink as a vault/warehouse to kind of backup my files and metadata besides Time Machine.
My actual file manipulation works in Finder where I store each file according to their Apps (not too explicit). So table/spreadsheet exports are in iCloud/Excel, and Presentation in iCloud/PowerPoint. Now I know this sounds nothing like PARA. But here’s how I retrieve these files.

I use Bear 2, Alfred, and Finder Smart Folders. I don’t have a clear classification in Projects/Areas, etc. Every time I want to find files with the same “topic”, I just go search and if I need, I will create a smart folder in iCloud. I have a Zettel in my Bear 2. I set up a range of Apple Shortcuts to help me automate my process of creating “topic” notes, or in Zettel’s sense, permanent notes. I put PDFs (the final version) directly inside a topic note.

Here’s a use case.

I work in a university and one of my jobs is to issue rewards to our students.

On Finder, I store the invoice of these students on PDF Expert folder and Application Forms on Excel folder. I then create a smart folder to find any files share keywords, like “2022 student rewards” and other metadata. You see smart folders are not permanent, they actually work like tags in Apple Notes.

On Bear, I have all the information related to this job, including PDF attachments of the policy. Bear give my files context.

When I have all my files done. I will backup them through both DevonThink and Time Machine.

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  • Why are you putting them in iCloud and using the Finder for this? Do you actually need to index them?
    • And if so, organizing could easily be done in DEVONthink and its smart groups provide the same function.


The very first reason I have to do this is because I only have a 256GB MacBook Air at this moment, and every Bites count. If I were to import all my files into DevonThink, I would have lost all my storage space in a week. On the other hand, if I were to index all these files into DevonThink, it would have been a redundant move.

So I figure out that the best move for me is to use the default Finder smart folder and Bear.

You can store your databases on a connected external hard drive when space is low. :slight_smile:

I still use both about the same. DT’s the engine behind my collection and annotation of writing, Obsidian’s the front-end writing and querying machine.

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For any significant volume of data I don’t think there’s anything more bulletproof than Devonthink.

Over the years it’s been more reliable than even enteprise-grade SQL databases I have used.

Obsidian has its benefits - but long-term storage of large document sets is not its forte.


do you mind expanding on how you use labels for your customised PARA system? do you assign multiple labels to a single item?

Sorry, that’s one change, I guess. I use a status property in Obsidian instead of DT labels — and no, no multi-labelling. A thing can only have one status at a time.

Try not to overthink it and work iteratively with these meta-level organizing questions!

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