DEVONthink Usage

Hi all,

Is DEVONthink intended to be used as an archiving tool for documents?

What is preferred when it comes to archiving documents: DEVONthink or archives at filesystem level?

To be clear I am talking only about that class of documents that one would access couple of thimes per year, like credit card monthly invoice or similar.


Radu Pârvu

It’s not intended as an archival tool, but you can certainly use it that way if you want. There’s no requirement for you to access any file in a database. You could put something in and never touch it again. Your choice.

DEVONthink is a very flexible application, so much of he experience is what you bring to it.

PS: I have a financial database with records going back 7 years now. Most I haven’t touched in those 7 years. They’re just part of the database as I used it.

Thanks for the inpit.

Let me rephrase my question: what is the intended use case of Devonthink Pro?
If you have any support document that addresses it, would be great.

The DEVONtech web site has a Solutions page that gives some examples of how their tools are used in a variety of professions.


It would appear that you have used DEVONthink, at least in the past. Are there any particular uses that you have for DEVONthink where you are looking for examples of how others are using it?

There is no intended use case. You can use DEVONthink in very simple or very complex ways. It is not designed for a specific group of Users, nor is it confined to a set of “use cases” we’ve devised. The flexibility it offers, as well as the automation potential, makes it suitable for a variety of uses.

I can comment on an underlying aspect of the post. I continue also to hit a wall with why to use DT. I know well enough how.

I am realizing that my current approach tends to see DT as a super-Finder. Throw folders and files into it, add tags, make smart group searches, and rearrange things in other ways–these actions can all be done at the Finder level. However, DT is has a distinctly fuller approach to handling them.

What I am doing next is a test run on a different approach. I have a science/engineering book that I have long wanted to write. I have resources (files) going back over a decade from a few different courses that I have taught on the subject at hand. The files are, mildly put, highly disjointed. The files are not disorganized mind you. They are almost over-organized by course and semester and category. The disjoint is, they are in some cases replicated in a gazillion different places, or one aspect of a topic that is started in one file goes one way but started in another goes another way (rinse and repeat over a few dozens of topics).

So, my test plan is this. I will build a dedicated volume on an external hard drive. I will copy all my resources onto this volume. I will likely do a “find / remove duplicates” operation next. Then, I will INDEX the volume in DT.

After that, I plan to set up searches on key terms. I will try diligently to avoid messing about with the order of stuff in the DT index (i.e. I will try to avoid using DT as an equivalent Finder tool). Rather, my goal is to build a set of smart search lists to pull files together. I might think of the starting structure in DT in this way …

Topic (folder)

  • concept 1 (folder)
    – keyword 1 (smart search)
    – keyword 2 (smart search)
  • concept 2 (folder)

In summary, what I see as the answer to why use DT is because it has search tools that far surpass those available at the macOS Finder level.

I leave See Also & Classify as well as Concordance for later exploration, again moving beyond a super-Finder approach.

I hope this addresses what might be a core aspect of your question.


@DrJJWMac: Thanks for the input. I think it underscores what I’ve said regarding the flexibility of approaches to DEVONthink. Again, much of the experience is what you bring to the app, instead of being forced to use it in a very specific way.

A caution is also in my comments: Flexibility is good for rubber bands, not for bridges spans. One can easily use DT as a Finder replacement. It is likely going to reach the point of a “why the heck am I repeating these actions here” moment to discover that this is like holding a bridge together with rubber bands … You are stretching the reasons to keep it together only because you have no other ideas to go forward. This encapsulates my current brick wall in why to use DT (and why DTP sits essentially idle in my applications Folder). I hope to break out of this by finding where DT is a truly robust bridge span in my arsenal of tools, rather than yet another rubber band.

Also, when we both can resolve that I still hit brick walls in frustration even when I know how to use DT because I find its UI limiting rather than enlightening, we will both have a grand time for sure. :stuck_out_tongue: