DEVONthink vs Notion

You are the experts. So can you explain to me the major differences or advantages of DEVONthink vs Notion? thank you
Ja’acov

I am not aware of anyone using Notion, but the focus doesn’t appear to be document / information management in the way DEVONthink is.

Perhaps it would be better to trial both? But it really depends on what you want to do.

Based on my year of experimentation. Notion.so is good for:

  • dashboard for data (more visual than DT)
  • meso-level database software (not nearly as feature rich as DT)
    * but more customizable (which isn’t always a
    good thing)
    * relational databases
  • note taking and wiki-linking (slightly superior to DEVONthink)
  • web-clipper (not as good as DEVONthink)
  • offers a variety of ways to view your databases, from gallery views, to tables, to Kanban.
  • mediocre task management capabilities

Problems:

  • barely usable offline capabilities
  • complete free form
  • UX leaves much to be desired
  • subscription

Think of it like LEGO, where each block does something different and you can construct it in any combination you wish - notes, images, databases, etc.
Upcoming development seems promising.

Notion is a lightweight web app which is very good for small to moderate projects or presentations which will reside entirely online. It is particularly helpful if you plan to author a document or database to share with others online.

Devonthink is an extremely sophisticated and deeply customizable and scriptable app which excels at organizing and searching very large sets of information in multiple forms. You can output data as a website you host yourself, and there is a version of Devonthink with a limited capability web server to share password-protected information with others; but generally Devonthink works from data stored or synced to a local device.

Most importantly, they are both great tools which complement each other; they do not duplicate or compete. Indeed you can easily create links to your Notion pages or projects and then store, view, or edit your Notion content within Devonthink.

1 Like

DEVONthink is my inbox, file cabinet, and vault. It is where I capture, keep, and most importantly, find my files with confidence. Notion is where I use those files for idea, information, project management, meeting facilitation, and connecting essential GTD method areas/projects/tasks/next actions, etc. to potential outcomes. Notion is my war room. Its combination of pages and relational databases remind me of OmniFocus perspectives, but with greater flexibility and a joy-of-use factor that is hard to describe. I agree with rkaplan; they are complementary tools. I don’t ever see myself dropping every file I deem worthy of keeping in Notion. Still, when it is worthy of using, I’ll either embed the DT3 link, or use DT3 to convert it to pdf and drop it in Notion if it will be needed for immediate reference for planning, or in a meeting, etc.

DEVONthink has the potential to be that war room/workspace, but IMHO not without scripting experience or lots of manual arranging and forethought. I can drag entries from one database (or create another view) to another in Notion without losing all the other items: bulleted lists, todos, toggle lists, kanban boards, embedded links, images, mucho, etc.

It would also be necessary to purchase the DT3 server option to make it work well with others. The two non-profits with which I work don’t have the money or the time it would take to bring everyone up to speed. The cross-platform nature of Notion is also a plus for project and team management.

To some it up, I love both Notion and DEVONthink for what they do well individually.

3 Likes

Plus you can use Notion right from Devonthink since Devonthink has its own browser and can easily launch your preferred browser.

So Devonthink is a place to work as well as to store data.

Devonthink becomes infinitely more powerful when you make this transition.

1 Like

Ok. Woah and headslap. Of course!

Per @rkaplan’s suggestion, I’m experimenting today with using Notion embedded within DT3’s internal browser. It’s cool, but know there are some caveats.

  • Clipping a web page via the sorter as a web archive will appear to work. The links, for instance, will allow you to create new blocks, but any content you enter is not saved. I think I understand why, but I just wanted to warn others.
  • Clipping as an HTML page doesn’t give you anything useful, but that’s expected.
  • Clipping as a bookmark is your friend. It produces the same results as copying the URL from your browser and choosing New With Clipboard within DT3. Using the Sorter gives you the instant advantage of using tags and choosing where you want the Notion page to land in your database, all in one step. Love it.
  • Sometimes, and I don’t know why, when I select the bookmark in DT3, it doesn’t load the page. When this happens, I click the link within the DT3 preview window, and it loads as expected. No big deal, but when jumping back and forth between my DT3 browser Notion page and other files, it’s a hassle if the page doesn’t stay loaded.

One thing I hated about using Notion was that it forced me to use Chrome on macOS if I wanted a web clipper. Thanks to @rkaplan’s suggestion to use Notion within DT3’s browser means I get to use Safari again so I get all my keychain passwords back. Whew, it’s nice to return to Safari integration.

For any Notion users who have incorporated variations of Ali Abdaal’s Resonance Calendar workflow, you can do the same thing even better with file management options in DT3, using Safari as the clipper. I’m moving all that stuff back into DT3 from Notion. DT3’s web archives mean my Resonators are available when working offline.

If anyone else is incorporating Notion and DEVONthink, I hope you’ll share your experiences.

1 Like

All great tips - and yes, there are some weird security issues with Notion which I think are related to their concerns about cross-domain browser security risks. A workaround is to create a new window using “Open With” and do clipping within a regular browser when you need to do that.

The concept is not limited to Notion of course. Google Sheets and Google Docs work very nicely within Devonthink. I have some custom web apps which access my office SQL database which work well also.

Plus you can set up Workspaces in Devonthink if you want to regularly go back to some combination of these resources.

When you say “embed the DT3 link”, how do you do that? I’ve been trying for a half-hour and am apparently too dim to accomplish this. Every time I try it opens up Safari and notion.so .

Charles

Hi Charles, did you ever get a response to this? Curious as well.

Nope … rather surprised . DT is usually prompt.

I don’t think DT staff are on this thread.

I think @danlandrum is just talking about taking a link to content you have in Notion and saving it as a bookmark in a relevant DEVONthink group. When you click on that bookmark you’ll be able to view your stuff in Notion within DEVONthink.

Hi - this is exactly how I intend to combine the two. Thanks for your post. Just one question - when you say you embed the DT3 link you mean you copy/paste the link into notion, but its not a “clickable” link, right? Or how do you embed? Thanks!

I imagine the best route is bookmarking Notion pages inside DT. That way, when you select the bookmark record, the page loads in the appropriate DT panes/windows.

I sampled Notion for a bit and while I like the feature set and philosophy I absolutely cannot handle the fact that’s its a wrapped up web app. Performance is so bad on my iPhone 7 that using it for quick searches and capture was almost impossible. This is one of the main USPs with DEVONthink for me, the fact that its native all over. I understand the reasoning(s), but it’s really a shame that performance is not valued higher in today’s app landscape.

I understand what you’re saying, and have modified my use for the same reason. I work with a couple of non-profit teams. Notion is perfect in that setting. I have stopped doing my non-team based work in notion, preferring Curio to be the hub for those projects. Curio and DEVONthink play quite nicely together on both Macs and iOS devices. Adding Hook to the mix completed the package.

Could I trouble you to give an example and/or screenshot of how Hook helps?

I am intrigued but not sure I undrerstand how this helps since DT3 and Curio work together even without Hook

Intersting comment also about Curio vs Notion - do you see Curio as doing a lot of the same things Notion does?

Ha! The screenshot would need to be inside my head, because that’s where it works. Listing the sequence of keyboard commands can make memorized functions seem arduous. Here’s a short narrative of how Hooking something springs to life in my cranium.

“Hey, that relates to that thing I’m doing. Hook it and command tab back. Attach it. Hmmm, this reminds me of something I read. Google it. There it is. Hook it and command tab back. Attach it. Ooh, a squirrel. I’ll finish that later. I’ll make a quick action item (this can be in a variety places, Omnifocus, Drafts Note, DEVONthink Inbox, nvUltra note, Bear note, etc) to remind me later about what I wanted to do, and attach what I’ve hooked so far.”

I could go on and on, but it reminds me of the way I work in TheBrain, but without all the overhead.

Trickster is a neat addition to this nimble system. It can see files that are hooked and tracks recent files. I have it set to show me only recent Hooked files as a default. With a simple keypress I’m usually able to jump back in, and be reminded of the connections I was using previously.

Hook attaches easily to DEVONthink files and Curio figures, connecting them almost without effort, just like almost any other file on your MAC, and with very few steps. There are also easy ways to add system-wide tags so you know an item is hooked. This kind of connectedness becomes more and more useful over time.

I still use the connective features of both Curio and DEVONthink in my workflow, but Hook is always there and ready for the quickest of connections, especially when I don’t need to create something more elaborate.

As to similarities between Curio and Notion, Curio is more of a creation space (for me) as opposed to Notion’s strength in relating and sharing files with Slack-like communication tools.

2 Likes