Dreaming... if DT was my mail.app...

This is not necessarily a feature request, but just a thought!

I am one of those modern-day office workers who does about 70% of his written communication by email. An office-worker deals with information all day. Processing information: reading, categorizing, taking note, approving, forwarding, giving feedback, answering questions, archiving, collecting, summarizing, etc.
Information comes as email, fax, MS Office documents, PDF, paper copy, written notes, etc.

DEVONthink is very helpful in organizing this information, but right now Apple Mail.app is my "supplementary brain":

My Inbox is my to-do list
I have mailboxes organized by topics or departments I deal with.

There are several drawbacks:

  1. Instead of an Inbox, it would be better to have a real to-do app, why?
    1a. Subject titles of emails are written by sender and therefore often not instantly recognizable (Subject: "no subject")
    1b. No prioritization, sub-categories, shifting around, categorization, checking off of items, setting deadline, reminder dates etc. in mail.app
    1c. No Palm or phone sync (I mean just for a to-do list)
    1d. No adding of your own to-do items (unless you send yourself email, which I have often done to overcome this)
    Surprisingly, there are no To-Do programms which integrate with Mail and Apple iapps and offer these advantages (eg: when you click a To-Do, you see the corresponding mails and address of sender, etc.)

Mail.app as a supplementary brain is bad for several other reasons:
2a. Worst: we use PGP a lot, I cannot decrypt emails and SAVE emails in decrypted format, same with subject - I cannot change subject to a more "appropriate" or descriptive title.
2b. No import of documents
2c. Similar: If someone sends you a Word document with no subject and no email body, you always have to open Word to look up: "What was this email about?"
2d. No key-words, no multiple categories, search not bad but could be better, no attachment or connection of related information.

So Mail.app is a really bad supplementary brain, but because of the absolute and increasing dominance of email in communication, I will stick to it. I get about 10-20 relevant emails a day. Exporting and importing them into DEVONthink all the time would be too much hassle, EVEN if I was only required to press one key.
No, ideally DEVONthink would be my Mail.app or Mail.app would be my DEVONthink. Now combine this with the, as I understand, network and workflow functions of DT Pro and offer an intuitive and minimum-hassle user interface and you would have a real winner in the office space.

If you ever went to efficiency seminars, they will tell you to use calendar, address book, to-do, email and document management to its full to become efficient, but I ask myself, why do I, in 2004 with all the PC power and millions of clever programmers out there, still have to:

  1. Get a fax about a change of a meeting subject and changed meeting room requirements.
  2. Search for the email which had the original information - the information is in an MS Word document attached to an email with no subject and no body text.
  3. Open the Word document.
  4. Go to Devonthink, where I stored the different meeting room layouts from the hotel where the meeting is held.
  5. Decide on the room. Write an email to the hotel asking a change of meeting room. Getting email response: They need to discuss this, can I call John tomorrow at 5.
  6. Enter that into my To-Do.
  7. The next day I get a reminder, because I did not type John’s phone number into my to-do, I need to find the email again.
  8. I now need to inform all meeting participants, because I need everybody to agree, I need to await, collect and check off 14 different emails.
  9. I scan and store the original DEVONthink, but because I never bothered to store all emails in DEVONthink, I still have all my information in two places. When you include to-do/calendar it’s even three places. Thank God to DEVONthink, the usual fourth place: “some folder on my hard disk” is covered.
  10. Because the meeting is a coordination meeting between sales and accounting, some of the emails I filed in sales, others in accounting mailbox. When I get promoted, my successor in the job wants to replicate the meeting. But because the information is scattered and I have no possibility to write comments or other metadata to my emails, he/she is struggling…
    (just a random example)

I am sure you understand what I am getting at, because you wrote this extremely promising piece of software which I hope will cover large parts of these problems.
There are other promising pieces of software: LifeBalance (which I am not going to use if it does not integrate with ical, ical to-do I am not going to use because it is useless without sub-items), new MS Office Project Center (if you like being stuck with MS), etc. But only if these pieces of software were integrated, we would get those huge gains of efficiency the PC could potentially offer to office workers.
I am just surprised that huge software companies like MS and Apple are not there yet and that it is the small, independent developers which come up with the right solutions. But then again, maybe I am not surprised.

BTW: It would be great if you could drag and drop Apple Mail.app emails into DEVONthink - as a first step.

Drag & Drop between Mail and DEVONthink is not possible because Mail does not support the official OS X drag & drop protocol (it’s IMHO only possible to drag & drop Mails to the Finder, that’s all).

However, using the scripting possibilities of DT Pro and Mail’s rule action scripts, it’s quite easy to add emails automatically to a DT Pro database. And you can of couse use scripts too to send emails.

DT Pro won’t provide network/workgroup support - this will be limited to upcoming editions based on servers and clients.

Take a look at CRM4Mac, just released a cool beta. . .And Six Degrees, well, could suggest that but think I won’t–but looks like things are heading your way.

I’ve seen CRM4Mac too - nice software if you need CRM and if you’re using Apple’s Addressbook, iCal and Mail.

However, the job of DEVONthink is definitely not to be a CRM (although version 2.0 will be able to import/index mbox files, e.g. created by Apple’s Mail).