dreaming of an academic version of DT Pro like this...


…or at least good integration with other existing academic & research Mac software that can effectively do the same.

Sorry for using the “Requests & Suggestions” forums for my dreaming…


(sigh …) Windows only, I presume …

Yes, and that’s what gets me: isn’t the Mac supposed to be where the creative types work: academics, writers, music, movie producers, etc.?

It seems that all but the academics are really taken care of! I mean, the professional music and video software on the Mac is mind-blowing. Hmm, maybe Mac using academics aren’t viewed “professional” enough by the industry? :question: I mean, Windows users – WINDOWS! – have NotaBene, IdeaMason, etc.

Mind you, we have DEVONthink…which was honestly a MAIN reason why I switched. And, despite all my suggestions and positive criticisms in other posts, I can’t imagine note-taking without it. However, “macademics” do NOT have an integrated researcher’s/academic’s tool. Strange. I wish some good, nice mac developers somewhere out there could read this discussion (hint, hint)… :wink:

DEVONthink ACADEMIC anyone?

In my opinion software like IdeaMason (which I only looked at) and related programs which I used a lot on my Windows machine serve very different purposes in information or knowledge management when compared to Devonthink. They are good for material you know really well already. You know what you have to do with it - how to categorize it, how to link it to other stuff. And they work best with a limited amount of material. Imagine linking thousands of entries to each other! The search function in these programs are often limited and very time consuming (not in the time they need to find something but in the time you need to work through the results.) Often the category or keyword structure you’ve establihed over a period of time limits you in doing new things with your material. I think Devnthink is great for a huge amount of information and for deciding later and more than one time what to do with it. For German speaking academics there is program called “Lit-link” which you can use as a research tool on a Mac. It is based on a filemaker database and free and much more elaborate than EndNote-like software. It was developed with the needs of historians in mind. It has its limitations and does not offer automatic citations, but it has nice features like showing related entries automatically based on assigned keywords. This works for sources and citations or ideas you collect. It’s great considering that you get if for free. But it cannot replace something like Devonthink.

This is one of my big dreams as well. Oh to have a nota bene for Mac. Of course this would not be good for DT, and processors like Mellel and bib.managers like Sente and Bookends. But I (and other users) have tried in vain to get these companies to work together (DT, Mellel, and Bookends specifically). There is such potential to make Mac a serious writers and researchers tool with an integrated package, but it would cost a lot of money to start a writer’s suite from the ground up. I will actually be at a society meeting and Nota Bene people will be there, I’m gonna poke around and ask them if they have considered it.

What would it look like? Well DT would be the base of operations, holding everything. Within the database you could edit documents made by the word processor (Mellel or something equivalent). The bibliographic database would also be housed in the DT database, and could be searched and cited within DT. The possibilities are endless really.

Of course there are major reasons why this will probably never see the light of day.

  1. DT doesn’t want to pick a bib. manager to work with for fear of excluding others.
  2. Bookends (and Sente) aren’t scriptable and are kept in a format that DT can’t read. Bookends isn’t even a cocoa app which probably makes collaboration even harder.
  3. Mellel files can’t be imported or even indexed by DT, and Mellel isn’t scriptable.

So we are stuck at the same place, a bunch of great apps that writers and researchers would love to use together in an integrated way but can’t.

If you know of anyone with 2 million dollars who wants to create a writer’s suite from the ground up, give em my email, I jot down features of a potential suite like this and always add to it (I’ve even named it :slight_smile: )

Although I agree that a better integration should be possible, I do not see an automatic benefit to have everything in one software package. Mellel for example would be less useful for example if the UI was designed like in DT. The windows program you suggested is not a good example for UI design, by the way…
Third, the vision of a swiss-army-knife-solution yields to the common misconception, that academic work depends on the system you work with. These software packages are just tools: With practice, your output will become higher and better, even if you had to work on a Windows 98 OS with a word processor from the digital stoneage. This is not to promote win 98 machines! But if everything would depend on the tools we use, science would not have been possible before.
Probably the move to standard, open formats will make integration easier in the future. Meanwhile, the fact that Mellel and DTPro do not integrate well diminishes the value of both applications, as any user of one program will think twice to buy the other one.


By the way, there is a workaround (to pass the time until better integration):
In my Bookends setup, every reference gets a unique number, which I also write on the copied sheets, or the book. This might be something like 061117-a (-a for the first reference I added today - the date ensures that I do not use a number twice, and that I do not have to look up the last number each day).
In DevonThink, I only enter basic bibliographic information when I take notes, like author-date, but at least the number. Whenever I write something that I want to turn into a paper later on, I can use the number for the cite-while-you-write-feature, refering to a text with something like {061117-a}.
I use Bookends only for bibliographic references, and to make citations easier. For the organization of ideas (and quotes), I turn to DTPro (with command-tab). Writing a paper consists in switching between DTPro and Mellel (or Word), sometimes I compose the first draft in DTPro, and import the draft in Mellel whenever I need more features. I even use the freeware apps BackDrop and MenuShade to improve focus on one app.
There is no need to switch to Bookends during writing at all, because as I said, you just have to enter the unique number whenever you quote, and bookends can do the rest in one batch at the end.


I have to heartily disagree with Maak about integration- integration would be incredibly helpful. Users of Nota Bene would concur with me. In fact, I was at a conference and watched a Nota Bene presentation and am very seriously considering running Nota Bene in Parallels. And I talked to users of Nota Bene (i.e.DT+Mellel+Bookends) who swear up and down that it is incredible. The Nota Bene processor does everything Mellel does and everything they say is coming in the next 2 years (indexing, crossreferencing, etc) and is saved in RTF.

The unfortunate thing about it of course is that it is a PC app. It feels like a PC app. But I’m getting to the point where I’m willing to put up with it. DT doesn’t want to work with Mellel or Bookends, Bookends is stuck in Carbon, and Mellel will always be limited sharing-wise because of its own format.

As I said before, if you know anyone with 1 or 2 million dollars to design a mac native writer’s suite, let me know- or let Nota Bene know because they are interested.

I’ve always been fascinated by Nota Bene. It’s probably unsurpassed for the kind of scholarly writing that people who write concordances or need the kind of footnoting used by 19th century German historians (higher word count in footnotes than in the body of the text). :slight_smile:

But Nota Bene is text-based. I was amused by one user’s story of having personally typed in more than 4,000,000 words of the works of an author he was writing about. That’s true dedication.

So if I had Nota Bene I would still be using DT Pro, as many of my references are in other than text filetypes. I use the Web browser (as well as DEVONagent) heavily for pulling in references. And I make heavy use of the AI features of DT Pro.

It is unfortunate that Mellel can’t be directly read by DT Pro, although the kludge of capturing as PDF does help. Perhaps more file types will become readable in the future.

The “Tower of Babel” effect of so many proprietary file types hasn’t been solved yet. But I prefer DT Pro’s approach of holding multiple readable file types than Nota Bene’s approach of using a lower common denominator (text) for reference material.

The closest I’ve come to a competent word processor/spreadsheet with a file type that’s compatible with DT Pro is Papyrus 12, which has an editable PFD file type. Such documents look exactly the same in DT Pro and Papyrus. One can invoke the editing environment of Papyrus from within the database, and the resulting changes are displayed in the database. And using Alexandria’s recommendation of Afloat to allow me to “float” a nearly invisible – except when it’s the focus – over DT Pro, the interaction of the programs becomes more (but not entirely) seamless. Papyrus is unMac-like in spots. If only Mellel were to adopt a similar hybrid PDF file type, I would likely switch (unless Papyrus, which is really more powerful than Mellel, smoothes out some rough spots). I haven’t found perfection yet. :slight_smile:

Bill, thanks for the comments.

I saw your mention of Papyrus before and looked into it. It is a nice little app, but not nearly as powerful as Mellel. It doesn’t have an auto-titles feature, bibliographic handling, TOC creation, and by the end of this year Mellel will have cross-referencing and indexing. The two just don’t compare when it comes to academic writing.

But you are right that the hybrid PDF thing is really cool. I pitched it on the Mellel forum but there wasn’t much enthusiasm for it, especially since Mellel just moved to a more proprietary format (xml). I’m frankly disappointed that DT still can’t index it, I hope it is on the horizon.

As to Nota Bene, you are right that the text-based DT is limiting, but there are quick keys to copy and paste from the web into nota bene, and I recently talked to the owner of Nota Bene at a conference I was at and PDF integration is on the horizon. What is more, they are interested in moving to the Mac environment. They are seriously considering a cross-platform code for NB 8. Or alternatively, if they can find some sort of financial backing or grant, they would seriously consider making a native Mac NB.

All of this to say that there is a major gap in Mac software right now that no one seems to want to fill except for a PC company, and it is really sad. I’ve harped away at this, but if DT, Bookends, and Mellel could come to some sort of agreement to work together as a writer’s suite you would make a lot of people happy. But if nothing is done, well a company may just sweep in with an integrated writer’s suite and take away your more academically focused clients- and I would probably be one of them. But I don’t want that to happen- DT, BE, and Mellel are great programs with great support and I want to see them thrive. If I had any money, I’d pay them off to do it, but since I’m a poor student I’ll stick with the bothersome forum posts :wink:

You mention the source of the problem in the same paragraph: “Proprietary”. Since there is not much we can do with proprietary formats, the only recourse is to write to the developers of Mellel to open up their format. If they could post a XSLT stylesheet for their format to XHTML that would allow anybody in the future to display the file in a read-only format. And that would help in getting access to indexable content as well.

Another academic heard from: I have actually been keeping my bibliographic info in FileMaker Pro and my final writing in Word. I am relatively new to DT, and am loving it, but I too would love an integrated way of handling bibliographic info. The person who posted about using unique identifier numbers gave me ideas about a possible workaround, but it’s still pretty clutzy. I haven’t used any of the bibliographic Bib TeX or LaTeX-based software out there, but is it possible that some kind of integration with them could be part of DT?