DT & Things, MindNode, Spark and Bear

Hey folks, I’m not really new to DT—I’ve toyed with it before but I recognize that’s not really how you’re going to get anything out of DT, so I’m going to dig in over the next few weeks and see if I can’t finally ramp up.

To start, I’d like to learn how DT can integrate with these apps:

• Things 3

• Bear (though I might jump back to Craft)

• MindNode

• Spark

I think if the “integration” was limited to simply indexing the contents of the documents of those apps, that would work great.

Like many here, I’m in one of those phases where I’m trying to improve my workflow. I have information about the same subjects scattered across those four programs:

• MindNode is pulled up anytime I have a complicated new idea to sort out, and is often used as a PKM for that idea until it’s complete or focused enough to not need anymore.

• Things is the “control panel” for my life. Everything goes in there first, and I tend to use the notes section of Things tasks extensively. The quick capture of Things is also hard to beat.

• Bear is where my extensive note-taking happens, but I’ve never been super happy with organizing my notes in Bear.

• Spark is fine. I could be talked into going back to the native, in-browser Gmail app, but I hate the UX.

I’m not super sure what the solution is that I’m looking for. If there was something that could magically group information from those four programs based on like tags, that would probably work (but then, no tags in Spark).

If Things was more of a note + task app, that might be fine. I love Bear, but the context switching takes forever.

Regardless, I see the information sprawl happening and I need to manage it, and automate more, so I’m banging around looking for a solution. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

Things holds its data in a SQLite database file (somewhere buried in the file system) and would not normally be appropriate to integrate with DEVONthink. Things has a pretty good search capability … just type the words you want to search and it does it. You can “print” to PDF your Things items and import or index them into DEVONthink. Can’t think why I’d ever do that, though.

Bottom line for me–no point really in integrating Things with DEVONthink.

I don’t know about the other apps. Before pursuing ask yourself "why* you want to integrate them!

Maybe you just need DEVONtechnololgies’ free app, “EasyFind”. I don’t know how it would work with the apps you mention. Try and see.

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I’ve confined my information sprawl to a single data store; Devonthink
What features do you find missing that necessitate other products like Bear and Things?

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While I congratulate you on making that work, I don’t think it’s realistic for most people to meet all their information mgmt needs with DevonThink alone. For starters, DevonThink is not intended to be a task manager and apps like Things/OmniFocus do very different things.

@jmstovall I would recommend you take a look at Hook. Basically, it allows you to e.g. select a task in Things, hit a hotkey, select a database item in DevonThink and hit another hotkey to create bidirectional links.

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Agreed, a dedicated task manager app has more focussed task management features
Regardless, I do manage my tasks using Devonthink using
. project/task notes
. task list via filtered note list
. gantt calendar view using export to a spreadsheet

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Perhaps step back and define what you mean by “information sprawl”? If you are keeping the same kind of information in multiple places – such as storing PDFs in several apps – then that might be “sprawl”, but not necessarily. And also explain why various tools need to be integrated with DEVONthink – does there need to be information sharing between these apps? Or is just a matter of having clear reasons to use different apps.

Specifically – MindNode (and other apps like it) are great for graphically working out ideas. DEVONthink doesn’t have a graphical mode for doing that, so there’s no reason, IMO to use something like MindNode for that. Similarly, Things is specifically crafted for task management, again, IMO, better than DEVONthink. No need to integrate – but if you need to link a Things task to a DEVONthink note or document, or vice-versa, you can copy links or use Hook, etc. Bear is no better than DEVONthink for note taking, so that’s one you could jettison if you feel the need. Spark (or Apple Mail) do things that DEVONthink doesn’t and will probably never do, so I would keep them.

Here’s what. helps – an exercise you could do in MindNode or on a piece of paper: make a map of your personal information infrastructure, noting the apps you use, the rationale for using each, the relation to other apps. And, importantly, how their use supports your own goals, business or academic or personal. This helps bring clarity to the mind.

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Welcome @Jmstovall

Spark is fine.

Spark lacks good inter-application communication functionality so I’d go ring their bell about support for DEVONthink. People have for a long time but it’s a definite No if you don’t ask. :slight_smile:

I could be talked into going back to the native, in-browser Gmail app, but I hate the UX.

We would not try and talk you into such a thing. An email interface in a browser offers even less opportunity for good email integration.

Apple Mail is still the best of breed for this kind of thing.


Mindnode files can be imported and viewed, but not edited.


There is the Script menu > Reminders > Add as To Do to Things to make an entry in Things from a selected item in DEVONthink.


Bear doesn’t store your information in a way that allows other apps easy access to the data.

Also, you can (and it’s been long possible to) natively write Markdown in DEVONthink.

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Not a direct reply which has already been done by @BLUEFROG and others here. My own workflow improvements were achieved, to be quite frank, by just converting to DEVONthink 3 and back to labbooks and paper notesbooks! I know… I make a lot of notes electronically still and do it all on DEVONthink 3. I dropped Ulysses in fact which I really liked but became redundant. I will try UValt for old times sake if Fletcher Penny can ever get out of the emergency room and workload he must have :neutral_face:

As Jim pointed out you can easily take Markdown Notes in DEVONthink 3. There is a shortcut cmmnd + q I use, I think it is ready set, which brings up a notepad from the menu bar. I am not sure now exactly how it works I am so used to it. You can then save directly into DEVONthink 3 from there, I can do it all from the keyboard. Similar for websites etc…

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Task managers like Things - or my choice, Omnifocus - are great at what they do, have extensive features, and teams behind them for improvement. I stick within their realm for that purpose.

I use DEVONthink for all other purposes: email storage, workflows, document retention, journaling, tracking. The ability to capitalize on all of DEVONthink’s rich features and AppleScript for integration is valuable.

I’ve been using Tinderbox for some time as a third-leg of my sense-making, and it serves me well and let’s me store tbx files within DEVONthink to boot.

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A +1 for hook. It really will do much of what you want, while respecting the power of individual applications. Quick links to anywhere on your mac. (iOs isn’t there yet)

Things holds its data in a SQLite database file (somewhere buried in the file system) and would not normally be appropriate to integrate with DEVONthink. Things has a pretty good search capability … just type the words you want to search and it does it. You can “print” to PDF your Things items and import or index them into DEVONthink. Can’t think why I’d ever do that, though.

I keep a good bit of context about tasks in the notes section, and my Things setup reflects the way I think about my whole life, hence my desire to be able to search. The trick, unless I’m missing something, is that you can’t search both open and closed tasks at once.

Maybe you just need DEVONtechnololgies’ free app, “EasyFind”. I don’t know how it would work with the apps you mention. Try and see.

I did give this a whirl, thank you, but it didn’t seem to find anything in that SQL DB. I had been remembering that Things introduced an API in the last couple years, but some more googling made me realize how limited that API is, so might be a nonstarter here.

I would recommend you take a look at Hook. Basically, it allows you to e.g. select a task in Things, hit a hotkey, select a database item in DevonThink and hit another hotkey to create bidirectional links.

Thanks, @AW2307, I actually did install Hook last night and am seeing if it “takes.” This might be the solution to create persistent connections from Things–giving the above–to other places in my workflow.

Spark lacks good inter-application communication functionality so I’d go ring their bell about support for DEVONthink. People have for a long time but it’s a definite No if you don’t ask. :slight_smile:

Totally fair, @BLUEFROG , and thank you.

We would not try and talk you into such a thing. An email interface in a browser offers even less opportunity for good email integration.

Apple Mail is still the best of breed for this kind of thing.

Lol, thank you. And good reminder about Apple Mail. The one thing that’s kept me with Spark is how smart the grouping is, across accounts, and I haven’t found a way to replicate that in Apple Mail.

Mindnode files can be imported and viewed, but not edited.

Ok, this was a big step forward. Set DT to watch my MN folder and it does almost exactly what I need there. Thanks!

There is a shortcut cmmnd + q I use, I think it is ready set, which brings up a notepad from the menu bar.

Ok, thank you, this is helpful, and now that I’ve found where to set that, my next question: Is this still the preferred method to set keyboard commands: DEVONtechnologies | How To Assign Your Own Shortcuts? I ask because, if I can set it so that my note taking works like the quick capture of Things (never move my hands from the keyboard, and am able to record something, set a tag and it’s project in seconds) this might be the fundamental game-changer for me.

I’ve been using Tinderbox for some time as a third-leg of my sense-making, and it serves me well and let’s me store tbx files within DEVONthink to boot.

Oooh, interesting. Ok, I’m going to play around with Tinderbox a bit.

Thanks, yall, an insight on the keyboard shortcuts thing is appreciated!

A bit off topic for DEVONthink, but with Things when you search, it searches everywhere, e.g. task title and notes. I don’t know what you mean by “open and closed” tasks, though. No matter.

I’ve done a few things with the Things API, mainly to present data in another format, e.g. to HTML for display on a web site … I didn’t find any limitations for what I wanted to do, and was impressed. That API not integrated into dDEVONthink (as far as I know).

Yes, didn’t expect EasyFind to look inside a SQLite database, or any proprietary formatted file. Just an idea for the other apps in case the information is “findable”.

Picking up as others have said, I think if you “re-engineer” your use of information and use each tool for its intended purpose, you might find ways to simplify your information sprawl. It will sprawl to the extent as you let it.

I wanted to share some additional thoughts, because this thread is really interesting and I’m hoping we can keep this going with more people sharing their insights.

Curio 22, just released, added some really innovative features that enable useful cross-application workflows with DevonThink
Curio is a more visual alternative to Tinderbox. It allows placing different formats, such as mindmaps, various text formats, etc. on an infinite canvas and connecting them visually. In the context of the OP’s question, I’m suggesting it as a potential alternative to Mindnode because it contains most mindmapping functionalities found in MindNode while offering much deeper integration options (+ a lot more). In some other thread discussing Curio, it was called a “visual frontend for DevonThink”.
In particular, file-backed text figures make it possible to take Markdown notes or RTF files stored in DevonThink and edit them as a “native” Curio item. The changes are automatically synced back to DevonThink. From here, one could then even use “synced figure instances” to create synchronized duplicates of that file within Curio, which can then be added to other idea spaces. In effect, one could say that as of the 22 release, Curio is able to index DevonThink database items.

Apple Mail vs Spark is not an either-or decision
I added my email accounts to both. I use Spark most of the time but leverage Apple Mail whenever there is a need to automate something, such as importing certain emails into DevonThink. Needless to say, everything gets synced automatically.

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This is off-topic, but why not just Apple Mail?
What features do you need Spark for?
My email needs are simple; a service to send/receive email
For email processing/archiving, I use Devonthink

Yeah, fair point. I would agree that email is supposed to “just work”, it’s not rocket science.
That said, I use Spark mainly for its “Schedule Send” feature. It can be useful to artificially influence the pace at which certain email conversations move along. Also, in Spark it’s easy to create a link to an email message, which can then be added to an Omnifocus task and works on both Mac and iOS to respond to that email.

Thanks for this post … file-backed text figures in Curio 22 are a big boost to productivity … I use Curio from time-to-time and it definitely has value when I need to brainstorm an idea or project and the core documents are stored in DEVONthink . Now I’m going to use Curio more often!

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Thanks, all, for the suggestions and feedback.

To answer some of the questions about my own workflow, what is priority for me is speed of entry/retrieval and minimal friction. The near perfect model here is Things, whose quick entry allows me to set a new to do and all its meta info in less than five seconds.

Everything is done from the keyboard and once it’s in there, I don’t have to think about it anymore. I do take more time to do thoughtful reviews (almost) every week, but my days involve a great deal of context switching and interruptions, so having a system where I can dash of notes, thoughts and followups, and find them easily when they need to be actioned, is critical.

As a result, Things has gotten used a bit as a notes app, which I 100% know isn’t great, but that should provide some background on why I was asking about DT indexing Things.

DT’s sorter gets close here, but I got a little stuck trying to file notes from the keyboard, set the focus when the window is called up and a few other little finnicky things.

Along these same lines, something similar that loved with Roam was the ability to have one note per day, where I could just start writing. With backlinks properly set, information retrieval involved going to that backlinks page and skimming the references–all the info I’d written would be right there.

Alas, I soured on Roam for a lot of reasons, which are off topic, but probably wouldn’t surprise anyone.

Since the structure of my information is generally the same no matter which app I’m working in (and that structure is close to the GTD model), I’ve been looking at DT as a solution for retrieval, as it can see across apps.

To that end, I stumbled into using Noteplan 3 the other day. Noteplan stores files as Markdown (so DT can watch and search the folders), has quick entry (though I haven’t really figured out how to use it well yet), has “daily notes” built in, a really great time-blocking function and has a backlink function that almost replicates Roam. In short, it’s a much better note-taking app for me than Bear.

(I’m not super thrilled with Noteplan’s task management; it’s more a Bullet Journal style approach which just doesn’t work super well for me.)

That doesn’t mean I won’t move to DT as my note taking app of choice, but right now Noteplan is creating the least friction in terms of just getting my work done. I’m experimenting with search in DT, testing to see if I can search across all these areas (except for Things) where I have information. Progress!

Finally, next step is to figure out how to get my emails and email newsletters into DT, most likely.

@rmschne Thank you for the info–my knowledge of Things’ API is dated, sounds like. I might take another look and poke around.

@AW2307 Love what Curio looks like! I’m going to give that a try. And I take your point about Apple Mail vs Spark; I’ll take a closer look at Apple Mail.

Appreciate the feedback here. Definitely making progress on building this system out.

Thanks, all.

I use both Things and DEVONthink and I don’t think about integrating them. KISS.

See the outstanding DEVONthink Manual on archiving and importing (they are different) email into DEVONthink.

As good as DEVON think is, it’s not the be-all-to-end-all kitchen sink for everything.

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Thank you, I will!

Yeah, but, I don’t think that app exists, yeah? Unless you have an idea of one I haven’t run across. I’m just trying to get “close enough,” and feels like DT can get pretty close.

Maybe. Depends on you. I still use Things, Word, Pages, Numbers, Excel, Scrivener, BBEdit, and others and I don’t work hard to integrate them.

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