DTPO UI and usability design

I am a long time user of DTPO and love its power and flexibility. I also am a beta and alpha tester for various other software products, none of which compete with DTPO. As devontechnologies consider upgrades and redesign I wish you would put some additional thought into UI interface evolution that enhances usability. Not dumb it down, but expand its usability to help a new cohort of less techy users. It is a fabulous product but I believe the interface could be redesigned to make it more accessibility to casual and novice users. Experienced and power users can work with pretty much anything.

Having tested many types of software and UI approaches, I realize this is not a simple process. To have power and UI elegance and ease of use is very, very hard. But is a shame to not have this combination for DT as so many more people could benefit from it.

I’ll give one example of a software product that did do this and failed several times before getting it right. I have used a variety of planners and task managers, including omnifocus to manage and track things I needed to do. Omnifocus is a very powerful tool but was original hacked from another product with apple scripts and then developed into its own standalone product. The interface showed its history as a hacked product and left much to be desired. Power users loved it, casual ones tended to move on to other products.

The version 1 and 1.1 UI stayed pretty much the same for about 8 years. For version 2 they wanted to make the UI more accessible to a wider range of users who could, but were not benefitting from the product. The first beta and public beta bombed and was pulled completely off testing in 2013. Early this year the beta came back out after being totally redone. It was released as version 2.0 a couple of days ago. They have done a masterful job keeping the power of the software AND developing a totally new UI that is both elegant and easy to start using. It can still be customized and tweaked as much as ever to meet power uses and complex user requirements.

I just thought their situation was somewhat analogous to DTPO. I do not believe in flashy UI for the sake of “prettyness” but do believe power and usability and accessibility can go together.

I love DTPO, so keep up the great work.

Thank you for the nice feedback! The user interface could and will be definitely redesigned.

I’ll look forward to what DEVONthink offers in future updates.

There have been several posts and threads in the past few months that have mentioned amorphous desire to “evolve” or “change” or “make simpler” or “make more robust” the UI. But what does that mean in practice. (The OmniFocus experience is an interesting case, but only if we are pointed to very specific failures in the first design and very specific successes in the second.) Software designers and developers are never helped by requests for “power and elegance”. They are helped by specific explanations of what doesn’t work today and what could work better.

Having said that, count me out. I don’t have any suggestions for improvements. :open_mouth:

Interesting you should mention Omnifocus. Just yesterday I tested version 2 after several months using the previous version. I decided to trash version 2 because the new UI seems so inflexible. Can’t change the screen font and feel locked in to their structure with little freedom, plus slow response times - seemed not as snappy as previous version. So much for UI - each to their own preferences. Now I’m going back to Things for task management.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere: I think Devontech could advantageously licence Cocoatech’s interface for Pathfinder. They have the same objectives - file management - but Cocoatech’s Finder-on-steroids handily beats DT’s ageing interface for functionality.

I must admit, pathfinder UI certainly looks nice and flexible enough.

I would definitely upgrade if DT incorporate PF design and usability. Especially if i can “dual window” on two database, or dual window different rich text files.

I don’t understand why even in 2.7.6, still usability bugs.

I have 2 databases, the standard one and mine, which is the really working database.

Often, i have documents in the Inbox of the Standard one, i see that there are 6 documents in it, but i cannot see them. I have to open a new window with right click in order to see these documents displayed !

In the first window, there is definitely no document displayed…

But you have described the UI behavior that I want! :slight_smile:

The Inbox isn’t part of the organizational structure I’ve given my databases.

Of course, I can open a second view window for a database, one showing Inbox contents and the other not showing Inbox contents. Or click on the Inbox and do my filing chores, probably using the Classify assistant to help me empty the Inbox.

I wonder if saschabur is discussing records in the root of the database, not in the Inbox or any other group? That’s a pretty easy situation to confuse, because there’s nothing there that will show they are there, and the only way to see them is to unselect the group you currently have selected, without selecting anything else.

I’ve never found a personal use to put files in the root of a database and would be happy if that were impossible. That way, I wouldn’t get stuck with “I know I put this somewhere, but where?” It most often happens to me when I miss a group when dragging and accidentally drop something on the root.

Here’s how I see it: The root is just a group in itself (and yes, I file in the root often). Groups inside that are truly “subfolders” of the “main folder” if you will.

Also, this problem is more particular to people using the Three Pane view. Split Pane clearly shows the contents of the root. I’d suggest exploring other Views.

Very good point. But I hate all the other views, so to me, only the three-pane one exists!

(Reason being: I use other columns on records a lot. Esp modified time and kind. The List view will let me display columns, but won’t let me browse the group hierarchy. The Icons and Column views won’t display the metadata. The Split view can, but in order to see it, it shrinks the room available to view documents.

The only time I can think of that I want to use a different view is the Icon view when organizing material primarily of a visual nature. I don’t do much of that, but there is some.

I am happy to see that Bluefrog admits that there is a problem. (And that Bluefrog does not once again say that the users should fit to the software rather than the software to the users)

And as i am exclusively working in three pane view, i have this problem very often.

Is it really so difficult to make some little changes on order to have a more “logic” behavior for users who work on MacOS 8-16 hours / day, who are very happy with MAcOS Finders’ and Path Finders behavior and would like to see a similar behavior of windows/panes/displays in this great software that DevonThink is ?

BTW: the files that are not displayed are not in the root of the DB 1 , the are in the INBOX of the DB1. But when i double-click on the INBOX, it doesn’t display any files, even if there are documents, which is indicated by the little number near the DBName in the left pane.

I must open the in box in a new window in order to see the content!

I have a database named Main.dtBase2. In Three Panes view I see a list of groups, starting with Inbox (a standard group in all databases except the Global Inbox),Tags, Mobile Sync, followed by the groups I created, followed by smart groups. (I can, if I wish, sort these items differently, e.g., by Name.)

If I select any group, including Inbox, I can see a list of the documents contained by that group. I don’t have to open a new view window in order to see the contents of Inbox or of one of my created groups, e.g., Environmental Risks and Remediation.

As BLUEFROG noted, I could create a database in which all (or some) documents are held at the root level. At the root level, I’ll see a list of documents, but the contents of the Inbox won’t be visible unless I click on the Inbox group. That’s fine. The Inbox isn’t part of the organized (or disorganized) structure I create for that database.

In what way is there a UI problem here? The Three Panes view is consistent in behavior.

Hi Bill, so i must have a bug in my version .

I will screenshot this next time when i will happen and post it here !

Sometimes, i definitely don’t see the in content of the inbox of the database 1 , even when i activate this inbox by clicking or even double clicking on it.
I have to rightclick, “new window”, in order to see this content !

And, by the way, this is another thing, i definitely would be 1000 times more happy if
the groups that are inside another group were also be displayed in the third pane with the documents that are in the same group. Don’t see any advantage to hide them !

In Finder , and also in Pathfinder, you see subfolders and documents in the same list-view (or thumbnail view) of a folder…

Why not work like this in DTPO?

Indeed, in 3-pane view, the UI is definitely inconsistent:

  • To see the items in a Group, select the desired Group in the Group sidebar.

  • To see the items in the root, select … well … nothing. That is, click any part of the space in the Group sidebar that is not a group, and has no text label – empty space, which sometimes requires the extra steps of collapsing the hierarchy in the Group sidebar to make some empty space to click in/on.

Yes, items in the root are indeed visible in the views: As Icon, As List, As Columns, As Split, and As tags, and those items appear as peers of first-level Groups. However, in another inconsistency, in 3-Pane view, items in the root do not appear as peers of first-level Groups, but only appear after clicking on “nothing”.

Inconsistencies such as this make DT difficult to learn.

As a frequent user of the 3-Pane view, my experience is that the root of a database is ideal only for losing things.

I’m curious how BLUEFROG and others use the root as a storage destination, and what advantages you see to this practice.

I’d vote for having items in the root appear as peers of first-level Groups in 3-pane view, in the same way they appear in the other views. In this way, items in the root would not get lost in 3-Pane view.

If you don’t see items at the root of the database, you are not at the root level.

To be sure you are at root level, either click on the ‘home’ icon in the upper left of the Toolbar, or select any item in the Three Panes display, then Command-click to unselect.


Be sparing in your interpretation of “problem”. As I said, I don’t personally see it as a problem due to my working habits. (Also bear in mind that I don’t use one View exclusively. I use List, Split, Three Pane more commonly,then Icon View, etc.)

Also, the Three Pane View is logically consistent. If you don’t have a Group selected, you see the contents of the root of the database. If you select a Group, you’ll see it’s contents.

PPS: We could go on and on about other apps’ interfaces, and while everyone can have their opinions, you can’t expect agreement or implementation. I personally have tried PathFinder many times over the years, and I honestly just don’t care for it. (Their dropbox is the only thing I really thought, “Huh! That’s nice.” but that’s low hanging fruit covered by many smaller utils nowadays). That being said, I don’t claim DEVONthink is perfect (and we’re definitely not done developing it), so opinions are fine (remembering that’s what they are).

Interesting that OmniFocus (2) was mentioned as well.

Perfect example of an application that has not ‘dumbed’ down, but retained its Pro features, while at the same time, having a modern look (unlike Tinderbox 6, which seems to be stuck in the dark ages).

In regards to the three-pane view. I love it.

I have come to the forum today to post this exact topic…

With my browser and mail application, DTPO and Omnifocus2 are the most used apps on my computer. Both have been very far behind in modernizing user interface. I have been waiting for OF redesign for a long time. Although its not amazing, the OF2 redesign is a much welcome improvement. I now use the app a lot more because of the improved design. I WANT to use it more.

Opening up Devonthink now just bores me I’m sorry to say. Its boring, and years behind the times.

I hope DT have a UI redesign in the works to modernise the app to stop being depressed when I use it.