Several people on this forum have requested information about how other people are using DT.
Speaking for myself only, I know that I’m not using DT to its potential but I also know that the product has tremenous power. I need help in understanding this power.
Another person on this forum recently suggested that Christian set up a special section in the Forum specifically for this purpose and I seconded that idea.
Personally, I am trying to use DT as my “information hub.” I have a lot of projects going at any one time. Each project has related documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Entourage, Inspiration, OmniGraffle or Intaglio illustrations and HTML documents. I “struggle” to keep this all organized in the Finder and I’m trying to adapt my needs to DT’s capabilities.
I’d be interested in knowing if other people in this Forum are using it this way or want to.
I use mine as an information hub too. But here is my scene: I am a first time student after nearly twenty years away from school. I have folders set up for each term, subfolders for each class, further sub folders for Assignments, Class Notes, Reading Notes, Course Materials. I keep electronic copies of my syllabus in the main class folders for easy reference. I use the outline feature on one group for to do lists, particularly homework assignments which get checked off when finished. I keep a group of categories for my writings (I am an author and poet). They are divided into finished, unfinished, and portfolio work. I keep other groups for reference materials, online resources, articles (political, general interest, etc.), a folder of applescripts to launch applications I use frequently in conjunction with DT, and a group for e-texts that I reference often. Of course I use the built in text editor to take notes for everything.
TIP: I use this file naming convention to always keep things in chronolgical order. (YYYY.MM.DD.Filename)
TIP: I keep a document at root level that contains an image of a horizontal rule that I can cut and paste into RTF documents as needed.
TIP: When creating empty folders, put a placeholder document into it so that the file heirarchy stays in tact when exporting for backup purposes.
TIP: Import the DT user Manual (Screen Version) into the application for handy reference. I keep it in my References group.
Sure thing…when you export your database from DT, empty folders/groups are NOT copied out. So, I have a blank document simply entitles "placeholder.rtf" that I keep in each empty folder/group. That way when I export the whole database those folders get exported too.
I hope to use it as a kind of bibliography tool, with (sometimes extensive) notes and keywords. I hope that I will be able to find items easily, and to group them (perhaps as replicates) in certain topics I’m working on (for quotes etc).
Anyone with experiences this way?
Second, I want to use it as an outliner, which is a tool I’ve never used before. I was promised that random (or select) ordering will become a feature.
Usually I know where I have my files, strictly organised, so I don’t need it for that purpose, and I still use Ultrafind in classic mode to find things (it’s a shame that this software has been killed) - which has a “show next” button (= when you have more hits in a file, the window jumps to the next hit, something DEVONthink could use as well!)
As a student I know what many of my classes are going to be months before I start them. I set up groups for each class in advance, along with subgroups for Class notes, Reading Notes, Assignments, Tools/Resources, Related Webpages, etc. That way they’re all set up and ready to go once I start classes. Again, when I back up…I want those groups to be backed up too. Hence, the placeholder doc. In my particular case a “SyllabusPlaceholder” is also a good reminder to get electronic copies of it from my instructors.
I know of one user who advocates using NoteTaker as a “front-end” to DevonThink. I never quite understood exactly how or why he did this but his decision was obviously the result of a lot of deep thought regarding the relative strengths of the two applications (and several more that he has investigated). I’m afraid I can’t find the original information, but can anyone perhaps articulate why DevonThink could be seen by some as a “back-end” kind of application and why NoteTaker or something similar would be a suitable “front-end”.
I think probably a lot of people have been looking at DevonThink in connection with bibliographic data. It’s certainly the place that I think of first when I want to keep notes on papers or books. The problem, of course, is that it isn’t as effective as a dedicated reference manager (such as Bookends or EndNote) at finding, storing or outputting the field-specific data that you need if you’re going to create properly formatted bibliographies. So, you probably need a dedicated reference manager, but you’re going to need some way to link the DevonThink information to the Bookends (or whatever) info.
As far as I know, it’s not possible to link from outside Bookends to a specific reference within Bookends. Similarly, I don’t think it’s technically possible from outside DT to link directly to a specific file within DT. That means you need to decide what to place at the centre of your work routine. It’s a question I have yet to answer satisfactorily.
My ad hoc “solution” is to change my mind day by day. If I consider my main task to be keeping track of a bibliography, or of making notes on a small number of specific works, I launch Bookends and work primarily there. There, I either make notes in the notes field or in a separate application (such as Nisus Writer Express). The advantage of the first option is that the notes can be made to appear along with author/title/year, etc. if I print out the bibliography. The advantage of the 2nd is that I can link several different files to any Bookends entry or entries (this is not true of EndNote). The problem is that I have to remember to go into the Finder to track down the files I create in this way to import them into DT. (If I can work out how the new “‘Print’ into DT” script/service/option works, this process will be much simplified.)
If my task is more focused on putting a paper together or just synthesizing my thoughts on a subject, I tend to centre operations around DT, going into Bookends as needed (or printing out the bibliography and notes beforehand). However, I don’t really like composing in DT, for some reason, and will usually opt for Nisus or OmniOutliner. Of course, then I have to make sure to copy the documents into DT later.
I have a feeling that, rather than there being any particular technical problem, the way I’m characterizing the whole issue is possibly problematic in itself, and would welcome any alternative views on the whole research process and DT’s role therein.
It seems to me that, with the proliferation of innovative and inexpensive software that has accompanied the conversion to OS X, a larger question that needs consideration is what kind of computer books are needed.
In the old paradigm, we would buy Word (or Nisus or WordPerfect) if we wanted a word processor, PowerPoint (or Keynote) if we wanted a presentation package, and Excel if we wanted a spreadsheet. If we wanted to make better use of the software, we would buy a book devoted to that software "application". Generally, the purpose of the (software) application had a nearly one-to-one relationship with a (real-world) application.
Now there is a whole host of new and versatile (software) applications (like DT, Hog Bay Notebook, VoodooPad, Notetaker), and the chances of many of us finding the time to try them out and use them to their full potential are negligible. What we need is to move the focus of instruction from the "application" (e.g. Word) to the real application (e.g. "Doing Research Using the Mac"). The author would suggest the best software to use and teach us how to use each individual software package. Then, more importantly, s/he would show us how to use the various packages together to accomplish certain goals. This kind of book would typically contain lots of case studies.
My impression is that DT occupies a rather special place in this new proposed paradigm. A few people have likened it to the Finder. It seems to me that it’s good enough, popular enough, and unique enough to deserve its own book (“Real World DEVONthink” sounds plausible;)). And it doesn’t seem to have any competitors (except possible Apple). But the point of the book wouldn’t be to delve ever deeper into the workings of DT so much as to show how it can work together with other applications to accomplish specific goals.
Regarding bibliographic data: I currently use BibDesk, working on a standard BibTeX file that I use in my LaTeX documents. This allows me to link to the PDFs and webpages, annotate, put in abstracts, etc.
However, I’d like to be able to do this with DT, or at least integrate it somehow, in order to exploit its capabilities.
This can generalise: I’d like DT to be able to make use of remote resources (local files or hosted), or as a stopgap expose information as a file.
linking to an external BibTeX file, not importing the text; ideally DT would be able to present a bibliographic view of the data, modify it, and keep the external file updated for use in a word processor.
alternatively (preferably?), have DT manage the bib data internally, and expose it as BibTeX somehow (perhaps a synchronised file on disk?). This allows for much richer behaviour.
linking to a Wiki or other site: actual Wiki integration would be great (see VoodooPad), but even a little integration with Agent would be good (i.e. restricted search).
As someone mentioned, I think there’s a real demand for bib management in DT, and I think it could be done really well.
Combine this with linking inside the database, and there’s some real versatility: bibliographic entries could be linked to notes, analyses, and the original paper inside the DT database, and still accessible as is normally done with BibTeX. Add in metadata and semantics, and real concepts of authors as entities can be achieved - but I’m a semantic web researcher, so I’m dreaming
It’s interesting that other people are using VoodooPad, which is right now my favorite application for entering and managing data. I’m a graduate student in English literature, and I find that my note-taking and idea-having takes place in a way that’s too disorganized for DEVONThink – which is why I wish they could be more integrated.
Right now I take notes on my Palm Pilot using a portable keyboard, or on my laptop in VoodooPad (if I take notes on the Palm I put them into VoodooPad manually). Then I export, every couple of days, my VoodooPad data to RTF, and then import that data to DT. I also have all the papers and essays – whatever I don’t write in VoodooPad – in DT, along with my email. So I have a big searchable database of my PAST work. I still like VoodooPad more because it helps me in ways that are unexpected; I don’t really use CamelCase very much, but rather makes Wiki pages out of single words, so that very often I’ll be surprised to discover that I’ve already taken notes on a subject when I’m using VoodooPad. I can’t see DT replicating this kind of usage.
What I really want DT to do for me is to ‘watch’ a folder to which I’ll regularly export my VoodooPad document, and to import new and changed documents – to mirror that folder, in other words. Then I’ll have a seamlessly updating database. And I can still toss all the PDFs, images, and so on that I find into DT, while accessing my VoodooPad documents from a searching/relevance perspective.
Has anyone figured out how to do this with DT? Is ‘folder syncing’ the kind of feature that’s going to be added?
Actually I do this quite a bit as well. A recent example was a project folder in which I created about 20 folders with subject headings of things that I needed to look into. Some of them got filled quickly others are still empty, depending on what I found and what I still need to find.