Full Screen mode (make it look good)

All Hi,

Only just upgraded to DT Pro II and tried the full screen edit mode for documents / notes.

First thing that strikes me is WOW What a mess!

This is not a nice writing environment at all it seems to me (coming from Writeroom and scrivener full screen modes)

So my question is: Is there a way to config up DT full screen mode to behave nice like Writeroom or Scrivener regarding the “look” and ease of use in just being alone with your words etc.

For instance setting a top margin for text on screen and ensuring the font overrides work on rich text as well as plain text etc.

Hope all that makes sense and it is doable as then we will truly have a fantastic writing environment DT database backed full screen bliss :slight_smile:


I’d very much chime in and agree with this statement! I’m enjoying DevonThink very much. The full screen mode does badly need a little bit of love and attention.

I think it’s nowhere near the effort that programming other features requires, I don’t think there are any features DevonThink doesn’t already do, but full screen mode could be just a tiny bit slicker and more pleasing to the eye and interface, when using it. Taking a quick glance at WriteNow and Scrivener are certainly good ideas, even Pages in iWork at that.

I never use the full-screen option because it is a mess. Change would be nice; but unlikely (my opinion). Text editing (not to mention an accessible, intuitive, well-designed and implemented UI :frowning: ) hasn’t proved to be a priority or core competence for DT’s maker. On the other hand, a strength of DT is that it is relatively easy to open documents in external editors and have the external changes visable via Quicklook in DT. Using the external editor gives access to the full-screen features that other posters mentioned, while keeping the document under management of DT. That’s a workable compromise, maybe?

This may be a silly question but how exactly does one keep the document in DT and still edit it in say writeroom or better yet Scrivener ?

If, as you say, this can be done then it might be a workaround until such time as DT gets a full screen mode that works well enough to be used for serious writing (and why else would one use it - not for a short note, there is no point in that so far as I can see)

Re: Text Editing and a good interface not being doable by the makers of DT, I see no reason why this should be the case - especially with regards to full screen mode - not the hardest UI to get right :slight_smile: So here’s to hoping for some improvement soon…


The consensus then is that the DevonThink team is engineering driven and very good at programming but so terrible at user interface design that everyone has given up that they can even make a full screen mode that’s pleasant to work with and look at?

I don’t understand that attitude. DevonThink is the best research tool I’ve ever used in my life. When I am doing research and taking notes, writing something longer, I’d like to use full screen mode which is already present and works. The impediments to comfortable use are not that great and do not require a design genius to implement.

The full screen mode in Scrivener is quite simple, the important elements at any rate. When you slide the mouse to the bottom of the screen, the controls fade into view.

Text Scale:
Paper Position
Paper Width
Keywords (or Tags)
Word Count: Character Count
and Background Opacity

Scrivener does add bells and whistles and niceties, but let’s compare the basics with what’s already in DevonThink right now.

Text Scale, Paper Position (left, right, center, fill justify), Paper Width (margins), Tags, Info Panel, Word Count. Every single one of these is already present in DevonThink with the exception of the degree of opacity you want to set for the background.

Set background opacity would be nice but it’s neither that critical or something that isn’t present in some Apple framework I’m sure. The only brand new addition I’d like to see is the option to change the cursor from the vertical bar insertion point, to being able to have a simple block cursor. Since people will want to fiddle with it, you could allow options for block cursor, blinking block cursor, underline, blinking underline, insertion point, blinking insertion point. The usual basic options.

The only programming for all of this, is adding in one of those HUDs that fades into view when you mouse down, just like Pages does in iWork as someone mentioned or Scrivener.

I don’t see how it would take a programmer who is capable of handling the heavy intellectual work of DevonThink’s AI, more then 30 minutes to change full screen mode from an almost-good-enough option, to being at least pleasant to use and part of a fluid workflow.

What’s the point of having a feature people like to use and then doing a halfway implementation of it, when doing the full thing is really not so much more then having a HUD slide in that let’s you adjust options you can already adjust within DevonThink preferences 90% of the time anyway.

I’m not suggesting implementing every possible feature and option that are present in WriteRoom or Scrivener, but how about making the simple basics nicer to work with so it’s at least visually pleasing. If people need something more, they can edit the document in an external program, but I shouldn’t have to leave DevonThink just to get a usable full screen mode.

The advantage of storing documents in a DEVONthink database is that the text information of a wide variety of filetypes can be integrated into the information resources available within the database, including searching, See Also, etc.

Scrivener project don’t take well to being directly saved into DEVONthink.

But you can Index an existing project into DEVONthink. Text of your documents will be visible within the database. The information contained in your project files is searchable, integrated with the other information in your databases.

Want to open your project and work with it under Scrivener? You can do that from within DEVONthink by selecting a project file and clicking on the Launch Externally (Scrivener) button in your Toolbar. After saving changes within Scrivener, click on the corresponding project within your database and choose File > Synchronize to update changes into the database.

Many other applications such as Pages, Word, Excel, Numbers, etc. will allow you to save newly created files directly into your Global Inbox, by selecting the ‘Inbox’ destination under "Places’ in the left column of a Finder window. From the Global Inbox you can use the Move To command to file such new content into any location among your open databases. To edit such a document under its parent application, select it and click on the Open Externally button in your Toolbox. Save the edited file afterwards (File > Save) and the modified document is immediately available in your database.

The ability to unify the information content of a variety of filetypes and to view and work on documents in such a working environment is what attracted me to DEVONthink, way back in 2002. DEVONthink has gotten better and more powerful since then.

That brings me to a discussion of Full Screen, which I often use for viewing long documents (especially on my laptop), but which I never use for writing. (The default green on black view of text documents reminds me of DOS [shudder]. I set Full Screen to display text as black on white.)

Disclaimer: I’m not one of the developers, and I’ve never attempted to recommend anything about Full Screen to them. :slight_smile:

I do my draft writing inside a database, in rich text. I like the working environment because it puts the information content and DEVONthink’s tools at my fingertips. I can fish for ideas from within my own writing by invoking See Also, and perhaps add some interesting references as tabs to my rich text window. Or select two or three paragraphs I’ve just written, Control-click and choose See Related Text, to fish for ideas if I’ve hit a writer’s block. Or take a look at how others have used a term by Option-clicking on it. Or select an interesting phrase, Control-click and choose Search Selected Phrase. Or locate, with a quick search, other notes and references that I can create links to, perhaps for citation and footnote purposes.

I love that rich working environment when I’m writing. That’s why I don’t use Full Screen, which isolates me from all those tools. Some writers prefer Full Screen’s isolation as a means of preserving focus on what they are doing. But I don’t have a problem keeping focussed — as my dogs well know, when they are trying to remind me that it’s time to feed them. :slight_smile:

There’s no accounting for personal preferences and foibles (including my own eccentricities). DEVONthink can accommodate a wide range of them. Some users, for example, prefer writing in Full Screen in typewriter mode. That’s easy. Create a document using an application that allows that, then import it into a DT Pro/Office database. Next, Export it as a Template. Choose that template (Data > New With Template), click on Open Externally and away you go! You are isolated from the universe and typing away in the middle of a never-ending virtual sheet of paper. Save your work, and there it is in the database. As for me, I’m 78 years old and spent way too many decades hammering away at typewriters. I prefer not to be reminded how clumsy and limited they were. Remember Liquid Paper?

Off-topic question: Anyone remember who wrote this, and which character spoke this line? “Sir! Your VIctorian vocabulary is a stigma symbol of outmoded infantalistic paternalism.”

You might go back in the Literature and Latte forums and read about all the pain and suffering the author of Scrivener went through while implementing his full screen mode. It apparently took substantially more than 30 minutes.

Nor is the comparison to the AI really fair. Algorithms are what computers are good at, and are usually straightforward to program once the heavy intellectual lifting of developing the algorithm has been done. User interface programming is much more difficult, because you have to be able to handle anything that the user might attempt to do, no matter how misguided.


I’m not a writer of anything but email and memos, when I need a project report done I do use DevonThink to write it before finishing it in word. I am not going to add another step sideways and import it yet another program I don’t need.

I too would appreciate it if the full screen mode which has not changed since the old DT 1, would get a little facelift. I’ve seen WriteRoom and Pages, both offer very simple, serviceable full screen modes.

If i had a wishlist for DevonThink 2.0 final it would be

Bring the smart groups to at least iTunes 9 levels. If people want to nest smart-groups, then let them. Those who don’t understand it, won’t use it, those who do it’s really nothing more then adding the same functionality already present, but making children inherit the qualities of the parent groups.

Figure out what the final Tags implementation will be and finish it.

Touch up the parts of DevonThink that haven’t been touched at all in version 2. Full screen mode in particular.

That’s my input.

My understanding is the person who wrote Scrivener was someone who wanted to be a writer and taught himself how to program as he wrote it. I’m sure it did take him longer then 30 minutes, it would take me longer then 30 days, but of course I’m not a programmer either. Apple does look like it has all zooming, fading, HUD frameworks already inside everything past Leopard, I too would like a more modernized update of full screen mode.

I do like to write paragraphs with no distraction, I am not going to add another exporting step for some other program either, to just use full screen, I will simply put up with the current full screen mode, which is as many parts of DevonThink, almost good enough so I will continue to tolerate it for the amazing engineering behind the mediocre user experience.

It it however one more facet of the gem called DevonThink which is unpolished. You have a exceptional program with at best, a slowly becoming usable interface.

Bringing full screen more to at least current full screen normal experience, would be very welcome. The present version works but looks dated and doesn’t need to.

Kewms I know you are one of the people on the forums who loves Scrivener and sings its praises. That’s all fine, it’s a very nice program and there is already an entire thread about complementary use with Scrivener and DevonThink.

When I asked the question why there are no default databases for writing projects, not a single person answered. When I asked if either one of the 2 or 3 writers who use DevonThink as their environment who has mentioned that in these very forums, would be willing to show some examples, nobody replied. I get the idea that Devon Tech doesn’t care about the writer’s market, the writer’s who use it don’t care to share their personal environments and Scrivener is a wonderful program with converts who keep praising it everywhere.

I still don’t think this has anything to do with why full screen mode in DevonThink s****, when it doesn’t need to.

Yet the old time posters or at least the God’s with a lot of posts all seem to feel resigned to awful interface design staying awful because it’s hopeless. Korm’s whole message distills down to “I just gave up on it, they’ll never fix it”.

I don’t know what anyone else meant, but any usable, relatively modern full screen mode would be fine. Look at Scrivener, look at WriteRoom, Pages, something updated in the last 3 years, anything updated in the last 3 years for full screen mode.

I’m sorry Katherine I do think the person who writes Scrivener deeply cares and loves writing, but from a cs background, no it doesn’t take weeks of agonizing effort to give the very old school DevonThink 1 full screen mode a facelift and bring it up to modern look and feel, with a nice fade and a HUD that slides in more or less like every other program in the world does full screen mode. A little scrollbar to adjust margins and text size, if you want to go full tilt crazy and add some opacity adjustment which is in yet another already existing Apple framework, that too would be welcome.

The answer to everything that s**** in DevonThink isn’t to launch another external program where that feature doesn’t s***. Yes I know Scrivener is better, everyone should go buy it, but I’d still like to express the hope that someone who is working on DevonThink, which is the program I am using and the forum I am writing this on, might read all of these messages and think to themselves “maybe we should fix up full screen mode, since nothing has been done to bring it up to date”. That’s all.

DevonThink has full screen mode. Why have it there if it’s awful?

shrug I am not a DevonTech employee, and do not claim to speak for the company. My own issues with DT customer support are well documented.

I just find that claims that a particular problem (in any field) will take “no more than 30 minutes” almost always indicate profound ignorance on the part of the person making the claim. Since Scrivener was put forward (not by me) as a model example of full screen mode, I thought the amount of effort that the Scrivener developer expended was relevant to the discussion.

Personally, I use DevonThink Pro because nothing else comes close to its data management capabilities. Everything else is secondary. However, I don’t really understand the enormous angst that people seem to have about its interface. Is it the prettiest program on the Mac platform? No. Are there ways in which the interface could be improved? Certainly. But expressions like “butt ugly” and “barely usable” come across, to me, as histrionic ranting with little connection to my own experience with the program.


The amount of effort, large or small, needed to improve the full screen mode is really not the issue here. Who are we to say what degree of work is involved in providing this or any other feature ? I am a developer (though not of DT) and I can tell you that without looking at the code in a lot of detail (as well as several other factors) there is no way any of us can assume to know the degree or work involved.

But, like I said, that is not (or should not be) the issue here.

Agreed and well said!

So far as I have ever been able to see DT taken as a whole is not all that bad in the overall interface area - especially when you consider the power this little app puts at your disposal.

But for full screen mode this argument does not work. The only reason to use full screen mode would be for serious writing (in the exact same way full screen mode would be used in Scrivener or Writeroom for instance) and as such what DT offers simply does not work.

Adding the typewriter mode (where the current typing line stays in the middle of the vertical space) and a top margin would go a very long way towards improving the use.

To really start to rock and roll add movable adjustable “pallets” to show selected snippets of research data alongside the otherwise blank and distraction free writing space.

For us to keep on clicking here and there, performing digital gymnastics with other applications in order to use those to edit text stored within DT just defeats the whole point of the distraction free writing process.

Switching applications is a mental jarring to the thought processes - finding a snippet of research or a short idea note stored in DT hitting a hot-key and finding yourself instantly in a modern clean full screen mode with your notes arrayed as you last left them is the dream to aim for.

To all those who seem to be saying “We have to live with it as they will never fix it” or “DT makers are incapable of fixing the UI” I say wait just 1 second there!

If we as users do not express what we wish to see in the product then we have to take pot luck with what features there are. If, on the other hand, a significant number of us ask for a feature and it is not implemented or even officially commented upon as to what might happen etc. then we must ask ourselves if DT is the right product for us?

Personally, I think the vote is still out. On the one hand I use DT a lot for gathering notes, research and so on as I am sure we all do :slight_smile:

But the pain of using other apps to do the actual writing is significant - if a better writing environment (with a large degree of DT other features) came along I would seriously consider switching and that would be a shame as DT is unquestionably the king so far as the data handling goes.


Just offering a few observations and comments to the discussion-I’m really not attempting to be condensing and/or confrontational. I really believe that the strength and flexibility of DEVONthink in meeting the needs of its users is also an Achilles’ heel. Look at all the things that DEVONthink can do to some degree, and there is no shortage of users that want a feature sub-set developed into a full-fledged environment that is not the primary objective of the application. DT does RSS feeds, so some want features added that would rival dedicated feed readers such as NetNewsWire. DT does Web browsing, so some want it beefed up to rival the dedicated browsers. DT does sheets, so some want features added to replace Excel. DT does multimedia, so some want features added to replace iTunes, iPhoto, and other dedicated multimedia apps. DT does document creation and editing, so some want it beefed up to replace Ulysses, Scrivener, and others. Browse the feature requests and one can see that the list can go on forever…

The above was the observation part, now the comments. I admit that I no longer write to the extent that many of you do, so I have a bias that data management is more important to me than writing tools contained in the data management tool. I also must admit that I don’t get where, or why, the full-screen mode is headed the direction it apparently is with fading HUD, formatting options, opacity adjustment, moveable, adjustable pallets of additional data? I thought the purpose of full-screen mode was to create a simple, clear, distraction-free writing experience that has roots in a DOS writing environment? I’ll further display my ignorance by asking what is the point of typewriter mode? I don’t see where it accomplishes anything other than cutting the amount of text displayed in half? I use WriteRoom myself, and other than a missing top margin, my settings have it looking pretty much identical to the full-screen mode in DEVONthink, which is just plain text on a plain contrasting background-beautiful in its simplicity.

To wrap this up, there are also some of us that want to see DEVONthink continue to be developed as a full-blown, best-in-class knowledge base, the unquestionable ‘king so far as the data handling goes’! The rest of the features (above) are just the icing, and it would be a shame if database functionality were to be neglected at the expense of making DT entirely writer-centric, or multimedia-centric, or browsing-centric, etc…

To voice only my point of view and opinion which is not coming from a writing background so maybe those who are, have a different set of features or priorities they would like to see present.

The current full screen mode pops in with no fluid arrival, this is not critical but the fades that Apple introduced and everybody else who has full screen mode has made use of, are a nice, elegant transition.

When in full screen mode I do not care about “typewriter mode” if that means what I think it means (destructive editing).

It would be nice if when you moused to the bottom of the screen (or top), HUDs with relevant commands would fade into view.

Not every command, not all features, but simple features that relate to full screen mode. A slider to adjust the viewing size dynamically updated on screen so I can see the result, the same for margins, the live word count. An option to choose the cursor would be very nice.

Adjusting the background opacity and how dark it is would be fine I suppose but not very critical to me, black is fine.

Everything else is cake. The above would at least bring the very rough old school mode of current full screen mode, into the 21st century and what more or less every other program does. I’m not completely sure what the snippets and all other feature requests have to do with full screen mode, it sounds more like if you want to work with all that, then why are you using full screen mode?

The only time I use full screen, is when I want to blank out everything and think a little. The very simple changes outlined above, would turn this into a more pleasant experience and I appreciate the consideration. I have no interest in launching some writer’s workbench application or Writeroom, to merely use full screen. I am writing within Devonthink because when I break out of full screen mode and need to see relevant research, I can easily do that, then return to full screen mode and finish it.

I do not need every bell and whistle and feature, I too use Word to finish whatever document I am working on as I think others have mentioned. I am not looking to Devonthink to replace Office suite or Apple core applications. I personally am not even asking for anything that isn’t already present with the possible option of selecting your cursor for full screen mode. The only thing I personally would like to see, is refinement of an existing feature, to bring it in line with current modern versions of the same thing.

If none of this happens I will not stop using DevonThink because there is nothing I can jump ship to, or replace it with. I think most of us have established that DT is the gold standard for information management. The interface isn’t so terrible, but at best it’s a bronze, certainly not a silver or gold and it does the otherwise incredible program a great disservice.

This is worth repeating for new users such as myself. From Bill_DeVille’s earlier post:

"I do my draft writing inside a database, in rich text. I like the working environment because it puts the information content and DEVONthink’s tools at my fingertips. I can fish for ideas from within my own writing by invoking See Also, and perhaps add some interesting references as tabs to my rich text window. Or select two or three paragraphs I’ve just written, Control-click and choose See Related Text, to fish for ideas if I’ve hit a writer’s block. Or take a look at how others have used a term by Option-clicking on it. Or select an interesting phrase, Control-click and choose Search Selected Phrase. Or locate, with a quick search, other notes and references that I can create links to, perhaps for citation and footnote purposes.

I love that rich working environment when I’m writing."

I too would appreciate a better fullscreen, though I’m not sure it makes sense for DevonThink to spend too much time becoming a wordprocessor or full-feautured writing environment.

Hi there and thanks for your opinion. Aside from one person who is more or less asking DevonThink to include the exact same full screen mode as Scrivener has, I think everybody else has made exactly one request, which is to update the look and feel of full screen mode which presently works like it’s arriving straight out of 2002 or so :wink:

Happy holidays!