Handholding-advice - how to use DT ( step by step) - a day in a life-

This scenario section is great. But…
Now that I am totally overwhelmed with 200 pages of DT functionality, I would like some practical “how-to” advice.

If I am doing topical research for a Ph.D. or a book etc (my scenario) … how do I start? what might a day in a life look like for me - what workflows might I be using/following?

I am sitting here with my macbook pro, DT, and Safari.
I can draw an initial tree diagram of all the data-knowledge-maybe wisdom I may want to collect from the many global sources I need. How do I translate my tree into DT and DT-Togo practical steps??

Can anyone assist ???


Start by throwing all the information you currently have into a database. Set up some topical groups, and sort the materials into those groups. This will give the AI a framework to use for future auto-classification.

1 Like

I’m going to give you a very simplistic reply. Just imagine DT is a box with a number of empty compartments. As you carry out your research just put things in compartments in the box (DT calls them “Groups”) and label them however you wish. If you write some notes put those in a compartment too.

In no time at all you’ll be finding things using the wonderful DT search facility and (probably) linking some of your notes to some of your research documents.

A number of us here on the forum probably started by treating DT as a glorified Finder replacement for filing things. The more you then use it the more you discover it can do and the more of its facilitites you use.

It’s really quite hard to go wrong at the start—but it’s very helpful to understand the difference between indexing items (items which are kept out of DT but which are indexed by it) and importing items. Take a careful read of the “Importing and Indexing” section of the user guide (also available through the in-app Help) before starting!


1 Like

My process is individual notes
I create the “tree” using tag methodology with a defined set of tags

My collection stage is directed to the Global Inbox
In a separate stage, I process the Inbox records, assigning name, tags etc.
I use an Applescript to assist with this proces

Welcome @seymour

how do I start? what might a day in a life look like for me - what workflows might I be using/following?

These are largely subjective and personal questions. I’d ask you in return… If you didn’t have DEVONthink, just the Finder, how would YOU start?
If you can operate the Finder in a manner you find efficient, you can use DEVONthink and likely translate those Finder behaviors into it.

And as far as a day in the life goes, your exeprience is also going to be defined by who you are and how you go about things.

The Help is there.
These forums are here.
No harm asking questions or for how others are approaching things (and there are many, many such questions on the forums). But ultimately, just get in there an explore.


Thank you for the encouragement. I must admit reading about the functionality of DT was overwhelming. You are quite right. Just get in there and it will become clear.
Appreciate thee= support

1 Like

Thank you Stephen. It appears necessity will be the mother of invention. Fill the compartments and let the ongoing needs encourage the connections. I will review importing and indexing as these will probably be my most used actions.


You’re welcome and that’s understood. Check out the Getting Started chapter in the Help. :slight_smile:

I can describe you my personal use case. I do not do academia research but as a tech strategy consultant I need to be able to access lots of resources and materials quickly to prepare presentations that usually have tight deadlines. How much does an Adobe Experience Manager license cost? What’s the difference between Flutter and React Native? I have PDFs for that, accumulated over the years.

Just by patiently adding your documents and deliverables into their corresponding groups -it can take some days or weeks depending on the materials you have- you may think that DT is nothing but a glorified Finder -and not that bad at all, in fact that would be my first suggestion-. But then some day comes the enlightenment when you notice that DEVONthink starts suggesting the relevant group for new documents in the Inbox so it can effectively do the classification for you. Only this has made DT pay for itself in my case and I know I’m only scratching the surface.

Also, for research oriented users, I think Kourosh Dini’s book is a great resource as it has specific sections just dedicated to taking notes with DT.


Thank you Pantulis. I will read Kourosh’s book and be patient with myself as I add the many PDFs I read.


hei @seymour I am finishing the DT course over at DEVONthink Field Guide | MacSparky Field Guides and I think if I have had it 3 or 4 years ago that would be the ideal gateways into the DT world.
So if you are looking for a one-shop solution and more a course person, I can highly recommend it.
It has everything you might think of for the start and beyond.
One positive thing for a beginner: he is giving you an exemplary db to work with if you do not know how to start at all.

1 Like

A year or two ago I was where you are at right now. The best piece of advice I can give you is this: think carefully about what type of documents work best for your use cases. I started with some plain text and rich text notes, but I’ve ultimately settled on markdown notes as a format, and it took some effort to convert those initial notes to markdown. The one suggestion I have is to play around with the different types from the outset and largely settle on one for most of what you’ll do if possible as it will make your life easier down the road.

Beyond that, I don’t really think you can easily go wrong! Make notes, file them in groups, play around with tags if/when you feel like it, dump PDFs and other files into it as needed–I did see one post from a guy who tried to dump his whole file system into DT, and that didn’t work well, so don’t do that–and have fun. Save for the more pathological cases, DT will roll with any punches you give it and index everything nicely.

1 Like

If no one else has suggested it, take a look at Take Control of DEVONthink 3 in the Handbooks under Support on the website. It’s free and may answer some of your questions

1 Like

DEVONthink is very useful to store research articles, web bookmarks and other documents. The excellent search, ‘see also and classify’ and smart rules (for filing etc.) can save you a tonne of time in terms of organisation and retrieval. (I don’t bother with a separate reference manager any more for storage of journal PDFs as they are not as good as DT for reading, annotating, searching and discovery).

I would also recommend learning the basics of Markdown and perhaps a personal knowledge management system such as Zettelkasten. DEVONthink is a great citizen for both. This may require an upfront investment in your time but it pays back in spades. You will soon find you can quickly capture and link your ideas. The ability to link your notes to your other resources using Markdown and to return to the previous note/ document from within the document viewer is an efficient way to navigate too. If you already have a preferred PKM, DT is more than likely flexible enough to accommodate that as well.

Lastly I would say to just start using the application and develop a system that suits your needs over time rather than try to start with a Taj Mahal of a process. Your use will evolve as you recognise your needs and you can evaluate the relative value of each feature with a bit of investigation and practice. When you’re ready for to explore further the tips and tricks section (Ellipsis button “…” button at the top of the left-hand-side panel) is a useful resource.

1 Like