How have folks been using Tiago Forte's PARA method with DEVONthink

(But if indexing you can use aliases).

While they’re supported to a small degree, we do not recommend indexing aliases.

It [shallow sync] is key regardless of Bonjour or iCloud syncing.

In what way? It’s certainly not required, nor do we specifically advocate it. It’s entirely situational.


this comment is a bit late, but the problem stuck with me and my originally unorganised mind.

When it was first promoted, I did not value the PARA system, since it is close to similar systems with less sexy namings like “Prozessbezogene Ablage”. I thought it is a simplification, but in fact, PARA seems to be quite useful, and in particular with Devonthink:

  1. Groups on the top level of my data base are exactly PARA in this order, because this follows from “now” to “done”; with “resources” being exactly where they belong: ready to be used now.
  2. Devonthink proved to be an excellent tool for several reasons:
    1. The AI helps to find resources and earlier work that is related to actual projects.
    2. Related information from older projects, from areas and resources can be replicated into each project group – and later deleted from the project when a project is to be archived.
    3. Creating Markdown Files with links or wiki links to certain documents and resources in Areas or Projects is so easy and helpful (similar to MOCs as known from Obsidian).
    4. Creating templates that work as soon as a new project is set up helps as well.
    5. Favorites serve as a short cut to projects that are of most concern at the moment.
    6. Tags help to separate projects that are “waiting” or “coming up” without the need to shuffle them around.
  3. Areas are not as busy as projects, naturally, but the same applies to them. The rest is simply dumping data into larger groups (in resources or archives), to be searched for with AI.
  4. Projects, Areas, Resources are basically subdivided in identical groups on a second level; Archives are ordered into years; this makes cleaning up later easier.

After all, I never doubt into which of the 4 global groups to put a document. This is the first time in the life of this unorganized character. Before PARA I organized my projects in the finder with almost the same structure, but working with Devonthink and replicants has made it easy, quick, and straightforward. Working in the finder instead is perfectly possible, but it frequently messed up because of duplicates from informational files, copies from older projects for re-use etc. That is all gone now thanks to Devonthink.

All data are in one large database. It is a pity that it is so large because of sync and backup time, but never mind.

I think of removing archived projects, data and resources after several years, or when a certain responsibility (like a large research project or activity) is finished. These could be sent into a dedicated Archive database, but for the time being, it is all in one house and works.

Finally, the integration with other apps, in my case with Things particularly, is just great. Organizing and getting my work done without overcrowded ToDo lists leads to productivity with ease.

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I feel most of his stuff is rather dated and contains very little fresh thinking. I admire his ability to monetise these ideas but there is really nothing new about it.


100% agree, particularly on the monetizing part. On the other hand, it seems a simple and helpful mix of old ideas, I have to admit, so why not apply what is helpful? :zipper_mouth_face:

You are right. If it helps it is worth incorporating the ideas. And to he fair his approach, although rather obvious, has the benefit of simplifying things which is no bad thing.

I’ve been waiting for this great post of yours (about which I received an email a few days back) to show up in the thread so that I could respond. And at last I see it.

I really appreciate your posting this, Maria, it’s interesting and quite helpful–good perceptions. I’ve now got DevonThink set up pretty much how I want it with PARA. The system’s flexibility is also great as it’s been easy to adjust as needed as I move forward. In addition to the basic 4 groups, I’ve added another–call it #1.5 between Projects and Areas. It’s Genealogy, which consumes a good part of my ongoing effort. It doesn’t come under Projects since there’s no completion date; it’s that vast and consuming. It’s really more of an Area yet the size of that Genealogy segment is by far the largest of all of my groups and it’s more complex than most. So I think this will work better. DevonThink works beautifully with my primary genealogy app, MacFamilyTree, so much better than Evernote.

I’ve also been able to transpose my Todoist app to the PARA system and it is so much cleaner and leaner. Can’t believe how much I was able to either delete or archive. And since I’m on a roll, I’m now tackling two physical file cabinets where I think I’ll also be able to put a good deal out of immediate sight by archiving. Yes, I’ve spent a bit of time on it but it is doing wonders for uncluttering my life.

Thanks again for the post, Maria.

Thanks for the kind words.

As a matter of fact, I also have added to the PARA structure, in my case it is PARAND.

The “N” stands for random notes: journal, funny thoughts and revolutionary ideas that come to my mind while gardening or walking – whatever is not part of my normal academical, social or private areas PARA would deal with.

The “D” stands for data, and these are collections of data from my research that may become resources in projects or just stay there as a valuable archive. It is something inbetween like your genealogy, I think.

Both groups fit in well in the Devonthink workflow, because data and notes are not out of sight and always pop up as related documents when I work on projects or areas.

Funny to see, that for some cases, a slight extension of PARA in Devonthink is OK.


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PARAND. I like that!

I think I’ll adopt it. Once I’ve added a couple of sections—”O" for original sources, and “I” for Ideas"—it will be perfect for my “Moon Landings were Faked in Area 47 by Vaccine Makers” database.

(Seriously, I do like the idea of adding extra elements to the basic PARA concept. Every system should be adapted to personal circumstances because we all think and work slightly differently. They’re tools, not straightjackets.)


your database seems to be a good qualification as chief advisor for a potential next president… :scream:

anyway, i like that name!


Shh! They’ll hear us… :smile:

I don’t need another note section; Project works for me
I have a few projects/hobbies with no completion date

I’m also a fan of MacFamilyTree (Mac/iPad/Web);
a duplicate of my data in DT but the organization/presentation (UI) is so much better

What I maintain in DT for Genealogy is primarily research–Logs, notes, records, etc that don’t fit in MacFamilyTree so there’s no duplication of what I maintain in MFT. I maintain a list of primary surnames (folders) in DT and that’s where I keep the research for individuals or families. I do use Notes regularly in MFT but only once I’m pretty sure of my facts. And I too love the UI in MFT; it’s like no other I’ve ever seen.

Hi, there, I just read your comment, and I found it somewhat similar to my own approach. My only question is how you do the “linking” thing? Do you use item link? Do you use a markdown note as a “media” to build your link or do you use smart group?

I’m still experimenting and evolving what I do. My work has changed a lot over the past couple of years and I haven’t yet been able to settle on a working method that really suits me.

I’ve been through a period of using Obsidian and I have tried both indexing an Obsidian vault in DEVONthink and using DEVONthink item links in Obsidian notes. I haven’t felt completely satisfied with either approach.

At the moment I am experimenting with using DEVONthink just as a repository for “information” and doing all my analysis and thinking using Tinderbox. I like having a map view so that I can make spatial arrangements of material, plus Tinderbox has all sorts of tools for analysis and display that you don’t really find in other programs. But this is very much an experiment in its early days, and I don’t know if I will persevere with it. DEVONthink item links are useful in this because you can go directly to a file in the database if you need to.

In all the years that I’ve used DEVONthink (and they are many) I’ve tended to use it more as storage than as a working space, and my present practices are a continuation of that.

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