How to store all the work of a freelance writer in DTPO?

Hello dear DevonThink community!

I own DT, DTP and now DTPO for years but I never really did use it. I was unable to cope with this wizard of a program.
Now I am willing to use DTPO to get my work and life structured. Due to the wide aspects of my work alone I need some advice how I should organize my work in databases and how to structure them.
Maybe my description of my writing helps to find what databases I need.

I am a writer.
I do write: books, screenplays for tv, for comics and for the web (e-learning); quiz for tv, for boardgames and for apps; I do invent games for tv-shows, for boardgames and for apps; I write different other tv-stuff; I write edutaining scientific stuff for magazines and for the web (facebook-groups).
There are loads of companies, publishers, producers, advertising agencies, cartoonist, illustrators, co-writers, trade unions and so forth, I have to deal with.
There are projects in progress, projects I would like to do in the future and projects that are successfully done and others that are “dead in the water”.
As every writer I have to research (books, magazines, the web, life and fantasy), some projects need more research others less.

Until today I did my project planning using Circusponies Notebook: For every project in progress I have one Notebook, to which I clip my thoughts and snippets from the web and where I write ideas and outlines. At a certain status I switch to Nisus Writer and do write my chapters, articles, whatever. Moreover I have a Notebook with ideas for books, games, screenplays, quiz, I want to realize in the future (if one idea becomes a project I create a new notebook). This has been alright so far, but since 2011 I am writing magazines for children about scientific and technical issues, for example: spaceflight and astronomy, inland navigation, snow, bicycles, maths. These issues need a lot of research and cooperating with illustrator, designer and scientists and here the notebook becomes somewhat unclear. The NB contains all the magazines I am writing, but only some research-stuff and outlines and first ideas. In addition I create a related folder in the finder, a new workspace and favourite links in Omniweb, I have got tons of e-mails in my Mail related to the magazine, invoices in an other finder-folder, scientific books, magazines and newspapersnippets in a shelf and boxes (not searchable of course). So everything is widely spread over my iMac (and my bureau) and it is really painful to remember which information, file or address is where.
To make it even worse: sometimes I have to write outside, in librarys, at the agency, in meetings, or even cafés (when I am climbing the walls of my bureau), so I use an MacBook as well, which I sync via Dropbox.

I would love to bundle all this into DTPO so that I always know where I find all the stuff that is relevant to one project. Is there anyone out there who has got some ideas how to structure that mess?
Many thanks in advance Matze

Edit: As I am creating databases right now, questions evolve:
Should I create a group with links to the web inside the database the belong to or should I create a database with all links and tag these links? What are the pros and cons?
Edit2: The same for scans and webarchives. All the scans in one database or devided in groups in databases they belong to?

I have many of the same needs and look forward to an answer to your post. Basically my needs break down to:

  • Writing (blogs, e-books)
  • Business (contracts, receipts, invoices, etc)
  • Notes / To-Do

I am also in the stage of categorizing and organizing. I’m also consolidating all the hundreds of notes and files into one homogenous system (and producing lots of articles from it).

Main issues I’ve experienced –

  • Integration with other apps – OmniFocus
  • Clipping from the web – Evernote is brilliantly linked in to everything on the web and very easily clips web pages and even has apps for my phone that take pics and notes while I’m out. Nothing like this on DTPO. There’s an iPad app but nothing for my Android phone.
  • Concern – will this product be successful enough to be around a long time. I’d hate to spend hundreds of hours organizing the db only to have the product go away.

DEVONthink integrates by way of a very deep Applescript Library. Select the Script menu > More Scripts…. On the first page is an “Export to OmniFocus” script (and an “Export to Evernote”) one too.

There is the Safari extension which functions in the same way as Evernote’s as well as Bookmarklets. Select the DEVONthink Pro Office menu item and “Install Add-ons…” to install the extension.

Umm… Evernote had only been around since 2008. DEVONthink has been around over a decade.

I use DTPO extensively for both my business communications company and my own writing. Currently I maintain three related databases: 9 Crossings (my business), fiction writing, nonfiction writing. All research, drafts, editorial communications, final submissions, and tear sheets /clips are kept in DTPO, along with income/expenditures, correspondence, contracts, etc. If a book project or series project warrants–for reasons of length, scope, continuity of backstory, previous plots, etc–I will create temporary databases, but eventually those are merged with the appropriate main fiction and nonfiction databases. I also keep editorial guidelines, writing craft information, etc., in in my 9 Crossings database.

I do not use DTPO to maintain my business/publishing/editorial contacts, however. I track that information in a CRM because I find it easier to track calls, emails, meetings, etc.; I use indexing to keep documents linked to both contacts in the CRM and available through DTPO.

Re writing, I often use DTPO for quick notes, memos, etc., related to projects, but I use a different program for my main writing. Again, this program has the capability of linking to DTPO files and info.

I’m a bit conflicted about DT. I’ve been using it as a journalist since 2003, and nothing beats it for quickly filing away information and finding it again.

I essentially maintain one big work database, with four top-level groups: Inbox, Shipping, Later and Archive. There are currently about 570 groups and four million words (relatively few of them mine) within this structure. For me, it works.

There’s another much bigger work database as well. It was my original database, but got too big, unwieldy and slow, and I couldn’t justify the time rebuilding it. I just mothballed the lot and started again about 18 months ago.

I’ve tried just using the Finder several times, but DTPO’s clipping and search tools are hard to give up.

My conflict arises from DT’s poor interoperability with the mobile universe. More and more of my life (and everyone else’s) is mobile, but DT is only partially there. DTTG is little more than a reader at this point, and I keep forgetting to do a manual sync between DT and DTTG . I’m switching more and more to Evernote.

Right now I’m at painful point where all my desktop work is done out of DT, all my mobile work out of Evernote, and I’m never quite sure where anything is. If DTTG doesn’t have a growth spurt pretty soon, I’ll look at moving to an Evernote+Finder workflow.

I’ll miss DTs capacity to suck in everything I feed it, but not the frustration of trying to use DTTG under pressure somewhere a long way from home. But I’m not sure Evernote is up to the demand I’ll put on it, and I really dislike the lack of a small-footprint export format.

Anyway, I’m still procrastinating on that decision, but I need to go where the future is. And the future - or at least mine - is very mobile.

I’d agree with you that DTTG is showing its age. I found that I used it heavily the first 6 months after it was published, and then steadily less and less, until now when I’m thinking I’ll just remove it from my iOS devices because I never sync and never bother with it. A major reason for this is that I move among four different machines all day (desktop, laptop, and two iOS things), and DTTG is locked into a one-to-one relationship with a single machine. Dropbox and Box have become my de facto platforms for porting data among my machines.

At the same time my dependence on iOS has increased. Because what I really needed is the ability to clip, create, edit, annotate and read on the iOS devices and, other than read, DTTG doesn’t cut it … but a host of other apps are excellent. So, I use the other apps.

But on the other hand, I’d wonder what “interoperability with the mobile universe” means. If “interoperability” suggests a seamless and robust integration of apps across all devices (i.e., all functionality is available on all platforms), then, personally, I don’t think that will happen. Apple’s intent for iOS is a tightly constrained environment which does a few tricks exceedingly well, but will never offer developers the freedom to reproduce desktop functionality to the extent OS X does. Is there an example where a high-functioning Mac desktop app developer has ported all of the desktop features to iOS? Or even 20% of the desktop features?

Could DTTG ever be substantially more functional than it is today (i.e., more like DEVONthink on the desktop)? IMO, I don’t think Apple is - or will - provide the means for the developer - or any developer - to get there.

OTOH, I think Evernote is a pretty face with an illusory - and perhaps dangerous - advantage. It tightly locks up ones data into a proprietary jail. Look at Evernote did with Skitch - taking a robust, popular, and wide-open app (from a sharing and portability perspective) and wrecking it because the company has a very narrow, consumer-unfriendly vision of what “sharing” is. Whenever a software maker wants to connect your data to a perpetual revenue stream, run the other direction.

Personally, for anything that matters, I’m migrating toward plain-text apps on all platforms because plain text is the only form in which I believe my data will always survive. And plain text guarantees “interoperability”

I don’t want DTTG to have the functionality of desktop DT, but I do want it to excel where DT excels, in getting stuff in and finding it again. Also, a seamless no-brainer syncing service, and the ability to make groups and shuffle notes between them. That would be good enough, for now. And annotation capability.

I think the most difficult aspect of this is the “getting stuff in” part. With Evernote on iOS, I can use all my information-harvesting tools - Tweetbot, Reeder, Zite, Pocket - to throw items directly into Evernote. Getting stuff into DT generates much more friction, and if there’s friction I tend not to do it.

I’m not keen on Evernote’s walled garden either. I’m hoping a better export solution arrives sometime. I’m also moving towards as much plain text as possible, but sadly the world is chock-full of PDF, doc & excel files that I have to reference.

I don’t think you will ever see DEVONthink To Go match Evernote for iOS in the getting stuff in department. Evernote is just so ubiquitous that iOS developers feel compelled to include the hooks to export to it. Personally, getting stuff into DEVONthink really has not been an issue for me. I’ve found that saving to Dropbox or to Instapaper and subscribing to my RSS feed on the Mac adequate, and more and more apps are including an ‘Open In…’ option that lets me save data to DEVONthink To Go. Likewise, I’ve switched almost everything I can to plain text documents saved to Dropbox and indexed into my DEVONthink databases. This alone has reduced greatly my use of DEVONthink To Go.

It is sad that DEVONthink To Go development is so stagnant. I had great expectations for its future when it was released, but now it is hard to recommend it to anyone. These days I use it primarily for project support of the .docx and .xlsx files that people send to me along with email messages that are saved to DEVONthink Pro Office. I’ll also replicate plain text files from the Dropbox workflow to keep everything together. It’s a reference-only system, but for some purposes that is exactly what I need. It sure would be nice to be able to process/edit/annotate/file as well, but unfortunately that’s not possible…

Speaking of Evernote, I loaded it back on my Mac and iPad this week. I’m interested in one and only one item in the latest MacHeist bundle, and I thought that perhaps the included Evernote Premium subscription would be of interest to me. I even watched the video of the new 5.0 beta that is coming this week, but I still do not see anything there of interest to me. It’s still too hard to get anything out of it, and that is far more important to me than any advantage it has of getting stuff in.

On Evernote: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Sorry, I have little good to say about this company and its tactics, not as a competitor to DEVONtech but as a User. They have a lot of money… that’s all I can say.

On DTTG… I can’t say anything.

Just out of curiosity, why did you stop using (switch from) CP Notebook?
And how has this move worked out for you?


I am a writer of screenplays and movie ad copy. I use Scrivener for my screenwriting, and MS Word (sadly) for the copy. DTPO I use to archive everything. I don’t find the word processing fast enough to use it for the writing. I collect all notes and research in the scrivener file (it’s really good at that). When I’ve gotten far enough along in the drafting process, I export to Final Draft.

That’s my method. I’m trying to figure out how to use DTPO to build a helpful, searchable database of ad copy for reference, but I’ll post about that elsewhere.

hope that helps

Hi Floyd

I hope it isn’t too unpolite to answer that late.
I will not stop using CPN. It is perfect too plan a project and to drop thoughts and snippets from the web and other sources into it.
So CPN comes before I do the real work/writing
DTPO should be the programm that comes after the writing.
It should store everything which is done (my own work, all the files and mails and stuff I wrote and normaly would have filed into the finder) and everything research-related like Webpage-PDFs, scanned PDFs and JPGs with tags.
DTPO is to find everything I want to use again. While CPN is the scrapbook to file my thoughts and ideas.

My problem how to organize my databases is, that it seems to me, that there are too many fields of work and too many resources I own, which I have to file somehow. And I dont know, how …

Best regards and please excuse my late answer, Matze