How & what are you using DEVONThink for?

Hey DT 3 users,

I’ve been using DTPO for several years, and am constantly amazed at the new and different ways that I continually find to use DEVONThink. To that end, I’m very curious as to how others are using this amazing product. How and what are you using it for?



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I do 90% of all my support in a DEVONthink database (and many test databases as the need arises. I’ve had up to 150 test databases at one time).

Outside of work, I pay the majority of my bills in DEVONthink and also have several database on subjects of interest to me.


I first started using it to gain control over my technical library. Many file cabinets of papers etc reduced to a single OCRed database that makes finding stuff a breeze. 19.3 GB as of today. From there I started databases for business records, financial stuff, you name it. To be frank, given where the computer world is going with privacy and what not, Devonthink is probably the overwhelmingly main reason I am still on Macs. My lab runs on Windows and I am looking at ways to move that stuff to Linux.

Along with databases for specific interests, I use DT as a complement to my law library. In my law database, using smart groups, I search for phrases in pdfs (ocr). I’ve never bothered with annotations before but expect I shall once DT3 is “official”. Also, the ocr engine in DT3 is much faster than in DTPO so I anticipate using DT3 for ocr along with Acrobat Pro X1. Having ocr-d in DT3, I’ll print the pdf to the appropriate folder in Finder where as the central repository I can open and use the pdf with any of the other pdf readers I have.

I am planning on using DT3 as my task manager for my business. Using DTPO and an existing database, I am experimenting. Each subject matter has a group and at least one smart group. Group names are identical to the names I use for each matter in both Finder folders and the pdf name and other file names. (I daresay I could dispense with folders in Finder altogether but won’t because the Finder folder is the central repository containing template letters, scanned incoming and outgoing letters and so on, some of which are opened by different apps. I mainly work from Finder folders, using DT and other apps as complements. Also I would not want to be wholly dependent upon DT3.)

Subject to whether I find any more uses for finished DT3, I think I’m likely to stick with my own system for reminders and other stuff rather than use custom metadata. (I use ToDoist as a task manager for lightweight stuff, particularly good for my weekly visit to the supermarket where I have my regular purchases on repeat, also my wife can add items whilst I’m at the supermarket.). Using RTF, I have created a style with a keyboard shortcut. Whenever I add a new entry, I add tag(s) so that the smart group finds it. Every so often I move/drag the items in the smart group into the group. As yet, I haven’t decided how to treat duplicates and replicants.

Using TextExpander, each rtf is prefixed with the date in format YYYY-MM-DD. Then the matter name, followed by a brief description of the item. Any extra info I type in. I’m not impressed by labels: I find them visually clunky and overbearing, also I have to remember what a colour represents. Instead, I use a tag and a further smart group that includes that tag as a search term. For matters that to deal with urgently I flag the entry and have a smart group for all flagged items. By prefixing flag smart group name with ‘0 -’ it automatically sorts to the top of folders list.

Once DT3 is official, I shall link to Mail to import emails. I won’t use DT for archiving emails because I prefer to export them to pdf; I print the whole of a Mail box to the Finder folder for the matter concerned, then delete that Mail box.

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I use DT as a backend database for mostly everything that I do.

A particularly interesting case might be my note taking system. I write all of my notes in iA Writer, synced to iCloud Drive folders. DEVONthink 3 syncs those notes and uses smart rules to automatically add tags with Concordance. (A similar approach auto-tags any articles or other readings I save into DT3). This doesn’t work perfectly all the time, but it’s better than arbitrary folder hierarchies. I have a separate Hazel rule that recognizes tasks in-line in the notes I take and adds them to OmniFocus with a link back to the original note—sometime soon I’ll make that a DT3 smart rule, too.

Like all things, there are other ways of achieving these workflows, but this one is mine!

I use DT as a massive notebook for my business. It’s my primary a way to keep track of everything I do and everything I need to know to run my business. I have groups for major work flows (business planning, marketing, research, technical, etc) and create documents inside recording everything I do. Each project I work on gets its own group, which contains documents (where I plan out each step of the process) plus indexed groups that contain any related content.

My business involves a lot of writing, so I also have groups for working through all of the copy I create, keeping track of each version I write, where it is used, and detailed notes about its intended purpose. Whenever I need to write something new, I rely on the search tool to help me find if I had written something similar before (searching for keywords), so that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.

I am also starting to use DT to do my market research. I follow a large number of industry news sites and blogs, and typically have been taking notes on what I read. I am experimenting with using the Sorter plus a Smart Rule to streamline this process, and clip important info right into my Research database.

So my DT is mainly folder after folder of RTF docs! I primarily rely on RTF because I need a WYSIWYG doc that lets me format text as I write (e.g. bold and italic, tabbed columns, highlighting). This helps me process what I am doing.

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I have an Input database, where I keep useful and interesting information I’ve clipped from books, web pages, magazines, and so on, as well as reference copies of information I’ve assembled myself. Folders organize it by topic (e.g. Science, Politics, Computer Science, History, …)

The Output database has copies of everything I write, plus work in progress, and ideas for things to write. Folders organizing by topic and state of progress.

A Bureaucracy database has all the annoying things I have to deal with for other organizations – tax returns, medical receipts, records of enrollment in insurance, and so on.

Manuals contains PDF copies of the manuals for every product I buy.

Finally, Lifestream contains everything that doesn’t fit into any of the above categories, as a long date-organized stream. So, records of subscription renewals, copies of my most recent eye test results, business cards people have given me that I don’t think need a place in my contacts database right now, and so on.

About the only thing I don’t keep in DEVONthink is to-do lists. That would change if DT supported checkboxes in Markdown documents…

Haha, I love that name. I’m going to stole it for my business papers and taxes database.

DT is my digital “brain”. Like many here it has my personal papers and my “Bureaucracy” database (stealing this idea as well). Also in my day job I use it to archive white papers, books, and Gartner/Forrester Research. I markup PDF’s a lot in LiquidText on iOS and then update them in real time via DTTG, but when I am synthesizing or building out a presentation or work product, I’m typically on the desktop version.

Once you are hopping over the threshold of 70 ( I mean lived and enjoyed years ) you can use Devonthink to prepare for the handing over protocols. Since I am from the merchant marine realm we used to hand over our responsibilities from vessel to vessel in order to keep the things running on smoothly. I started to clean up my cellar and put things into boxes which are worth to be handed over. Then I made photos from the boxes content. In Devonthink I created a database cellar and put the label of the boxes from A_1 to A_x in. Now I open the photos in my preferred application and choose the content photo of A_1. All the things on a table, nicely shot with a wide angle lens and flash. Now I open the Devonthink sorter which is located on the left middle side of my screen. It pops out and I choose the screenshot box ( No. 4 in the row ). I take the adjustable choice and clip a nice screenshot from all those beautiful things which are laid out on the table. The location is chosen _ Cellar_A_1. Now you have a nice photo with all the things from A_1 in your database. To make those things searchable you must open the right sidebar and choose annotations and reminders.
Choose a standard annotation and fill it out with the names of the items you see on your photo. That’s all. Go ahead and name all those forgotten things in cellar and loft to make them ready for handing over. They are searchable and if you happen to search for a screwdriver you’ll find it in box A_2.

Concur with a lot of these uses. Also, as an ex-IT type (20+ years big corporation IT; mostly project management) I’ve now been using DT as overkill for records management in my Real Estate practice for several years. Legally required to maintain transaction records, it’s perfect for my one-person operation. Too bad I’m not using more of its functionality, but working to get back into scripting after (35?!) years.

While I have this audience, let me touch on two other recent topics. The DT3 documentation is awesome! I would be nowhere without it. Given the prior career noted above, I am well aware of how difficult (and personally satisfying) it is to develop user documentation, especially when it mostly goes under-appreciated.

And a comment on server for individuals… I haven’t used it in the past, but having recently purchased a second home on the other side of the country, it would be hugely helpful to have access to my iMac records remotely. Yes DT To Go works, but only if you remember to sync all the right stuff. Cheers!


The DT3 documentation is awesome! I would be nowhere without it. Given the prior career noted above, I am well aware of how difficult (and personally satisfying) it is to develop user documentation, especially when it mostly goes under-appreciated.

Thank you very much for those kind words. It was indeed a difficult project (and still will be further refined as we go along) but I will say I’m proud of how it turned out.

(And some credit goes to @eboehnisch, not only as my boss, but as my editor, friend, and supporter in the process.)

I very strongly second this: the documentation is amazingly good and I’m so impressed with the way in which it’s updated for every beta release. I have been meaning to post an appreciation of it but didin’t feel it appropriate to start a new thread dedicated only to that. :grin:


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Thank you, @Stephen_C
It’s very appreciated.