My initial use for Devonthink was just as a basket with search capabilities. The Finder would have worked as well. I’ve gone far beyond that, now.
Tags, for example, can be alternate folder trees. Let’s say I’m trying to untangle all the incestuous malarky you find in those shock political books. There’s no one single way to categorize things, so I might start with a Devonthink group per cabal. Each cabal would have a group for each member.
When a person belongs to two cabals, I could make a replicant of the person’s group in the other cabal. That’s like a symbolic link, or alias, in the filesystem, but with an advantage. If I discover one of the instances needs to be deleted, it doesn’t matter if I delete the “original” or the “copy”, because the original doesn’t disappear until all its references are deleted.
For writing, I like to turn off the “exclude groups from tagging” feature. That means if I have a group called “Men in black,” any file (or group) I tag with “Men in black” will appear as a replicant in the Men in black group.
Tags will also let you create ad-hoc groups, which is kind of nice.
I’ve got a database with a couple hundred notes about plot ideas, characters, and locations. I can tag notes with “Chapter 1”. If some of those ideas also pertain to Chapter 2, they can carry both tags and appear in both places. My hierarchy of notes isn’t disturbed or cluttered up. When I look at the Chapter 1 tag, it’s like looking at a folder.
If I want to re-do my Chapter 1 musings, I can delete the Chapter 1 tag, in one stroke de-tagging everything that was in Chapter 1 but leaving other tags intact and not deleting any documents.
My financial records are all scanned into a Devonthink database along with grumpy letters to vendors, personal notes, and stuff that doesn’t necessarily interest my accountant. I can select the groups that contain the receipts and reports the accountant needs and export them to web format. That gives him a browsable, categorized, copy of everything he might need. He won’t need Devonthink to see my records.
Devonthink is easy to write in. Save an empty word processing document as a template, then create documents from the template. I like setting double-click to open documents externally.
There’s a better way, too.
Nisus is a particularly good fit with Devonthink because you don’t need a template. Just create an RTF document. I’ll edit in DT’s editor if I just want to jot down something quick. Later, if I want to expand it into an essay, a double-click (or right-click and select open with) will open it in Nisus. I have a Nisus macro that loads the style set I usually use and replaces double newlines with single newlines. Bingo. From bare DT RTF to full-on styles in mere mouse clicks that only need be done once. Should I ever need it, Nisus supports bibliography software.
There are of course many ways to organize data. I’ve tried other utilities but keep coming back to DT.