If I could change anything about Devonthink

Since 2007, I have but one enduring gripe with Tinderbox for which Keyboard Maestro can’t find a sloppy fix. I think that’s why I have never implemented into my life/vocation as a lawyer – although I’m trying once more, as I do every few years.

It’s the low readability of the various views — DT’s inability to provide a less densely packed list view in any of the windows, its inability to meaningfully change the font itself, its size, to change how tightly it tracks, etc.

A book with a headache inducing typeface is almost unusable to me unless I only need to read it for a few minutes at a go. So as much as possible I’ve tried to use DevonThink as a backend only, and to harness its power via other apps — like Tinderbox, or Outliner, even Scrivener – only because each of them can produce display text that I actually don’t mind looking at for hours at a time, and which isn’t distracting in its sheer busy ugliness.

Anyway, this part of DT has been unchanged for as long as I remember, and I don’t see much clamoring in these parts for a change, so I’m not expecting anything. But if it ever came to DevonThink, that would be a game changer for me.

1 Like

What exactly is that “display text”? Which font, font size and line height do you use in your favorite setup?

1 Like

can you please post some screenshots to get an impression what you like about other apps in comparison to DTP.

1 Like

Here’s an example of what I mean.

The list on the left is so crammed with info, that it’s overwhelming, especially after a long day of looking at things like that on a monitor. If I could dump the giant icons, space the lines out a bit, and give it a lighter font style, it would just be immeasurably more readible/digestible for me, especially at 2 a.m.

Just my opinion, and I expect to voice it no more. Otherwise, the app is pretty great. It’s just. Too. Ugly.

1 Like

I agree with you on the icon part. More often than not, I wish there was no icon at all. I have always used the List view, and not once found the icons to be useful in any way.

It would be appreciated if an option to disable document icons (except those for tags and groups) is available in a future release.

On line spacing, I feel quite comfortable with the way it is in DT. Obsidian and Logseq (by default) have larger spaces between items, which in practice means I have to scroll down more frequently to get what I want. The tradeoff is not insignificant, especially on smaller laptop screens.

Which font size (see Preferences > General > Appearance) and which version of macOS do you use? Automatic thumbnail generation can be disabled in Preferences > Files > Thumbnails or manually created/removed via Data > Thumbnails.

I use the largest font, because I have a big monitor, and aging eyes. I have Sonoma running.

I appreciate that you appear to be offering some hope that I might be able to make visual changes to the interface that would help, but I’ve been futzing about with versions of this app for nearly 20 years now, and that’s not gonna happen. In many ways, DEVONthink is the epitome of what snobs would once say wasn’t “Maclike.”

As a non-coder, changing an apps “theme” or appearance is certainly less trivial than it seems to me like it should be, and most of DEVONthink’s fanbase might consider it a waste of effort when actually innovative features or more obviously useful things could be changed or added.

Over and ouch.

1 Like

I scan text quickly, too quickly at my worst, and for me it’s much more efficient to scan lists when the entries are very visually and spatially discrete. Scrolling down as I do so isn’t a problem. I think it keeps me focused to a degree, and makes me feel more engaged with what I’m doing.

I know I can change the thumbnails – but I’d like to be able to do it universally. I used to use ResEdit to change the look of apps, or dig through their resource folders and swap out my own png files for the existing ones. I’m not sure if that’s as trivial to do these days, since everything seems locked down more tightly. In any case, I’m sure it would void my warranty!

OTOH, we also have customers that want very high information density. :slight_smile:


And it’s indeed a glitch in case of this setting. Using another font size (e.g. 22 point) should improve things.

OK, I’ll give that a try

True, thus the reluctant-to-bring-it-up tenor of my post

@gravytop I don’t know if this will help you, I have a smart rule that assigns a label to all documents (dark background, white font) a kind of dark mode. It’s easy on my eyes and the lists are easier to read for me.

No need for hesitation. Your POV is worth hearing as much as theirs. :slight_smile:


I’ve come to appreciate Devonthink’s column view. No single list has “out of band” entries and I can scroll laterally and hop around.

Turn off the preview pane and the sidebar for a more exclusive view of groups and documents.

For me, double-clicking a group opens that group. Double-clicking a document opens it in DT. I have “double-click opens groups in new window” and “double-click opens documents externally” both turned off. That setup makes the column view nicer, at least for my use.

Tinderbox is an intriguing application. It is not robust enough for my tastes. My mileage probably varies.


My eyes are aging too. I hate Apple Mail because it doesn’t provide a Zoom function (no, change the font of a mail is not the same), but, I’ve to admit, I do like the compact display of DT a lot.

Having said that, changing the font with a design philosophy of compact display as demonstrated by DT will still present dense lists of texts. I think what you want too is be able to put some “air” in the display and tweak, as a user, the bottom and top margins (I’m using CSS terminology) of lines displayed in lists/trees. (may be automatically constraining the left and right margins to maintain some aesthetics).


For years i’ve use SHIFT COMMAND + to zoom in on an email and and SHIFT COMMAND + to zoom out. I do hope not removed by Apple in future versions of macOS.

This may have a useful bit of info…

1 Like

Thanks for that. Actually, since I left that post, I checked out a monitor app called Better Display that does some pretty cool stuff, including quick resolution switching. I tried it out, and found that along with Cgrunenberg’s helpful suggestion about smaller fonts, I can do pretty well just by changing the monitor resolution easily when I need to so everything is quite readable.

The list views are not so tightly packed, and once I changed folder/group icons to something more minimalist my main gripes were no more. Thanks for your suggestions.

-Happy user since at least 2007