I'm a teacher. Is DEVONthink the right thing for me?

Hello. This may be a dumb question.

I’m a teacher. I’m having a hard time keeping all my stuff together. For example I have a handwritten todo-list I’m using because I’m not always on a Computer.

I have spreadsheets with class lists, school lists, achievement lists of my students. I have handwritten notes and I use Bear.app with markdown for notes when I’m at my Macbook. I use my Calendar.app and I use a handwritten calendar in my bullet journal.

I have tons of worksheets I need for my students. Which I have to export as PDF and send to them because it’s lockdown again.

And then there is the administrational stuff. How many miles I’ve driven with my car from school to school, plans for the month, for the week and for the day and so on.

So I’m using 5 spreadsheets, 2 doc files, and more than three apps a day and this is so time consuming.

My question is: Can DT help me with that? I watched some videos and read the stuff on the website and I guess I’m overwhelmed. What I’m looking for is some kind of data base for all my stuff where everything is in one place if I need it.

My second question is:
Does DT need some special rights? Like, is it changing my system somehow or will it mess with my file structure? Or is it “just” an app, and if I don’t start it, nothing will change?

Welcome @johnkree

That’s not a dumb question at all (and we believe there are no “dumb questions” unless someone is trolling or being willfully ignorant :slight_smile: ).

We not only have plenty of students using DEVONthink but a large number of teachers from K-12 up into post-grad professors as well as all kinds of administration and other people in academia.

Note: DEVONthink has a sheet format that’s just tabular data. As it’s just tabular content, there are no formulae (a lá Excel) but it’s very handy for just record keeping.

Does DT need some special rights? Like, is it changing my system somehow or will it mess with my file structure? Or is it “just” an app, and if I don’t start it, nothing will change?

You should give DEVONthink Full Disk Access and allow any Automation requests in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy but no it’s not going to “mess with your file structure”.

What I’m looking for is some kind of data base for all my stuff where everything is in one place if I need it.

That’s pretty much a basic description of DEVONthink. :slight_smile:

I watched some videos and read the stuff on the website and I guess I’m overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed by…?
What videos and stuff did you read?

Have you actually downloaded DEVONthink and gave it a whirl? That and reviewing the Help > Documentation > Getting Started chpater is the best way to get acquainted. You can download a manual as well.


I’m using Devonthink for “keeping all my stuff together”; over 20,000 records
Everything in one place, and easy to access
I recommend the product

Devonthink includes integrated editors for various formats; I use formatted note (html)
However we can use external editors as required
You are welcome to keep your spreadsheets, and whatever documents you use

not always on a computer

In addition to my Mac, I use an iPad that’s always with me
Devonthink syncs my data and provides a supplementary IOS app

so time consuming

Devonthink is integrated with scripting
I use applescripts to automate many tasks

will it mess with my file structure

Personally I import all my data and organize using tag methodology
However Devonthink has an indexing feature. Your files may remain exactly where they are in your “file structure”
Or import your files and duplicate your “file structure”


I’m a real fan of DEVONthink and use it all the time holding a lot off stuff key to my life and interests. For me the predominate value is as a collector of information that is available for future discovery and use. I don’t expect it to replace my primary writing tool(s), nor be my calendar or to-do list. I do hold stuff that I work on routinely, but that work might be using the native tool best suited for that document. I don’t try to bend DEVONthink to my will.

I’m going to provide some tempered views/opinions based on what you say you do and what your needs might be. What I say may or may not be popular with DEVONthink devotees.

My bottom line (after quickly composing below) is that your first step might not be jumping into DEVONthink but instead maybe think through how you organise your life now and where the key “itchy” points are. There may be other apps of value–I use a quite a few other apps to help me keep organised. DEVONthink is not monopolistic for me.

You might value stepping back and look at your overall work processes, how you interact with students and colleagues with information you hold that you publish to and/or with them, perhaps take a look at a great “how to be productive” book (tons out there, I must admit some great and some worthless), etc. You seem to want to use the computer to help you and I can concur that using a computer can help since it does for me. But using a computer also brings with it added complexity and risk which some handle with aplomb and others get lost. Talk with colleagues or other trusted sources. If there are resources available, hire a “coach”!

Meantime, download the trial DEVONthink package, read “Take Control of DEVONthink” e-book that DEVON Technologies makes freely available on their web site, skim the outstanding DEVONthink Handbook so at least you know what info it contains, etc. These documents will give you a long list of ideas which I won’t repeat here. Some of those ideas may resonate with you.

Experiment. Experienced DEVONthink users will admit they keep learning all the time how to use it better, regardless of how long they’ve used. I’m on my second decade and I still learn things.

Sounds to me that the content of these seven documents plus the three apps are consuming your time, and I’m guessing that hunting for them to work on is not really an issue. DEVONthink and help with the finding them, but you might not be gaining anything. You could put them into the “Favorites” list in DEVONthink to make them visible at the top of the panel on the left side of DEVONthink’s screen–has an official name but I forget what they call it!

Nothing wrong with that. The key is to either do the stuff on the list, or de-prioritise stuff on list that doesn’t need doing anymore. I keep telling my wife that the greatest value of my “to-do” list is getting stuff out of my head. I don’t do everything on the list. My calendar and to-do list are also on my iPhone which is with me all the time, so I no longer have need of a paper system for these. (I was able to abandon my Daytimer many years go, but the discipline of using the Daytimer stuck.

Bear is already a “container” for helping you organise. Probably could organise in DEVONthink just as well, but DEVONthink not the “writing tool” that Bear started out doing. And I’m not sure there is value in trying to integrate Bear with DEVONthink but some will, have, and will try. (I tried Bear but did not pursue … felt it was at one time one of the “cool” apps, but that not enough for me, but I was curious)

These are good candidates to import into DEVONthink database. Even though imported, you can still use the tool (Word, Excel, whatever) to edit and work with them. Probably not much different than being in your MacOS file system (accessed by Finder?) than you do now as you mention. But can’t hurt and if finding stuff with search functions, DEVONthink is terrific. You didn’t mention any interest in using the computer’s search power, though so not sure that part of your work process yet.

Do you like the structure of these spreadsheets using the tool you have? If the files reside in DEVONthink you can still use the native tool (Excel, Numbers, ?). Probably no need to convert into DEVONthink tables as there is no added value, in my view. Frankly from what you say I can immediately conceive of a specialised “app” for teachers, schools, and students with a real data model–that for another day and surely already done.

Here sounds like some duplication of effort. Seems to me to save you time and confusion, you should use one way to keep a calendar. Pick the Calendar.app, or pick the bullet journal. I think you’d be happier with the Calendar.app. This change in work process would not be facilitated by a move to DEVONthink, frankly.

Same old issue. If you keep this stuff all over the place now in different documents, you can import those documents into DEVONthink but that solves nothing about stuff being all over the place. you’ll have to think about that stuff.

Yes, to get any added value, you probably need to “mess with your file structure” as all indications from what you write that it is your file structure that causes you not have stuff “together”? True? Moving all into DEVONthink may not solve anything unless you do change to something you find more productive.


I sympathise. Keeping track of a busy life with lots of commitments is not easy. There are no magic solutions, and any tools you adopt to help will only be as good as the skills you learn for using them. I think we tend to forget that programs are tools, and that we need to get skillful with them, just as we need to get skillful with a saw, a plane, or a paintbrush. Then when it comes to organisation of material, the important thing is analysis – analysis of what we are doing, analysis of what we need, and so forth. Only the human brain can accomplish that. But there are tools that can help, and I’d say that DEVONthink is one of those.

When I was at school, several decades ago, one of our teachers told us “keep together what goes together”. I’ve never forgotten it as a principle. But in this day and age of electronic storage you can find stuff wherever it is, if you use the right search tools. DEVONthink provides good search tools, and is very fast at finding things. If you combine good search queries with tagging you should be able to find whatever you need at any moment pretty quickly. I find tags are very useful.

As to organising one’s time, I have recently been playing with NotePlan. You might find it worth looking at.

Best of luck.


First, thank you all for your detailed responses. Awesome. :slight_smile:

Just videos on Youtube… and the description on the website. I’m a bit overwhelmed because I’m not sure what exactly Devonthink is doing. Like, is it copying stuff into a separate data base or is it just linking to stuff on my computer? And all the possibilities that come to my mind just reading the description.

It does both. And more.

For now, I think best to avoid the random YouTube’s and instead read the “Take Control of DEVONthink” that I pointed out above.

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I don’t have a mess with files or so. I have a very good folder structure. What is time consuming is constantly going into 3 subfolders, to find last years weekly plan. To print everything out, because it is common to use paper. I want to get to a point where I just have my bullet journal, but no printed plans, no printed school lists. I need to have them with me, in case of a school inspection, but I want to just have it on my Macbook. Sure, I just can keep the file system I have, but then I have to open Finder, open iCloud, open “School”, open “Plans” and select the file, open it.
I could also just use Spotlight, but it isn’t that good. Some of my students have COVID19, so I have to provide them worksheets and stuff. Opening the .pages file, printing as PDF, opening Email, click and drag, looking for their mail addresses… ufff.
The “website feature” of Devonthink sounds to be a nice alternative I guess. Just posting stuff and sending them a link through WhatsApp.

I love Bear. It is faster than any note app. It’s even faster than my paper bullet journal. It opens so fast. And the hashtag structure is nice but the overview is bad. It’s awesome for writing. And it’s awesome for notes but not if you have to connect dots. If you need some kind of overview.

Spotlight is just bad with my worksheets. I often have to browse through them to find stuff. Sometimes I browse 1 hour through stuff to find the correct one.

Yes. It’s functional. I like my numbers spreadsheets.

You’re welcome :slight_smile:

And all the possibilities that come to my mind just reading the description.

Oh, you’re just scratching the surface mentally :wink: People use DEVONthink for all manner of things, personal and professional.

And I guarantee (that’s not a legal statement - haha!) DEVONthink could be used to keep things organized and retrievable.

Do you use Finder’s Favorites? You can drag, say, the “Plans” folder to the Finder’s favorites for a way to access, avoiding going down the hierarchy.

From what you say in your reply, my hunch is that DEVONthink won’t be a big improvment for you. Just my hunch.

If that is the case, I would submit that, despite you saying that you have a good folder organisation, there is something wrong with the way you name and organise your files and folders. If the folder organisation is not helping you to get things done efficiently, then you need to work out what is wrong with it. I honestly don’t think that the problem lies with Spotlight, though you can get Spotlight to do a whole lot more by using HoudahSpot. You might try taking a look at Macsparky’s Paperless guide (there is a free sample down the page) or read some of what Brett Terpstra has written about using tags for organising files. If you are not using tagging to help you with your file organisation, you are missing something, I believe. They are also extremely useful in DEVONthink. Good file naming conventions, tags, and smart folders are a much better way to go than deep folder hierarchies in my opinion.

Best of luck with it all!

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