Initial Comments on Devon Think Pro (Beta)

Installation. The README warns against operating both Pro and Personal on the same machine, Nothing else mentions this point. I’ve gone ahead anyway, but documentation should discuss.

Spotlight. It seems to me imperative that DT become Spotlightable. Since this could be a big deal, I wonder if there is a useful but decidedly imperfect interim measure in which DT creates an index of its own files and makes that available in the DT folder for Spotlight to find. At least, the user might see the item and realize, “Oh yes, that’s within DT.” Spotlightability seems to me crucial because I don’t like the idea of having to do two different classes of search.

Exporting to Word and Pages. I created a simple rtf file in DT Pro using formatting, one table, and one inserted figure (a TIF, created originally in OmniGraffle). I then exported the file and tried reading it in Word and Pages. It seems that the “Word format” export is flawed, because I lost the picture. On the other hand, if I exported to rtfd and then imported, I lost, e.g., the table formatting. It seems to me quite important that this aspect of DT be improved. I’d like to be able to take rich notes, including tables and figures, while working interactively in groups–using DT so as to bring up various briefings and documents readily for projection onto a front screen. The notes would be the developing sense of the group, including picture-based story. But then I would need to be able to export the notes readily for use in Word (or Pages).

On installation: I have been running both DT and DTP (alpha) for nearly two years with no problems. The warning is that you NOT run both of them at the SAME time.

Spotlight. Anyone who uses Entourage has the same problem: Spotlight indexes files, not the entries within a large database file. However, there is a workaround: if you are fairly sure that your DT or DTP file will not change much (as in research notes for a writing project, with deadline approaching), you may EXPORT the contents of that file as Files and Folders, and then Spotlight will index every one of those elements.

Exporting to Word: that’s a fairly “rich” text that you created in DTP and then sent to Word. What if you went the other way, creating the doc in Word and copying it to DTP? I’ve never had a problem working in that order. And the translation problems you are having may be more assignable to Word, which is rather fussy about importing, than to DTP.

By the way, any of the DT products work very well when showing documents via projection. I do that all the time for my classes, and the students always want to know where they can buy that wonderful software!


Spotlight doesn’t “plainly” index files. When it encounters a file type (e.g. a dtBase file), it will look for a metadata importer for that file type. It will use the importer to index the file.

This importer can give Spotlight info on whatever content about the file it wants to. For example, it would be possible for DevonThink to compile its index, and return that as a result to Spotlight. Then everything that’s in DT’s index would register in Spotlight.

This is where it gets a bit tricky, because when you search on a term that’s in the DT database, you’ll see your database in the list. You won’t see the sub details. You could then launch the database, and spotlight will provide the launch terms back to DT, at which time DT could just run the search internally and show the list. It’s workable, but there are a lot of little subtleties which will take a bit of time to explore.

To show a work in progress… look at Circus Ponies Notebook. They provide a spotlight MD importer, and right now it will show that things are in the file, but when launching the app, it won’t go to the right entries. There’s room for improvement, as contrasted with Preview, which will actually pre-launch with the search term entered.

I’ve got two concerns about upgrading. Actually maybe one. Does DTP and DT use the same database I already have without modification? Which would mean I could try the beta and would be able to revert to DT without any hassle?

Also, a tiny bit concerned for the safety of my data in DTP. And DTP alpha tester could respond on this or staff?

VoodooPad offers Spotlight support for it’s .vdoc format (which resembles an xml file with base64 encoded entries iirc) where a search will reveal something.vdoc:somepage on a search term… taking you right to the page in the document where your search term was found AND highlighting the first occurance.

  1. For extra security, make a backup of your DT file on a separate drive. Then open DTP and import your original DT file. In my experience, DTP did not alter or erase the DT file, just copied it. After I began using DTP, it had so many new features that I rarely went back to my DT file.

  2. Earlier I erred in referring to an alpha version. Wrong–I tested the private beta, and now the public beta is available to all. In 18+ months, I had only one problem with data, resolved when I did a rebuild. Your data should be safe.

  3. One nice feature of DTP is that you may create databases for different purposes and projects, all stored in your user Documents folder. I keep a duplicate of that folder on an external FW drive, updated with nightly backups.

Response to Howarth: Being able to export rich text with tables and figures to Word and Pages is very desirable because creating such material in DT is so convenient in an interactive group session. Using DT in a group session is great because of the ease and speed of switching among items in the browser. Working the other direction (creating in Word, then exporting to DT) is easy, but also not the point. Thus, I strongly urge the DT folks to generalize the “Word format” so that it includes figures present in exported DT documents.