Is Devonthink Pro more power than I need (user scenario)

Hi everyone,

I’m a newbie to Mac, to Devonthink, and to this forum. I thought maybe you could help me understand some things about the usefulness of Devonthink Pro.

I’ve downloaded a trial, and I have created a few databases to play with. I really like how the system allows me to file things in hierarchies. I don’t have enough information in the databases yet to fully understand the usefulness of “See Also,” but I think I see its potential.

I’ve tried Yojimbo (nice interface, no hierarchies), EagleFiler (buggy), and Together (buggy). I like the simplicity of those programs because I am a Mac newbie, but I like the power of Devonthink. I’m just not sure I need all that power or can use it effectively

I am a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. I do research and writing (though actually getting anything published is another matter). I have a school email account and a couple of private email accounts. My office is a mess–I’m a piler rather than a filer. I need a place to put things, though I’m not sure I’m enough of a “power user” type that I would really need to get Devonpro Office. Plus, everything at my office is PC based. I’ve purchased Circus Ponies Notebook for research, but I’m not sure it’s what I want for storing documents.

Okay, so that’s the (overly long) gist. I guess I’m struggling with whether or not I need something as powerful Devonthink Pro. Any suggestions would be welcomed.


You’re unlikely to ever outgrow DevonThink. You easily could outgrow the other programs you mention.

FWIW, in less than two years I’ve accumulated nearly a gigabyte of material in two different DT databases. My databases aren’t particularly large by DT standards, but I’m pretty sure that amount of material would eat Yojimbo for breakfast. (Haven’t tried the other programs you mention.)

In my experience, the value of DT is hard to see in a brief trial. But once you start using it for real, and giving it truly massive quantities of data, it quickly becomes indispensable.


I’m at med school and have every PDF I get stored in DTPO (2,5-3GB file) and am using it for my dissertation. At times I tend to live in DTPO and looking at my fellow students using Windows trying to keep their PDF-collection in order just makes me smile.
Before you know it, you’ll be wondering how you made do without it!

I was initially attracted to Yojimbo because of its iTunes/iPhoto-like Library, but found it too limited and restrictive in other ways. No hierarchical organization, as you mentioned, and no user-definable Smart Collections.

When I tried EagleFiler it was sluggish (especially launching) on my 2GHz iMac G5, maybe because parts of it use python. It claims:

• Like iTunes and iPhoto, EagleFiler keeps your data in a library.
• Tag sources behave like playlists in iTunes or albums in iPhoto.

Those comparisons with iTunes/iPhoto seem kind of stretched. Unlike iT/iP, EF’s library is essentially a file/folder structure, which didn’t appeal to me. And tag sources can’t be hierarchically organized; iT/iP have playlist/album “folders” (a misused term for them, IMO). Not sure how buggy it is, though Michael Tsai was responsive to issues (not too serious) I reported during testing. More potential than Yojimbo but not enough to sway me from DEVONthink Pro.

Together has some appealing “iTunes/iPhoto for documents”-style features but it’s definitely buggy. Tried it about a month ago for the first time since it was renamed from KIT and within 15 minutes I’d discovered at least a half dozen problems without any effort. Plus it was much too slow on my wife’s 1.25GHz eMac (our only Leopardized Mac, for now) with barely any data. 'Tis unfortunate the implementation is relatively fragile, compared to DTP that I can punch in the mouth without breaking its teeth.

I’m mostly a piler (at least initially), as my wife will attest to. Piles have more visually diverse cues for me, making them easier to put and find certain things in than attempting more formal filing/organizing strategies. Some piles can eventually migrate to files, though. How that’s applicable to DTP in a moment.

I’ve purchased Notebook, too. Still more in the tinkering than productive stages with it. I wouldn’t consider it a replacement for DEVONthink. I’m satisfied with it as a robust note taking app (it’s primary intended usage?), not expecting it to be a general “digital shoebox” like I mostly use my main DTP database for. I’ve got several smaller, more purposeful, well organized databases, too.

DTP still does a pretty good job at simultaneously catering to my piler, filer, and clutter tendencies towards information (dis)organization simultaneously. For too long I let its hierarchical structure get in my way, but eventually created fewer groups that now work more comfortably like piles. Some information I still prefer more strictly filed/organized, either within my main database or in separate ones. And there’s the clutter that either doesn’t seem to belong anywhere or isn’t enough of a priority to pile/file.

Another thing I really like about DTP (e.g. compared with the aforementioned apps) is the different views. Those help support the database-within-a-database usage of my main database.

And there’s comfort in knowing that if something’s in DTP it’s usually a matter of moments to find it, regardless of its age, content, or location.

Downsides? I still wish DTP were closer to the iTunes/iPhoto Library and playlist/album method of storage and organization (which is one Yojimbo, have been temptations). Treat all documents like they’re contained in a single library, hiding any hierarchical storage it might use (unlike EagleFiler); DT’s History window view comes close. Treat groups more like virtual hierarchy-supporting iT/iP playlists, with documents they contain behaving like aliases (Finder terminology) or replicants (DEVONthink terminology); sort of a superior form of Finder’s Burn Folders. Add a flexible layer of virtual organization for documents that doesn’t rely on or normally expose any underlying file/folder storage, which is something I love about iTunes/iPhoto (that other people hate). Being able to create and destroy different organizational structures without caring about the physical location of the data (other than knowing it’s safely stored somewhere in the Library until explicitly, intentionally deleted) would be usability bliss for me with DTP. DTP 1.x databases have that kind of backend, but their frontend group/document hierarchies aren’t virtualized from the user’s perspective.

I’ll wrap this up (finally!) with thumbs up to Katherine’s post. :slight_smile:

Wow! Thanks for the very helpful replies. You guys are great!

I must admit that after saying Eaglefiler was “buggy” I realized that the bugs were, well, my own. I thought that it had failed to download some of my files, when, in fact, they were there, I just didn’t understand how they were organized. So, apologies to EF.

One more question (hopefully this isn’t considered rude): How can one justify the high price tag of DT, especially DT Pro Office? EF archives email (though I don’t know about the scanner function since I doubt I’ll ever use a scanner), and it’s only $40 (about $27 with educator’s discount). DT Pro is $79 (around $50 with educator’s discount) and Pro Office is $149 (around $100 with educator’s discount).

Thanks again for all your help.


The OCR function in DTPO is what adds to the cost. AFAIK it’s a licensed product from another company.

Readiris run $130 if you buy it alone.

It’s worth it to be able to OCR and make scanned documents searchable. I’ll be honest, when I have a stack of papers, I can never find anything. I’ve just borrowed a buddy’s scanner and I’m scanning my old papers dating back to the 1990s (I used to print out everything when my internet connection was unreliable and harddrive storage was expensive). When I’m done, I’ll be able to use search to find papers I’ve lost track of.

DevonThink has a generous trial period and you can also ask for an extension on top of that. Try it out and see if it works for you.

Good Luck!

Susan, just a suggestion: there are a few applications that are a real nice supplement to DEVONthink: Yep, Leap and Skim. I use them in my workflow together with DT. I am a linguist, working at the Royal Library of Belgium and have thousands of articles (pdf), web captures and an e-mail archive of approximately 24,000 messages.

That raises a couple of questions in my mind. Eaglefiler imports PDFs that have been annotated with Skim, retaining the annotations. Does Devonthink do that? Also, Yep seems to duplicate what Pro Office does (i.e. the ability to scan PDFs into the database). Forgive me if I’m missing something obvious–I really am a total newbie.


Not yet, if it ever will. This is a commonly-requested feature with an active thread with strong debate between people who want Skim support and people who demand Skim support.

Yep, from what I understand, is a very nice program. However, so far as I know it does not offer OCR for transforming scanned images into scanned images with searchable text. Also, it does not allow the file formats that DTP allows; I think it is only for PDFs.

I like writing and researching in the same app, so Yep doesn’t work for me.

No worries. :slight_smile:

Btw, you can search for Skim to easily find discussions about it that kalisphoenix mentioned.