Is DevonThink worth my money for my use case? Need feedback before purchasing!

I want to improve my knowledge work, so I need help in order to understand whether DevonThink is worth my money or not.

This is my use case…

I’m a CyberPsychologist.
I’m not a researcher, but I’m a knowledge worker, so I heavily search the Web for information I use for my professional activity: classes, teachings, webinars, YouTube channel and other social media.

I use many media: academic papers, blogs, videos, podcasts, etc…
They may stay on my Mac or on their websites.

Along with it, I use Feed RSS to get information from my favored channels (I use right now).

I need a tool that allows me to take note in an easy way and link the notes to the related content.

The other feature is it must be easy to look for past information and connections among such information.

I have a System right now that is based on a customized Zettelkasten method.
I use Apple Notes for note taking, and I simply store the other media into iCloud and its folders.

I want to refine my System, since storing lot of information and retrieving it after some time (even 2-3 years) is becoming a little pain.
I’m looking for a way or tool that allows me to fasten the process in order to focus on the creation step of my activity.

What do you think of DevonThink?

Thank you for your feedback, and sorry for the long read.


You can make use of Devonthink’s generous free trial period to get some actual hands-on experience

Devonthink is the best choice for my use
I have over 20,000 notes; organized using the Tag feature
I enhance the Devonthink featureset using scripting (Applescript)

Devonthink provides various note editors, or you can use your own external editor
I use the wysiwyg formatted note editor (html format);
the Markdown editor seems to be the most popular


Your use case is similar though not exactly the same as mine in medicine.

I think it is a perfect use for Devonthink.

Curio is an alternative if you want more of a pretty graphical output for presentations but its ability to search is not as good.

Tinderbox is an alternative if you are a power-user and want to use their internal scripting language to organize your content; but the learning curve is much larger than Devonthink and still its searching capabilities are not as good.

Hard for me to think of anything superior to Devonthink for what you describe.


I will say one thing regarding expense. In relative terms I don’t think DEVONthink 3 costs a lot. I don’t want to do the banal ‘cups of coffee’ comparison. In my view it is underpriced.

Trial periods are tricky too, I didn’t find I had really discovered DEVONthink 3’s power during the trial period. I didn’t until I was a couple of years in really. I just used it to put stuff initially, I liked the feel of it somehow and had some ‘jumps’ in the use. The key, for me, was to use it a lot, keep everything one cans in there and not get too fussy but rely on the search and AI as it were. I don’t take a ‘high tech’ approach to it, I take a dump it and look for it approach and let the app do the work for me: hard to explain in words.

I will say that I use Houdah Spot with is and find nearly every search is successful through that for me now that it can ‘read’ DEVONthink 3.
I have one complaint with DEVONthink 3 , really that is what would I do if it became neglect ware or was abandoned or sold even. I don’t think it would survive being sold and incorporated, even by Apple.


You may find more uses for Devonthink than you predict. I think I got it for storing and searching financial records. It’s proven useful for correspondence campaigns, creative writing, journaling, and other stuff.

If I have more than just a few files flying in close formation, DT becomes favored over disk folders pretty quickly.

For me, the most powerful feature in DT is tags. In most applications, tags just add an attribute to a file.

DT’s tags can be used as mere attributes, of course, but you can also use tags to create alternate classifications.

If you don’t know whether to group your notes by date, by alliance, by world leader, or by battle, then use all four. Put your notes in groups by date, with tag trees for world leaders, alliances, and battles. Forget that the tags are tags, navigate them like you would browse through groups (folders). You can browse any hierarchy you want.

Or, maybe replication is the coolest thing. If a note belongs in three places, put it in one place and replicate it to the other two. All three instances are now identical. Edit one, all are changed. Delete the one you think of as original, the other two survive.

Devonthink is also very reliable.


I agree wholeheartedly.

I’ve let on what I think about DEVONthink in the past, so I won’t repeat myself. To add to what I said at the time, and have said in unrelated posts since then, however: I entrust my data to DEVONthink because I can retrieve it at any time without using DT (DT does not use proprietary formats for storing records), because it is stored locally, can be synced locally, because DEVONtech keep up with ever-changing conditions, because it can be adapted to a variety of use cases. And, to be quite honest, because I trust DEVONtech; I’m not a particularly trusting person, and for me DEVONtech has succeeded in ticking the right boxes (says the anonymous person in the interwebs to the cyber-psychologist; interesting world, isn’t it?)

What you have described to me sounds just like a typical use case for DT. Whilst I agree that the trial will not tell you all (this is a professional piece of software; it is powerful and complex) - if only because of use case drift - taking the trial is still a valuable step (so I didn’t; well, not quite true, I was so convinced by what I read and saw that I actually used the DT3 beta and purchased the finished product the moment I could). The one thing which I could image you might initially slip up on is linking between records. Whilst there are numerous ways to do so, there is no menu entry “link record A to B”; you will actually need to decide how you link records - based, I think, on personal preferences. So that could be by adding links to other records in the metadata, replicating records to groups and thus grouping records which belong together, by tagging, using Hook and so on.

Many paths will lead to your goal when using DEVONthink. Which path you use is something of a personal thing - it may be worth just adding some data and playing. Don’t try to integrate everything and link it all up in the first week - give yourself time to figure what best suits your needs. Well, that’s my kind of unsolicited advice, anyway.

I remain amazed by the quality of both the software and the support offered by DEVONtech and its user base here on the forum. The software is worth many times what I paid for it. I use it daily in my professional life, as a volunteer in disaster relief and in my private life. Oh, and because someone has to be that boring guy: don’t forget backups, whatever software you end up using.


That was interesting, I like to hear ‘takes’.
I have to be honest I hadn’t realized really that the stuff was not proprietary for storage. I just hadn’t thought about it really one way or the other.
I use Ulysses though I nearly dropped it because of ‘proprietry’ but I can always seem to be able to read sheets outside the app. I will test it out sometime. I do have a lot of Ulysses sheets in DEVONthink 3 and it sort of works across the apps. A lot of the time now stuff is opaque to me even at the user level and I don’t think about it. I should check that.
One of the things that all this has changed for me, funny enough since you jokingly mentioned back up, is my back up schedule. I used to have every important doc, which was all that mattered to me, in Documents and I used to often just back that up: routine backups now and again for the system but they didn’t really have much function. Now I need to be sure my whole set up is backed up because of how stuff is distributed.

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I used to use Ulysses but a few bugs they never fixed waved me away. I use IA Writer as a Markdown editor with DEVONthink (Ulysees uses the Textbundle format, but is locked into it’s own silo, and Textbundle I find messy for interoperation as it’s a directory, rather than a single file). IA Writer is keenly priced and a one-off purchase.
As for backups - DT works seamlessly with Timemachine, and it’s syncing features mean I have at least two full backups on mobile devices using DTTG. I’ve been able to reconstruct my mac database from the mobile one when things went horribly wrong once.
The other underappreciated feature of DT is the ability to ‘index’ arbitrary directories on your mac, which get synced to mobile versions (without having to explicitly put them into a cloud storage provider) - these get synced back to your mac filing system if you change them in any of DT and DTTG. It’s a really lovely way to make arbitrary directories mobile, as DTTG is exposed on iOS as a standard location in anything that uses the Files-app style document providers. I can edit Mindnode documents without having to store them in Mindnode’s own sync store, for example, which means I can spatter them throughtout my DT database as visual indexes for different sections. And as DT gives each file, tag, and group a unique DT URL, I can make other documents reference those URLS and they open on both desktop and mobile versions seamlessly - this is another amazing feature.

Really an unparalleled set of capabilities. And this isn’t even touching the rest of what DT can do.


Thank you all for your replies and your feedback.
After reading your answers I opted for giving DT a try.
Let’s see how useful is for my research and my content creation :wink:


What bugs are you speaking of in Ulysses?

Ach, it’s a while ago now. They were to do with command line invocations of Ulysses and it’s inability to open an arbitrary file to an editing window - it seemed to skip it’s own command line flags, which made integration with my editing workflow impractical. I filed the reports, paid up my first year subscription (after the initial purchase) and nothing happened. Noped out, as they say, and have been inordinately happy with iAWriter ever since.

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@IvanPsy - please post your experiences. Also, if things don’t seem like they should be, there’s likely an easy cure. I’ve been using DT for years, and I keep finding new ways to use it.


@DTLow can you share what wysiwyg formatted note editor that you use with DT? I am looking for an external wysiwyg formatted note editor that can work well with DT.

I’m using DT’s internal wysiwyg formatted note editor
For extended features, I use an external text editor (Textastic) and directly edit the html code

I use Nisus Writer Pro as an RTF editor if I have a long note to type or I want more formatting than is practical in the Apple RTF engine. Works great.

For Markdown, the built-in Markdown support does what I need. I have BBEdit, and have used a couple of different Markdown editors in the past - iaWriter, Markdown Composer, and maybe something else.

Many things are possible. Right now I’m playing with using MindNode as a visual overview. Imagine a mind map with nodes. Each node in a MindNode mind map has a link, which can point to a Devonthink tag.

It has possibilities. I think I’ll expand in a different thread.


Thank you all for your feedback!
After reading your replies I searched for videos and tutorials I’ve found the concept of DT3 as “data management system”.
Worth exploring, though I’ll research how DT3 may add more value than other Apps such as Finder, Apple Notes and similars.
But maybe it will be on another thread :wink:

Automation, AI, smart groups, detailed search, scripting, custom metadata, replication (as opposed to duplication) to name just some added value off the top of my head.


Automation, AI, smart groups, detailed search, scripting, custom metadata, replication (as opposed to duplication) to name just some added value off the top of my head.

I’m at the beginning and I’m already appreciating the replicate feature.
I have a “Resources” folder where I store all my reference files, then I have a “Project” folder.
You can think of a kind of PARA System.

So when I need a file for a Project (an image, an academic paper, etc…) I just replicate it.

As for AI and Automation my experience will be limited because I mainly work on DTTG, and on DT3 in the evening.

I’m not used to such advanced features as I’ve always used less features Apps.
I think I’ll discover their power along the way.


Devonthink’s tagging is worth the price of admission to me.

You can use tags like flags, which is all you get out of Finder tags, or you can leverage them as an alternate hierarchy. Tagging an item is sort of like automatically replicating it into the tag, which is pretty much a group.

Since tags are hierarchical, you can have multiple trees of categories. It’s cool.


What’s the use for the “Project folder”?

I have a tag for each project (Project-aaaaaaaaaa)
Any records connected to the project are assigned the specific project tag

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