Is DT good for learning?

I’ve got DT 2 and I dipped my toe in the water with it to manage personal files (like bank statements) but I abandoned that – I think I decided it was overkill and I just use the file system and Hazel to rename and sort.

More recently I’m using it to store notes about some technology stuff I’m learning with an online course.
I’ve got folders for each subject and week. In there I store the lecture handouts which accompany the videos. I add my own notes to these. And I’ve created or found useful summaries which I throw in. There are also folders for assignments.

I feel I should be using tags for topics, but haven’t. Of course when one is being presented with new material its sometimes hard to know what the tags should be!
I find the thing I use most is the search box.

One of my big frustrations is I prefer diagrams like mind maps or other visual things to learn or summarise ideas.
Plus, when I learn I find I take notes on paper, which then just sit in my paper notebooks.

A facility of my ideal tool would allow me to have mind maps, with some of the nodes scanned handwritten notes, other nodes other files, other nodes just plain text – and the whole thing searchable.

Should I persevere with DT – and upgrade to 3? What features would be useful?
Are there any example databases to look at ?

AND – I’m also studying languages (Spanish at an intermediate level, and one day I’ll get back to basic German) and pretty much all the same applies for learning grammar. (For learning vocabulary I already use a dedicated tool that works reasonably well).

Any thoughts appreciated.

Welcome @Kazza

  1. If you are going to continue with DEVONthink, yes you should upgrade to DEVONthink 3. The 2.x line is in maintenance now, i.e., only receiving critical bugfixes for things like crashes on launch. Also, 3 is far superior in many ways.
  2. Don’t use tags if they don’t fit your way of thinking. Tags, like many things in DEVONthink, are optional. Some people use many; some use none. There’s no right or wrong to it.
  3. DEVONthink doesn’t support internal mind-mapping, but you can preview mindmap files from minmapping applications that provide a QuickLook plugin. Here’s an example with MindNode…

And one from Scapple…

4. There are no example databases available, but I would suggest reading the Help > Documentation > Getting Started chapter in DEVONthink 3’s manual.

Hi Kazza!
I find Devonthink fantastic for curating learning material into collections. If a video / text note / pdf / etc is relevant for various learning topics, you can replicate it into any relevant group. You can also replicate sub-groups into other larger groups and create a very dynamic curriculum.

In DT3 you have custom metadata, which opens up tons of classification criteria that’s totally up to you how to use. Another thing that is new in DT3 is that you can see an outline of all the groups a file is stored in along with its location path structure - in the instances section of the info pane. You can easily navigate to them by clicking on any chosen group:

The tag pane is another great feature for navigating learning resources, as it incrementally filters any desired database or group to reflect your selection of tags. The tags size reflect how many notes are tagged:


The use of smart groups is also very useful, for example to keep track of any learning material on a given topic that is both important and that you’re struggling with.

Smart group

And if your learning materials are geographically related, you can browse them by location:

I also think that a native canvas to browse files in DT would be awesome, and a visualisation of links even more so. For the time being, in addition to @BLUEFROG suggestions, you can have a look at Raskin for Mac 2, which is fantastic for visualising the file system (in DT this would work better for indexed files).

Also, Devonthink integrates well with Tinderbox, which has extensive visualisation options. You can drag and drop from DT to Tinderbox and a URI link to DT is automatically added for each document.

DT3 has a generous trial period. I’d deffinitely recommend you to check it out and read the documentation. The ebook “Take control of Devonthink 3” is free and worth checking out - you can also find it in the handbooks and extras section of the website.

The tags pane? I seem to have missed something of interest - how do you get to it?

Tools > Filters as discussed in Help > Documentation > Windows > Sidebar: Filters.

Thanks! I use tags quite a bit. Quite absurd of me not to have noticed the filters feature.

The shortcut tag icon is handy, too.

You’re welcome

I’ve also revisited Devonthink’s email import features. All of a sudden, DT just got more important to my workday.

So cool, seeing an old friend in new light.

It happens to me all the time.

Thanks Bluefrog and Eds for your comments. I will download DT3 and investigate further. (Just got to make sure I dont spend so much time playing w DT that I dont do my actual work!).


Off topic for this thread, but is it possible to run DT3 in trial mode – its insisting on a licence code.

The trial runs for 150 non-consecutive hours or 30 days. Did you already burn through your trial?

Well I did download it in December, but never – as far as I can remember – even start it up, let alone use it. For the past 2 months I’ve just been using DT2. I’ve downloaded DT3 again now as its a later version. I guess the clock started running in Dec.

Only if the app was at least launched once, the time of the download doesn’t matter.

I you’re going for the visualization aspect Curio is worth a look. I have both Curio and Tinderbox, though I use them for different things. Curio is like the iPhone to Tinderbox’s android in the sense that Curio is sleeker more polished plenty of bells and whistles but what you see is what you get. You’re always going to be locked into the limitations of apples iOS operating system, whereas the android is essentially wide open for you to tweak to your hearts content, which can be a blessing and a curse almost too much choice and a steeper learning curve though with the potential for way more payoff if you’re willing. To invest the time and energy into becoming proficient in using it.

Curio also has the added benefit of being able to sync with calendar and reminders and is able to act as a project manager in addition to all its visualization tools which includes Kanban style boards, lists, mindmaps, notecards etc. Both pieces of software are The love child of highly responsive developers who are aS much a part of the long standing and helpful user forums As the users are.