Firstly, let me say that DEVONthink is an interesting application with great potential for use on writing projects: I won’t be using it until multiple databases are allowed, because the things I would use it for are too disparate, but I gather this is on the way. So I don’t want this posting to read as criticism.
The main thing I would like to use DEVONthink for is as a file organiser, a sort of iTunes-for-documents. This is more or less the "hoarder" scenario in the manual: I have a great many text files, PDFs and so forth, and what I want is not to search them simultaneously but to efficiently store, group, manage and read them. DEVONthink nearly does this perfectly, but only for relatively small archives, and I would like to suggest two features which would open the way to much larger ones.
(i) I’d like all files, not just images and PDFs, to be copied into the library area in an open way (so that the Finder can get at them if anything should go wrong). Ideally, they would be managed the way iTunes organises the contents of its own music folder, or indeed the way DEVONthink writes the files out when Export… is used, but it wouldn’t really matter how they were organised. Right now, if the database should be corrupted, it’s not obvious how to retrieve the data (though I must say DEVONthink does recover from errors very well).
(ii) I’d like an option for a DEVONthink database (when we have multiple databases) to be unindexed! This would be inappropriate for many projects and many users, so it should be off by default, but when it’s on, all files would be treated the way DEVONthink currently treats images: as binary files which can be displayed and whose titles can be searched, but which have no indexed interior.
Because you’re experts on indexing, and because DEVONthink does indexing very well, it may not occur to you that anyone would want this, but here’s why I suggest it. Inevitably, DEVONthink’s performance is bound to reduce as the archive grows larger - and we are all gathering steadily larger archives: if you’re a scientist, you pile up preprints at a frightening rate, and then there are all the computer manuals, and… On my iMac G4 (1 GHz, 512MB of RAM) a collection of about 6000 text and PDF files running to 500 MB pushed DEVONthink over some kind of performance limit, probably because physical RAM became too small - the program became very sluggish, and then took over half an hour to quit, so that in the end I had to force quit. Browsing the data was fine, but adding new files now took impossibly long: maybe ten minutes to add another 1MB of text.
I’m not complaining here - indexing and cross-referencing 500 MB of text is not a small task. A faster computer might have made it an easier task. But my point is that it’s a task I didn’t need. I wanted the organisation and presentation side of DEVONthink, the elegant browser and the hierarchical groups, but I didn’t need the ability to search within all files simultaneously. What I’m asking for is the chance to sacrifice this in return for very much better performance on large archives.
With this option, a text/PDF/whatever archive could be gigabytes in size without any significant performance hit, just as iTunes will happily manage 250GB of music because it is "only" 25,000 file references.
I’m guessing this would be an easy feature to add? As I say, it wouldn’t be for every project or every user, but as an option it would considerably add to the scope of what the program could be used for.