Need some help to get more out of DT

Hi everyone,

I bought DT Personal about a year ago, and I am finding that I am not getting much out of it.

As a Ph.D. student in the humanities, I hoped that I would be able to keep my dissertation research, PDFs, notes and existing texts together in order to have more of an overview and get a better grip on my project. This hasn’t proved to be the case.

I’m using Word as an editor, Endnote as a bibliographic suite, Firefox as a browser, OmniOutliner as an outliner and Google Desktop as a search engine. I am also using Skim as a PDF editor. I will switch to Mellel the day the integration with Word is better, and I will switch to Sente, the day they introduce proper humanities citation styles. I will also switch to Safari as soon as they implement a bookmark sidebar, which I can’t live without. Meanwhile, that’s my setup.

I would really like some advice on how I could get more out of DT. Currently, I am only using it as a Finder replacement, i.e. as a database for my notes. And for that, I don’t find it that useful. I only have a few hundred note files, in Word and in DT, and those I might as well keep in the finder. Also, for note taking, I find the UI of DT not the most appealing. It’s not enough of an editor to do real writing, and it’s not enough of a notebook-feel in order to just jot down ideas. Also, the integration with Firefox isn’t that great. If I want to save a URL, I am better off bookmarking it in the browser because then I can at least label the URL, whereas DT won’t allow me to do that.

Anyhow, this is in no way to criticize DT. I am aware that I’m probably not using the software in the most efficient and intelligent manner, and that’s why I am writing, hoping that someone on the forums could help me get more out of it.

So - for instance - how do others use the indexing function in DT? I have found that function to be less useful than I hoped. I had expected that I would be able to index my entire research folders (on the hard disk), so if I save the current Word document I am working on under a new name, DT would keep track of that. This doesn’t seem to be possible (or at least I don’t know how).

Thanks ,

P.S. Just to add another note: since most of the PDFs I am using come from JSTOR and thus they are image files, the whole AI functionality of DT seems to be lost on them. That is a major disappointment to me, because it means that to classify and search these files, I have to rely on the file names. And for that, I don’t need DT. Spotlight or Google Desktop will do the trick and will also find them if I forget to add them to the DT database.

I can kind of give you my usage scenario, but the biggest difference will be the fact that I use DT Prof Office. Off hand, not sure of the differences in feature sets between Personal and Professional Office, but here’s how I use PO:

  1. Indexing. You asked: well, every single journal article that I have is in my database (indexed, actually). At present, that’s just under 1700 articles and sitting at just over 700MB. Fully indexed, which means I make good use of DTPO’s search features. I don’t use AI.

  2. Repository of various pdfs, reports, papers, and anything. It’s all in my database, and of course fully searchable. It’s getting to the point where my database if my first stop if I’m looking for something, not google. On some topics anyway.

  3. As a writing tool. Believe it or not, I actually do quite a bit of my writing with it. I find using a simple rich text document is perfectly fine for just raw text, so no formatting, etc. I tried it once a few months ago and now do article reviews, proposals, notes for grad students, and teaching plans right in DTPO.

  4. As a web archive. Granted, I don’t archive that many webpages, but quite often I do snag a webarchive for posterity, and it’s usually because I want a full mock-up of the page itself for teaching reasons. Which leads me to…

  5. A massive archive of newspaper clippings. My field is rapidly changing, so I spend at least an hour a day sifting through RSS feeds of newspapers and google news search sets and pulling into DTPO newspaper items. I use NetNewsWire for my RSS feeds and it integrates with DTPO quite nicely. I highlight the text, CTRL - F8 brings down my Applescript menu, I select “Copy selection to…” and I pick the folder within my database where I would like the webclipping stored. I then copy the URL and paste it into wherever that clipping was stored. Would really like to automate that last part, but for now it works quite well. As a result, I’ve got an absolutely huge amount of information, so much so that I can easily trace the evolution of an issue/problem/topic. This comes in exceptionally handy for teaching, to be sure, but also if I’m asked to comment on a matter by the media and I need to quickly get myself up to speed (again).

  6. Conferences - I use my database to manage conference attendance, including planning, all my travel itineraries and details and, when it’s over, the conference CD gets imported into the database.

  7. General notes - like many, I suspect, I use it for quick notes that I can come back to later if need be.

Hope this helps. As a full-time academic and part-time consultant, I’m using DTPO quite a bit, but I know there are some power users here who make more use of some of the advanced features it has to offer.

In DT Pro Office your PDFs, including the ones from JSTOR, are searchable and classifiable by the AI.

Thanks, chatoyer and historydoll,

I have a trial version of DT Office Pro, and while I think the idea of the OCR functionality is great, in practice, scanning a single article takes about 15 minutes on my 2Ghz Intel Macbook with 2 GB RAM. But I suppose that might be worthwhile, given that in the future, most PDF articles will likely contain the text layer.

On the usage scenario: so far, I have used DT as a database for my own notes. The advantage has been that when I am looking for some of my own notes, I can find them immediately. Now, just to try it out, I’ve indexed my collection of about 800 PDF articles (about 100 of which are image-only). Now, when I search for my own notes, they are lost amidst dozens of other results. How do people work around that?

Here are some specific questions I have for chatoyer:

When you use DT as a web archive, how do download the page? I’ve found it cumbersome to download the page in Firefox (or sitesucker), then save it on my desktop, and then file it away. Too many steps involved, when what I would like is a quick way to file things away. Do you use Safari? This may well be quicker because then you have the Service menu, which doesn’t work for FF. Or do you use scripts?

That sounds like an interesting use. Is there any way to link DT to iCal? I tend to have all my travel arrangements in iCal because I need to have an overview of the calendar. This would also be helpful for project management with various deadlines and the like.

Finally, I have been considering using DT as an email archive. I have tens of thousands of messages in Apple Mail, which slows down the application quite a bit. Does anyone have experience using DT as an email archive? Or do people recommend MailSteward or other mail archiving applications?

Thanks for some more help!


I generally use FF and the scripts that come with DTPO. One of them is “Add webarchive to Devon Think”. Here’s a screenshot of how it looks: … re2ma0.jpg

For me, it’s a matter of invoking that drop down menu you see by using CTRL-F8 and then selecting (using my arrow keys) what I want. Quite quick. As I said, I don’t archive full website all that often. More often than not I use “Copy selection to…” as you’ll see here:

Not sure - I use Entourage (for my sins!)

I neglected to mention that I use it for email archiving. It’s not bad, but not quite at the level of search power that I used to find when I used Copernic Desktop Search a few years ago even as a Windows user. If you search around these forums, you’ll find the odd complaint re: sorting email archive or searching. I do use it, and I tend to find things I need, but I have to say it is the one area of DTPO that I am least satisfied with. I’m hoping for improvements in version 2.0, which is quite likely from what I’ve read around here.

Hope this helps - feel free to ask anything else -


I use DTPro, so this might not apply.

The search field in the toolbar is useful only for quick searches.

The search function accessed via Apple+Shift+F is far more useful. I have all my “Sources” separate from the content I create (ie, in a different root folder), so I can easily restrict the search to one group or another and get only stuff I’ve written (or haven’t).

Thanks, chatoyer and kalisphoenix for your inputs!

I am testing Pro Office and now I understand why the scripts are so useful. :bulb: I hadn’t realized before how one can quickly automate these workflows. I’ve used Spark to create some hotkeys for the scripts and it works great.

Is there a way to unclutter the Scripts menu? I’ve been able to clean up the Services menu with Service Scrubber. Is there sth similar for the scripts? Or is there a way to get the DT Pro scripts to the top of the menu?

I’ve used Service Scrubber to assign more intuitive hotkeys to the DT Services. But in some applications these are overridden by the native actions in the applications. Is there a way to tell OS X that the DT hotkeys are global and that they must take precedence?

I will probably upgrade to Pro Office for the scripting and the OCR functionality. Currently, I am testing it with a new database that I just created. But actually, I would like to import my existing DT database into Pro Office, just to try it out. How do I do that? When I try to open an existing database in Pro Office (File>Open Database) my DT database (in Library>Application Support>Devonthink) shows up in gray and I can’t select it.

I also had another question regarding chatoyer’s newsclipping workflow: I’ve been trying out Netnewswire as a RSS reader and find it much better than Firefox. Is there a script for NNW that can add a web archive to DT Pro? What I’ve found is that I’d much rather archive entire news articles including images etc, rather than the RSS teaser, which is often not very informative.

Thanks a lot!

Hmm…about the only question I can intelligently answer is your last one re: NetNewsWire. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a script from NNW that allows for a web archive to be captured, actually. There is one script called “Add news to DEVONthink” and I just tried it (for the first time!). It adds whichever news item you’re looking at (i’m using the combined view) to the top level of DTPO. It does pull down the images, but not the formatting of the webpage itself. In essence, it’s how it is rendered in NNW, if that makes any sense.

If I’ve ever needed a full webpage archived, I just open in Firefox.

I use eaglefiler for archiving mail. I found DTP’s solution wanting.

You can batch OCR the pdf’s in DTP’s database while you sleep, assuming there are no issues with the process, it would be a time saver.

. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a script from NNW that allows for a web archive to be captured, actually.

Try this:

– Specify your default incoming group name
property pDestinationGroup : “–Inbox”

tell application “NetNewsWire”
set savedURL to “”
set savedTitle to “”
set userTab to (index of selected tab)
if (userTab is greater than 0) then
set tabURLs to (URLs of tabs)
set tabTitles to (titles of tabs)
– may fail if the targeted tab is, for instance, empty
set savedURL to (item (userTab + 1) of tabURLs)
set savedTitle to (item (userTab + 1) of tabTitles)
end try
set myHeadline to “”
set myHeadline to selectedHeadline
if (isFake of myHeadline) is equal to false then
set savedURL to URL of myHeadline
set savedTitle to title of myHeadline
end if
end if

tell application "DEVONthink Pro"
	set incomingGroup to create location pDestinationGroup
	set archive to create record with {name:savedTitle, type:html, URL:savedURL} in incomingGroup
	set data of archive to download web archive from savedURL
end tell

end tell

Thanks rolian, chatoyer and milhouse for your responses,

rolian: your script is outstanding. thank you so much for sharing it!

milhouse: thanks for the suggestion about batch-OCR. what do you prefer about eaglefiler’s mail archiving solution?

Can anyone help me out regarding the transition from DT to Pro Office. How do I get my old database from DT Personal to open in Pro Office? Can I just rename it and give it a .dtbase extension?

The first time you launch DT Pro or DT Pro Office it should copy and convert your DT Personal database, saving the converted database in your Documents folder.

Yes, you can rename a DT Personal database, adding the extensions “.dtBase” to convert it to a DT Pro database package file.

Thanks, Bill. For some reason DT Pro Office behaves funny. It always starts without a database, even though I’ve opened a test db and set it as the default. Is this because I am using both DT Personal and DT Pro Office at the moment? What do I need to do to get Pro Office to behave normally? Would it help to do a new installation? Or would getting rid of DT Personal do the trick? I am still testing Pro Office but I am most probably upgrading.

Running two DT applications at the same time can confuse Services and scripts, and isn’t recommended.

Remove DT Personal from the Applications folder and restart your computer. If DT Pro Office continues to open without a database, even though one is set as the default, try a reinstallation.

This is becoming more of a support issue than a usage scenario…

I followed your advice, but it still doesn’t work. Then, I deleted DT Pro Office and DT Personal using Appdelete, deleted the scripts in the Script folder and the Settings file in the Library>Application Support>Devonthink folder and restarted. Then I reinstalled DT Pro. It still starts w/o database.

Did I miss some other preference files or some cache? Even after I reinstalled it, DT Pro still automatically recognized the licence number and all my preferences were set as before.

Load the database that you wish to be the default one.

Select File > Database Properties and check the option to make this the default database.

Quit and relaunch DT Pro. Did the database open?

Hello again -

I tried to PM Bill since I thought this was getting too detailed for a public forum.

I finally got DTPO to start up with a database, but only after deleting every single DT component from the hard disk and running ONYX to clean all the caches. No idea what this strange fluke was.

In any case, when I reinstalled DTPO, the scripts were not re-installed. Is there a way that I can download them from somewhere (or could someone email them to me) so that I can install them manually? It would probably not have been necessary to delete them, but I figured it’s sometimes best to do a complete fresh install of all components. Don’t know why they weren’t installed again.

I did get your personal message about the scripts and responded that DT Pro Office doesn’t install the scripts for handling email that are installed by DT Pro, but if other scripts also were not installed, that indicates Ownership & Permissions errors in your user Library. For example, your Preferences folder should allow you to make changes, and so should have Read & Write permission. If it were incorrectly set to read-only, you would not be able to make changes. The same for the Scripts folder in your user Library, and for the Application Support folder.

Such errors can be corrected manually in the Finder, by selecting a folder and correcting the permissions using the Info panel.

I don’t know why or how your user Library got erroneous settings – the DT application certainly had nothing to do with that.

EagleFiler preserves a more mail-like UI interface and structure (i.e. Subject, To, From, Date, Account etc) than did DTP, IMO.


It may be that my user library has erroneous settings, but frankly, all the other applications are performing well. It’s just DTPO that is unstable. It’s crashed on me multiple times over the past few days, once when converting multiple PDFs to searchable PDFs and a couple of times over importing a webarchive from Firefox. I have the crash reports if anyone cares to see them. Since the crash during the OCR, DTPO won’t convert my remaining PDFs to searchable ones.

It’s a pity, because I really love the OCR functionality and the great scripts that allow me to import archives from Firefox. Are these instabilities in the application common or am I the only one suffering from repeated crashes?