New user to new user- A few tips on getting started

I am a Dad, prosecutor and tech enthusiast. I find myself needing to have things like the most up-to-date version of the acetaminophen/ibuprofen dosage chart, latest ruling on search and seizure from an appellate court and that neat article on Hazel I just found online, right at hand. I was an Evernote “power user” but I finally had enough of the most common “external brain” app. I cancelled my subscription, and went all in with DTPO and DTTG. I’ve been in the DTPO ecosystem for a couple of weeks now and wanted to share some observations and tips from a new user for other new users.

Coming in from Evernote, I ended up setting up DTPO twice. The first time, I just began dumping things into DTPO, indexing folders, and syncing to all my devices with little to no planning and it caused a bit of headache. I was like a kid in the DTPO candy store and began trying to throw all my data in and implement all the amazing features at the same time. After a 24 hours of pain, I finally just stopped, deleted all databases, sync stores, apps, and started fresh and had a much better experience the second time around. So here are a few tips from a new user.

Have patience!

This is especially key if you are importing large amounts of data. I was importing a few thousand notes from Evernote, setting up sync stores, reorganizing notes and folders, and syncing on my iPad and iPhone through Dropbox and it caused a few problems! Take your time, I’d suggest importing your data into DTPO first, set up your sync stores, ensure that syncing to Dropbox, or where ever you syncing to, is complete, then start the sync to your mobile device. DTPO will throw up a status window showing you what its doing, uploading/downloading, removing obsolete items etc. Let an operation complete before cranking up a new one and don’t move large swaths of notes to different folders while other operations are ongoing. Note that setup and sync issues for me only occurred in the initial setup and it only occurred because I was tinkering with large amounts of data while everything was importing and syncing. I didn’t have any issues the second time around when I exercised a bit a patience. Also, daily usage with adding/deleting items and sync has been flawless for me so far.

Yes, there is a manual.

This is a great resource. It’s put together very well and should be the first stop in trying to figure things out. A PopClip extension is also on this page. If you aren’t using PopClip, you’re wrong! PopClip is a super simple app that will change how you work on a computer. Check out the Bookmarklets as well. Super helpful.


User forums are extremely helpful. Use the forum search before posting a new topic with a question/issue. Most of my questions/issues have been easily resolved by using forum search where another user has had the same question/issue.

Sort before you import (or index)-

Before doing a huge data import to DTPO, take the time to see if you need to reorganize things. If your organization system is sloppy and confusing in Evernote and you import into DTPO, it will still be sloppy and confusing in DTPO. Info will be much easier to find in DTPO than Evernote, but your data will not be magically organized right off the bat. Also, you’ll be trying to reorganize data in a new environment where things are a bit different. The second time around, I took the time to move some things in Evernote, combining folders with overlap and so on, and found that transitioning to DTPO was a bit easier.

The same principle applies to indexing (ahhh, indexing, the DTPO feature that I never knew existed but has changed my life!). Indexing a folder on your computer allows for DTPO to see the folder and files and display the actual content of the file in DTPO and allows for the content to show in DTPO search. Content of files and folders indexed will show up in a search with notes that are actually in DTPO database. I can also group notes in DTPO with a file that is stored in a folder on my computer. Just. Plain. Awesome.

When I began indexing, I realized how disorganized my folder structure had become. This disorganized folder structure was now what I saw in DTPO. I took the time to go back and sort through and clean up my folder structure and indexed the folder again. The result is that my actual folder structure and what is displayed in DTPO are the exact same and much improved. At first, I tried to reorganize the structure in DTPO and the actual folder itself and it just caused a headache.

Trust me, take the time to reorganize your data before you put it into DTPO.

Beware of websites telling you DTPO can’t do something.

I have found some wonderful websites and blogs that discuss DTPO. Even those that have been recently updated can contain outdated information along with awesome tips and tricks. The developers are constantly updating these apps so beware information from websites and blogs even if they appear to be up to date.

Nail down basic usage first

Many of my initial problems stemmed from trying to utilize every great feature as I found it. I remember setting up apps like Omnifocus, Hazel, Keyboard Maestro and Text Expander, I’d spend hours creating rules, macros and shortcuts that I never used. Same principle here. Get going with your standard workflows and once your comfortable, introduce and master a new feature at a time. Admittedly, I break this rule all the time, but hey, its not my fault DTPO has so many features to play with!

Importing from Evernote

The ability to import notes from Evernote is baked in (Thanks Developers!). It will give the option to select individual folders to import. I began importing one or two folders at a time with no problem. Finally, I selected several folders that contained a couple thousand notes for import. The import process started out blazingly fast, but eventually slowed to a crawl. This was more of an Evernote problem according to Activity Monitor as Evernote started to chew up my memory. I’d suggest importing a couple folders at a time rather than trying to import everything at once.

Hope this information is helpful to a fellow new user. If there are any glaring mistakes that I made, please feel free to correct me!

Nice article. Thanks! :stuck_out_tongue:

I would say “not necessarily” Why not use DEVONthink’s AI features (See Also and Classify, etc., in the Data menu? It’s a perfectly fine, and sanity-preserving, approach to import a lot of data into DEVONthink and over time prune, classify, and revise your structure. It’s also a perfectly fine approach to forget any semblance of hierarchy and merely use a combination of Smart Groups, Search, See Also to locate what you need on the fly. Think about it – is Google “organized”? Not in anyway a human would recognize, but when you search you generally find what you need. Same with DEVONthink. Some users have absolutely messy and horribly “organized” databases but find what they need first time every time – as well as finding connections and relationships that no amount of pruning and curation would locate. So, I’d say don’t bother organizing your stuff in the file system before using DEVONthink. Just dump it all in and have fun.

(BTW, you can reorganize indexed files but don’t go down that path until you are really confident you understand how indexing works and its limitations.)

Because I had no idea what that was and how to use it. :smiley: Thanks for the tip!

I don’t doubt DTPO’s ability to find what I need the first time every time, I do however doubt my ability to properly operate the program to find what I need the first time every time, especially in the beginning. While in Evernote, it paid to have things properly curated since search wasn’t a guarantee. Getting used to the excellent search in DTPO has been enjoyable.

Also, in testing See Also and Classify, I’m amazed at how adding a few key words to a note will cause the See Also and Classify sidebar to immediately populate groups for the note to go in!

Please feel free to point out any other areas where I’m missing the boat and thanks for taking the time to respond!

Check out Joe Kissel’s recently updated Take Control book.

@jargo940: Thanks for another outside perspective. :smiley:

These are two SUCH important points, and ones I try to get people to grasp.

  1. Use DEVONthink as you need to use it… but leave time for discovery.
    Many people treat DEVONthink like they’re trying to eat a seven course meal, but all the dishes at once. They end up choking and crying out, “TOO HARD!! STEEP LEARNING CURVE!!! I GIVE UP!!!" But take a bite of this or that, savor it, and enjoy it. Then proceed to the next entree. And yes, there’s dessert too. :mrgreen:
  2. The importance of starting over. After a year and a half in Support, I decided I was going to try a different approach to my main database. (I do the VAST majority of Support all in the confines of DEVONthink). I created some new databases, tested some new ideas, threw out some, kept others, etc. A database is just another tool. You can create and delete them at will. And sometimes, as you found, just starting over from scratch can be a great approach too!

Okay, after 1) realizing that importing directly from Evernote doesn’t actually save documents into DTPO but only links back to the Evernote file (not really what I need since I am waiting for the day I can just delete Evernote off all of my devices), 2) finding my new setup had a few too many databases than I actually need, and 3) having a better understanding of DTPO (still a newbie and may forget to use the forum search function first, forgiveness please in advance), I’ve started a new database, importing using .enex file from Evernote (a tip from searching the forums), and dumped everything in!

I’m sure it won’t be the last time I “start fresh” but one of the great things about starting fresh is that you can keep your old database up and running so your daily workflow doesn’t get interrupted!

Good point. I’m not very satisfied with the Evernote-to-DEVONthink transition, partly for the reason you pointed out. I don’t want URL to link to the Evernote note – if I’m migrating, I’m leaving town and don’t want to look back. I prefer URL to be the source url that Evernote retains for clipped documents. I also think the rendering in DEVONthink of .enex files is rough – which is Evernote’s problem, not DEVONthink’s. I started a long process of migrating off Evernote to DEVONthink and gave up. The result was unworkable and, frankly, ugly.

There is utility (ExportNote) that exports Evernote notebooks to PDF or HTML (depending on the type of note). The folder(s) that ExportNote creates can be indexed or imported into DEVONthink. I find it is about 80% accurate – maybe the same as DEVONthink – but you get PDFs instead of imported .enex, which is an advantage. It is important with any conversion from Evernote, using DEVONthink or OneNote or Apple Notes or ExportNote, to review all the exported notes to ensure they are readable. I’ve tried all of these methods and none of them are 100% accurate or reliable.

A most interesting discussion. :smiley:

The voice to include the link to the original Evernote note was due to the wants of our Users. Though the playing field may be different now (or changing), the majority of Users wanted to work with DEVONthink in conjunction with Evernote. They weren’t jumping ship, they were trying to take on passengers.

Note: There is a simple script to convert the DEVONthink record URLs to their link URLs, not the Evernote URLs. I’ll have to dig it up.

I would be interested in this script - I’m looking to “jump ship”. Thanks.

Here you go: Evernote URLs.