Putting it all together...

OK, I’d like to see how others are using DT and DA for the specific type of situation that I’m in (I’m sure Bill has done something like this, for example). Here’s the scenario: I’m writing a report on an environmental issue that will have multiple topics in the report (e.g., lake, stream, industries along lake, contaminants in lake, history of lake, etc.). I have reasonably good familiarity will all of this but I wanted to be up-to-date and also fill in a few areas where my knowledge might be a little less certain (for example industrial processes that I’m not as familiar with and their emissions).

So I do lots of searches of the internet using DEVONagent and save all the relevant documents into appropriate folders in DEVONthink. Probably half the documents are pdf, 30% HTML and 20% RTF or TXT. What is the best way, at this point, for me to mine the information from the 150 or so documents that I added to DT as I write each report section in Word? Would it be better to open another DT browser and write the sections there, then transfer to Word (for ease of drag and drop, etc.)?

I’ve been very successful at getting info into DT, now I would appreciate some advice on finding the specific relevant passages for each topic, getting the info back out in an organized way and incorporating it into my report.

Thanks in advance for your advice.


you really seem to be asking two separate questions, in my mind. one is where and how you physically write your report, the second is in what manner you extract/mine the information in DT to use in that report.

re the first, i’m on record as saying I like Ulysses (a lot) for this kind of work. I don’t like using DT or DN to write anything other than short notes. If you haven’t already demoed Ulysses, I recommend it.

re the second, i’ve no doubt there are many folks in here far more qualified than me to give you meaningful advice. in fact my response here strikes me as embarrassingly simplistic and something you no doubt are already doing but i’ll throw it out anyway. one way I’ve found to mine information from DT for this kind of usage is to start my report by making an outline of what I want to cover. I actually start this phase of a project in Notebook before exporting the outlines to rtf docs for use in Ulysses. I like starting with an outline because it forces me to think concisely and to organize the flow of what I’m trying to communicate.

So maybe for you, the outline would have primary sections by lake, stream, etc… For each section, you think through what you want to communicate, why you are writing the report, what are the two or three absolute key points the reader must walk away with if that’s all they get from that section. then for each section (and this is where DT comes in), perhaps you construct a list of keywords/phrases that tie to your DT items. You then start doing searches on those keywords/phrases, and for each search I’d also utilize the ‘see also’ functionality to leverage DT’s AI capabilities.

I’d then take the docs you find most relevant and fertile and copy them into the outline as embedded reference material in rich text format that you can then edit down to key points/usable text.

so by this point you’d have an outline of your main points organized as you want the finished doc to flow, with as many subpoints as necessary, you have your research embedded into the outline along with any other photos, images, links, movies, whatever that you want to either include or reference in the finished product, and you have your dt research right there as you’ve extracted it from the database.

that’s how i’d do it but i’m sure others have equal or superior work flows and processes and i hope they contribute so i can learn how others do that.

great question. hope that helps some.

Our workflows seem to be the same for the most part, up to the point of outputting the DT information, which is the main aspect of interest to me here at this point. I too work from an outline and, in fact, have a fairly detailed one for this project. And I developed it in Notebook’s kissing cousin, NoteTaker. So up to here we have the same approach. I like the idea of creating a list of keywords/phrases for each section to create the searches in DT. I was sort of making them up in my head and trying them, but a nice list in the outline for each section seems like a good idea and would help avoid repetition. I can check them off as I go.

So you are exporting your outline into Ulysses as an RTF then bringing in RTFs from the DT searches to flesh out the outline. I’ve never used Ulysses (but am looking at both it and CopyWrite currently) but I understand it to use “tabs” to move back and forth between documents in a project. Do you have, for example, the major outline headings (or even subheads) as separate documents within the same project in Ulysses? And, if so, how do you get the outline in like that? Or do you keep the main outline all in one window (document) in Ulysses and bring in the RTFs from DT as separate documents in the project and drag and drop to the main outline from the windows on the left that show the document contents? The “notepad” on the right side of the Ulysses window seems as though it would be a good place to work up the keywords and phrases. Is that how you use it? Also, I thought the Ulysses info said that pictures, etc., couldn’t be placed inline in the document to avoid interfering with the flow of writing, but you mention them so how do you handle them?

On a practical note, do you (or anyone else reading this) have experience with both Ulysses and CopyWrite? Ulysses is significantly more expensive and I’m wondering if it is worth the difference in cost. Ulitimately I have to get the document(s) into a single MS Word document so that is also a consideration if either program has issues with exporting in a way that makes that feasible without having to jump through a series of hoops.

Thanks for the info you provided rmathes!


first, re Ulysses vs CopyWrite, i remember examining both before deciding to pull the trigger on Ulysses. I don’t remember what swayed me to Ulysses but I remember it not being a difficult decision for me. I’d go to their respective message boards and do searches on the other and see what comes back.

re using Ulysses after creating outlines in Notebook, it varies depending on the project. But yes, I try to structure my outlines in the same way the report will flow so if each major outline item is a chapter, then i will make a single Ulysses project for the report, and then separate documents within that project for each chapter. I can bring in the outline text into a given document and then flesh it out from there.

i don’t add graphics until the content is completed and i’ve exported to Word for final formatting and layout.

And yes, the notes section for a Ulysses doc is a handy place to store all kinds of stuff related to that document. Let us know how things go.

Ulysses and CopyWrite are alike in many ways and very different in other ways. For my needs, here are the biggest differences that have an impact on how I use the programs.

CopyWrite allows you to have a notes pane for each document as well as a note pane for the entire project. Ulysses has a note pane for each document, no notes section for the project. CopyWrite allows you to have multiple versions of a document, you have to create different versions by adding another document to Ulysses. CopyWrite allows some basic formatting (bold, italic, etc.) while Ulysses does not. You can imbed some HTML code in your Ulysses documents which gets converted during export. Ulysses allows you to have a pane with the text of one document visible while working in another, CopyWrite does not. The biggest difference, for me, is that Ulysses has a full screen mode while CopyWrite does not. I have heard that the next release of CopyWrite will have full screen mode. Export is excellent in both programs from what I have seen, so that should not be an issue.

iirc, these were two of the biggest reasons i chose Ulysses over CW. I REALLY like being able to see the text (and notes) of another document while working on my selected document. Makes it easy to copy text back and forth, refer back to check points, etc…

Same for me.

Dunno if it’ll be useful to you, but here’s what I’ve been doing lately. I use DN as a note viewer, a document outliner AND a word processor – simultaneously. Basically, I can make DN work like CopyWrite (which I’ve demoed in the past), but with much more flexibility.

I open two DN browsers, side by side. The browser on the left displays all the notes in the project folder. So, if I’m writing an article about a subject, I title the folder whatever the subject name is, and then each note (taken from the web, emails, original notes I typed in myself, etc) has its own title. I set DN to view this left hand browser in “horizontal split” mode, showing three or four notes at the top, and the text of the selected note at the bottom. So the left hand browser allows me to quickly navigate among my notes and see the text of whatever note I’m working from at the moment.

The right hand browser contains the actual text I’m writing, along with an outline of that text (a la CopyWrite or Mellel or ZWrite). I do that by setting the right hand browser view to vertical split, with the left side of the (right hand) browser displaying each outline point (that is, each note is an outline point or section of the document), and the right side displaying the text of that note/outline point/section (whatever you want to call it). So I can quickly navigate through a long document using the left hand side of the right hand browser.

This would be a lot easier to see in a screen shot, but essentially I divide the screen into 3 parts: from left to right there’s a note viewer on the left side (taking up about a quarter of the screen), the document outline in the middle (taking up about an eighth of the screen), and the document text on the right taking up most of the screen space. Obviously this works better on my external 17" display than on my 12" Powerbook screen.

When I’m done writing all the sections, I merge all the sections (using the merge command), do any final edits on that merged document in full screen mode, then export the whole finished document as an rtf. That way I have a copy of the finished article in DN (the merged version) and in my articles folder (the rtf version).

Sorry it took so long to explain this method; it probably sounds clunky and convoluted as presented here, and maybe Devon could offer the option of a sidebar outline to simplify it a bit, but it’s actually pretty straightforward and quick after you’ve done it once. DN gives me all the formatting and other word processor controls I need, and a live word count (very helpful in my work) that most word processors lack. And this arrangement allows me to see simultaneously an overview of my whole document, the text I’m writing, and the notes I’m writing the article from.

Hope this is useful to someone.

This sounds like a good approach and maybe I’ll give it a try. It leads me to believe that perhaps I’ve got too many documents in DT though. I have lots of things in my overall “references” folder (imported from the hard disk) along with items in numerous other “project” folders within “client” folders that could be relevant to my current writing project. Therefore I have to have DT find things that are relevant by entering a seach phrase. It is soooo slow searching through all my information that I get the spinning rainbow beach ball for frustratingly long periods of time that spoil the attempt to write unless I switch to another program to write while the search is ongoing. Even then it slows down the entire computer due to tying up so much of the processor and memory (1.5GHz and 1 Gig on a 17 inch PowerBook). I’m in the process of culling the database of things that are superfluous, such as NoteTaker notebooks. I should probably convert all the pdfs to rtfs as well, although I don’t know that this is an issue since I think DT is searching only an index of them anyway.

I wonder if DT Pro will improve these issues (multiple databases might help)?


This is an interesting and useful discussion, as I’m a DT newbie in the evaluation stage, trying to decide how much work I want to invest in it.

Brett’s (two-window) three-section method – saved notes, outline, and text being written – sounds reasonable.

My biggest question, though, is: why compose in DEVONthink at all? Wouldn’t you want to write in your favorite word processor directly, especially if it supports references or other features that DEVONthink isn’t particularly strong at?

– Prentiss Riddle prentissriddle.com

Actually I’m giving Ulysses a go in tandem with DEVONthink and Word after fully processing the project outline in NoteTaker. At least that’s the approach I’m using for this project as an experiment. So far it’s working pretty good. Every section of my final document is represented by a document in a single Ulysses file. I copied the relevant outline section over from NoteTaker into the Notes fields of Ulysses for each of the documents. Make additional notes in the notes fields as needed as I go along. With the bonus that as I switch documents I can still see info on the others in the left pane of Ulysses.

I used DEVONagent to do lots of searches on the internet and sent a bunch of web pages to DEVONthink and put them in appropriate folders. Using the outline as a go by I am doing some text consolidation in DT before merging and moving to Ulysses. For example, I have a section in my outline where there will be examples of certain types of contaminated sites in my final document. When I did the search in DA and moved pages over to DT information about that particular site might have been available on several different pages that were stored. So I created a DT page for each site, opened the multiple DT pages that had the info for that site, and dragged the appropriate portions of those into the appropriate “site” page. When I complete this for all 4 site examples I’ll “merge” those into a “site section” in DT then move it into Ulysses.

Finally, the whole mess will go into Word for grammar checks, formatting and output. I’m using Word in the workflow as a repository for figures as I go along because they’ve got to end up there eventually and I want to make sure they display properly (otherwise I’d be storing them in NoteTaker), Word is funny about graphics sometimes.

Anyway, so far this approach is working for me. Not so sure how well I communicated it. Interesting experiment anyway.


Always happy to reply, especially to folks from my old hometown of Austin.

In fact I started out by composing in TextEdit, not DN. I do have Word X and AppleWorks, both of which I used for years for word processing, so I could use those. But I soon realized that, for most projects, I don’t really NEED any WP features beyond what DN offers: basic style control (double space, bold and ital, indent), spellcheck (in OSX), thesaurus (free Nisus Thesaurus via Services), etc. And DN also gives me two features – live outlining (via the note = section method described in my earlier post) and live word count – which AppleWorks and my version of Word don’t offer.

Furthermore, the basic DN text editor stays out of my way and doesn’t crash (unlike Word), and when my piece is done, it’s already in my DN database and doesn’t need to be imported. I export the finished piece to rtf and send.

Others may need more formatting, but I just email all my work to editors as rtf attachments – I never print out. Occasionally I will need formatting, like on my (currently stalled) book project, which will use footnotes, reviewing, etc., and in that case, I will probably – reluctantly – work in Word. I’ll still have the organizational and note-viewing advantages of DN, except for the sidebar outlining and live word count. The latter isn’t so important in a book (unlike an article), but the former is an issue. Live outlining helps navigate through long docs, so I haven’t decided whether to try to draft in DN and then do the footnoting and formatting in Word, or buy Mellel, which offers that sidebar outline feature and footnoting, but not Word’s reviewing function. The latter is important as I work with a co-author and, eventually, my publisher’s editors and it’s a good way track changes.