Questions if Devonthink pro is right for me

Hello all, I am a new user and I am currently evaluating if Devon is a right product for me. I have a terrible memory and I lose track of things easily. My current setup in my Mac is one folder with YYYY-MM-DD and a key word with a routette of tags (I can’t keep consistency because of my adhd).

I would like to ask the following,

  1. Can I direct/automate a file/video/image to a particular folder in the software?

  2. Will it be able to automatically tag the said files ? or do I need a third party software such as hazel to rename it on my behalf (such as keyboard mastero or hazel)

  3. Can my annotations made on the document via the iPad be synchronised to my Mac without having to airdrop and download? Does the iOS or ipados version of devonthink will facilitate this sync?

4.Does pdfs/images with text get automatically converted via OCR so i can search a word within it directly or do i need to convert?

Currently I am exploring Alfred and Hazel and I am not quite sure if they meet the said requirements. I get quite whimsical in filing that nothing seems to be consistent. Even a search on spotlight seems tedious.

Thank you for reading this, would appreciate any guidance if this product is suitable for me, or if there are any automation flows and workflows that can be used.

You can find a lot of answers to your questions by using the search function in the forum.

Tagging and (re-)naming are not the same thing, though. But both can be done automatically by DT provided that you define how. Smart Rules have been invented for that. Having said that: there might be some scenarios where it’s not possible to rename in a certain way with DT where it’s possible with Hazel.

Not per se. You can easily set up a Smart Rule to do so (and this, too, has been discussed very often in the forum, so you’ll find a lot of info on it by simply using the search function).

You’ll find it hard to OCR anything at all with Hazel and Alfred.

With DT, it is not really necessary that it’s consistent (though many people prefer it that way). The program can find stuff in the documents regardless of their naming. Which, to me, is more important than having consistent naming.


In addition to @chrillek ‘s sage advice, also read the free (compliments of DEVONtechnologies) “Take Control of DEVONthink”, and skim (to get familiar with what’s there for future reference and learning) the oustanding “DEVONthink Handbook” – both available on the DEVONtechnologies’ web site.

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DEVONthink can do all of the things that you asked after. I think it may be important to note, however, that what the software can do depends very much on what you choose to do with it. Smart rules need to be set up, you need to decide how documents should be tagged and so on. As such, you will not set up the software to do everything you want in the first week - and may change your mind along the way. DEVONtech offer a generous trial period, and I would suggest that you make use of that.

A final note: only the Pro and Server editions offer OCR - the standard edition does not.


I appreciate this is not a direct reply to the questions you ask (and I apologise for that) but I merely wanted to add that, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find dozens of uses for DEVONthink, once you have it, that you never thought of before you had it.

It is not an exaggeration to say that DEVONthink has revolutionised my handling of critical data. Bear in mind that comes from somone who is retired so who does not any longer have to grapple with work-related information.



DEVONthink has revolutionised my handling of critical data

It revolutionized my handling of nonsense too :stuck_out_tongue:


Thank you for your reply. Could you share abit more on how DT has helped you?

Hi dov-ber. I’m guessing with your ADHD you don’t want to/can’t sit down and read the manual in full to understand what is possible at this time. @chrillek has covered your 4 questions (and is great at answering questions in the forum generally!) so I will just add on top of the answers given:

  1. Yes, lots of us use DT this way as far as I can tell from my own lurking in the forum. I import my pdfs on my Mac usually (then I can check that the OCR is intact - see below - add my tags, tidy up file names, etc.). I read them on my iPad though and annotate/highlight within DTTG, the iOS app. This syncs automatically back to my Mac and no other action is needed.

When you’re back at your Mac you can then also export your annotations and highlights as a markdown file if you like, so you can export just your activity in a separate file to the pdf (I love this function).

  1. Many modern pdfs have a text layer (the thing that OCR creates) included already so if you’re handling modern pdfs you may not need to OCR the pdf again. However, as Chrillek notes, it’s easy enough to set up DT to do this automatically for new pdfs where it’s missing. I don’t have such a smart rule. I have the “Kind” column visible in my item list (the main bit of the window where you see a list of your files) and if I see that Kind is “PDF” (this means it has no OCR) instead of “PDF+text” (which means it has OCR), I just do it manually. It takes less than a minute most the time (I assume it would take longer for a giant file). If you’re scanning old papers or importing old pdfs you will be more reliant on DT’s OCR.

I use Alfred (at a very basic level!) but I’m not sure it can do the things you might want DT for. It’s great for streamlining workflows generally, but it’s not a file manager or a text editor or a database or a… DT can be whatever you want it to be! As @Stephen_C said, once you start using DT, you’ll find many more uses for it.

I am maybe 6-8 months in (I can’t remember). I originally got it to store all my reference materials and notes. It took me maybe a day to realise I could also actually write my notes directly in DT instead of using another text editor app, so I switched to doing that in DT. Then I noticed I could read and annotate pdfs directly instead of using another app for that, so I switched to DT for this too. Then I noticed you can archive emails in DT, so I did that too in a new database just for this. Etc. etc.

I suspect I’ve not even touched the surface of what DT can do, so as I review my workflows (I’m in a job transition myself so it’s giving me a chance to review how I work), once I identify a point of friction my first question is “Can DT do something here to help?”. Most the time the answer is yes!


This is exactly what we’ve preached for years!

Use DEVONthink for what you need to use it for. But also occasionally allow yourself some time to explore it.
:heart: :slight_smile:

I agree with your ethos :smile: Buy it to fix your immediate problem, but don’t be afraid to explore. It’s fine if you only want to use DT as a pdf manager of course, but it seems a shame to waste all that horse power just for a stroll in the pdf park.

I’m only now reaching a stage where I think I’m ready to do the DevonThink Field Guide course to learn how to use DT “properly”. I’ve solved all my immediate use cases, and I’m ready to learn about the different uses of DT that I didn’t know I needed in my life!

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Don’t forget to check out our blog too.


In addition to @chrillek ‘s sage advice, also read the free (compliments of DEVONtechnologies) “Take Control of DEVONthink”, and skim (to get familiar with what’s there for future reference and learning) the oustanding “DEVONthink Handbook” – both available on the DEVONtechnologies’ web site.


See here. You might also find this thread instructive.


Thank you for your thoughtful response. Yes my adhd makes it very difficult for me to focus to find out the relevant information.

I feel very handicapped - I started to look for YouTube videos to learn - I began with the productivity shop for filing folders then I drifted off to Alfred . I still don’t know what I am looking for haha.

Remember you have 30 days or 150 non-consecutive hours to trial DEVONthink. So don’t leave it running when you’re not using it to preserve the hours and come back to it as needed.


Even better, because DevonThink analyze/index your document, you can do global search (and also automated filing!). I never tag documents. My main database for on-going projects (I am in academia) is over 50Gb…

Thank you for signposting to this resource. Its a 270 pager and I have problems reading. I note that there is a caveat in setting up the database under page 25. is there a video resource to get to the point of setting up within minutes. I did a YouTube search and it seems the tutorials are 3 to 4 years old.

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Your comment on adhd is spot on. I took my medication and wanted to get started reading the 270 pager but I could not follow the data as I wanted it to tell me what I need to do immediately in terms of setting up in steps. When I was reading about syncing, I came across bonjour vs some other syncing method. So I am pretty much lost in the woods there.

Creating a database is as simple as choosing File > New Database, entering a name for the database, and pressing Create. Your new database will be created in the Databases folder in your home directory.

The only caveats:

  • You can manually choose a location as long as it’s not a cloud-sync one, e.g., iCloud Drive, Dropbox, etc.
  • We do not suggest you use emojis in the name of files or databases.

DEVONThink hasn’t changed that much in that time.

I still recommend you use the documents i suggested to help you learn more about DEVONthink can help you manage and interrogate your documents.

Instead of reading all at once look at the Table of Contents and read what you are curious about.