Questions if Devonthink pro is right for me

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.

Following up on @rmschne’s comments, the Getting Started chapter in the Help and manual is a good place to, well… get started :slight_smile:

It gives the high level overview and philosophy of what DEVONthink is and isn’t, and basic concepts. This is especially true of the DEVONthink Simplified section.


Taking my first few steps here. I assume you are the author of the book? If so I thank you for it. I got some thoughts with reference to “Take Control of Devonthink 3” by Joe Kissell, v1.8

1.Inbox/Database question.
Under page 21 when you mentioned copies the original document - does it occur when it is at the inbox or when I drag the document in the data base? What is the reason of having an inbox when I can drag into the database.

2.How do I know my content is imported and not indexed?
Under page 22 - how can I ascertain that the file is copied in the data base and not referenced.

3.To import or to index?
There was a question on page 23 on the various methods of processing data and page 24 offers the solution. I work with the following file types, e.g. word documents - docx, the pdf, the excel spreadsheet - xls. the powerpoint - Ppt. The images Jpeg. and the videos mp4 . As such would it be wise if I import it and open the files directly from the database and use the corresponding programs to open and edit it or open it?

4.Is text written within the image scanned for text or do I have to convert them to pdf to do so? (Doing the exercise written on page 25). Edit: This exercise was asking me to create a group folder and drag my files from my database to the folder.

I wrote DEVONthink’s documentation. We did not write the MacSparky materials. That was David Sparks.

  1. If you import a file into a database, it copies it unless you drag and drop the the Global Inbox’s alias in the Finder’s sidebar. That file is then moved into the Inbox’s internals.
    An inbox, just like the one on a real-world desk, is a place to gather unfiled items. It’s usually a temporary storage location and each database has one.
  2. Indexing doesn’t just happen. It is a method you need to use specifically. Importing is the default behavior. Also, there is a small Finder property icon to the left of an item’s name.
  3. How you open / edit files aren’t determining factors regarding importing and indexing.
  4. Which exercise on page 25 ?

Oh! I am sorry about that! My bad.

No worries :slight_smile:

@dov-ber I don’t want to appear to be telling you what to do; I don’t have a diagnosis of ADHD, but I can identify with many of the points you make; as is often the case, the disease entails pathological levels of normal.

Don’t let yourself be blocked by your limitations - if reading a 270 page manual isn’t right for you, then don’t. I didn’t. I didn’t even read the handbook. I just sat down and used DEVONthink. When I discovered something I had done actually wasn’t the way I wanted it, I simply changed whatever it was. You won‘t use DT to its full potential with or without those references - so why not use them (and the forum) when you get stuck rather than as a prerequisite for getting started? Just go for it :slight_smile:

Start with a small subset of your documents. See what works for you. Enjoy working with DT; let it work as it suits you. You and DT will develop along the way.

The only caveat as far as I am concerned, is have a backup. Or two backups. Use TimeMachine or whatever suits you. But have the option of going back in time if necessary.