Revisiting DT after some time ... comments and feedback

Hi …

I have been revisiting DT after about 2 years of going down different information management roads …

There is many things I am liking about the changes since I have used the software – I am a registered customer and probably one of the earliest when it first came out.

Lately I’ve been contemplating about moving back, but have some reservations … if anyone has any comments or suggestions, I welcome them.

I would really like to use DT for both info management needs as well as outlining/project management.

The problems I have right now are mainly due to the outliner being very basic.

For example outline items can be groups(folders) or text/rtf files (or other file types) – but can not be nested within each other unless they are all groups.

This makes rearranging things for any kind of normal outlining – very difficult, and discourages me to want to make the leap. It’s a bummer because you lose out on all the other benefits of DT’s powerful features – i.e, searching, archiving, wiki, and data comparision/analysis (i.e., through “See Also” feature).

A stronger focus on the outliner itself would make it much more appealing for me.

I mean why can’t an outline item be anything? A Group, a URL, a Note, etc? Why can it only be a group?

With groups you can’t add text notes – and with creating just notes, you can’t create a hierarchical structure …

Good outlining capabilities on par with Hog Bay Notebook would definitely close the deal for me.

Better keyboard short cuts would be a nice start. It would be good to have the option to use the return key to create a new outline item. And tab should indent an item. These are standard outliner commands most outliners have.

Also, some little things that I think would round it off a bit more.

A “Bookmark” feature – for quickly referencing notes/items that you use regularly. (Again, see Hog Bay Notebook). This could be done with a slide out “Drawer” on any view.

External aliasing of files – not just linking – as they can break easily.

External referrencing of DT content from other programs. I.e., you could link to a DevonThink note from iCal for example. I think NoteTaker has the best external referencing implementation. Any notebook page or outline item even can be directly to from anywhere – in any OS X app.

If information could be more readily used from outside of DevonThink – it would be much more useful to me.

If you can’t link to it or find it with Spotlight (I know it’s planned – that’s good) – it simply becomes less powerful, less useful – for any kind of integrated work flow.

Also, I agree with other posters – duplication of info from other places (i.e., address book) is not efficient.

With DT it seems you are forced to live in it fully to get the most benefit. But then it cuts you off from other apps you use on your computer (because the information is disconnected).

I heard there was a mention of a Mail plugin – I think that’s a great way to go.

Duplicating your data just to get the benefits of having it in DT – when it also needs to reside elsewhere, is not the best approach in my view, and many seem to agree. Integration is key.

I would like to see more integration with Apple Apps. Lots of new apps are coming out now that are taking this approach. See “Process” 2.0 for example – with it’s tight integration with iCal. And Circus Ponies notebook. It already has Address Book and iCal linking. Not the best – but 2.1 looks to be better.

It seems to me that DT has the best chance at such integration.

Imagine if you could create Address Book entries, iCal Events or to-dos and Mail messages within DT and everything would stay in sync! Perhaps you could even take your info with you on the go to (with iSync or Palm). That would be something extremely powerful.

With the above features, and an improved Outliner, would make an app you could truly throw yourself into wholeheartedly – and commit to quite contently as one powerful “Digital Information Hub.”

For now I will “wait and see” what comes down the pipeline. And stay in HBNotebook until there’s at the very least, better outlining support in DT. The nice thing about it is that HBNotebook and DT both have excellent import/export options for RFT files – so moving to and from is relatively painless.

By the way … love the new “full screen” view!


PS. Even if some of these features were exclusive to PRO users – I think a lot of people would be delighted to upgrade for those additional benefits.

I feel the difference between DT and a dedicated outliner such as OmniOutliner has to do with granularity – OO is for organizing thoughts that are about the length of a bullet point, and it’s great at that. I find DT and Hog Bay et al to be better for linking and organizing larger, document sized chunks.

This has partly to do with the fact that at the core, for text manipulation, they really don’t have anything beyond built in Cocoa text capabilities.

This is not at all to disparage DT so please, no defensive posts… I find I need both a macro-tool such as DT and a micro-tool such as OO. As such, I’m really, really looking forward to Version 2.0 being able to embed and index OO files as mentioned in this thread:

This is what I’ve thought all along, too. This kind of integration would make DT Pro the Rosetta Stone of apps.


Thanks for some very thoughtful comments. I agree with some, disagree with some, will point out ways of handling some, and will punt on others. :slight_smile:

That was true if you consider only DT Pro’s initial and simplistic introduction of the Horizontal Split view as an outliner. But Apple’s introduction of the Lists feature in Cocoa text now allows one to accomplish many of the purposes of an outline structure. And another approach to ‘outlining’ that I frequently use is to construct a document consisting of links (either static or Wiki links, though I usually use static links) that serve as a “Table of Contents” to a structured project. Nowadays, I usually use the Lists feature to construct such a TOC document.

If you are talking about the original ‘simple’ Horizontal Split approach to outlines, I disagree as concerns the searching and See Also features. All those features are still available for the notes within that hierarchical structure. But I would agree that it’s a somewhat kludgy approach compared to many outlining applications.

That’s true only of the Horizontal Split approach to outlining. But it’s not at all true of the link or List approaches that can easily be done now.

Outlines using Lists can do that. Items in a list are promoted using Tab and demoted using Shift-Tab. Nowadays, I use the List approach to lay out the concepts or sections of a project, then link the outline sections to other documents to flesh out the project. It’s not More, but can be effective. One can promote/demote items in the list, and change their order easily.

Tagging like that is more useful in a small database than in a very large one. I sometimes ‘mark’ documents by inserting a searchable cue in the Comment field of the document’s Info panel. That’s useful, for example, in quickly returning to a particular document in a writing project, using Search for the cue string. BTW, I use the Vertical Split view and have my windows set up so that the Info panel is always shown “attached” to the right of the document window, making it easy to add/delete tags.

I agree that it would be great if Paths were almost unbreakable. That’s a technical issue I’ll leave to Apple and Christian.

Quite a few of those comments are in line with DEVONtechnologies’ vision of what DEVONthink Pro’s purpose is: management and analysis of information. And some of them do fit future development plans.

At the moment, all the text documents one creates in or imports into DT Pro are “isolated” from the Finder and from Spotlight. So are all Web captures (which are really text documents). Other document types such as PDFs that are stored in the database Files folder, although technically stored in the Finder, are isolated from Spotlight. DT Pro 2.0 will store all physically contained documents in the Finder and they will be indexed and searched by Spotlight. One of the interesting potentials is that one might click on a Spotlight search result and – if the result is in DT Pro – have that document open in DT Pro.

A personal and only semi-relevant view of Spotlight: Although I do use Spotlight, I often find it irritating. Contextual searches in DT Pro range up to a million or so times faster, in my experience. DT Pro often gives me search results in a few milliseconds, while Spotlight continues to chug along for seconds. (That’s on my PowerMac dual core 2.3 GHz.) And I can do so much more with a document opened in DT Pro than under it’s native application; I make a lot of use of See Also or See Selected Text, for example, to relate information to other documents in my collection of references. Those are tools to help one analyze information, and remain pretty much unique to DN/DT/DT Pro.

So DT Pro 2.0 will open up the database contents to Spotlight, and perhaps make some of the other potentials you noted, such as inking a file not in the database to one that is in the database easier.

I found one of your comments particularly interesting, as it probably points to strengths and weakness not just in DT Pro but in me. :slight_smile:

For I spend easily 90% of my working time either in DT Pro or in DEVONagent (which is my default browser). All the files that are on my computer that interest me as reference sources or project material are in one of my DT Pro databases. Or, putting it another way, I don’t dump the entire contents of my hard drives into DT Pro. I build database collections reflecting my professional and personal interests and the projects I work on. And I spend a number of hours every week looking for new material (one of the stronger points of DEVONagent scheduled searches, BTW). That includes looking through online scientific journals to which I subscribe and a pretty carefully built list of other Web sites that interest me.

I spend a lot of time writing inside DT Pro. That varies from making notes about ideas that pop up when I’m reading something to projects that I’ve committed to finish up and deliver. I always write in RTF or RTFD using the standard Cocoa text tools, including lists and hyperlinks. When I’m satisfied with a draft, I move the material over to another application to do the final polishing. That other application is usually Pages (with possible exports to another application for a final Word or PDF), although I’ll sometimes use Create for output to HTML or PDF.

Producing finished output from DT Pro itself is pretty primitive, whether one talks about printing or PDF. Although this may improve a bit, don’t expect DT Pro to become a full word processing program, let alone a page layout program.

Here’s how I use Pages. I drag and drop or copy/paste an RTFD document from DT Pro into Pages. That usually transfers everything well, including image layout. A header and footer are added. I may adjust image placement, perhaps using Wrap. Footnotes to source material or comments are easily added, as are bookmark hyperlinks to reference citations. In some cases I’ll add tables and/or charts. When finished, I export to Word. The resulting Word .doc file contains all the working hyperlinks, including bookmarks, and is perfectly suitable for delivery if that format is required. Now here’s a real tip, thanks to Eric. I prefer sending out stuff as PDF, but have been hindered in the past by the loss of working hyperlinks. If one installs a current version of OpenOffice (requires installation of X11 from your OS X Installation disk), OpenOffice allows a translation from Word to PDF and the resulting PDF retains the hyperlinks! At last (no thanks to Adobe or Apple).

Here’s a sore point for many users. Although DT Pro can capture text from or render a variety of file formats, it cannot currently capture text from many applications such as Pages, OmniOutliner 3.x, Mellel, etc. There are workarounds that enable text capture from such documents (including print to PDF), but some workarounds aren’t entirely satisfactory, as they don’t directly link to the original file format, e.g. for editing purposes. To attempt to render all such file types inside DT Pro would require the cooperation of the other developers, would result probably in license fees increasing the cost of DT Pro, and would bloat the file size of DT Pro beyond reason. But there’s another approach that’s receiving development attention, involving adding text capture and some rendering from applications that use the increasingly popular XML file format(s). So there’s some hope for the future!

To mention your point about duplication of material already on the hard drive by capturing it in DT Pro. That’s accurate if one uses the File > Import > Files & Folders import, but not if one uses Index import. There are pros and cons to each method, but the upcoming DT Pro 1.1 will simplify user choices and improve Index captures (for one thing, Index-imported text can be searched using the Phrase operator). Of course if one places a priority on database portability from one computer to another, the standard Import mode would be preferred. Another important improvement in DT Pro 1.1 is reliable synchronization when editing an Index-captured file or one that has been copied into the database Files folder. Edit changes made and saved under the file’s parent application will be reflected from the edited and saved file to the document displayed in DT Pro.

Some (maybe even all) of those things might happen in the future, depending on development resources and priorities. Eric has mentioned Palm synchronization as a possibility, for example (a little PIM database would be suitable, but my database with tens of thousands of documents, not). But we expect development priorities in the near future to concentrate on features directly related to DT Pro’s abilities to manage and access document collections (DT Pro 2.0) and to strengthen the artificial intelligence features that support the user in analysis and use of information. So the development priority for adding a data visualization feature to DT Pro (similar to the visualization in DEVONagent 2.0) will receive much more weight than outlining improvements.

So we think your approach of outlining in HBNotebook is perfectly appropriate, because you like that outlining mode. But when you accumulate a lot of HBNotebook outlines and want to integrate their content with other material, that’s where DT Pro can shine – and DEVONtechnologies wants to concentrate on that strength.

Again, Jeff, thanks for some thoughtful comments.


I’m delighted to find that exporting a Pages 2.0 (in iWork 06) document that contains hyperlinks does produce a PDF with working hyperlinks. My apologies to Apple. Now I don’t have to go through OpenOffice to produce PDFs that contain hyperlinks.