Some background: I’m trying the demo of DEVONthink. All of my current text and bookmark content is in NoteTaker, and my more graphical diagrams in Curio. I’ve made (pretty much) a duplicate of my stored content and bookmarks into DT. This of course has meant the investment of a lot of hours of organizing, reformatting, etc. Everything seems to be there. Searching is fine, etc. Just to make clear that I am really giving this a go, and not creating my review based on a light examination.
I’m a professional technologist. My content is everything from articles, to code-snips, to server configurations, passwords, software registrations… It is obviously important to be able to review and maintain this stuff in a single application. NoteTaker does a pretty good job, but has a clumsy search implimentation, and a limited concept of the shape of data. I’m feeling the need to find something better - which doesn’t seem to exist.
Migrating to a new tool for this task is a big commitment. Not in terms of money, but in terms of workflow. It is not a decision I take lightly at all, because I am entrusting the care of my company’s most valuable data to it as well. It leaves me in a weird place, because I can’t easily go forward on my data creation until I know where it will really be “living”. I need to create a workflow around some new tool which I can expect to use for the forseeable future. To that end, I’ve made the rounds again. Looking at all the available tools and alternatives.
In many ways, DT seems to improve on the alternatives. It is versatile, fast, scriptable, and has excellent search functionality. So what is the problem then?
The problem is that DT seems to make versatile, fast, scriptable, and searchable chaos out of chaos. Still chaos, but in different ways. The tree system is fine, but double-clicking items opens things in all different kinds of windows. Navigating in DT seems like it is using intergalactic stargates of something. “Like wha? Why am I in icon view all of a sudden? Where am I in my data? I don’t recognize this place.”
The treeview… where depending on which version of it you have activated, determines how it functions and what it displays. Looking at a folder… er, group for instance, sometimes I can see its contained documents, other times it appears to be just an empty folder. If I turn on the item count functionality, this is recursive too… so a group with a single item in it will have 604 next to it because the item is a group which contains other groups. It seems odd to have something with 604 next to it open to reveal only one thing… which says 603 next to it.
Sheets (a common technique used by several competitors) seem like a great idea, but in DT they are somehow funky. The single-font and no hot-text links. No additional functions for drag and drop, no easy copy buttons to grab passwords or whatever from a sheets field.
Lack of connectivity to other OSX built-in apps. Why the need for all the weird workarounds to work with addressbook, iCal, and Mail? Contacts and reminders seem like they are important parts of data linkages to me. Other applications seem to be able to do this a LOT more transparently.
Why can’t I create a link to a folder without linking the entire (recursive) contents of the folder?
Why doesn’t DT autorecognize URLs and MailTo’s in text data?
Now, I realize this is v1. Because of this, I’m on the fence about DT. It does a lot of things right, but then at other times, DT itself becomes the obstacle. Particularly when it does things like switching the view mode and not even showing you where in the view the item you are viewing is located. Or when you drag in an iCal event, and it just vanishes… and you have to think about why, and how to actually accomplish something that will work similarly to what you were trying to do in a mac-natural way in the first place.
I can pretty much get past these issues, by creating a special process or automator workflow, applescript, whatever… but I’d like to have a better sense of why. What is the roadmap for this tool? Where is it going, and is that where I want my data to be? Will there be more and more semi-complete features and proprietary implimentations? I’ve seen several mentions on this forum about v1.1, and as a person on the fence, who needs to make a decision, I’ve very interested in what parts of this application are considered to be complete, and what parts will be getting further attention. The technology is great. The interface techniques, Mac integration, and user experience can be improved a lot.
Please don’t get me wrong. The product is quite nice, and probably meets the needs of many. Even for me, it is an obvious front-runner. But, I haven’t found a level of comfort with it yet, and I’m not sure that additional use of v1 will help that. At this point I have a neutral and almost adversarial relationship with my data management. I’d like to get past that, and into something more like a partnership, since these are the kinds of tools that you basically move into and live with for a long long time.
Thoughts, comments and roadmaps appreciated.