Sermon & Research Organisation using Devonthink Pro Office

I have recently moved to a Mac from a Windows box, and I am discovering Devonthink at present

I need to create a searchable database of research notes, lecturing notes and sermons where I can search by multiple criteria. this would replace a database I have in AskSam 6.1 with the following search possibilities:
Bible Reference,
Word anywhere in document,
Sermon Series

The functionality is a little bit like

Would anyone have any tips on how to do this?
Or even something you already have working that you would be happy for me to use as a template

Many thanks

Tim Norman

Tim, DEVONthink doesn’t force one into a template format for documents. Just import your sermons and notes into the database.

You can organize related documents into groups. Once your database has grown sufficiently, the Classify button can suggest a group location for a new document. Using replicants or duplicates you can organize a document into multiple groups, if that’s useful. Organization is entirely up to you, whatever you find useful.

You can create networks of relationships using Wiki links or hyperlinks. Clicking on such a link will open the referenced document. For example, if a sermon refers to a verse in the Bible, and that verse already exists as a document, you can link from the sermon to the verse by selecting an appropriate word on phrase in the sermon, then Control-click (right click) and choose the contextual menu option Link To, then choose the verse document.

You can add searchable plain text in the Comment field of a document’s Info panel. You can enter notes or keyword tags in this way. Or you can "tag’ items with a Label color (Data > Label - Color). Note that in the Search window you can search just the Comment field or a specific Label color, for example.

Option-click on a word, e.g., Samuel, and a drawer will pop out listing all the documents in the database that contain that word. Or select a word or phrase and press Command-/ (Lookup); a search window will open with that word or phrase already entered.

While viewing a document, click on the See Also button. A drawer will pop out with a list of other document that the artificial intelligence feature has found to be contextually related. Some of those suggestions may be useful, others not. You are the decision maker, but this can be a useful way to interact with the information content in your database.

DEVONthink provides a rich environment for storing and organizing your information and for writing and research. Perhaps you might start your organization with two major groups, e.g., Old Testament and New Testament. Under each you might then have subgroups by document type (e.g., sermons, commentaries, quotations, etc.) – whatever fits your needs and preferences. Think of your groups as holding clusters of related information, defined more tightly by subgroups and subgroups within subgroups. But some features such as Search and See Also are not dependent on your organizational structure at all.

Suggestion: Start by importing content into your database and begin experimenting with what you can do. Try some searches (Tools > Search) and experiment with different configurations of the query setups in the left column of the search window.

There are a great many commands available in DEVONthink. Many of them are available only within a given context. I’ve been using DEVONthink for years and am still learning new tricks. My advice is not to start by trying to memorize all the possible commands, but to dive in and learn by doing.


Thank you for your quick reply. I’m almost ready to dive in.

Before I do, 3 further questions

(1) Let’s just say that I don’t use any groups for the moment and I import all my sermons and research, and then I need to find a sermon on John 14:1-6 …will that be found easily …won’t it also come up with e.g. ‘John Wimber’ ‘John Taylor Quarter’ etc… Is there an easy way to restrict this

(2) My currrent AskSam 6.1 database has about 1700 documents. AskSam can export as .rtf (and a few other formats). Would .rtf be the best format, or would you suggest something else in order to retain fomatting and footnotes etc.?

(3) Say I also need to do a search to find a sermon for a kid’s talk for Christmas Day - Given that the 1700 or so docs already have this information in the AskSam subject field …is there a way for this info to the Comment field of each document’s information panel.

Thanks again


  1. Although the query syntax in DEVONthink 2 will be more powerful, you can limit a search in DEVONthink 1 by using a Phrase or a Wildcards search, as follows:

Phrase: Check the Phrase operator and enter “John 14” (without quotes).

Wildcards: Check the Wildcards operator and enter “John 14” (without quotes. You can even search for the exact string John 14:1-6 by enclosing the string within asterisks.

  1. The rich text editor in DEVONthink doesn’t do footnotes, so it may not include those. See what happens.

If you can export as PDF from AskSam (I have no idea), all formatting would be carried over.

  1. Unless AskSam can be told to place its Subject terms into the Spotlight comment field when it exports to the Finder (and DEVONthink is told in Preferences to copy Spotlight comments on import), probably not. But if the exported material contains terms such as Christmas and Kids, you may be able to quickly identify that material.

ok bill

we’re making progress…

I now have a very large .rtf file (5952 pages), as AskSam could only export as a large documnet [I checked this with their tecchies).

The start of each subdoc looks like this [with different info in each field]:
endofdocTitle[ Can War with Iraq ever be justified? ] Doc_Type[ Study Notes
Sermon Series[ ] Original[
Check Subject Picklist Return to Main Menu Add New Entry

Scripture Book[ ] Start Chapter[ ]: Verse[ ] – End Ch[ ]: Vs[ ]
Subjects[ War & Peace War

Kid’s_Talk[ ] Evangelistic[ ] Audience Age[ ] Audience_Type[
Length(mins)[ ] Date[ ] Where_Preached[

Author[ Michael Nazir Ali ] Reference [ Church of England Newspaper 13.2.

Interest Object[                                       
AV, H/Os etc[  
Memory Maker[ 

Fieldnames are in the ‘Field’ Style

and Field Date is in “Field Data - (Default)” Style

So I want to find the best way to do the following:
(1) Get each subdoc in this .rft imported separately into Devonthink Pro

(2) Get the info in the header for each subdoc into useful Spotlight comments - to facilitate searching - automatically if possible.

Any suggestions?

Many thanks


I am also currently in the process of exporting the content of some aksSam files for use in DT. So far I have found two different approaches:

  1. Export askSam file as .csv and import that to make it a sheet (table) in DT.
    That way you will loose any text formatting (you will get only plain text), but all your askSam Fields will translate into columns in a DT sheet. I have found DT sheets to be extremely handy for quick lookup of information in different fields, maybe as fast or even faster than doing a field search in askSam. Just a click on the top of a column will resort the sheet according to that column, and then you can get to the desired entry by typing the first few letters of a word. Works fine with a 29000 document file with single- and multiline fields.

  2. Try to make every askSam document become a single rtf file. I have done that in the past by using a macro program (Macro Express on the PC; will probably buy iKey for the Mac). With such a program you can automate a workflow that will copy each askSam document and make a new Word or rtf file out of it. Creating such a macro takes time and experience (although I kind of like the thrill of making such a macro work) and of course the workflow takes quite some time also.

Another way would be to export the askSam file into a big rtf file with either “Page Break” or a String (e.g. ##) as delimiter and then find a rtf or pdf splitting program that will split at Page Break or at a given String. I haven’t found one yet, but I have only been looking for freeware until now. And also you will have to somehow rename the files.

For some files where I want both text formatting preserved and database fields implemented in DT I am still waiting for DEVONthink 2, because it has been said that DT2 will have custom metadata handling. I don’t know what possibilities will arise with that feature, but maybe then it will be possible to have a rtf file with all the field info from our askSam files in the (searchable) metadata fields attached to that file. I will also wait with finding a solution for the conversion of the data until I know how this is implemented in DT2. Generally almost anything can be done with a good macro.



This is very helpful. I’m getting close to deciding on a strategy.

BIll - any comments re. the best way to do this and to preserve formatting.

I’ve also been on the AskSam Forums, and have had this helpful reply (

"Re: Exporting multiple documents as separate .rtf documents
Posted: 05-28-2008 11:34 AM
I agree with Paul — AS6 can’t automate that job. But there is a semi-automatic solution with MS Word that might provide a work-around…

  1. Open the RTF in Word.
  2. Choose the Outline View.
  3. Select the first line (or paragraph) of each document and assign the same outline level (e.g. Header 7).
  4. Choose the Master Document View.
  5. Select all and click on the button that creates Subdocuments.
  6. Save the file. Word will store each section in a separate document and automatically name it after the line that made the headers.

If done repeatedly with the same ASK, one could store all steps in a Word Macro for automating the procedure.

It’s much easier with an ASK that has been exported to TXT. But I understand that, in this case, we are dealing with RTF only.

Flo (Moderator of the German askSam Forum)"

Clemens, BIll, Anyone else

I’m enjoying Devonthink Pro Office 2 now, and am trying to get clear about the new functions and how they relate to preserving both text formatting preserved and database fields from imported files. Does DT2 have the custom metadata fields Clemens is talking about or not?

Many thanks