Six Interface Comments, Niggles and Suggestions…

The new DEVONthink 2.0 is of course stunning. Its power, speed, stability, attention to detail, and beautifully restrained new UI are really impressive.

So I hope that everyone will take these few interface comments/niggles/suggestions in the spirit they’re intended!

  1. In the Group column, displaying the item count in brackets alongside the group’s name makes everything much more difficult to read and scan. Why has DEVON chosen not to use the more common Mac convention of displaying the number of items in grey round-cornered boxes aligned to the right of this column?

  2. Also, why does this number also include the count of group folders? This seems weird and misleading to me. To me groups and tags are structural abstractions, quite different from the actual documents themselves. A change in structure changes the total file count?? Maybe there’s some geeky advantage to doing it this way, but I can’t see it.

  3. I use (Spotlight) Comments all the time to log my thoughts on clippings and bookmarks right at the time of capture. However these Comments are still second-class citizens in terms of visibility and accessibility in DEVONthink’s interface. You’ve got to be really vigilant to spot the little icon next to the file name, and to then click the Info button to reveal the Comment buried at the foot of the Info floating window. My suggestion would be to add a second display bar at the foot of the main window (immediately above the Tags display bar) to show the (truncated) first line of any Comments. This could be toggled by a mini-button alongside the tag button, with perhaps a Preference option to display two or more lines. It would also be nice if found words in a Search could then be highlighted in this new Comments display bar.

  4. The restrained and skilful graphic design of DEVONthink 2.0’s new interface is a huge improvement on its predecessor. But I wonder if the new designer got to look at the floating ‘Info’ panel, which to my eyes still needs some typographic attention. Also, would a sliding drawer option instead of a floating window reduce the need to shuffle windows around the screen?

  5. This one’s a minor niggle, but I think it’s important in a well crafted interface – could DEVONthink add a few more pixels to the text padding at the top of the text edit window? The first line of text is jammed too tight against the window top!

  6. Finally, there’s one key area where I think DEVONthink still lags behind – its ‘Live Thumbnail’ view. Like EagleFiler, Together and Yojimbo, DEVONthink’s thumbnails are still based on Snow Leopard’s preview icons. These Mac OS icons are needlessly embellished with type names and turned-corner graphics. Worse still, for many document types, such as bookmarks, emails and third-party files, these thumbnail icons are replaced by an ugly generic symbol icons which scale really badly. Compare this visual confusion with SOHO Notes, which generates its own purpose-designed landscape thumbnails. Quite hard to describe in words (and only apparent in a well populated working database), these thumbnails are a genuinely helpful feature to intuitively scan and select files using visual clues. This only works when all the thumbnails are complete, in scale and in visual harmony with each other. In SOHO Notes this works stunningly well. But in DEVONthink it works badly, and in my opinion, this prevents DEVONthink from realising its apparent ambition to move beyond its undoubted dominance of the text file database market into more visually-oriented file handling and notetaking applications. I really hope that DEVONthink will fix this, because in almost every other way DEVONthink rocks!

Good suggestions! There does appear to be some consensus here that the interface could be tweaked some to make DT look as great as it works. I’ll offer a couple of comments on your list.

The item count in the column view is, as far as I have seen, somewhat unique to DT. I don’t know of another application that does anything similar to compare it to. The Sidebar in DT does use the common convention of showing the number of items in a blue oval, same as what Mail, iTunes, etc. does.

I’ve always been curious about that myself.

I have added ‘Spotlight Comment’ as one of the columns that displays in the documents pane of the Three Pane view.

I agree here also. DT already uses drawers, and I would like to see the Info window added to the list of drawers.

I believe that DT uses the standard OS text editing routines here, with the same text padding as what you get in TextEdit.

No comment on this as I have thumbnails turned off, other than to say that (at least in some applications), thumbnails can apparently have a negative impact on performance. Together’s developer recommends turning them off on large databases. I’ve not looked at SOHO Notes to see what they look like or what, if any, impact they have on performance.

DEVONthink creates thumbnails on its own for images, PDF/PS documents and QuickTime movies. The Quick Look icons introduced by Leopard are used for everything else on demand (off by default).

The appearance of these Quick Look icons could be easily toggled between icons (like now) and “pure” thumbnails. The only matter is what people prefer as we avoid to add too many preferences as there are already more than enough :wink:.

Adding this column to search results highlights all occurrences in the comment, by the way.

I quite like the way this is done actually. Blends in nicely with the Duplicates & Replicants icons. I use rather long descriptive document names (such as “20100305 Letter from James Smith re problem with light source - replied on 20100306”). I use the Spotlight comments if I need more room than the document name will show & the comment icon is useful to skim down a list of documents to see which ones have additional comments. I suppose the display bar you suggest could be added (as long as I can turn it off :slight_smile:, but please don’t remove the icon.

I do have a query related to this though. Why is the Show Info keyboard shortcut Command-Shift-I, instead of the usual Command-I?

Cmd-I is used for Italics.

aha, I get it. The reason I never came across this is cos I ne’er use the rtf note taking feature

I hadn’t given this much thought until you mentioned it here. While I do like the aesthetics of SOHO Notes’ choice to use the conventional numbers in the ovals, for me it doesn’t scan as quickly. My eye often has to make a large jump to the right if I’m looking for that information and then I have to make sure I’m still on the same line.

On the other hand, in DTPro the number becomes part of the text and my scan of the list takes in that information along with the group name. I also have more information available as it tells me that, for instance, there are 5 of 15 in a particular group I have not read.

The Tag icons on the right are useful to see at a glance which groups might have been excluded from tagging. Since those are right-justified it’s easier to access this information as a column and a vertical scan tells me what I need to know very quickly. The only information I have to parse is yes/no or off/on and then glance to the left to see which group it relates to.


Thanks for all your feedback!

A few of my comments in response…

  1. bcarpenter – As far as I can see my suggestion of showing the item count in a grey box aligned right in the Groups panel wouldn’t interfere with anything in the Three Pane View. However I now appreciate that there’s also a similar item count in the first column of the Two Pane View, where icons indicating comments/duplicates/replicants also appear to the right. In my opinion the addition of a grey item count box wouldn’t adversely affect the readability of these already visually-mixed icons. I still think the huge improvement in readability in the Three Pane View Groups panel would more than compensate – and that the current method of appending item counts in brackets is a poor design decision.

  2. greg_jones – I think that TextEdit’s text padding is poor too!

  3. Thank you cgrunenberg and greg_jones – I didn’t realise that adding a Spotlight Comment column in the Three Pane View would enable found Comments text to be highlighted in a search. However the acute space (and other) limitations of this narrow Comments column greatly limits its functionality compared to my suggestion of a much wider extra Comments bar (with an option of two or more lines) immediately above the Tags bar.

  4. I’m also stunned to find that there are two different sorts of ‘Comments’ – ‘Spotlight Comments’ and I assume ‘DEVONthink Comments’. Confusingly, their view columns are titled identically, and I can’t find a way of accessing the ‘DEVONthink Comment’ field. How is this supposed to work?

  5. I strongly recommend that those of you who have a copy of SOHO Notes (especially DEVONthink’s developers!) should take a look at the game-changing visual impact of SOHO’s Thumbnail Preview. As I said in my first post “…this only works when all the thumbnails are complete, in scale and in visual harmony with each other.” In my opinion there is no point in offering a visual ‘Live Preview’ if it doesn’t work visually! I’m looking on my screen now at a DEVONthink Icon View showing a grossly over-sized ‘@’ symbol immediately alongside a ludicrously narrow and unreadable representation of a long page webarchive – these offer absolutely no additional visual information or functionality. If generating properly proportioned and readable thumbnails in DEVONthink has a performance hit then clearly this should be a Preferences option – but then this might as well just switch off the Icon View entirely!

  6. greg_jones – the Together developer has now fixed their preview icons’ performance issues, but their icons are not much better than DEVONthink’s. FWIW Evernote’s ludicrously long, narrow and completely illegible pdf preview icons are even worse than DEVONthink’s.

yeah, this is definitely confusing

The “DEVONThink comment field” (as are all the fields in View > Columns that appear below the horizontal divider line) is a metadata field that is used in some document kinds that support it. For some of these documents the Tools > Properties HUD can be used to view/edit the fields – dependent on whether that kind of document supports it.

Because these document metadata fields are not controlled by DTPO, it is probably best that DTPO merely uses the “standard” name for the field instead of inventing a new name. DTPO is trying to be helpful and present some added metadata that is contained in a document in a way that is helpful to knowledgeable users of that kind of document. The rest of us can ignore the metadata. :confused:

AFAIK the latter type of comments in certain document pre-dates DT (and Spotlight). I think it’s part of specifications someone recently mentioned in another thread.

Whoops. Looks like a “bug” to me.

Tools > Show Properties (Option-Command-P) is another way to view, but not modify, that field.

After temporarily adding the Comment field to the History window of my largest database and scrolling through it I didn’t see a single document with a Comment value.

[edit: just noticed korm’s reply before mine]