Suggested ways of using devonthink

Am interested in finding out how you all have been using devonthink in daily tasks. For example do you just leave it running so that anything new can be imported or copied? Do you only use it at the end of the work day and import all that you’ve done that day? Do you use it as your principle word processor? I’m trying to get a workflow that will work for me and am having a longer learning curve than I had expected, especially when scanning stuff in using the fujitsu scanner. I guess I figured it would be more “automatic” but it’s taking me some time to “unlearn” other practices so I can “learn” new ways of doing things. Thanks in advance.

I open DT first thing in the morning and leave it running throughout my work day. Before I begin work I check online news and other releveant sites and import things I find interesting or want to read later or think I will need for a project into DT. When I’m working on a project, I often find I need to look something up, so it’s back on the net and importing things into DT. When I’m developing a project, I continually do research, pop on the web, find something, bring it into DT. Or I do more focused research in DA and import things in bulk.

So, as you can see, my day is pretty much writing, doing research, and sticking things into DT! DT is the ‘foundation’ program for me that houses everything I need, may need, will need for present and future projects, as well as for my personal life, language studies, and much more. I have two other dbs, one for clip art and another for personal business items, such as receipts, resumes, etc., but those are used much less often.

I don’t use DT for word processing. I did try that out and do sometimes use it for jotting down notes and the like, but, after much searching, I have two programs that I now use for project development and actual writing. My ‘word processor’ of choice is Mellel for reasons I’ve posted elsewhere (outlining pane and multiple note streams primarily) which I use for large, complex projects that need the power of a genuine word processing program. For all other writing and all idea development, I now use Scrivener Gold and soon Scrivener, the new, grown up version of SG. It’s in beta, so I can’t really use it as I do SG, but it’s definitely the program I’ve been looking for as a writer.

So, the way it works for me is that I house everything in DT for storage, classification, quick finds and to use the AI functions only DT offers. Then I move relevant items to Scrivener for project development. If my project involves a long and complex writing structure, it gets transferred, eventually, to Mellel.

I’ve long since given up having one program do everything and I’ve decided that it works better this way. I’d rather have DT do what it does best and develop in that direction, same with Scrivener and Mellel.

I also use one more program—MacJournal—as my journaling and blogging program. I can do more with it too, but all for completely personal use.

I’m quite happy with this arrangement, and it took me over a year to find it all and get it working smoothly! I tried LOTS of programs and expressed a great deal angst on several different forums in the process!

Now, I write! And work. And consider myself very blessed and happy to have a Mac with all this amazing software (after so many years of having a Mac with very few options!!!).

Hope this helps!


I think exactly the same and i have the same working experience. :smiley:
Actually, i’m working for a big publisher as a researcher and writer. What is exactly your job?

Hi, xizzy. Right now my job is writing a dissertation to complete my degree requirements (for my Ph.D.)! I’m also a freelance writer (non-fiction and ficiton), when I have time these days, and all of my research is for my own purposes. I have in the past been a researcher, editor, and writer for other people, but no more. :slight_smile: Once the dissertaiton is done I plan to continue to write and also teach, so DT will house all that material as well I’m sure!


I am a full-time, professional investigative researcher. I write long reports (50-100 pages) that have many, many hundreds of footnotes and endnotes. I do the majority of my work online, using primarily Internet material and/or LEXIS/NEXIS. I am also increasingly drawing upon my personal archive (now at 4 gigs) of archived material. Until very recently, I was stuck with Windows, but I am a recent (and ecstatic) Mac convert. I have three broad categories of software needs:

  1. Searching

  2. Organizing

  3. Writing

  4. Searching

When Google isn’t enough, I was using a Windows program called Copernic Agent. I would like to switch completely to DevonAgent but a couple of DA’s limitations prevent this so far. The major problem is that DA doesn’t index anything but HTML pages, not PDF, etc. Hopefully this will get fixed soon.

  1. Organizing

For organizing purposes under Windows, I used to use something call NetSnippets which is one of a handful of Windows programs that let you create outlines based on “Snippets” which can be web pages, selections from web pages or other documents, etc. I liked it basically because it stored the snippets as normal, html files which meant they were searchable with desktop search programs and didn’t lock you into any particular program for the future. When I switched to the Mac, I discovered DT. I won’t get into a comparison here, but I will say that what has me jazzed about DT is the ability to have the program auto classify documents. For example, I recently started a project which initially involved sorting some 1000 existing documents into some kind of structure. Normally it would have taken me untold hours, but with DT, the auto group function did a really nice job of getting me started and especially finding all the duplicates. Then, once a preliminary structure had developed, the auto classify function took off and I was able to easily finish the process. Because DT stores data in a proprietary format, I have to be careful to export everything I collect within DT which I do using the RTF format. At first I thought I might be losing something by not having a complete archive of the web page, but I can starting to appreciate the simplicity of having just one file to archive.

I should say that I am a born outliner so the DT format works well for me. Also, my reports do not usually necessitate any processing after the material is gathered. That is, once I organize the material into an outline, I can go straight to the report. I don’t use notecards or anything like that. I just keep the DT outline and associated documents open and work straight from that. If I needed to do tons of creative work in order to develop the outline, I would consider something like Scrivener, but I don’t see the need in my work. I do sometimes face a situation where the material is so complicated that I can’t create an outline because I can’t figure out the relationships without a visual assist. I plan to do this in the Mac OS with Tinderbox which I would describe as a kind of visual “spreadsheet” for information.

  1. Writing

Since my report formats are quite basic, my word processing needs are simple-- just a couple of fonts, the ability to create references, nothing more than that really. I despise having to use Word for Mac but I need 100% compatibility. Of course, it is the only Mac program I have which crashes!

Hope this wasn’t too boring.

My uses:

  • diary *
  • house and garden recordkeeping (DT+applescript) *
  • weather recordkeeping (DT+applescript) *
  • expense tracking (DT+applescript) *
  • historical and genealogical timelines (DT sheets)
  • snippets on various subjects, mostly from the web
  • current month only; at the end of the month, I munge the diaries (using applescript) and save them to disk as .txt files which are indexed and synched in DT.

DT gets launched automatically at reboot and stays open. I use the three-pane view for the main DT window and keep it small so as to be unobtrusive. I use vertical split for group windows when opened separately.

Hopes for future development: more features for sheets

Not at all boring! It’s always fun to see how other writers work. Investigative researching…sounds interesting! Yes, we definitely have similar needs and workflow, even if for different purposes. I use DA some, Safari some for searching. Of course I’ve already covered my DT uses. I love that auto classify function as well! And See Also has been very useful, along with all the many other wonderful features DT offers.

Btw, welcome to the Mac world! I’ve used Windows machines extensively at jobs I’ve had, but for my own use, it’s been Macs since 1985. Glad you are happy with the move!


My uses for DTpro are less “professional” than many here, but its an invaluable part of my day-to-day computer usage (and life, really, as I use my Mac extensively to organize most aspects of my life).

I keep logs for my various Macs and two work PCs as well as my three aquariums in DTpro. For the computers I log all software installations/updates, maintenance activities, and all other notes that may be of use in future troubleshooting. For the aquariums I log all maintenance, additions (fish, plants, or equipment) fertilizations (for my many aquatic plants), breeding/egg-laying events, or anything else of interest. I also keep growing and fertilization notes on my aquatic plant species (great with the automatic wiki links).

I also keep entries for Mac/UNIX hints and tips, info on my computers with serial numbers & AppleCare/hardware info, home network info, programming notes & code snippets, travel notes for past and possible future trips, notes on computer games I’m playing, and lots of notes with items of more general reference.

Basically I use DTpro to keep all sorts of notes about nearly everything I do and/or am interested in! :slight_smile:

EDIT: I also keep ALL of this in a single database, both for convenience and because its both interesting & useful to see links and relationship that DTpro finds among my varies notes and documents…

My workflow and my tools are very similar to those of Alexandria. I use DTP for storing all kinds of material I collect on the internet, and for storing all kinds of loose annotations. I own DA too, but for some reason which is not wholly clear to myself I rarely use it.

For wordprocessing I use Mellel and plan to use Scrivener as soon as a stable 1.0 version will be available. And I’m experimenting with Papyrus too.

I also use Mellel for storing annotations on well-defined subjects. Its excellent outlining feature and its great stability make it well suited to this purpose.

For my private notes (about myself, my children, my experiences with various applications, my house, my holidays, my health, my financial situation, etc. etc.) and for my ‘scientific diary’ (all kinds of annotations about the progress of my research) I use MacJournal, an application I really like.

And finally, there’s Bookends, in which I store thousands of scientific publications.

I don’t use DTP for storing images. I simply leave them in the Pictures folder of the Finder, where I created an host of subfolders and subsubfolders. For cataloguing my pictures I use iViewMediaPro. Works quite well.

Well, these are more or less my essentials!

Oops, forgot about Bookends, which houses all my references for quick citation and bibliography creation.

Yes, Timotheus, we have extremely similar work tools!!


I’m a journalist, and I use DevonNote to clip articles from the web, press releases sent to me via email, and other reference material. I also use it to store and organize extensive research material for a book in progress.

When it’s time to write, I arrange those notes in a folder for each story, then display them on the left side of my monitor, in a horizontal split with the files visible at the top and the info in the selected file at the bottom. On the right side of the screen, I write the piece, usually in OmniOutliner (before that Mellel, before that TextEdit, before that – ugh – Word), and then export to TextEdit or Mellel for formatting.

Actually, for short pieces where I don’t need footnoting or outlining etc., I often draft it in DN – it’s basically like using TextEdit, and I like the live word count feature. I just create a file for the piece and display it on the right side of the screen, write the piece, and export to rtf for emailing to my editor.

But now I’m switching to Scrivener, which I discovered thanks to a mention here on the Devon forum, so I’ll just use DN and Scrivener henceforth, with occasional export to Mellel or, sigh, Word (because of my coauthor, who likes the comments feature) for footnoting my book. Maybe I can convert him to Scrivener, which does allow annotation and footnoting though you still need to format in a word processor.

Except for the book, I don’t usually collect more than a few dozen documents worth of research for my journalistic projects, so I don’t really use even DevonNote’s more advanced features. It’s plenty for me and I’m glad Devon makes a basic version available, as I wouldn’t have bought it if it’d been more expensive. I will use the AI and cross references etc. more as I complete the book.

For a long time I’ve been looking for a reasonably powerful word processor that could also produce PDFs with working URLs and internal hyperlinks.

OpenOffice and Pages 2.x do that, and for the past few months I’ve been using Pages 2.x to polish writing and editing I’ve done inside DT Pro.

But above all, I’ve been looking for a competent word processor that not only does the above but also is fully compatible with DT Pro. By fully compatible I mean one that imports to DT Pro with not only text capture but also renders in DT Pro exactly as in the parent application, showing layout, formats, images, tables, everything.

And I wanted to be able to look at the version in DT Pro and be able to edit it simply by clicking the Launch Path button, whereupon I could edit and save it, with changes automatically made to my database.

Now I can do that with Papyrus 12 for Mac OS X. I can create a document in Papyrus, save it as a .pap.pdf editable PDF file and import it to DT Pro. It displays as PDF+Text in DT Pro, which by itself isn’t remarkable. But when I select such a document and choose Launch Path, it opens under Papyrus as a fully editable document; text, images, lists, footnotes, endnotes, hyperlinks, tables, spreadsheet elements – all are completely editable. WOW. That is truly remarkable.

I’ve been watching Papyrus over the years and occasionally tried a demo. Although past versions have been competent, with very good use of styles, good list capabilities, and associated features for spreadsheets and databases I was never persuaded to give Papyrus a good workout.

Editable PDF, a new feature, put Papyrus 12 over the top for me. I bought it.

Right now I’m doing a volunteer project, creating PDFs of clinic operations and medical procedures. The source material comes from Web and OCR’d documents plus original work and rewrites. All the source material is in a DT Pro database. I was using Pages to polish the material and then produce PDF files. The result has been many dozens of PDFs which are then reviewed by a group of doctors and nurses, all of whom suggest additions or revisions, of course.

So I’ve been caught in a two-step shuffle. To do a revision I have to first locate the original Pages file (it’s not visible in my database, of course), edit and save it, then produce another PDF file.

But with Papyrus 12 I can now simply find the PDF+Text file in my database, click on Launch Path and do the revisions, then save the edited file. And there it is in my database. That’s user-friendly and saves time and frustration. (Of course, I usually back up the database with Backup Archive before doing a batch of revisions, just in case I want to find the original versions. Note, though, that Papyrus will let me quickly revert to an earlier state of the document, with unlimited Undos.)

For those who like to see the outline structure of a document, appropriate use of styles will let one instantly display an outline view, with hyperlinks to any section or subsection. There’s also a strong Table of Contents feature, which can generate clickable hyperlinks to document sections.

And it’s neat to be able to insert, for example, a working spreadsheet frame into a document that could display the summary results of a very large and complex spreadsheet stored in one or more other documents.

Although it’s quite powerful in its own right, Papyrus isn’t perfect. It’s got rather limited compatibility with Word files, for example. It’s “different” in certain ways, so there can be a learning curve before one becomes familiar with it. But now I can understand why the developer of Graphic Converter recommends it.

There’s some file size penalty to produce editable PDFs, but the files can be viewed using any current PDF viewer on any platform. (If desired, one could export the document as a “normal” PDF.)

The developers of Papyrus note that they plan to introduce a future version that can open “normal” PDF files. That would be quite a trick. I wonder if that would let me correct typos or OCR errors in existing PDFs?

I presently use SOHO Notes from Chronos. I am looking at DevonThink Pro. I seems to have more going for it. I am looking for some input from other DevonThink Pro converts.

I am and will be doing a lot of writing and research as well as keeping track of information for two hobies, Cars and Woodturning.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.



@ Bill: a very interesting post! More generally spoken, it seems to me that Papyrus does not have the notoriety it deserves. I bought it too; for reasons different from yours; and though I don’t use it very often (I use to work with Mellel), I really do like it.

But it’s good to know that for certain purposes Papyrus makes a good combination with DT.

I made the switch several months ago and am very happy.

It is unbelievable how stable DT is as well as how fast it is compared to the other product.

Everything exports fine from Notes.

Just MHO, actual results may vary.


Bill De Ville:

“I can create a document in Papyrus, save it as a .pap.pdf editable PDF file and import it to DT Pro. It displays as PDF+Text in DT Pro, which by itself isn’t remarkable. But when I select such a document and choose Launch Path, it opens under Papyrus as a fully editable document; text, images, lists, footnotes, endnotes, hyperlinks, tables, spreadsheet elements – all are completely editable. WOW. That is truly remarkable.”

Strange. When I create a Papyrus document, save it as a PDF/PAP hybrid, then export it into DTP, and open it with Launch Path, the document isn’t opened under Papyrus at all: I just get a PDF-document that can’t be changed. What am I doing wrong?

Timotheus wrote

My initial experiments were with a small DT Pro database containing several dozen documents that I had converted to the Papyrus 12 .pap.pdf file format.

During those experiments I had temporarily changed the Finder preferences to open PDFs as Papyrus files. Afterwards, I changed back to my customary preferences of setting PDFs to open with Preview on Launch Path. So I should have recommend “Open With”…Papyrus rather than “Launch Path”.

Use Open With from DT Pro and choose Papyrus. Then your .pap.pdf files will properly open under Papyrus for editing.