The Devonthink-Bookends productivity disaster

Browsing websites of research projects, scholars, institutions, magazines, or journals and grabbing articles, e-books, web pages, white papers, or whatever HTML or PDF documents is a rather common task in a researcher’s information gathering process. Devonthink is rightfully considered to be one of the finest tools for info grabbing. But then, you’ll want to take notes, draft your paper, book or thesis, polish it. Or you might just want to compile a bibliography for some of the articles you’ve found and dumped into DT in the last couple of months. Kerry Magruder has nicely listed the details of these processes in combination with tools like Devonthink, Bookends, Skim, and Scrivener. ( … kflow.html)

DT and BE don’t seem to play along very well when DT is your repository for articles and web snippets and BE is your choice for the management of bibliographic data. Just count the steps needed to get from discovering a quote-worthy web article or pdf to actually inserting a citation into a word processor document.

For snippets of simple webpages, the process requires 7 steps of manual action in Zotero. Devonthink and Bookends, however, require some 30 steps. With PDFs, it’s getting even worse: you’ll have 12 steps in Zotero vs. 45 steps in Devonthink/Bookends. For any single reference.

There are, for sure, use cases in which Bookends and Devonthink are second to none, either on their own or in teamplay. But if you just surf the web, dump stuff into Devonthink and later want to cite this material using Bookends, Devonthink and Bookends send you into a Verdun of productivity.

###web pages 

(capture document while browsing in Firefox)
- click Zotero
- click new entry from current web page
(immediately add missing reference data; URL, title, access date are added automatically)
- add author’s name
- add date

(insert citation somewhen later in text editor)
- click add citation
- search citation
- click insert

=> 7 steps

##Devonthink and Bookends
(capture document while browsing in - preferably - Safari)
- click or shortcut to store webpage in DT

(prepare „sending“ data form DT to BE)
- search for article
- mark article
- open Info pane
- arrange DT and BE windows to be visible simultaneously

(create a reference in Bookends)
- create new ref
- select ref type 
- switch to DT
	- look up author’s name in saved text
- switch to BE	
	- add author’s name
- DT: 
	- copy title field
- BE: 
	- paste into title
- DT: 
	- copy created field, sorry, can’t be marked, so memorize created field
- BE: 
	- paste into Last accessed field
- DT: 
	- copy URL
- BE: 
	- paste URL into URL

(place a link to BE-ref in DT- and vice versa - to avoid a later accidental recreation of a BE-ref and to avoid later doubts about if and how things have been exchanged between DT and BE)
- BE: You can’t drag a link to the DT-Info pane as the latter disappears as soon as BE gets the focus. And there’s no „Edit -> Copy as link“ or similar command in BE. So: memorize the BE ID#.
- switch to DT, Information window 
	- type „bookends://“ and the BE ID# either into comment or URL field
- BE: As DT documents don’t provide a link to themselves whatsoever, one can only add a note in a BE ref field mentioning that there is a DT document which contains the text, the content to which the BE reference refers.

(somewhen later in a word processor)
- click add citation
- search citation
- click insert

=> 30 steps

### PDFs

## Zotero - additional tasks only
(capturing PDF while browsing)
- save PDF
- add url
- add ‘downloaded on’
- open Finder
- go to firefox download folder
- drag’n’drop PDF onto the new Zotero reference
+ ‘new entry from current webpage’ not necessary

==> 12 steps

##Devonthink and Bookends - additional tasks only
(capturing PDF)
- drag URL from Safari and drop it on Devonagent-Icon
- Switch to Devonagent
- Add PDF to Devonthink 
- Switch back to Safari

(attach PDF to BE reference)
- drag’n’drop PDF from DT onto BE ref
- Attach to abc form: select „copy to“ Attachment folder

(to avoid PDF redundancies and clutter, keep only one copy in DT, the one that was indexed)
- in DT, go to indexed ‘Bookends’ folder
- Synchronize
- where appropriate, add metadata to newly synched document; for that:
	- Find this newly synched document
	- Open a new DT window
	- Find its old duplicate	
	- copy metadata, e.g. comments field
- where appropriate, replicate newly synched doc just like the old PDF was
- delete all instances of old PDF document

==> 45 steps (30 plus 15 additional tasks)

A quick update:
On the Devonthink side, some metadata fields (e.g. for the devon://-like url (would go into the bibliography software), and not hiding files behind the .dtbase-curtain would help. By all accounts, these are features announced for dt 2.0.

I checked Automator and later tried GUI-scripting Bookends. Automator hardcodes window titles („Switch to window „Ref # 2344 of database““) instead of referring to „window 1“ or so - so it’s not an option. As to GUI Scripting: One can neither read nor set values to the fields of a Bookends reference. I guess Bookends’ RealBasic approach is to blame, here.

The only way to achieve the kind of automation I described in the previous post, is using QuicKeys, an amazing, yet not too cheap macro tool. I’ve set up a so called Shortcut in QuicKeys which allows to press a keyboard shortcut and, very slow boom, a reference in Bookends is created that has all the data that DT already had. Due to shortcomings of either DT or Bookends, the ‘script’ lacks creating a link from a Bookends ref to a the DT document and attaching the file given in a DT-record’s path field to Bookends. You’ll find the Shortcut-file attached.

Automation with Sente should work similarly. Sente only offers a too limited AppleScript library, you would thus have to rely on GUI scripting, too. It might be easier as Sente uses Cocoa widgets and you might not have to refer to QuicKeys, it might be more difficult as its Reference windows are highly customizable and thus a bit of a moving target.
QuicKeys (12.5 KB)

This is the only point that is difficult. While our competitors offer only one single database stored centrally, we allow you to create as many as you want. To protect the contents of the databases, we need to make them a package. You will be able to reference them using URLs, but we will not go without the .dtBase extension. After all, however, it’s still a folder.