Thinking about buying Devonthink

I am just a person who loves DT3 and DTTG. Not a scholar, retired but still learning each day, here are some of the uses for DT3 for me:

  1. recipe database
  2. web page database
  3. bills database, including paid and due (and this has already saved my bacon more than once)
  4. writing database in cahoots with Scrivener

I highly suggest you take a testdrive and really put DT3 to the test. I think you will find it is the best out there, with excellent support. (and I remember the days of a database program called ASKSAM)

AND WELCOME chrisbarrett77–glad to have you aboard!


I very much identify with the post by @SlickSlack—specifically the first three bullet points in that post (I don’t do scriptwriting!).

Just over two years ago when I first started using DEVONThink I used it simply as a respository for documents that would otherwise have been in folders dotted around my hard disk (just the sort of financial records and receipts @SlickSlack mentioned). There was a certain peace of mind that came from that initial use: everything in its place and a place for everything.

But, as @SlickSlack says, there is so much more. I now have eight databases—including a specific AppleScript database where I store code snippets, having recently embarked on a similar learning curve to @SlickSlack. The recent major improvements to markdown in the app resulted, first, in exploration of an export/import workflow for Day One journal entries (effectively backing them up in DT) and now use of markdown for automatically generated tables of contents and notes linking to other documents (including, to my delight, to specific pages of pdf files).

DEVONThink is a hugely versatile app and everyone seems to use it in a different way and for differing purposes. Do go ahead and try it: you really won’t regret it!

One last point: there is always kind and considerate support on this forum—including from the developers—so never be concerned about asking what may seem to you to be a basic question: I suspect we have all done that in our time!



Apple Notes has come a long way and is actually a pretty good tool.

DevonThink is much more, but to truly experience how much more, you’ll need to try it out for a bit.

There are a lot of potential ways to use it, which can seem overwhelming at first, but you can start by replicating your current flow, adding a little to that, etc.

There are usually use cases that you didn’t think of earlier on, simply because you didn’t know they were possible.

Have fun, good luck, and ask questions!


Thanks for the welcome!

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Hi and welcome to the forum and - hopefully - to the ever growing family of DEVONthink (DT) users. A little while back a user here asked what the advantage is to using DT; whilst that thread might contain some responses which are not relevant to you, you’ll certainly get an overview of some of the advantages to using DT there.

Whenever you consider moving your data into a new system, it’s worth considering how you you would get it back out again if you ever needed to. DT stores your files unchanged in their original format; they are actually accessible from Finder from within the database files (useful if all else failed; and for anybody passing: no changes should be made to the database structure from within Finder!). It also includes a simple export function which will export your files to Finder using a folder structure equivalent to your database structure. That’s important - imagine using an app for 10 years, the developer goes bust, mad or megalomanic, and you can’t get your data out.

DEVONthink ticks more boxes than you can probably imagine; it is a stunningly powerful tool supported intensely by the developers and the amazingly helpful people on this forum (@SlickSlack called it a unicorn - I agree, this place is unique).

You will need some time to get used to using DT; whilst powerful it is also flexible - numerous paths can be taken to achieve the same goal. You will probably need to play to see what suits you best. Again, I can do no better than quote @SlickSlack, who said DT grows on you - I started with simple data storage and ended up with complex automation. Great fun!

Please allow me to point out that DEVONthink does not automatically back up your data (it does keep some internal backups of the database structure). Whilst it does offer various options for syncing data, they are explicitly advertised as not being a backup. The more you use DEVONthink (or any other type of database), the more loss of data would hurt. If you haven’t already, I recommend you take the opportunity to see whether your backup strategy is suited to the importance of your data. There are a number of threads on the topic here in the forum; here’s one of them.

And finally, it’s worth taking a look at the different editions of DEVONthink; this page provides an overview of what the Pro and Server editions offer on top of the functions offered by the Standard edition. All licences include 2 seats, so the app can be installed on two Macs. I personally feel DEVONthink only comes into its own when you have the Pro edition; OCR, e-mail archiving, concordance and custom metadata are invaluable to me.


@Blanc’s response is terrific. Adding to that, be sure to scan/read the outstanding DEVONthink Handbook and “Taking Control of DEVONthink” e-book (compliments of DEVON Technologis) here DEVONtechnologies | Handbooks and Extras


I really cannot imagine Christian or Eric, working with aluminium paper on top of their heads, and laughing like mads:

–MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. All data is mine!!! I’m the owner of all dataaaaa!!!

:grin: :rofl: :innocent: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Said the funny, the only reason I continue using macOS is DT, and possibly Safari. I have 3 Mac and at least I have one DT window open in its own desktop, if not more.

I read into DT and DTTG, scrap from Safari into DT/DTTG, search into… Except Mail and Messages with my wife, all my work and use is inside DT. Even I watch YouTube stuff if it is shown in my RSS inside DT.

I use it for typical stuff like invoice/shopping storage, journaling, storing of all my notes, even those handwritten in real world paper notebooks (yes, I’m that old), and have about 15 databases with about 500 GB of reference documentation, mostly personally scanned and OCRed PDFs but as well got from other places.

Search (and find) is a delight, moving as well (via Ctrl - Cmd - G)…


I know, I was kind of wondering as I wrote how that might turn out :crazy_face: The team are great - if they do go mad, I hope they at least invite me to join them 🥸


And, of course, should Devonthink’s developers go 'round the bend, Devonthink doesn’t entomb your data in some kind of inaccessible database. All your files are still just your files in the package, easily explored in Finder.

This is a requirement for tools I rely on. Either exports to accessible form, or direct access to my data. DT passes that requirement both ways. If an unfortunately resolved time paradox causes Devonthink to have never existed in this slice of the multiverse as of tomorrow - whatever that is - I can still access my stuff.

Regarding DT’s flexibility, you can grow into it. Start out just using it like it was a Finder for a sandbox. Explore features as you need.


Right, I won’t be sleeping tonight :flushed: I’m not giving up DEVONthink without a fight :roll_eyes:

[Edit: will tonight even be tonight under those circumstances? Do I have to go to work tomorrow? What is tomorrow? Have I just gone round the bend, and can my data be extracted?]


et al:

Welcome aboard and remember there are no stupid questions except unasked ones (or if someone is trolling) :slight_smile:

As evidenced by the stories shared here - and supporting what we’ve been saying for years, including in the Help: DEVONthink can be used in very simple ways (noting the recipe database) to very complex ones (running businesses, doing doctoral work, use in litigation, etc.). Much of the experience is what YOU bring to it.


What was your system in Apple Notes/what do you want your new system to do?

I’m still pretty new to DT. I read the Take Control Book others have mentioned and it helped a lot. When I had question, this forum has been very helpful. The answer already existed or someone answered quickly.

The three things I was trying figure out in the beginning were:
1. How many databases?
I was trying to figure out what the advantages and disadvantages were to having everything in one or multiple databases.
What I got out of these posts is that having everything together allows you to search for related items but will slow down for very large databases.
If you need to split later, be wary of replicants.
Database Size
Splitting a Database

2. Index or import?
There are little quirks for indexing vs importing. I personally like to index. I like everything to be in a folder structure outside of DT. I use many of these files with other applications.
Tags and finder comments are important to me, which is another reason I liked indexing.
Tags for indexed vs import

3. What type of web clipping?
I love the web clipper. I’ve used Evernote, Apple Notes, and OneNote before, and I really like DT. If I just want to remember something, I use the bookmark. The only clipping that allows you to highlight is the PDF versions. This is why I PDF most of what I am saving. My workflow is clip it with DT to a Dropbox folder, read and highlight on my iPad using PDF Expert, export highlights, save highlights in Obsidian.

DT is very powerful. I spent a bit just creating a test database and testing out my workflow. Sometimes DT does things I don’t expect (in good and bad ways). It was useful to figure that out before dumping a bunch of resources and notes in.

Good luck!


This is a wise idea for anyone.
I am often making test databases, for one reason or another.
Create and delete databases as you need to.

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Well, I went ahead and downloaded the 30 day trial. That’s a pretty good amount of time to see if DT is what I need or if its overkill. I also appreciate comments like yours where people have highlighted how they use the application and some of their processes, so thank you.

My system in Apple notes is basically a lot of handwritten notes from my iPad. But I have documents in there as well. Qite a bit actually. And one thing I don’t like is that the document exists in notes and doesn’t automatically update what is in the Finder. When you attach a document, you might as well get rid of the Finder version because they are now two separate documents. So indexing appeals to me personally. I like having something in the Finder and in my information manager that are linked, if all that makes sense.

I use folders in notes that I imagine would translate to databases in DT. I think my main hesitation is that from what I can tell, DT doesn’t search handwritten stuff. Maybe it does and I just haven’t found that yet. If I’m wrong, please correct me. It’s not a total deal killer if DT doesn’t search handwritten stuff. It just means I’ll have to change how I capture information. I’m just not the worlds fastest types so handwritten stuff is easier.

You guys have been incredible and I appreciate all the great feedback! Thanks again!

  1. You aren’t going to be able to index Apple Notes. They’re no longer stored as separate files in the filesystem to make this possible.
  2. Seriously read the Help > Documentation > In & Out > Importing & Indexing before committing to it. Appealing isn’t enough if you don’t recognize the ramifications of operations between DEVONthink and the filesystem.
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Thanks, I will go ahead and read that. Just try clarify though, I realize I wouldn’t be able to index notes from Apple’s system. I was referring to documents I have in notes not showing in the finder as well. Ok, now I’m off to do some reading!

That’s always been my process; deleting the finder version after import
I don’t need two copies of the document

One point on “attach a document” edit: in Devonthink
We don’t need an “attachment” to a note; the document file is the note

handwritten notes from my iPad

For handwritten notes, I use the Notability app on my ipad with an Apple Pencil,
then share to Devonthink as a pdf file.
The pdf file is searchable


As someone who used Evernote Premium for more than 10 years, I can say that DEVONthink is a dream and I could never imagine using something else now.

There are so many possibilities, especially with smart rules and things like placeholders, that many people have no idea what they are missing when they take a look at the webpage and listed features. I think the 30 day trial is also not nearly enough to really grasp this. It took me 6 months before really settling in with some features and not changing things around all the time.

The 1 area where DT is a behind other apps is mobile text editing (especially if you don’t use markdown and use a lot of attachments and images).
Apple Notes or apps like Craft will be much better suited for a note-taking centered workflow, especially on iOS / iPadOS. But DT is currently working on improving rich text editing on mobile, so this might not be of concern in the future.

I myself use DT mostly for document management and editing, while I still use Apple Notes for note-taking. You can easily link the two (DT provides internal links you can paste into Apple Notes and Apple Notes notes can be shared to DT as bookmarks (iCloud liinks) that would open the note again in Apple Notes locally).
Generally, linking will probably get even easier in iOS 15, as soon as apps integrate the Apple Notes Quick Note API. So there is no need really to abandon Apple Notes, you can easily combine the two for the best of both worlds, document management and note taking.


Hmm. I don’t think that’s correct about Apple Notes and the attached document given that you can add additional documents and event Witten text and type4d text to the note beyond the document, but whatever. I’m not here to discuss the finer points of the inner workings of that note application.

@chrisbarrett77 I think @DTLow was referring to DEVONthink in the quoted instance. This is generally the case in DT, documents aren’t notes themselves, just documents stored in your database.
You can however use DT like Apple Notes in the sense of attaching media to notes by using rich text documents. Given the current limitations of rich text document editing in iOS (you can’t), I prefer to keep using Apple Notes for mixed media notes like that. But as mentioned above, that’s something DT is already working on.