This is DEVONthink, without the author knowing it!

When I read this: … 00688.html

I immediately understood that this is what DEVONthink is evolving to!

Thanks for the interesting link - and you’re right, DEVONthink will exactly become this application. Maybe Scott should have a look at v1.7.6 again :wink:

I have indeed given it a second look.  The last time I tried DT, I found it really in your face and confusing.  But maybe that was just my mood at the time.

I’m taking the new version for a spin right now.  I have a couple of questions:

  1. Can I tell DT to store its database on my iDisk?  I use MacJournal at the moment, and I’m able to keep all my documents in sync by doing this.

  2. I’m a little worried about using DT to work on/store certain documents of mine.  What happens to headers/footers?  Page numbers?  This is a pretty key concern for me, since I need to retain those kinds of things if I’m going to be able to use such an application.

I guess I should play around with it a little while before I go asking questions, though.

Thanks for what looks to be a cool program!


  1. If you’re using Panther and a local copy of your iDisk, you might copy the DEVONthink database folder to the iDisk and create an alias “DEVONthink” in the folder ~/Library/Application Support pointing to the iDisk folder. But as databases might become quite large, actually I wouldn’t recommend this.

  2. This is currently not possible so it’s probably better to view documents requiring these things only in DT at the moment. But this will come.

Anyway, I’d suggest you better try out the next release (coming next week) - there will be lots of minor and major improvements.

Scott’s website is either down, or not making friends with my ISP’s DNS.  Could someone post Scott’s comments here?


Hiya. I’m Scott. I have no idea what’s going on, other than that the link shot me about 600+ hits today. Traffic might be bogging something down.

Here’s what I wrote. The title is “iDocument”:


January 21, 2004

One of the things that Apple is so good at, and one of the reasons people like me keep sticking with them when it seems as if the wheels are about to come off the wagon (and I wasn’t even a Mac user when things were bad), is that in addition to making gear that just plain works, they also keep coming up with ways to make life just a little easier. And what’s more, they always seem to come up with ways to make our lives easier that we didn’t think were all that complicated to begin with. Managing my mp3 library used to be an intricate process involving the construction of hundreds of folders and sub-folders in the Finder. Managing my digital photos used to require a similar process.

I keep thinking, though, that what’s missing is a way to manage with ease those files that are most common on every single computer in the world. What’s missing is a way to manage effortlessly the things that most computers in the world are used to create: documents.

Sure, I can use folders and sub-folders in the Finder to deal with them. But I could do that with photos or music before iTunes or iPhoto.

I have hundreds and hundreds of documents–my own, from my students, from my colleagues, random clippings from the web, you name it. We all have this. And while I have a “Documents” folder on my hard drive, finding a document means that I still have to know where it is, and that I have to place the document there in the first place. And in addition, if I move the document or copy it, its contents aren’t affected in all the places where it’s stored. And again, sure, I could do this with aliases or shortcuts.

What I want, then, is something that will allow me to store, catalog, search, find, view, and perhaps even manipulate at a perfunctory level, all the documents I have. I want an iPhoto or iTunes for documents. And I want all of the bells and whistles: I want to be able to set up "playlists" of documents; I want to be able to tell this application to stick all documents meeting certain criteria in a specific playlist; I want to be able to view those documents, and perhaps even make a few changes to them. Should I need to make "real" changes to them, I want to be able to send the document to a more advanced editor–Word, for instance–make the changes, and then go back to iDocument (or whatever you want to call it).

Now that TextEdit reads and writes Word documents natively, it would seem that the ground is prepared.

[edit:  accidentally posted an older draft with errors]

Thanks for the speedy reply, Scott.  Nice article!

You might enjoy reading this thread: … 1064000931  Some other trains moving on somewhat parallel tracks.  

Part of the fun of using DT is watching its evolution.  Stick around; I guarantee your usage will evolve with it.

Thanks!  I’m looking at it pretty closely at the moment.  For a while now, I’ve been using MacJournal to keep all my plain-text writing organized.  Here are a few initial comments/observations about DT.  Sorry if these seem picky or grumpy.  I just thought I’d fire them off as I discover/think about them while playing “dumb user”:

  1. I can store the MJ’s database on my iDisk, and so my desktop and my laptop are always in sync (barring any weirdness where both apps are open at once).  This is critical for me, since I split my writing pretty evenly between my laptop and my desktop.  How well will this method work with DT?

  2. I like MJ’s use of drawers over the DT iPhoto model in its GUI.  This actually surprises me, as in my piece I had argued for an iTunes/iPhoto interface.  It boils down to my preferring to hide the lists of groups when I don’t want to see them.  I’m not certain what the Apple HIG have to say about this, but my gut says that DT has it right.

  3. The interface strikes me, just right now, even, as a little confusing.  I wanted to use DT to write this response, and so I cranked it up.  I had had it in icon view, and so I went to list view.  But then there wasn’t a text editor.  So I clicked on New Rich Text.  And that popped up a new window–even though there appears to be a text editor open in DT.  And so now I don’t know whether or not what I’m writing in this window will show up in the other window.  Even worse, I don’t really know why there’s a new window open, and I can’t seem to figure out how to get DT to go back into one window.  OK.  So now I’ve gone from “list” to “note pad” and I have managed to get this document open in two places at once.  Why not use

  4. Is there any way to have DT insert a date/time stamp?  I can’t seem to find it.  I know that this may seem superfluous, but I keep a daily journal in one giant document, and I like to indicate when I’m writing and where I’m writing.

  5. I’m able to pull down the pane at the top of this notepad, and it reveals a screen that looks sort of like what I have right now.  But it doesn’t display any information.  OK.  I’ve figured out that it shows search results and associations.  I think.  But why can I pull it down in the first place if it’s only needed when I search?

  6. Can I get my writing out of this thing if it happens to die or get corrupted?  This is a perennial concern of mine with these kinds of programs.

  7. I do, really, three types of writing:  personal (journals, notes, etc). professional (I’m an academic), and online (my website).  DT seems to be able to handle the personal and online writing just fine, since it’s mostly just plain text or RTF.  The professional writing is what worries me.  As I remarked earlier, the absence of headers and footers means that, yet again, I’m tied to the monstrosity that is Word–a program which I come to realize, the more I use it, is designed to interfere with writing.

8) Why is there an “icon size” slider when I don’t have any icons present?  Ack!  I went back to icon view for a second and managed to spawn three new windows (main, group, and then the document).  Why did it not keep all of that in the same window?  I’m confused again.  OK.  I managed to get everything back into the main window again.

  1. I write lots and lots of text for my blog.  Can I publish straight from DT to it?  Is there an easy way to insert links when using DT to compose a post?

  2. I like the way DT handles searching.  Very, very nice.

OK.  That’s enough for now.  I’m looking forward to trying the new version this week!



thanks for the feedback!

  1. The easiest way to synchronize a laptop and a desktop is probably to copy the complete DEVONthink folder - this is usually very fast as only few files have to be copied (e.g. copying a 100 MB database over a 100 MBps ethernet connection needs just a few seconds).

  2. I guess Apple doesn’t know either which way to go - some applications use drawers (like Mail), others multiple panels (like the Finder or iTunes). However, we will add additional views to the next releases - e.g. a combination of outliner and column views. Maybe the new default view :slight_smile:

  3. If you prefer a single window interface, just use note pad or outliner views. List, icon and column views on the other hand are similar to the Finder (some users prefer multiple windows). But we’ll add a “Browse in place” option to one of the next versions.

  4. Just use WordService - we don’t want to create bloatware and really like services (although Apple’s support for services could be really improved).

  5. This won’t happen anymore in v1.8 - we’ve revised the search panels of browser windows.

  6. Sure. You can export all contents to the original or standard file formats. Version 1.8 will also include a "Rebuild Database" command and im/exporting will be completely reversable.

  7. We will improve the word processing possibilities in a future release but DT will never be a full featured word processor (as different users request different features). E.g. some want the features of Z-Write, iPhoto, iView, Mail, HTML-editors or word processors to be added - the result would be probably quite awful.

  8. The slider is only visible in note pad, outliner and icon views as these views display icons (or thumbnails of imported images).

  9. Publishing to a blog is currently not possible (and actually nobody requested this so far). Maybe in a future release if more people will request such a feature but there are already lots of requests in our to-do list :wink:

  10. Thanks :wink: BTW: Version 1.8 will improve the toolbar search.

Ack!  While I see your point, what I’m unwilling to part with at the moment is the way that both of my computers are synced up whether I’m at home or at the office.  Sure, this can be a pain if I’m not going somewhere with an internet connection, but that’s pretty rare for me these days.  Oh god I’m such a nerd.

I’m with you.  I don’t think Apple knows what the hell it’s doing at the moment vis a vis drawers and panels and sliding things and popping out this and that.  I admit that I prefer the drawers to the pre-X OS’s use of panels and panes and screenclutter and whatnot.  I also prefer them to the new iteration of panels that Panthaaar has introduced.  But, of course, that’s just me.


Gotcha, and indeed, I don’t know why Apple left services in there like some bastard child locked in the attic.



You know, it always drives me nuts when you get a bunch of people together to talk about what they want out of a “word processor.”  Mostly, it drives me nuts because they don’t agree with me.  ;)  I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to put together a “word processor,” considering a third of the people out there want a “text editor” and a third want an “HTML editor” and a third want something like Word but not Word but, you know, all the functions.  Especially the obscure ones.  And HTML tag coloring.  And the paper clip.

I don’t envy you.

But I have to have the ability to use page numbers, footnotes, and endnotes if a text processing application is going to be useful to me for my serious/professional writing.  And so does every college student in America (if only I could get mine to use page numbers…or even a staple!)

I’m in a space now where I hate almost every word processor out there.  They get in the way to such an extent that one wonders whether or not they’re actually not designed to decrease productivity.  Although it’s generally ok for text production, Word tries to do too much formatting for me.  All those tabs.  All those extra spaces.  Those lines at the bottom of the page above the footnotes that you can’t remove.  The line at the top of the page of endnotes that you can’t get rid of.  The new up-and-comers (other than Mariner X, which I may switch to) don’t do enough.

Really, all I want is a TextEdit with page numbers, footnotes, and endnotes.  That’s it.  In other words, I need an iPhoto for documents, not a photoshop.


Understandable.  I’m surprised no one has requested it, since blogging has revolutionized online publishing.  At the moment, I either maintain or participate in something like 4 blogs on a regular basis (two personal, two professional).  This would make DT awfully appealing to some folks.

Great!  I can’t wait to try it out.


Hey Scott and DEVON folks – I’m amazed at how much time I’m spending on this board, but I really want DT to be the program it’s becoming! I’m sure you guys must be surprised by the amount of enthusiasm and plain old desire this product has unleashed.

First, Scott, have you tried Mellel? I’m a graduate student – so, a wannabe academic – and I’ve recently switched from Word and Endnote to Mellel and Bookends. Mellel is everything I want in a word processor, and, quite honestly, the best piece of Mac OS X software I’ve used. It has all the key word processing features plus a whole new (and better) way of managing text styles, numbered lists, document sections, and so on. I cannot recommend it enough.

I’d like to second your request for direct blog posting. I’m sure that this seems quite out of the realm of what DT is at the moment, but as I’ve been using MacJournal in preparation for my own web writing, I’ve been surprised at how useful it is.

I’d also like to second – if indeed this is what you’re expressing – a feeling of general befuddlement at the DT user interface. I know that v1.8 is coming very soon and so I hesitate to critique the interface at this point. But I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit while using DT, and there are some ways I can envision the interface clearly improved. (I hope that my myriad feature requests are going somewhere – probably into DT, huh?). I know that I have sent in lengthy feature requests before.

  1. Use drawers and other Finder conventions.

    I actually don’t think DT has it right with the paned interface it uses right now. Drawers are great specifically because they can be shown and hidden. The pane makes sense in iPhoto and iTunes, apps in which you need to switch from one item to another quickly and often. In DT, however, I end up working on a single document for a long time – and I want to get all that organization out of the way.

Along similar lines, DT should use the Finder’s three-button widget – the one that’s in all Finder windows – to switch between icons, lists, and columns. It’s the best way I’ve seen of switching views. The key shortcuts in DT should be remapped to match those of the Finder: Cmd-1 for icons, Cmd-2 for list, Cmd-3 for columns. If I want a preview pane, I should drag it from the bottom or side of the screen as in Mail. This will eliminate the phenomonally confusing distinctions users must remember between Notepad, Outliner, Icon, List, and so on. The icon size slider in DT should live where it does in iPhoto.

  1. Allow users to decorate DT.

    Let me apply labels, as in the Finder, to documents and folders. Let me use those teeny favicons to put a little light bulb next to my ‘Ideas’ folder. DT already seems to support icons, in a limited way – make this support more visible. If you have a Palm device and have used any of the Splash applications (Wallet, Money, and so on), you know how useful even a small selection of cheesily designed icons can be when you’re scanning a long list of items. One thing I love – love – about MacJournal and Tex-Edit Plus is the ability to specify background colors: in MJ I do my writing in 18pt Courier New, with white text and a dark blue background for readability. Is there, or could there be, any way to do this in DT?

  2. Wiki and Outlining!

    Right now I have a cute little suite of Mac apps: DT, VoodooPad, Books, OmniOutliner, MacJournal, and Mellel, plus Singlefile, a website, to keep track of my brain and its contents. I would love to consolidate these apps. Wiki is coming in v1.8 (as I recall) – have you guys thought about supporting OmniOutliner through OPML?

Okay, that’s it – for now! ha ha ha. DT has sent me on a many-months-long voyage to build a perfect set of writing and text-management tools on my Mac – it seems like there should be a website or something to cover this sort of application.


Wiki-style links will be part of v1.8, an improved outliner will come in v1.9. Version 2.0 should include a hierarchy drawer and I’ve just added blogging to the to-do list of this version :wink: Labels will also be introduced in v1.9, custom icons either in v1.8 or v1.9.

If you’re working on a document for a long time, you could just option-double-click on this document. This will close the current browser and open a window for this document.

Great feature set. You folks at DT work non-stop…


Yeah… and I’m getting more and more gray hairs  ;D

Much what you’ve written sounds a lot like what Bruce Horn’s iFile Project is attempting to do.  See this TidBITS interview for more info.


Check out the “DT as a Writer’s Tool” thread that appears under the “Usage Scenario” topic.

Good luck in grad school.


And there is some way in which Circus Ponies’ NoteBook figures into all this. As software, it couldn’t be further away from something like Mellel - speaking intuitively! - and sometimes I just want the two of you to get together and be the One Big Thing.

As a writer, DThink shows me a view of documents that helps organize my thinking - it’s like an elegant Finder window, but in both form and function, I can see my areas of interest there, and ponder. In order to do this, I’m probably quashing/ignoring a whole lot of what DT is, but thought you’d like to know, This works!

My top level folders are what’s important to me. .  .and it’s easy to shift things as the work shifts.

Finder in Panther is even less useful than Jaguar. No spring-loaded folders in the toolbar, a Sidebar that rips off Pathfinder without also ripping the functionality! And how did they miss that marvellous Shelf. I truly loathe the half-assed, and that’s what Sidebar is.

As far as the X Finder in general - let me just say, a year later and I’m just starting to let go the vision of how my 9.2.2 desktop worked. FinderPop. More File Info CMM. . .Never had to open a folder, just glided around via CMs. (Sorry to go on, sign of lingering PCST, forgive me.)

Curious about a DThink detail: why no Save As? As I read the Rich Notes, they always need better titles.

I love you, though, because I can clip clip clip - hell, even append - without having to handle the damn destination - it’s handled! This is a monster blessing.

I don’t get the comparison between DT and MacJournal. Seem light years apart.  

I also don’t get where to move a doc when the right folder/group doesn’t come up on the list.


Zo, I can make a couple of suggestions:

[1] Why no Save As? You don’t need to resave an item to change its name. Just change the name in the Info panel, or click on the item name in the left column (NotePad view – similar procedure for other views) and change it.

[2] Fairly often, the Classify panel doesn’t suggest a group or sub-group for the item that satisfies me. This is especially likely if I’m importing items that represent a new topic, or if I’ve been sloppy in pigeon-holing previously entered items (yeah, sometimes I do that). DEVONthink gets confused.

If there’s an existing group into which the item should be placed Ctrl-click on the item name in the left column of the NotePad view (similar procedure for other views), select the Move To option and choose the location. If there’s not already an appropriate group or subgroup for the item, first go to the ‘home’ or root view, create a new group in the appropriate place, then go back to Ctrl-click the item name and use Move To to place the item in the new group. (DEVONthink lets you have multiple views open, so you don’t have to lose your place in the view you’ve been working on. Expose makes it easy to switch between views)

DEVONthink is still a little weak in cases where you want to replicate an item and put it into more than one group. I’d like to see the contextual menu option expanded so that I could select more than one group, automatically replicating the item. (Of course, the item’s Classify pane allows multiple destinations and automatically handles replication, but it may not list a group that is important to you.)

Hope this helps.

Or select Content->Group (or click the Group button) to create a new group containing the selected item(s).

Let me second the request for Omni Outliner file support. I use this all the time now, mostly for preparing Keynote presentations (now there’s a thought ;-)) and I’d love to manage/index them in DT.

BTW, I bought DT & DA this week after having auditioned them briefly a while back (I didn’t have enough time then to move my workflow over to it), and I’ve already sold another 3 people from casual demos. This is compelling stuff, and I plan to do some major evangelising of it within my organisation (I’m currently charged with directing our department’s e-learning activities, and DT looks like the document manager I could roll out to all of our users…)