Totally Different Way of Thinking About Organization??

I’m brand new to Devonthink and have not yet wrapped my head around it (despite reading the “Getting Started” book and watching tutorials). I was hoping to talk to someone live, via phone or face to face, but I have not found any users responding to my chat requests. I’m a writer (a few genres), and run a nonprofit, as well as manage a few other projects. I’m a heavy Word user with thousands of documents which are currently in loads of well organized folders and sub-folders. I find Word docs somewhat easily because my folder naming is pretty sensible and organized. However, more and more I’ve wanted to have organized PDF’s, web clippings, and interactivity with other apps.

I want to retain my current well organized folder structure in Word, but understand (I think) that in using Devonthink, it might be more helpful to think about organization a bit differently. I can’t seem to make the mental shift though into what different is. Can someone help with the translation (i.e. a folder which is labelled “Nonprofit” with 18 subfolders about various aspects of the nonprofit (“outreach,” etc., all with subfolders about various aspects of that activity … translates to Devonthink … how? What would that look like in Devonthink?). And what do I do with my old system?

Thanks a ton!!

Personally, I wouldn’t complicate the first usage of Devonthink by trying to organise your data much differently. Devonthink’s strengths tend to lie in classifying and finding your information, not in turning its organisation upside down.

The fundamental issue (it seems to me) for anyone starting afresh with the application is to what extent you index your data, and to what extent you import it. Think of indexing as Devonthink providing the card index to your library of data; importing is where Devonthink provides the library shelves as well.

If you carry out a search of this forum, you’ll find a number of threads dealing with the ‘index or import’ question; you might like to read them. But it sounds to me as if, at least to begin with, you may want to index the folders in your file system containing your Word documents (because they’re already well organised), while importing the pdf’s and clippings into Devonthink. When you import, you could put those files neatly into a newly created hierarchical system of folders, or groups as they’re called inside Devonthink, such as you have already created outside it. Or you could lump the files all together in a database and rely on Devonthink’s search features to find them when you need them. If you want to use Devonthink’s own classifying features, putting your files in groups is a good idea.

Tags offer a possible, separate, additional layer of organisation of your data, but I personally would avoid using them to begin with, because of the complexities involved.

I hope this addresses some of your initial questions.

This will sound over-intellectual, but what the hell! I like to think of “user+software” as a kind of system. The user may start off with certain ideas about what they want the software to do, but as the user gets more familiar with the software, the latter begins to influence what the user wants to do. There is an interplay between the two elements of the system.

I have found precisely that with DT – my databases are usually based around a particular project, and they tend to evolve and morph as I develop my ideas about the project. Connections are made, and things get moved to different places as the relationships between them become clearer. In other words, DT helps me think about what I am doing, and the issues that are germane to my project.

Your scenario would appear to be different, in that you do not need DT as an “ideas processor” or aid to thinking. As far as I can tell, you need it more so that you can find things easily. This is also a great strength of DT. I use it as a repository for my research materials (source data, like quotes from books, articles, documents, etc.). The search capabilities of DT are much more sophisticated than any other program I’ve come across so far, and the merit investigation by any new user. Being able to search for a word that is NEAR another word, or ten words BEFORE another word (etc., etc.) is very powerful. Moreover, the AI, which you will discover by using “See Also…” is capable of automatically finding material that is similar to a document just based on the words it contains (based on their frequency and uniqueness). With the AI, it doesn’t matter which folder (or group, as DT calls them) something is in. What matters is the words the document contains.

And if you’ve ever had trouble deciding whether to put a file in folder A or folder B, because it could easily fit in either of them, then you’ll like replicants, because it means that the file can appear in both at the same time, despite being a single file (a bit like using aliases in the OS file system, but easier).

If you are looking for a tool for finding information that is buried among your files, or for discovering links between files that you might not have suspected, then DT is what you need. I would suggest that you play around with the search capabilities.

Cheers, Martin.