using DEVONthink + Sente (academic literature tool)?

I’m just starting grad school and trying frantically to set up a personal information system which I think will end up consisting of a combination of DEVONthink and Sente by Third Street Software ( ).

Sente seems ideal for gathering and organizing a collection of academic literature references (and using them for writing papers), while DEVONthink looks to be a better all-purpose tool, for organizing thoughts, notes, and ideas for research and from all facets of life. I’m just wondering if anyone has used both pieces of software, and whetehr anything is known about how they might work together (or not).

Jason R. Finley
Graduate Student, Cognitive Psychology
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Hi Jason:

While I don’t have experience with Sente itself (My workgroup has standardized on EndNote, not a program I’d choose), I would like to highlight one terrific feature of DT.
DT can import BibTex formatted reference databases (Sente apparently supports BibTex import/export ) as individual reference ‘cards’. For me, this feature made DT a must have program! This allows you to use DevonThink’s search features to scan your reference database. I keep a folder of PDF journal articles, which I import into a dedicated DT database. The database includes a copy of my BibTex reference database (as a separate group). When searching in DT, I can pull out the articles I have and other, relevant papers I may be interested in downloading. Because the group name is shown under the item name, I can tell if the item is paper in my folder, or a reference I don’t have. At the end of each day I’ll import the new papers into DT (drag and drop), and as required, I’ll replace the BibTex Database. While you can’t cite using DT, it’s elegance makes it my preferred reference mining tool. I then pull up the ref. in EndNote to create the citation.
In my case EndNote export as BibTex/ DT import creates a single file with all the references included. My workaround goes like this:
I export from EndNote as a endnote export, import into JabRef (a freeware BibTex reference manager) and hence into DT. This allows DT to search and display the reference database for single references.

As a sidenote on BibTeX and DT:

I am using Bibdesk ( with all my pdfs linked from the .bib database file. All pdfs are renamed by bibdesk and indexed in DT or imported and then linked to in bibdesk. Makes it easy to access specific literature that is known, but also gives you access to the powerful grouping and classification features of DT.


Minor update regarding EndNote exporting BibTex files; EndNote exports with a .txt (or .rtf) extension, changing this to the .bib allows for proper import to DT.

Can you detail the method used for linking, renaming PDFs to references in BibDesk? Is it automatic? Thanks!

BibDesk can do the renaming automatically, based on any field in your bibtex entry. It also includes the URL to the file in the bibtex entry and can file files aotomatically, creating folders as needed.

What I usually do is to create my bibtex entry and have BibDesk rename and file the pdf to my literature folder, which is organized with folders by author. Each pdf is named as “year-author-title.pdf”. Then I index the file in DTPro.

What I also do when I import many pdfs and don’t want to bibtex each pdf at that point is that I index a temporary “literature imbox” folder to DTPro and later, when I feel the need and file my stuff via BibDesk, I just change the URL inside DTPro to the new URL give to the file by BibDesk.

Maybe there is a more efficient way via applescript (both DT and BibDesk are higly scriptable)

thanks fot tip! It’s probably on every second page in the manual but it had somehow escaped my attention that Bibtex files export just fine. This is a most welcome finding and gratefully acknowledged.


I’m a professor, new to DT, and am trying to figure out how to group many PDFS that I have collected over the years in a new but evolving DT database. Is the best way to group them by topic, much the way you would in any other file structure? My sense is that some grouping structures aid and take advantage of DT’s capacities better than others, but I can’t quite infer what they are. (This was stimulated by Harvey’s suggested workaround, which is why I’m posting here). Thanks.

You raise an interesting point, which probably only the folks at DT can definitely answer.
There’s an interesting thread on ‘flat hierarchy’ (ungrouped databases) in which several members of the forum discuss their grouping strategies here: … +searching

I have fooled around with ‘ungrouped’ and ‘grouped’ databases (using the same data) enough to persuade myself that grouping does affect the AI’s search patterns, in that groups seem to like to stick together.