What is DTOP for!?

Not being sarcastic, but as a [very] long-term Mac user I am not sure that DTOP solves a problem I actually have.

Do I understand it correctly: I see it as potentially a huge free-form db into which I can throw several unrelated research projects and then link various
documents, local and on the web, as if everything was in a huge web site, but on my Desktop?

If I am ever ready to turn my projects into web sites might there be a way of using the material in DTOP with, say, Freeway?

At the moment I just have the trial version, which I got to test the ABBYY OCR [quite astounding at coping with both scans and digital photos of books except when the lighting is very bad or the page curvature too much] and even with screen dumps from Google books! so I have to decide if I am going to buy DTOP or just get ABBYY which is streets ahead of any other OCR I have used.

Cheers, Colin

If you can’t figure out why you would use DTP, you probably don’t need it.

You’re right, it’s a free-form database. But for me, at least, linking is the least important of its capabilities. I use the Search and See Also features much more often.

For researchers, writers, and others who accumulate huge piles of data, it’s invaluable. For “average users,” not so much.


Thanks Katherine,

I can’t figure it out as I have not spent the time for what looks like a step learning curve. The Finder would do fine for finding IF it allowed Boolean searches … I assume DTOP does.

But if I could link my documents together to give all my related files some sort of structure and cross referencing that ould be worth a learning curve.

Being able to export this structure to the www would be fantastic.

Cheers, Colin

Spotlight supports boolean searches.

The searching is much more powerful than mere Booleans. See Also lets you find things “like this,” even if you can’t clearly articulate what “this” is.

The structure-building tools are pretty powerful. Among other things, replicants let you put a file in more than one “place” in the structure. And yes, you can crosslink to your heart’s content.

I haven’t used the web export functions, so I’ll let others comment on that aspect.


If you’ve googled “using DEVONthink,” or something like it, you’ve likely come across websites or blogs where people explain what they’re doing with it. One that was helpful to me when I started was Steve Berlin Johnson’s explanation of his use of DT. This essay is almost 5 years old and is only one scenario, but is still helpful, I think.

I really appreciate the ease with which I can get material into my databases and I save a lot of webarchives and text snippets. The wiki links are also useful to me and I’ll create links to definitions of various terms or concepts that I seem not to be able to remember.

I do a lot of historical research about music and have quite a large library in DTP 2 of complete books from Gutenberg.org, dissertations, PDFs from JSTOR, in addition to notes I’ve taken on print materials. I also have a huge number of facsimiles of historic publications of music (as PDFs), which I’ve made searchable by putting relevant information in the Comments field. I am looking forward to the final implementation of tagging and think this will really help with material that doesn’t lend itself to OCR.

Searching my databases is also very fast and the “See Also” feature has been invaluable.

When I write I feel like I’m sitting in a library tailored exclusively for each research project. Everything I need is at hand.

One of the things that really helped me was that the trial period was measured in hours of database use (150) as opposed to a set number of days. My first steps with DT were tentative and a 15- or 30- day trial probably would have expired before I got the hang of using it.

So, these are just a few thoughts about using DEVONthink.


Now that hurts my feelings. :frowning:

@Colin, when I upgraded to DTPO a couple of years ago, I compared the upgrade price to buying OCR software and I came out ahead with DTPO (don’t know if that’s still true and I did have a license to DT Personal from MacHeist). As far as the learning curve, you don’t have to be a power user on day one, or even use all the features. For me the OCR alone was worth the upgrade, everything else was just a bonus.

Thank you all for so much input. I had already read the Steve Berlin Johnson post - the first hit in Google after DT’s own site - and what he was doing is much what I do. I have all the files that other posters refer to, tho with JSTOR and other OCR’d PDFs I am not interested in the format and tend to copy/paste the OCR and just keep it as rtf.

I have had the basic DT since it was offered by MacHeist, but never had cause to use it, and downloaded DTOP to try ABBYY which is beyond compare, but as it was new to the Mac had no evaluation version. DT stole a march by incorporating it using the OS X SDK that ABBYY released about a year back.

However, now that I know Spotlight does Boolean searches, and I use lots of aliases to keep data in multiple research folders I am still not clear what DTOP does that the Finder does not - clearly I am missing something very important indeed.

I have three unrelated research projects running - a bit of C19 industrial history that has been ongoing for about 30 years, a family biography and a local history.

As I said before all are likely to be published, on the web or DVD, in interactive form. It is much too early to build a structure in HTML, but I would like to be able to link documents on my Mac so that if I am describing, say, a clandestine operation in France my father organised, and mention a name I could link that name to a file from our Dictionary of National Biography for that person. Clearly that is not something I can do in rtf. And there are even links between the projects: after 30 years of work on the industrial history I discovered quite by chance a month or so back that I was related by several marriages to the subject of my research! Maybe what I really need is HyperCard!

For what it is worth, DTOP costs $150 and ABBYY $100 - so about 30 of our British coins, tho ABBYY is available with a discount. As the difference is so small it’s probably not worth fussing about - unless someone knows if there are features in the stand-alone ABBYY that are not in DTOP …

Cheers, Colin

Your copy of DT Personal is upgradable to DTPO-shaves $30 off the price of DTPO.

I’m not sure that I agree with the direction the thread is going, that average users need not apply, and DTPO is more for researchers, so I’ll throw in my 2 cents. My primary use of DTPO has been to go paperless in my office I’ve used it together with the Fujitsu ScanSnap and its a great solution. I pretty much scan everything that comes across my desk now rather that filling a now empty five drawer lateral file (anyone want a good deal on a cabinet?). The power of DTPO in this has been its very good search and filing assistance. I have large structures of folders where I ultimately file things (these are called Groups in DTPO). With DTPO, I can scan things in as they come to my desk, and then periodically file them when I have a hundred or so things in my inbasket. DTPO’s filing assistant makes this a very quick exercise. It gives you its top five choices for where it should be filed and almost always gets it right. This is done through its AI and index of what is in which folders. That same intelligence also allows me to search and find things very efficiently (and Spotlight can find stuff in DTPO as well if you want to use that instead).

So that is the basis for my started use of DTPO, and that was not a steep learning curve to get up and running. It was actually quite user friendly, if you removed the fact that its a beta and we’ve been through several changes that required some understanding.

What is the value of this? First and foremost, it means that where ever I drag my laptop, I have all my stuff… not in a file cabinet in my office. It means that I can use search (or my filing) to find things quickly and easily. I can drag object links into my actions in OmniFocus or other applications. I can mark up my PDFs if I need to, while still being able to go back the original form if I need it. And it lays the groundwork for other things…

So the other things I’ve started to do are integrating more and more into DTPO. I’ve started grabbing web articles as a searchable PDF and dropping them into DTPO in with my other files. I’ve started taking notes using RTF and putting them in here. The more of this I do, the more powerful the search becomes when all my stuff is in once place.

I can envision eventually collapsing all my files into DTPO… but I’ve not gotten to that point yet. I still have a file system folder structure than in some aspects mirrors what is in DTPO, but that is slowly converging.

Not sure what happened since last November - I guess that life intervened …

Really all I have done with the trial of DTOP is use the OCR from time to time and as a result I now take photos of book that suit it better.

Now I guess I really need to buy ABBYY or DTOP and price-wise there is not a lot in it with ABBYY at $100 and DTOP $120 as an upgrade from Personal, I think from earlier in this thread.

I guess that looking at what I do it boils down to two sets of factors:

1 - and this may not be the place to ask - does the stand-alone ABBYY do anything more than DTOP [can it OCR multiple images at a time for instance] and is it any easier to use than DTOP for OCR. For instance I’d guess you an just drop a file on the ABBYY icon and it will do its stuff.

2 - what will DTOP do for me, one of the most un-organised of researchers with three projects in hand all of which I have been working on from between 10-30 years so there is a lot of ‘stuff’ …

However I have never got anywhere with organisers and rely heavily on the Finder. I am not a fan of Spotlight either [it does not search Mail and the address book for instance even tho’ they are indexed] so I tend to use opt/cmd/space to search. By the same token I gave up on iPhoto and just use Elements as I like things to be where I put them rather than according to the [changing] whims of Cuperino.

As I don’t think DT does anything with images that I could not do [if I wanted to] by tags I don’t think it will help me there and I am still not clear what substituting DT’s sort-of Finder for Apple’s will do, even if Apple never does FTFF [3,500 hits in Google with OS X, since you ask!]. What do groups do that nested folders don’t?

I scan in a lot of paper that comes my way, but I tend to use VueScan for that as it does multi-pages and DTOP tried to drive my Canoscan with the LIDE25 driver instead of LIDE30 and then not surprisingly finds it does not work. ABBYY might be easier but I don’t know.

What might do it for me is if I could build a sort of website on my Mac so that I could link a string in a document to another document or string in it - now that would really be good for me. In other words I’d like to have something like the effect of a web site without having to change the format of existing files [which I think is how DT does it].

So, does anyone know if any of this functionality exists anywhere?

Cheers, Colin


DTPO has lots of bells and whistles, including OCR of course, but the key group of features that may make it worth having for you is its so-called “Artificial Intelligence”, or AI.

In a nutshell, what this does which no other Mac information manager does as far as I know, is to suggest documents that are similar to each other, or even suggest folders, or groups, in which a new document should be filed. (It does this by analysing each of the documents indexed or imported by DTPO, drawing up a list of the words in it, and then comparing this list with similar lists for all the other documents similarly indexed or imported by DTPO.)

DTPO’s ability to carry out these tasks is — for me at least — its key advantage over other similar information management applications, although of course it has other significant advantages as well.

For some people this ability can emerge at its most useful when DTPO starts to suggest links or similarities between documents - and therefore ideas - that as users they’d never have noticed without it.

If you don’t need this level of “cleverness”, or you can achieve it simply by memorising yourself what is in your databases (because they’re small enough, or you’ve got a good memory, or you don’t mind combing through them line by line), then DTPO is probably not for you.

In my view, OCR and some of DTPO’s other bells and whistles are very useful, but as you’ve indicated, other applications can also do some or all of those things.

The so-called AI features are the core of what DT is all about, and are what as far I know make it unique. For me, they are what one buys the software for.