Will DEVONthink's Woeful Interface Ever Be Updated?

Are there any plans to update DEVONthink’s interface? It remains very difficult to browse a group of notes in list view, and cast your eye over them to see what’s there.

I’m thinking principally of the titles and summary information. This is very poor. You just need to see the title of a note properly! How difficult can it be?

DEVONthink has many good things going for it. Replicants are useful. The encryption of items synced to cloud servers is very good. The application is pretty solid and has (almost) never fallen over.

But the user interface for browsing a collection of documents remains terrible. So much so, that despite its many advantages I’ve been finding myself using Keep It. Yes, I know, I know: Keep It is different, blah-de-blah, and DEVONthink does other things, but I’m finding myself preferring to use it simply because you can see what’s there; the writing environment is just better; and that for me is taking precedence.

I gather there may have been plans to update the interface, and by popular request, but that was nearly ten years ago, and I’m wondering if it’ll ever happen.

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I personally appreciate the tight interface which maximises view of the content and content’s metadata. I do not long for major changes and I do not recommend they try to become “pretty”.


DEVONthink 3’s interface was improved over DEVONthink 2… and that was five years ago.

But the user interface for browsing a collection of documents remains terrible.

In your opinion, that may be the case. But it’s certainly not everyone’s view and I’m not just referring to ourselves. Also, aesthetics are subjective. Many pretty apps people tout today look childish to me, like they’re not made for professional or serious work. That is also obviously subjective.

We don’t hold anyone back from using other applications if they scratch some itch of theirs.


You “appreciate the tight interface” which — obfuscates the title of your document. I see.

It’s not about aesthetics; it’s not falling for some “pretty” interface, it’s about being able to see the titles.

It’s the kind of thing that I think wouldn’t be a big deal to implement, but would make a big difference in legibility.

And others quite clearly agree.

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so all you want is a word wrap in titles?

Screenshot 2024-01-20 at 19.39.40


For a non-truncated view, I use the info panel
I have this set up as a workspace, with shortcut keys


You could try hidden preference ShowAdditionalInfoInPathBar which will show the name in the Information Bar.


The width of the title column is adjustable, though?


I use workspaces to show/hide side bars and create the uncluttered views I want


I see from the jump link that you enjoy KeepIt. Perhaps that’s a better fit for you?


Exactly this. If your titles don’t fit, why not widen the column?

I’m another user voting for it staying mostly as it is. I don’t have an issue with how it presents currently, and I’m not keen on the summary view example given because it means less files are visible at once in the list (each file takes up more vertical space if it has a summary, and for most of us it’s the vertical space that’s finite).


This hadn’t even occured to me before I read the first comment. Less changes the better for me. I don’t use several of the options at all really, I don’t really use Inspector at all I realise nowadays. I used to set reminders in it, I might start again doing that…
I am not even sure that there are some options I have just forgotten about. I never have a problem reading the titles. I like a lot of vertical space for the reasons you give.


I did check after reading this comment out of interest. I think you should experiment a bit.
So much in DEVONthink 3 ‘depends’. It depends on one’s exact use and needs but it has to be said, like with everything, some adaption is quite acceptable. In list view on my main database I have only three columns, I also have a MacBook Air and quite small screen. I have a workspace set to that that I can trigger from shortcuts. Then I use command + 5,6,7 to toggle the views, it is very quick and easy once you have a bit of practice.
Do you use workspaces they are very useful and snap into what can be otherwise quite a time consuming ‘set up’?

I don’t really have trouble seeing what I have there anyway but as an experiment I found that I can see a title of over 21 words. I could see every word of a document title which was the full citation including page numbers of an article I was using. This one, just to show you how long a title can be in the method I describe and fully legible. Myself I don’t need more than “Marios Koustakos et al. 2021. Inlfuenza lineage… 12. 741-742” as it would show in a more compressed form.

Marios Koutsakos et al. 2021. Influenza lineage extinction during the covid-19 pandemic. Nature Reviews Microbiology. 19(12). 12. 741-742

There was no truncation and I still had two columns and I could have still read it fully with another column I sometimes use.

Whenever a critique of DT’s UI comes up, I re-consider what I’m experiencing in the interface. From avatar’s prompting, I looked again at KeepIt and a couple other buckets that use a similar model for titles (Bear, SnipNotes, and NetNewsWire - not a bucket app but uses a similar title formatting). I even fiddled with DT’s interface a little to see how I could change things. DT’s titles in list view are legible and readable - just as they are in Bear and others.

The advantage in the DT interface is that I can view a lot more information about the notes and in the notes from the list screen than I can in other apps. I can see, for starters, the context in which the current note sits in ways I can’t in Bear et al. That’s what find I need when I’m working on notes. My work over the past 10 or 15 years or so has undoubtedly been shaped in part by DT’s interface, and others before DT, so the views are not just a preference in appearance but a matter of affordances.

When reading RSS feeds, NetNewsWire’s interface suits because - as avatar mentions - you can “cast your eyes” over the titles to see what’s there. But when I’m drafting, composing, sorting, linking, revising and refactoring notes, I need to look harder at the titles and other metadata. DT’s interface gets out of my way when I’m working. I appreciate that design.


If you put the preview below rather than to the right (View->Preview->Standard), then the titles can get really long without being truncated.


Curiously, I have the opposite experience. I try to use other systems but can’t unglue myself from Devonthink. In the past I’ve probably been guilty of thinking DT’s UI is somewhat industrial-looking. There is so much power, I’m happy with the look.

How much power? Why, just this morning I was in a DMV office for a driver’s license renewal. My most artful dodging would only get me most of the way to getting the new license.

The sticking point was proving my Social Security Number. I had a W-2 (pay report from my employer), showing the last four digits. I had a tax return showing all the digits, but that wasn’t acceptable. Only a W-2 with all digits would do.

Quick, to my laptop where I launched Devonthink. Fifteen minutes of syncing got years and years of financial records in place. A search for 123-45-6789 (not my real SSN!) found a bunch of PDF’s including W-2’s from years ago with the full number.

I emailed a W-2, using my cell phone hot spot, to a sympathetic DMV employee and I’m now legal to roam the byways once again.

In other words, on a field of honor in mortal combat Devonthink prevailed over the worst the DMV could do.

That’s power.


Actually, that would be phenomenal to be able to toggle for file titles. I run out of room to keep adjusting columns while still running a split-screen preview all the time!

I don’t consider DEVONthink’s interface to be “woeful”.