608: DEVONthink & New Apple Hardware


Stephen mentioned that when they recorded Relay had raised “almost $600,000” for St. Jude.

It “ended up” exceeding $682,000.

Can’t wait to hear Stephen talk about this, presumably on Connected this week. Amazing.


I believe the final “bump” (from corporate matching) pushed them over SEVEN HUNDRED THOUUUUUUSAAANNNNDDD dollars.


A great episode. One thing that perhaps wasn’t emphasised is that DEVONthink has some of the best AppleScript integration around. Right up there with BBEdit.

AppleScript can often be very frustrating to work with but it really depends upon the specific app and how well constructed its dictionary is. DEVONthink’s is excellent.

P.S. huge congratulations on the fundraising.


I’m very happy that @MacSparky produced a field guide on DevonThink! I’m sure it will help many people better understand and use a program that has so much power and can be helpful in so many ways. I think DT has suffered from the fact it’s a program that has been around for a long time now. As a relative newcomer to the productivity world, It hasn’t taken me too long to figure out that the productivity crowd is easily wowed by “the new kid on the block” program, and tend to stampede and obsess over whatever is bright and shiny (such as Obsidian). It took me a lot of reading and hunting around this past year to find out about DevonThink, and when I did I was surprised I hadn’t heard about it before.

MacSparky’s guide will make a great tool much more accessible to many people (including me!) who can benefit from it. I’ve used DT a lot in the past 6 months, but there are tons of features I’m now learning about by working through the DT Field Guide.


I have a few follow-ups:

Integrating DEVONthink and Obsidian

David mentioned how some folks index their Obsidian notes in DEVONthink so that they can open whatever you’re working on in either app. He also mentioned that you might want to link things between Obsidian and DEVONthink using URL schemes.

Well, if you’ve indexed your Obsidian folders in DEVONthink, you can use my DEVONlink plugin to deepen that integration. The plugin allows you to use commands in Obsidian to jump straight to the same record in DEVONthink without worrying about links. It also lets you insert the DEVONthink concordance list for the current note—i.e., possibly related files—directly into Obsidian. I also provide a companion script to jump from DEVONthink to Obsidian.

Separating databases

@ismh’s approach to separating databases based on large topics surprised me—especially e.g., keeping Hardware and Software separated. I would encourage you to rethink it, Stephen! Here’s my rationale—it may help others think through the database divide question.

Bestselling author Stephen Johnson first wrote about DEVONthink’s serendipitous benefits over fifteen years ago. In his pieces, he describes how the app’s concordance and see also & classify tools helped find surprising relationships between the ideas captured in his references and notes. Those surprising relationships, he argues, helped him come up with creative insights he wouldn’t have otherwise.

I think the best approach to DEVONthink databases is to separate out “areas of focus” or “responsibility” or “interest.” Essentially, what are you trying to do with the data you’re collecting? Data related to the same outputs or outcomes should be in the same database.

If some data is helping you to keep and maintain your home and family, create a Home database. The AI will eventually help you sort bills and correspondence and such. If you’re trying to blog about Apple, put everything Apple in one database, and the AI will notice relationships between e.g., the way different press releases frame a certain issue.

I realize that in Stephen’s case this will mean a huge database, so I understand the desire to subdivide. But I think you will not find serendipitous benefits if you don’t make space for serendipity—even if that means a lot of (storage) space…

Slightly related: you should consider the granularity of your data. This is an area of research of mine; I advanced some arguments about data granularity and serendipity in a recent talk.


I also index my external notes files into DEVONthink (Noteplan), though I don’t have anything near as cool as @ryanjamurphy’s plugin. I just use ChronoSync to copy from my Noteplan directory from iCloud Drive to a folder on my Mac mini and have DEVONthink index the folder (telling DEVONthink to index the iCloud Drive files directly kept causing duplicate files to pop up, hence, using ChronoSync as a one-way connection).


Is it worthwhile to use DEVONThink if work exclusively on an ipad? I don’t have a Mac and work exclusively on my ipad.

I bought this course when it came out (first field guide purchase) and have been sneaking away time any time I can to listen. It’s great! I started using DEVONthink 6 months ago for research assistant stuff. It’s a great tool and the course is helping me learn a lot!


Hi All - Ive asked in various was and on various forums, but I figured I would jump in and see what y’all think…

Does anyone use DT as a teacher ESPECIALLY with google drive ?? I love DT3 and I like to use it to tag, organize and find information in my files … but I “need” to be on Google Drive … I share folders with colleagues and I create documents for students in google docs etc… Any teachers here find a way to get this to work? I’d love some ideas or feedback

I am neither a teacher, nor do I use Google Drive, but I do have some similar experience using DEVONthink as a file repository while needing to collaborate with colleagues using Microsoft OneDrive. My solution has essentially been to accept that my personal document storehouse and things I share with my coworkers are two different worlds. I’ll work on stuff in DEVONthink, then, when it’s time to collaborate I’ll drag that file to the OneDrive directory and share it from there. Once collaboration is finished, if I remember, I’ll move another copy into DEVONthink.

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Totally agree. I’ve been using DT for about 6 months and it’s been great but I know I’m not using it to it’s full potential. Once I heard MacSparky was doing a field guide I was so amped. It’s his best one yet and worth every nickel he’s charging for it.

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Thanks! I think I am heading in that direction! Do you Import stuff or index?? I am thinking Import my stuff and then Index the stuff that’s needed for Google Drive - that makes moving back and forth a little easier ??

With the exception of the folder of Noteplan notes I mentioned in an earlier post, I import rather than index.

I would be leery of indexing a folder that’s synced by any other service. As I mentioned in that earlier post, trying to index an iCloud Drive folder resulted in duplicate files for me as iCloud and DEVONthink fought over file changes.


I agree with @ryanjamurphy below regarding the number of databases one keeps. I understand the logic of keeping separate databases but I found over time it can work against the point of DEVONthink 3.

It is a leap of faith almost though to just throw things into one database and rely on DEVONthink 3 's AI and the search powers of not only the app itself but Houdah Spot and Spotlight that I use too.
It is a leap worth making though I found.

The only doubt I have about doing it is that it commits one to DEVONthink 3 long term, which I am ok with but worry about the app going out of developement.

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I keep three databases. I used to have a lot more but, as I say in another comment I found that cut against the point of DEVONthink 3 somewhat. I was quite surprised like you were that David has so many.

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I first started using DEVONthink in 2018 and attempted to put everything in one database. Over time, I have discovered that I find using separate databases to be really useful in keeping their individual content relatively narrow in scope. I also find it easy to open multiple databases at once, in case I find scenarios where content is related or connected. For me, it’s like the best of both worlds.

I am a university lecturer and I have a database of past courses, a database for each course I am teaching this semester, and then a database of teaching curriculum. Sometimes I open all three, as I want to grab something from the curriculum database, drop it in an individual session folder for this semester’s course, and also reference something about the way I may have used it in a previous semester. But when I’m working with documents kind of hastily—say, yesterday in class—I don’t want the ‘information clutter’ of seeing past semesters or all of my curriculum at the same time. I just want to see the documents for the current semester. For me, having separate databases makes this work well.

In any case, this is an evolving space: I’ve been using DEVONthink for a few years, but I too am learning from MacSparky’s field guide—as always!—and only wish I wasn’t in the midst of a busy semester, so I could spend more time tinkering and fine-tuning my workflows in response to the field guide.

I use DEVONthink with Google Drive as a teacher, and I will second what @ChrisUpchurch said. Basically, I use DEVONthink to manage everything according to my own workflows and preferences, and then share copies of files to Google Drive folders with faculty/students. I think of these tools as two different workspaces. However, it sounds like you are trying to harmonize them or get them to interact more efficiently. I don’t really like using Google Drive, but can’t you install it locally, so it creates folders in the Finder? If so, could you perhaps use DEVONthink’s ‘index’ function to allow DEVONthink and Google Drive to ‘interact’?

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This is great. Thanks. Currently I’m doing just that - using the local drive and indexing …. I was hoping something better existed :slight_smile:

You wrote - “Basically, I use DEVONthink to manage everything according to my own workflows and preferences, and then share copies of files to Google Drive folders with faculty/students.“

Care to share how you do this ??

Thanks for all the responses so far !!

I’ve considered Devonthink many times before and now this FG is refreshing the itch.

I found it useful to watch the interviews on the FG as they were insightful. That said, I guess the @ryanjamurphy would make for an awesome Interviewee as he seems to really have a good grasp on the art of tying Devonthink and Obsidian together.

Perhaps on an updated version?

Os as a guest on MPU?