Back To School? Workflow Needed!

Hey Everyone!

I am going back to school and getting a 2nd master’s degree. The last time I was in school was a decade ago (when I finished my first masters)

Over that time period, many changes have obviously occurred in the app world. Suggestions on how to properly use the apps on my iPad Pro? (or if other people have workflows they like)

What I have and use (before being a student again)

  • Omnifocus
  • DevonThink Pro
  • GoodNotes
  • Ulysses
  • PDF Expert
  • Drafts
  • Feedly
  • Pocket

My current thought process…(please chime in for efficiency)

  1. DTPO is the archive, folder per course contains all files
  2. Omnifocus would have each class as a project with deadline tasks for readings and assignments
  3. Ulysses - do my assignment writing in here, export to DTPO for archive
  4. GoodNotes - taking notes with the pencil
  5. PDF Expert - read course books from, archive to DTPO when done.

Let me know your thoughts if you have a better efficient way or you see a glitch in the system!

I used/use most of these tools in my Masters and PhD studies, except:

  • I use Concepts instead of GoodNotes. GoodNotes is probably better for note taking. However I like Concepts’ toolsets and infinite canvas too much to use a different app. (I’m also not much of a note taker…)
  • I’ve switched from Ulysses to iA Writer. The latter is more customizable on iOS and allows me to own my files without need of exporting or fiddling with Ulysses’ text bundles.

You’ll probably want to look into a reference manager to cite and create bibliographies for readings. Zotero used to be my go-to. I’m now experimenting with Bookends. Not sure what either tool offers on iOS, though—I do this on my desktop.

Also, you’ll want a good date tool (i.e., a calendar, but I could see creative use of DEVONthink 3’s metadata or OmniFocus due dates here too) to manage dates and deadlines.

Also also, be sure to take advantage of student discounts when buying new apps! It’s easy to forget to avail, but most developers make purchases easier on students.


Your workflow looks efficient.

I see you like to use DTP as your storage unit. It is one of my tried but did not stick apps. With Ulysses’s strong organization features — all files, if created and or published from it, stay there with key words and smart folders doing all the sorting I need. But my needs are less demanding than yours.

I use Local Storage as a place to hold some stuff instead of Gladys or Yoink. (Like both apps by the way… Also I use Ulysses’s notes feature to capture ideas for the short pieces I write.)

If you have to do any memorization, I’d advise getting into something like Anki sooner rather than later. Create a few questions based on each reading or class and stick to Anki’s schedule to rehearse them. I only found Anki late, but it was a fantastic way of engaging and re-engaging with readings for my PhD comprehensive exams. The mobile app is somewhat expensive but was worth the investment.

There are some clever ways of linking Anki to the tools you already use, too. I included links (e.g., x-devonthink-item://22DF9767-B991-467E-898E-DAF988847F4F?page=2) in each card to the exact page of the relevant PDF in DEVONthink, and can therefore jump straight to that content when I’m reviewing a question.


Speaking as an administrator/professor, I think your straightforward system with limited tools is the way to go. I see tech geeks such as myself create this overly complex system that gets in the way of the work they need to do. Actually, I think I’ve done that myself in the past (so many great apps). We also live in these Learning Management Systems (like Blackboard), so a good professor keeps the notes and materials available there. This helps with organization and workflow I think.


Look on LiquidText or MarginNote 3. Probably the best research apps out there.


I relate to this point a lot. I find myself overwhelmed by the possibilities of tools to use and ways to use it. Sometimes I forget that the phrase “the world wasn’t built in a day” can also apply to the tools you use and workflows you have. One step at a time or one use case/problem solved at a time and taking it slow. We don’t all have to be to the level of automation for example as Rose (not a knock just a comparison).

If you were using a computer too I’d say you could always use DTPO and have the files referenced that are in there but I don’t think there’s a feasible way to do that on the mobile side. Maybe someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

I imagine Rose’s workflow comes easily to her. For me, I would need a month off work to figure out how to set it all up, then half of it wouldn’t work properly.


The potential point of catastrophic failure here seems to be DT. Do you really want to trust everything to a database rather than rely on the file system?

I am trying to recall where @RosemaryOrchard posted her workflow for her school studies. Any guesses?

I used to use a file system style before, I figure in this day of age, perhaps thinks are more advanced. I will probably out of paranoia now (Murphy’s law) create a file system backup for the classes.

Definitely second MarginNote recommendation if you deal with really massive literary reviews.

It’s a bit clunky to import and index all PDF files (DTP or the Old and trusted file system are far better for this task) but it far surpasses that by allowing you to arrange snippets on a mind map tree view.

I’ve been using it time and time again for both academic and legal research.

Since you are planning to use DTPO, I’m curious if you’ve thought about/already rejected using DTTG for your iPad reading.


That’s essentially what I’ve been using for my continuing education. Add Zotero or some other reference manager and you’re good to go.

I did use Devonthink and Devonthink to Go for my PDF reading and annotation before I went back to Evernote. It was so nice to be able to search through all of that reading for citations and the “I think I remembered reading that” as I’m guessing you’ll be doing a lot of reading and writing.

I haven’t thought of using DTTG for reading yet. I think in my mind, I just associate DT with “the final resting place” or “the master archive” of everything. I may have to remind myself that I can read in there, instead of opening the same PDF in PDF Expert.

Shoot I don’t remember. @RosemaryOrchard do you have your school workflow written up somewhere?

DTTG also works with Files, so you can “Open In” files through that view. In other words, DEVONthink databases don’t have to be a final archive—they can be pretty current, too!

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Update! First semester is almost over for me! The workflow that I wrote about in my OP has been working great. I have been using Ulysses to write my weekly assignments mainly which are just copied and pasted into a class discussion board.

The big thing I have 2 academic papers I need to write, which will require citations, references, etc. It also requires Turabian Style formatting.

  1. Should I continue to write in Ulysses for the final paper and then copy/paste to word?
  2. Is there a Turabian Style in Ulysses?
  3. Is anyone aware of something that tracks citations/resources - I would imagine it would be really cool if there was an app that had my journals that I researched (they are stored in DTPO currently) and I could just pull the quote I need into my paper, and it would auto-add the reference for me according to my style.
  • Clearly displaying my ignorance here, since I haven’t written an academic paper in over a decade, since my last master’s degree.
  1. Yes, definitely. Use Ulysses’ export functions to preserve styling information instead of copy/paste though—and then edit the look/feel in Word using Styles. Very easy and efficient once you get the hang of it.

  2. Zotero. One-click downloads and captures of most academic (and non-academic!) references. You can set the download location to a folder indexed by DEVONthink. Export citations and bibliographies. You can download and install new reference formats, too. Not sure off the cuff if Turabian exists already though, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

(I’m switching from Zotero to Bookends mostly because of curiosity, but there’s a lot I miss about Zotero!)