DevonThink 3 - a new leaf or an aberration?

After being totally put off DevonThink 2 by its antiquated UI and the negative attitude of the staff when anyone dared comment on it, I’m actually finding DT3 (in beta) really useful, useable and not generally painful or overly cluttered to look at. (Currently just using it for a small project (140 files or so) and exporting it all regularly for backup purposes.)

I’m wondering though if DT3 signals a new aesthetic and user-sensitive approach to UI and design on the part of DevonTech, or whether it’s just a once-off improvement (albeit a big one). I suppose one must wait and see how they respond to the concerns raised in the beta…

Any thoughts or insight?

I find that the new interface makes it much more usable and user friendly than the previous version…
I’m enjoying the beta so far.

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So far, so good. I really like some of the new features and the improved UI. Am running 6 databases with DT3 and it has been rock solid. I’ve been drifting away toward other apps recently, but DT3 is bringing me back.

It’s really nice to see a UI update. Beyond aesthetics, though, some of the other features are pretty exciting. The ability to add custom metadata to files is quite interesting.

I have been playing with the idea of rolling my own Agenda, for instance, by creating notes with metadata for assigned dates, people, “On the Agenda”, and so on. This would allow me to use Agenda-style notes with other markdown apps. I could also add new features myself (again using DT3’s metadata). I haven’t figured out how to link these notes to calendar events yet, though…

One key possibility is the use of smart rules (also a new DT3 feature) to auto-define metadata based on the contents of the note. I’m really keen to automate “data management” aspects of my work—I never tag things, for instance, because I fail to think of it in the moment. Smart rules offer a way of adding richness to my files without the mental overhead.


I agree that it is a major improvement on DT2. There remain GUI idiosyncrasies. I am relieved to read that I am not the only one who has found DevonTech’s attitude to their customers to be an absolute disgrace. These guys have had, over a decade of use, zero customer service courtesy. I eventually abandoned the app altogether.

My hope is that this has changed too; I had an issue with iCloud syncing which initially received the usual curt and dismissive developer response but they subsequently mellowed.

By comparison with their fellow German developers at Ulysses, however, they have a long way to go.


i’ve been using the beta for a few weeks now and must say it is really an improvement in UX, and future proofing the system for the next 10 years. The new licensing system will be more expensive, but it might just be worth it.

I liked the old DevonThink fine and I’m liking the new one even better. However, based on their update schedule I wouldn’t look for another round of big UI improvements for … oh … another decade or more?

DevonThink is a tool for professional researchers, which turns out to be a fairly broad category – academics and scientists of course, but also journalists (like me), and even IT pros.

But it’s NOT a layperson’s tool. It’s hard to learn. You don’t just jump in and start using it and pick up more over time, as you do with most software. You download it, install it, open it, scream in horror and then run away. But if you have a special need,you take another look.

If you think DevonThink might not be for you, then it definitely isn’t. May I suggest Apple Notes, or just plain documents in the Finder, or Bear, or even Evernote which I think is unfairly maligned nowadays.

But if you need to organize a LOT of documents, and find connections between them, DevonThink is great at that.


This just isn’t true. Support response times for my questions and requests have taken about 24 hours and they were pleasantly written and helpful. They’re active on their forum and reasonable there as well. I couldn’t let that comment slide.


Must agree with that. I always notice criticism aimed at the Devonthink support, just because I find it so completely opposite to all I’ve ever experienced.

Not disputing that some no doubt have experienced support that didn’t meet with expectations - but have to weigh in that in my regular frequenting of the forums over the last 5/6 years, that certainly doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the norm. And to be honest, there have been plenty of times when I thought they were far too accommodating to persons who would suddenly drop into the forums, from nowhere, with guns blazing (so to speak).

Regardless, just a contrary view, YMMV.


DEVONthink 3 is just brilliant. It is one of the best upgrades I have ever seen. It is such a useful program. My mac is my DEVONthink machine I use it 90% of the time.

The support in my experience is excellent


Not saying this hasn’t happened to you, but this hasn’t been my experience. They’ve been very responsive and friendly. To the point perhaps, and they haven’t sucked up to me like other companies, but I don’t want that.

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This is one of the fastest upgrades I’ve ever purchased. Yes, the UI refresh is welcome, but I made the purchase of DTPO 2 because it was the most powerful tool for research and organization of my professional work. DTP 3 builds on that power in significant ways (smart rules FTW!).

The support has always been prompt, and helpful. The authors, while decidedly opinionated, left their various rationales all around the forum.

I had a sync oddity with info on NAS, etc. one of the devs (Christian) helped me on the forum and we worked things out, I think.
I hope this is an indication of their new support philosophy.

From time to time I keep myself considering Devonthink. I’m both a law professor and lawyer and wonder if Devonthink could be of any help to assist me with the task of managing my ever growing collection of PDFs, webpages, notes and word documents.

Like @MitchWagner so accurately described, I’ve gone so far as to scream in horror at Devonthink 2 a few times and moved away before even realizing what the app is capable of. But now I’m once more considering jumping in. Would you guys recommend any special resource for getting started?

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I very much agree - my experience too has been great with DevonThink’s customer support. That isn’t to say that all my questions were provided an answer i liked, but they were answered and most of the time swiftly.

At one time i strongly leaned on Christian (Devon’s CTO) to support Discourse forums (such as these) directly with DevonAgent (a companion tool to DT for even more magic). Since the company considered it out of scope for their product (entirely theirs to decide) he furnished me with sample source code so i could attempt this myself, I think that is pretty dang good customer service!

Yes sometimes their answers are a little short and stripped from all fluffiness, but if they can help, they do.


I would suggest starting small. When beginning your next small project, do it in DEVONthink and play with some of the features. Explore a little more whenever you work with it. DEVONthink 3 is free while in beta so it’s a great opportunity.

A good starting place is to use it as a “Finder replacement”. I keep a lot of Shortcuts “resources”—say, text used as templates for new notes—in DEVONthink. The Universal Unique Identifier links for those files mean that I can always trust that the item will be accurately opened when I run a shortcut no matter what device. This also helped me when I recently studied for a big exam. I used digital flash cards (Anki), pointing to the exact page of relevant PDFs for each flash card. The concept I was looking for was always a click away.

Another option: If you’re doing a lit review, Custom Metadata, annotations, and Table of Contents files might really help you out.

The Manual and Help guides (in the menubar) are really thorough. Most questions have probably already been asked on the forums, too.

Frankly, the worst thing about the product for me is that it always feels like I’m not using the most of it… constant experimentation is necessary!


The forthcoming “Taking Control of . . .” book for DEVONthink is going to be free for all customers once released. That and the in-app help are the only learning tools I know of right now. I’ve learned the most the past few weeks by just spending time in their forum, although I was already fairly adept with version 2.


I wonder where your problem lies? I found their support supurb and unusually attentive and high quality!


What !! Cough splutter…I politely disagree with you.

I have used DT for 9 years after purchase and have had excellent customer service all the way through.

I bought Ulysses and shortly after they went subscription. I now don’t use Ulysses.

You can’t compare the two programs. DEVONthink is amazingly complex and functional whilst Ulysses is a text editor. I would suggest that Devontech care about their customers.

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Look, it’s quite possible for different people to have different experiences with CS with the same company - with the same CS rep - on the same day!
Not only can you have different problems, but you can also be in different moods.
Problem A is a routine matter which the rep solves while chatting amiably to you, thus making you in a better mood, leaving you with an extremely good feeling.
Problem B is something that seems like it should be a routine matter, but which is considered such an edge case by the developers, that there’s nothing the CS rep can do to help you. No matter how amicable the rep is, he’s just not going to be able to leave you with that same good feeling. In fact, you may become angry that this company seemingly doesn’t want to help you with your simple problem, even though it would take several developers several days to do, and possibly isn’t even possible due to architectural reasons.

CS is hard, and someone else having a different experience than you do not invalidate your experiences or feelings.

Edit: I moved from using English as my working language to my native Norwegian literally three months ago, and now I literally can’t even. I had to use Grammarly to even make sense here…