DEVONthink: Favorite External Editors for Notes in macOS & iOS


I saw an awesome discussion on PDF editors for DEVONthink in these forums, so I thought I would try my luck here with my question about note editing in DEVONthink.

I am new DEVONthink and very much liking so far! DEVONthink’s ability to handle all file types, search, smart groups, and AI abilities have more than exceeded my expectations.

I recently migrated all my previous notes (about 6,000) from Evernote, which was my previous preferred method of storing my digital brain.

I feel like I am missing some basic note editor abilities in the built-in DEVONthink editors (especially in iOS) that I used to have in Evernote, though.

I am already making use of the “open with” keyboard shortcut on macOS and have found the ability to “open in” for round-tripping on iOS. This has made the process of using external editors completely reasonable, but I am looking for the right combination that will allow me to do all the core things I used to do in Evernote. To this end, I am seeking the advice of the DEVONthink community to see what you use.

On macOS side, I am looking for a way to be able to do the following:
• Format note, bold, italics, etc.
• Change text size
• Highlight text
• Insert and annotate pictures
• Use tables

So far, I have been using the rich text format with Bean as an editor as it seemed to offer me all the above tools accesible by keyboard shortcut. I also liked the ability of Bean to add/delete column rows quickly with right click or keyboard shortcuts (something I wasn’t able to do in TextEdit). I love that I can easily annotate/markup images in DEVONthink on my MacBook Pro.

On the iOS side, I am looking to be able to do the following:
• Format note, bold, italics, etc.
• Change text size
• Highlight text
• Insert (annotate pictures not necessary but would be nice)
• Use tables

So far, for iOS, I have tried using the DTTG2 editor and iawriter and Editorial. None of these options seem to get me the full list mentioned above which I could do in the Evernote iOS editor, though.

I know you can add images in DTTG from the camera roll with a long press and select the photo icon, but this requires the use of a formatted note. A formatted note won’t allow me to make use of Bean and other Rich Text Editors that I know of.

Ideally, I would like to be able to use the same note format so that I can edit the same note on both macOS or iOS. I had been considering markdown as I have found many recommendations in the DEVONthink forums on external apps that work well for “round tripping” (iawriter, 1writer, editorial, etc.). Markdown seems to be missing some key features that I like to use such as easily inserting and annotating images. I also do not know how to highlight text.

Interestingly, I have found that I am able to accomplish most of these things with more robust external programs like Pages and Numbers. These do seem like overkill for the type of notes that I am trying to take, and I don’t especially like the look of my basic notes in Pages as they end up being separated by pages.

All in all, I am just looking for some advice. What are the external editors that you use and does anyone think they know of a good workflow that may fit my needs - someone looking for the basic capabilities of the Evernote editor all in one place?


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Good questions, all of these!

I’m not using DTPO for any significant number of notes at the moment, and where I do require them – usually as additional commentary to PDFs etc., – I make do with what DTPO has to offer.

That said, this is something I plan on getting more into, once some medium-term projects are out of the way. That, and Markdown. I appreciate for what it is, but boy have I struggled to get it to stick!

So hoping you get some good feedback here. As powerful as DTPO is, there are some things far better suited to 3rd party apps, imo, and Notes/notetaking, is one of them!

FWIW, I use iA Writer on my iOS devices as well – and whereas it is ‘nice’, I have a funny feeling everything is potentially going to be blown wide-open (for me at least) when Drafts finally(??) makes its way over to the Mac…

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I am very intrigued by what Drafts will bring to the table too!

I fear it may have the same limitations that all the other current markdown editors have - mainly that I don’t know that I will be able to simply take pictures with the camera and quickly add them to my notes (and maybe even annotate them like you can with Evernote on iOS). Nor, do I know if I will be use highlighting or text color changing options.

Another seeming limitation of Drafts 5 on iOS with DEVONthink currently is that I have not figured out how to do round tripping with it like I have been able to do with iA Writer and Editorial. Maybe it is possible already and I just don’t know how to do it?

I read somewhere on the DEVONthink forums that Drafts imported the names of files differently so that it wouldn’t work with tricking DEVONthink into simply updating the old file when you try to copy it back to DEVONthink from Drafts. Instead, it just creates a new file in the inbox of DEVONthink.

Either way, I am very excited to see what options having Drafts 5 on the mac will open up!

Valid points on Drafts iOS - forgot about those limitations.

Re the photos - maybe the built-in annotations of pics in Photos via Notes, or the Screengrab feature, could help? Presumably a Workflow workflow, that then feeds the ‘last taken photo’ into DTTG2 could maybe be in the offing? Maybe not though, just a thought?!

That is an excellent point about the screen grab or built in feature for annotations in Photos app.

Again, I am coming from being used to do this all in the same app that I am taking the notes in (Evernote) so it definitely gets inherently more complicated once you open yourself up to all the options of external apps like you have with DEVONthink. And this is truly a strength of DEVONthink! I just need to find my workflows.

So, while it may be nice to be able to take a picture directly into what ever app I am currently using for my note taking, it certainly would not be too much of hassle to take all my pictures separately (either before or after creating a note), annotate them, and then insert them into a note in DTTG2. Your suggestion certainly solves the annotation problem of images on iOS.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the images into a file format that I can use on both DTPO and DTTG2. I haven’t figured out how do this in Markdown yet. Nor, have I figured out how to add photos to a rich text format file on iOS. I think I read that rtfd files are not support in DTTG2.

Anyways, thanks for your suggestions. They were things I hadn’t thought of yet and are moving me closer to my goal!

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Maybe checkout the above thread. I asked a similar question. My goal is to take notes outside of DTTG and then save within. I have yet to find an app that I like. I am however leaning towards 1Writer. We’ll see what happens :grin:

Thanks for the link. I looked through it and it seemed to recommend the same apps I have been seeing elsewhere.

iA Writer, 1writer, Editorial, etc. I looked at Scrivener a bit too, as it looks like a wonderful writing app, but I am not sure if it will work for “roundtripping” documents quickly in iOS. Or, I don’t know that you can store your file in DEVONthink but edit in Scrivener and have the changes keep in DEVONthink.

I will check it a bit more, but the fact that Scrivener is its own proprietary file format makes me think it won’t work like that.

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I’m basically at the same impass… sigh

I just found a cool beta for a new app called Strike. Apparently it is by the people who made Airmail.

It seems to have all the features that I am looking (and more!), but alas, I have no idea how to make it update my notes in DEVONthink.

This is the exact type of app I am looking for, though. It would work the same on both mac and iOS. It can do text formatting, tables, images and attachments.

It would be awesome if there was a way for DEVONthink to get their app to accept edits to documents from an app like this.

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You could try Mach Write which is free on iOS. It looks like it has what you want, except tables. Not the most elegant editor UI. Also note you have to copy/paste photos in - I don’t see any way to insert them directly while editing the RTF in the app - and no picture annotation in App.

To access your RTF files stored in DTTG: in Mach Write’s Documents (“home”) screen, choose DEVONThink under Locations (may have to use back arrow to get here). Any edits (e.g. highlights, formatting, rewrites) made are saved automatically back to the file in DTTG and will appear when you next view the file there.

Generally any app that can edit RTF files in place (from Locations in the Files app) would work so experiment with lots of apps and see if any meet your requirements.

Hope it helps!

This helps a ton. Thanks!

Somehow I missed in my searching that any app that can access the files app can edit documents in place in DTTG. Now I need to go back and search through my options for rich text editors.

I do hope this whole process becomes easier someday as it does feel like I am trying to find band-aids to create a patch work system for creating notes and storing notes in DTTG and DTPO. I realize it is not DEVONthink’s fault, this is just how iOS and macOS work with each other right now, but I do hope it gets easier in the future.


Well, I have lost way too many hours to this search, so I think I may just leave it where I am for now. I did get some helpful feedback from someone on the DEVONthink forums too. It sounds like I, like many others, have found all the limitations that each file format currently presents in DEVONthink.

For what its worth, here are my notes from my search over the past few days.

My Current Setup
• I do the vast majority of my note taking on the macOS in an .rtf format with Bean as my editor.
• Any check boxes are done with text expander [ x]
• Any horizontal rule is done with text expander ____________________________________________________________________________________
• Any images are mainly being handled on my mac only in Bean (You can make use of macOS native markup directly on images in Bean or DEVONthink!).
• Any rtfd files from my mac than need to be edited on my phone can be done via Pages app
⁃ From DTTG, do “open in” and choose copy to Pages.
⁃ Edit in Pages.
⁃ Choose Export and convert to rtf in Pages.
⁃ Select Copy to DEVONthink as destination. (Do not choose clip to DEVONthink as this will just make a new note).
⁃ This should update the old note in DEVONthink with changes from Pages app.
• I also like to send quick notes into DEVONthink using Drafts 5. This can be plain text or Markdown.
• Convert files to other formats as needed (if I need to add images to a quick note or Markdown note)…

File Specific
Formatted notes - edit in DEVONthink
Markup (.md) - edit in DEVONthink or iA Writer (both macOS and iOS).
Plain text (.txt) - edit in DEVONthink. My quick notes into DEVONthink come from Drafts 5.
Rich text (.rtf) - edit in Bean on macOS. Use DEVONthink editors for very quick edits
Rich Text with images (.rtfd) - edit in Bean on macOS. Use DEVONthink editors for very quick edits. No editing on iOS.

Formatted Notes
1 Able to do pictures in DTTG and DTPO
2 Able to do highlighting
3 Works on both DTPO and DTTG

1 No lists
2 No tables
3 Have to use DEVONthink editor (that I know of)
⁃ DTTG requires you to hit edit every time you want to edit a note
⁃ DTTG requires you to take pictures separately and then insert them into note (not a deal breaker, of course).

Works with editing in DTTG: ?

Rich Text (with images .rtfd)
1 Able to do pictures on DTPO
2 Able to do Highlighting
3 Able to do Tables (using Bean or TextEdit instead of DEVONthink editor)
4 Able to edit in place with Bean/TextEdit on macOS.
5 Able to edit a document from DEVONthink with Document Provider functionality in some external iOS apps (Any that can see DTTG in files app or iCloud drive).
6 Able to do pictures on DTTG. I can’t find an editor that takes pictures, though! It would probably work if someone made an app for iOS with .rtfd support and attach files or access camera as options! Currently, have to copy and paste the pictures in from somewhere else.

1 Editors very limited on iOS.
2 DTTG can’t edit a rtfd file.

Works with editing in DTTG: Very limited options. Mach Write and TextEditor.

Markdown (with images)
1 Quick basic formatting
2 Very portable across platforms
3 Able to edit in place with many external apps on macOS (e.g. iA Writer).
4 Able to edit document from DEVONthink with Document Provider functionality in some external iOS apps (Any that can see DTTG in files app or iCloud drive).
5 Able to edit document from DEVONthink with “Open in” function on iOS and the copy back to DEVONthink with same name will replace/update old file in DEVONthink (iA Writer, Editorial, 1Writer).
6 Many choices for external editors.

1 No images that render in DEVONthink (that I know of).
2 No advance formatting (highlighting especially).

Works with editing in DTTG: iA Writer, Editorial, 1Writer

Plain Text
1 Very portable

1 No advanced formatting
2 No images

Works with editing in DTTG: Any app that supports Document Provider

HTML Notes (Strike beta?)
1 Able to do pictures on DTTG and DTPO
2 Able to do Highlighting
3 Able to do lists
4 Able to do tables.

1 Not sure how to edit documents in place or overwrite with new changes on DTPO and DTTG
2 Not sure what other apps might be out there that support this file format.

Works with editing in DTTG: Strike beta?, others?

Word (.doc)
1 Able to do pictures on DTTG and DTPO
2 Able to do Highlighting - doesn’t show up in DEVONthink
3 Able to do lists
4 Able to do tables - doesn’t show up in DEVONthink

1 Don’t like the “page” type format for notes (just a bit of overkill).
2 Advanced formatting nice, but it is buried in may different menus in iOS. Hard to translate to iOS.
3 A lot of advanced formatting doesn’t show up in DEVONthink

Works with editing in DTTG: Word and Pages