I had intended to try to watch the whole thing before it came out, but there was this little 8-hour podcast-a-thon on Friday which I watched, and that made adding another ~8.5 hours of video a bit of a challenge to fit in. I’m about halfway through, plus I’ve taken a look at a few of the later chapters just to get a sense of what is coming.
Since this is the Internet, I should make clear that there was no ‘quid pro quo’ of “I’ll give you early access to this if you say nice things about it.” David has been doing these Field Guides for a long time, and they have a proven track record. Quite frankly, I doubt anything I have to say will ‘move the needle’ in any significant way.
Here’s what I will say: I have owned DEVONthink for a decade (my entry in 1Password is dated 30 Jan 2011). In that time, I have wanted to use it. I have wished that I had used it. I have even started to use it… at least a dozen times. But it’s never ‘stuck’ for me.
It’s a powerful application, which means it is also a complicated application. I have never really felt like I understood the app well enough to use it to its full potential, and so I’ve gotten overwhelmed to the point of either not trying at all, or trying it for a short time and then giving up.
I have the Take Control book (274 pages!). I have the Taking Smart Notes with DEVONthink course (600+ pages!). I have not given either of them serious time or attention, because (going back to the previous point) DEVONthink seemed too daunting.
Being able to watch someone set up DEVONthink, step by step, took away the ‘overwhelm’ factor for me. Frankly, it’s the same reason why it took To Obsidian and Beyond to get me to look at using Obsidian.
David leads you through the process of learning DEVONthink in manageable chunks. When something comes up that he’s going to talk about later, he tells you so you don’t have to think about it now. He breaks it down into easy-to-digest pieces, and you get to watch him do it. He explains the pros and cons of different ways of doing things.
Even some of the ‘simple’ stuff in DEVONthink left me thinking, “Oh, it can do that?” and I immediately realized that I had been looking for various apps to do these various things, never really giving DEVONthink much thought because the idea of getting started had too much mental startup cost. Should I have know this already? Maybe. But I didn’t.
When we’re ready to work with actual information, he has a real set of documents and information to use to explain how DEVONthink works when you have real data in it. (Hat tip to one Stephen Hackett for providing 2 GB of Apple-related data to use as the example set.)
One of my favorite features of the Field Guide is interviews with people who use DEVONthink, including Stephen Hackett, Gabe Weatherhead, and Kourosh Dini (who wrote the Taking Smart Notes with DEVONthink course). Getting to hear people talk in a cogent way about how they really use DEVONthink, is almost worth the price of admission by itself. Each of the conversations is short (about 10-20 minutes) but long enough to give you insight into how real people really use DEVONthink.
The truth is that after 10 years of having DEVONthink, I had zero DEVONthink databases and nothing but aspirations of using the app “someday”. All of my previous attempts felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was trying it anyway.
Even before finishing David’s course, I have two (admittedly small) databases started (one for sermon prep, and one for computer-y stuff), and I feel like there’s much more chance that I’ll be using the app in a month/6 months/year than if I had tried it on my own because I understand it more than I ever have.
I expect David will have no trouble at all finding more eloquent and more noteworthy people to sing the praises of this course. He spent a long time making it, and it shows. My ‘pitch’ is fairly plain and simple:
If you’ve wanted to use DEVONthink but have not known where to start, or tried and gave up, or if you know the basics but want to go deeper, I think you can’t go wrong with the DEVONthink Field Guide.