DEVONthink or folder/files app?

Hi there,

This year I’m starting a pos-doc and will be teaching at the university.

I’m looking for a goo workflow to annotate and organize pdf’s. Is DEVONthink a good idea? Or is it “too much” for just that?

I use DEVONTHINK Office Pro extensively but for your described use case I think it is overkill. I suspect, based on what you have described, that PDF Expert with a a good cloud folder system will work well. Keep in mind, if you were not already aware of this, PDF Expert does not OCR PDFs, Devonthink does. Obviously a scanner or other application will.


DEVONthink is an excellent tool for organizing research. You did not specify what platform you will be working on for the most part – macOS or iOS. There are of course two, synchronized, versions of DEVONthink for those two platforms. If you search Google or elsewhere for bloggers other tips on the topic “academic workflows for DEVONthink” you’ll find many real world cases.


Hi there. Thanks! I’ll use my macbook… macOS, then.

Yes! The OCR is kind of important to me.

Do you store notes on DEVONthink too?

If you are OCRing documents, check out DEVONthink Pro Office. Get a trial version and see. DEVONthink can store just about any kind of document. Notes can be created, or stored there from elsewhere. There are annotation “templates” built in that can assist with PDF annotation / note taking.

1 Like

I used to but I don’t like DT’s editor so I use Apple Notes, which gives me the option to type and/or hand write my notes. If/when needed, I copy the Apple Note link to the DT file or add it to an annotated note in PDF Expert.

I will chime in for and against.

For: I am using DT Pro to help write a textbook. I store a repository of all related documents on an external hard drive and index them with DT Pro. I search over the documents for content that I then use for reference and review as I prepare a textbook. When your goal is similar to this, I think DT Pro is among the best tools. An alternative is FoxTrot Professional.

Against: I do NOT use DT Pro for anything related to my teaching needs. That may change this coming semester. I am starting a new course development that is a compilation of other courses taught over a long span. In a manner comparable to what I am doing with my textbook, I plan to put all the sordid documents on an external drive, index them, and search. I’ll pull together my lecture notes and assignments from the resources.

I do NOT use DT Pro for anything related to my research needs. When I need, I use PDF Expert to annotate PDF files. I use Papers3 to store references. Alternatives to either of these exist, and folks also swear by them (e.g. Bookends for citations).

Finally, I find the UI of DT Pro is … dated (I put this very politely). I am also constantly just plain annoyed by the idiosyncratic approach (again politely put) sometimes needed to do certain tasks (e.g. the search function can be cumbersome to set up and the “find duplicates” feature is just too broadly scoped as a default).

You might narrow your criteria. Do you need a good OCR tool? Find one. Do you need a good citation manager? Find one (DT is absolutely NOT good at this). Do you need a good PDF annotation tool, but only for journal articles? Some/Most of the citation managers have some level of PDF annotation built in. Otherwise, find one. Finally, do you need a tool to help you search over a set of different types of documents for comparable content? In this case, DT Pro will be what you need.

BTW, in case you are interested, I also annotate PDF assignments from students either in Preview or in PDF Expert.



Just an FYI - I believe that Devon Tech. gives a significant academic discount. Don’t be afraid to ask!

I think that DEVONThink Pro Office would be a good solution.

Yes, the UI is… outdated? Opinionated? German ;-? All of those? … but the app works very well and has been around for a long time, plus it does not require any sort of subscription.

Best of luck!

I use DEVONthink for research and storing PDFs that I often scan from hard copies and OCR, as well as ones generated from websites. I find it’s search and organisation features second to none, but prefer PDF Expert for annotating (I just prefer the interface). I publish research papers and articles and love being able to easily explore topics with the built in organisational tools and search.

I think it’s the best tool for the job you describe, and if you’re planning to do research as part of your career you won’t regret organising it in DTPO.

1 Like

I’ve tried adding +/- 6000 academic articles and (in a separate database) 1000s of pages of qualitative research material to DevonThink and have never found the search results particularly useful. It seemed to be matching things like the JSTOR cover pages rather than the article content.

1 Like

Hey there: I’m also in a new postdoc role, so we are in a similar position. I’ve tried DT in the past (and maybe need to revisit it) but I get along fine with just using iCloud and Files for my reading and data management needs.

Have you considered just using a citation manager application as your journal article/ publications file? Something like Mendely or Zotero would surely give you the type of organization power you need, plus offer cite-as-you-write functionality when it’s time to write up your results.

1 Like