DEVONthink ‚ should I buy it?

OK - I am asking devoted DEVONthink users here.

Background: working in academia, therefore using Articles and References (Zotero at the moment), blog post collections (noir really a good place…), etc

I started trying DEVONthink and DEVONthink ToGo and like ist so far - indexing is great, full text search really fast, one place to store all info. Works together (more or less) with my reference manager Zotero.

But I am asking myself now (before I pay for it - which is in the case of the Desktop version substantial), what else can it do? OK - I can index documents in DEVONthink (imported) and in folders outside of DT (indexed), I really like the live search, I can tag documents, annotate them, sync to iOS and other devices. But is there something I am missing? The web site mentions “Have them automatically … connected…” - how does that work?

So - what am I missing?

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I use it all the time, and have done for years. I mostly IMPORT rather than INDEX (words you used).

Perhaps your next step, in addition to playing with it, download and skim the free e-book available from DEVONtechnologies “Take Control of DEVONthink” and review the “DEVONthink Manual” to notice the things you might be missing.


Keep in mind they have educational pricing. And the free book is very helpful


They also have a pretty long trial period!


Thanks - I’ll definitely look at the book, then.

Get and skim the “DEVONthin Manual” (same web site) so at least you know what is there. It is probably one of the the best manuals in the industry.


Once you get a good search result save the search criteria into a smart rule.

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For the initial question:
If you do anything with documents, annotations, websearches and so on, on the Mac it is your gamepartner…
They also have an “additional” tool, with DevonAgent that is doing a good job, specially in academic searches, and which is also playing nice along with Devonthink.

There is also a large community, and the staff is rather quick with responses there, if you have specific questions, or run into some issues.
And, as already mentioned, they offer educational prices, and it is also sometimes worth to have a look out on MacSparkys Block, as they are often showing up as a sponsor there, and this sometimes could be go along with some “value” for new customer, too.

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I have used DEVONthink for a long time, and use it for several hours every day. I am always finding new use cases for myself. What amazes / pleases me the most about DEVONthink is that the developer, Criss Grünenberg, keeps up a steady pace of adding new features and improving existing one, and is highly responsive to bug reports.

They are generous with trials too.




The web site mentions “Have them automatically … connected…” - how does that work?

There are at least a couple of things this could be referring to, but probably the main two are:

  1. Classification: when you select a document, DT will automatically list the folders where similar documents are stored so you can file this one accordingly.

  2. See Also: when you select a document, DT can show you a list of documents which have similar contents to this one.

In this screenshot, the selected document is a note from a journal.

On the top right DT is showed groups (folders) where similar content is stored: I can move the current document to any one of these, or I could replicate it to more than one.

On the bottom right, DT is showing documents with similar contents. Clicking on one of these takes you straight to it, or you can drag the links into the document or perform a number of actions on it. Note: you don’t have to have linked to the suggested documents previously - their appearance in the list is automatic based on DT’s analysis of content.

The second screenshot shows a pdf with its ‘mentions’ (i.e. backlinks) and their context.

Another example is the word cloud and related terms section: this is from the same PDF – click on a word or a node to highlight that word in the pdf itself, you can add it to the tags and so on.

As others have said, the free book and the manual will give you a lot of ideas how to use DT3, but I hope this flavour is helpful…


I also strongly recommend DEVONthink. The only thing I’d add to all the previous comments is the fact that once you start using it you’ll find uses for it you never previously imagined.



I’ve been in exactly the same space as you. I got DEVONthink many, many years ago as part of an app bundle, never really committed, played around with it half-heartedly since I had this vague idea I was missing out on something, but it never made full sense to me what I might gain from it. At some point, I went all in – and never looked back. I’m an academic too (in the Humanities), and there are many of us in the DT community. There are some good discussions about DT in academic practice, eg.

You’ve got some great advice here as well on this thread - the DT manual is excellent; the free Take Control book is great; there are some nice and recent additions (e.g. Kourosh Dini’s Taking Control with DT; and of course, @MacSparky Field Guide).

It is really overwhelming to build an entire system from scratch in DT, so these books give ideas but shouldn’t be followed to the letter. I think that the key is that you start slowly and build a system around the workflow you’ve already got working for you (rather than implementing other people’s set-ups as you will invariably encounter them on the DT forums or here on MPU). As an academic, you’ll have huge expertise already in pushing around large amounts of data; thinking about this data; writing about it; archiving it; and so on. DT is very flexible so will mostly certainly fit your needs. If you get stuck, post a question here, or on the DT forums. There is always a solution.

You can get better (academic) efficiencies working with DT but with every tool, these are small incremental gains. In my experience it won’t actually do any of the thinking for you (alas).

Worth paying for it? 100% yes



I used DEVONThink for over 10 years for nearly all filing and interfacing.

Jsut be aware that there is a still as yet unresolved bug that can result in loss of your data without you knowing. Files both indexed and imported appear fine but the files themselves are zero byte lenth.

DEVONTHink did eventually implement a tool that allows you to check for file integrity so you can discover the problem before your backup string is exhausted (mine was over a year old and I lost hundreds of files)

So if you do commit to DEVONThink I STRONGLY suggest a very robust external backup system and at least weekly verify and also file integrity optiosn on all your database and I’d even add additional external file comparison verifiction at least monthly.

Also be aware that importing the documents into DEVONTHink results in them being hidden in the package file of the database. It’s not very easy to see or manipulte the files or their links outside of DEVONThink.

In my case in the conversion out (I was no longer willing to risk my archived data) I had to redo nearly all the links.

I was a very happy user until the huge dataloss and the aftemath of continual denial by DT support. DT is very powerful with a lot of tools but know what you are getting into and the risks before you decide.

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never had issues with data


I believe this is resolved, a very long time ago. Check with the DEVONthink forum if you need further info.


The way they implemented this is a strength. It is very easy to edit files outside of DT. Right click and there is a menu of opening files outside of DT. You can even set a default app to open. I do this all the time for markdown and PDFs for editing beyond what is already available in DT


If one needed to located the DT database (s) outside of DT, where would one find it in Finder?

Could you please re-state your question. I don’t quite understand.

Sorry for not being clear. If I have a problem with the DT app, is there a way to access the DT database(s) via Finder outside of DT itself?

Yes, all the files are in the macOS “package” format. In Finder, “Show Package Contents”. You won’t recognise the folder structure that DEVONthink uses, but dig further and you’ll see all your files there un-changed.

However, before going that far, if trouble with DEVONthink App (and I’ve never heard of that happening, but I guess anything is possible), best to fix the app from backup, or download a new copy and re-install, or …

And, of course, go to DEVONthink support for assistance if you have such serious issues.