DEVONthink ‚ should I buy it?

Well it is not that expensive you know, not really and it goes on for years before you have to upgrade. I have to say that I have used it for years. As others have implied, start using it and your uses and its usefulness will increase in ways you didn’t anticipate.
I do things with it that I wouldn’t be doing at all were it not for the app. I have a place where I put screenshots of academic papers and site pages for example, I use a smart rule to title them and can re-find them easily and in a curiously relevant way hard to explain and that wouldn’t work if I littered my desktop with such.
I would say I am still learning and developing usage of it after over five years. Really take the plunge.

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And you (and all) should not be rooting around in a database’s internals unless instructed to do so. You risk database corruption messing about in there.


et al:

We have discussed this all many times before (including on our forums), but you should be routinely checking the health of your databases.

Especially if you’re a heavy user of DEVONthink, we suggest a weekly or bi-weekly check with File > Verify & Repair on each database, just to make sure they’re doing well. You obviously can do it more often, if you’d like.


Understood. It was an abandoned database on a laptop that was no longer in active use and on which DTP was no longer installed. The point is that the documents could still be retrieved, even without DTP.


Count me among the minority who say “no.”

I set it up a while back to go all in with DT. On paper, I look like the ideal user. Instead, the result was frustration and continuous insults thrown my way by the DT “support community.”

I’m only one perspective and experience, but I thought I’d add it to the mix so you can see what happens when you criticize DT.


Unless you test you’re entire backup, all files, the chances of identifying an error will vary depending on how many items you have in your DT database and whether you happened to pick one that was corrupted to try to recover. In my case I had many thousands of individual items.The issue is that they LOOKED fine. Valid file names, showed up in my DT folders as I expected.

My DT databases all passed the verify and repair database and optimize database procetures that DT recommends. I was doing the verify and repair weekly, the optimize monthly and the rebuild quarterly all per DT support suggestions. But it STILL failed me. That procedure is NOT enough to actually catch the bug in time to recover lost files.

That was my experience too. For months I was told that the fault was mine that I was clearly not seeing what I knew I was seeing and I got tired of shouting at the wall only to be ignored. It was only AFTER another frustrated user developed a procedure to locate the corrupted files and others started reporting the issue that DT regular support actually considered that we might be seeing a real problem. And the response was just a way to check for it not a real fix and it’s NOT just do a regular Verify and Repair.


You could setup an intelligent group, that shows over all databases all documents with a file size of 0kb.
So you could have a look onto it, and if it indicates any file in there, you could take the approbate actions.

Very nice! How often are you doing the Database Archive to ZIP?

I’ve used DT for ~15 years and find it to be an essential piece of software. I’m also an academic; I have a cell biology lab and also teach at an R1 university. I use DT as a data repository - kind of an electronic lab notebook. It accepts all types of files and I collect my notes alongside data in a variety of formats and relevant primary literature as PDFs. I have never had an issue with data corruption.

I’ve done the experiment several times over the years where I moved by documents to the file system (by simply dragging them out to replicate the directory structure) to determine if I really need DT, and I always return after a couple of days.

The responses above lay out many of DT’s capabilities, so I’ll add to those with a few features that I have come to depend on:

  1. Every document in the database is assigned a unique URL link that can be inserted into other apps to allow for interconnectedness.

  2. The OCR and PDF annotation, while not as full-featured as some apps, are pretty great. I typically use Zotero to collect manuscripts and index the PDF files in the Zotero directory in DT. This allows me to use the advanced search capabilities in DT and provides a nice platform to read and highlight using aniPad/Apple pencil that all syncs back to the original PDF file. DT can extract highlighted notations into a text or markdown file. I can also replicate DT files to appropriate project files. DT can also internally linnk files similar to a wiki, which can be very useful.

  3. By far my favorite feature, however, is that I can edit my notes (sometimes text or .md files but mostly RTF) in the editor window and switch between them just by selecting them in the browser pane. The combined file browser/editor is similar to other apps (e.g. IA writer, Drafts) and it allows quick switching between files. without tying to the app (as in the case of the examples I provided). This is what I actually missed most when I tried to step away from DT - the integration of file editing and organization across file types.

  4. DT has a deep tagging system and a parallel “labeling” feature that can be defined by the user but also adds a nice visual cue by color. For example, all active projects in my database has a label of “Active” and shows as green in the file browser while “Completed” are blue, “waiting for” yellow, etc.

You can certainly replicate many of these features in the file system, but when integrated into DT, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


Have you had any file corruption issues over the last 15 years?

The second part of this thread How do I move 15 years of email to a safe and accessible archive? Should I even bother? - Tech Support - MPU Talk turned into a discussion of some pros and cons of DEVONthink that a prospective user may wish to consider.


No. I see the occasional error message that a file can’t sync but it usually resolves itself. I do check/repair databases occasionally, but just to be proactive not to fix an issue.

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Besides some complaining about the “Open-Database-Warning”, I could not see a real valuable discussion on the second part of the linked thread?

But when you depend on a software developer to take into account that they advertise their system as being suitable for archival of critical data, and you FOLLOW ALL THE RECOMMENDED PROCEDURES, to safeguard your data for future usein years or decades in the future if I needed to do my own file by file verification I would have xpeted at least a sentence or two saying that was important.

DT was a total disaster in the face of a critical data loss issue. They ignored, poo poo’ed and otherwise blamed me for their own SW shortcomings. I left afer that. They can be fine for 99% of the users but idf you are in teh1% that gets screwed you will not trust them.

Contrast that situation with the known bug in Obsidian about a very rare potential for a data loss. If you are using sync, make a change in one system and don’t allow at least 2-3 seconds before closing the vault on one systes in some cases you can end up wth a zero length file. As soon as the problem was discovered the devlopers investigated, verified a problem, came up with a workaround and are continuing to investigate soutions. No finger pointing at the "bad users’but a genuaine desire to make sure it didn’t fail and lots of help on how to recover lost data.

Nothing even close to that has ever come from DEVONThink. and I reiterate, I was a very loyal user for over a decade. They left e hanging and I cannot forgive or forget. And I REALLY don’t want anyone else to expericne the disaster their problems cause me personally.

So I will continue to raise the caution flag about DEVONThink until there is a clear, complete and open discussion of their failings and they take responsibility for the hash they made of some long time user data.


On the contrary, I’d say it provides yet another example on what happens when DT (former) users say anything negative. Just as happened in this thread. :wink:


Hey, I will take your criticism to heart. I’m sorry for poking fun at you when you were unhappy with Devon’s support and their forum last year. I should’ve just let karlnyhus complain without saying anything today, too.

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Firstly, yes you should buy it!

Secondly, you’re not missing anything, except perhaps the versatility of this application.

My uses of DEVONthink over the last few years have been:

  1. Managing a service unit in a university
  2. eLearning course provider
  3. Studying for a MSc
  4. File management for all personal documents

It helped me with my dissertation by (automatically) gathering data from the web and helping to synthesise huge amounts of data. I still use a separate reference manager (currently Zotero) but I index my reference library so that I can include journals in all searches.

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘connected’ as there are many ways to do this (copy and paste item links, wiki-links, tagging, automation features etc.). It’s the type of application that will grow and shrink to meet your needs without getting in the way.

DEVONthink has been rock solid for me and is an essential macOS app. The number of times it has saved my bacon (ok tofu, I’m vegetarian).

:pray: DT

Can’t recommend it enough.


You could say anything negative, if you want, about anything, if there is a base for that.
If you complain about something, and this is just because you did not understood the function and mistake a feature for a bug, than it shouldn’t be criticized if someone is correcting you!

And if you Link within a thread to an other one, where you specially mention

and it in reality turns out, that this second part mostly contains your complaint about a feature, that you are simply not understood, and think it would be a bug, than I think it is legitime to mention also, that this discussion is not as interesting as you had mentioned before.

I am myself not happy with everything on DT, there are some functions (e.g. DT is turning nowadays a “/” within a Tag into a command that is separating the Tag into two, while we need this “/” in Germany as a part of official file numbers), I would be very happy if I could turn them of, or if they would be more useful.
And I had a few discussions myself on the DT-Forum with some Fanboys, and part of the crew, who were be slightly “unhappy”.
But it is not helpful at all, if you do not want to let any discussion going on, if someone is thinking something is a bug, while it is a feature!

And after all, (unfortunately) DT is the only(!) real/useful DMS on the Mac…

As much as I like Devonthink it’s easy for it to become a data dump where you can only find stuff via search.

As years go by this grows and Devonthink works well so you don’t really need to sort it. The challenge is that we really should be thinking about our data and storing it appropriately either with meta data or structure and remove cruft.

At some point you will need to sort it so if you buy Devonthink I would encourage you to still distill your data and create a knowledge base rather than a data dump.


Do you figured out the technical reason behind your data loss?