Good arguments to buy Devonthink Pro

Hi everyone,

What would be the good reasons to buy Devonthink Pro? I seems to get by nicely with Documents by Reedle and PDF Expert for annotating PDFs. iCloud and simple filing system seem to work so. However, I keep seeing it come up again and again. It would probably fit nice with what I do (Professor and PhD student) but I think I need to see some clear arguments. What do you think? I have to confess that I tend towards simplicity which is why Documents and iCloud has worked so far.
Thank you


I think the biggest strength would be the search capabilities. Much more robust than Spotlight.

I picked up a copy during a sale (Black Friday or SummerFest; can’t remember which) and have only started getting into it. I hope I can use it to replace my Evernote subscription; sync improvements with recent DEVONThink might make it easier for me to keep things in sync across multiple devices. The only drawback is not Windows component but then again I nearly always have at least one iOS or macOS device with me.

Edit: I forgot to mention that DEVONthink Pro Office is currently on sale as part of SummerFest 2018. No affiliation other than a happy customer.

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OCR - works really well. Reference links work across devices. Search capabilities. Has a clipper — pretty easy to get content in on every device. Concider it as a GTD tool for files and content.

I got my copy “free” — it was included in a MacUpdate Bundle, that I was buying for other software. I initially tried it, just because I thought I should see what $80 gets you… That trial has lead to it being my core application! I use it principally to store information regarding my research (water towers), but also have other databases to store information relating to  Macs and various societies I’m involved with. As Joe suggests, it is the incredible fast search capabilities that give this application it’s power. Devon Technologies give you a generous 150 hour trial, but the more you use this app the more powerful it becomes, so even after 150 hours you will not experienced it’s full potential. One very good aspect of this product is that your information is not held is a proprietary format, but the original documents are retained and remain accessible, should you wish to move away from DevonThink. Take Control Books have a guide:

To appreciate how good Devon Technologies search is, try their free EastFind product — knocks the socks off Spotlight! It really is an amazing search tool that everyone should have.

I think the claims in favor are quite overblown. And the inattention to aesthetics actually hurts usability (e.g. )


Bought DevonThink a while ago, but haven’t got it to work in a way that works for me (potentially not enough time invested in learning/practice) consequenly my knowledge of the product isn’t great, however I think in these days of cloud document storage DT may have an issue of fit. I suspect it works well if all of your files etc are stored locally and then accessed from your other devices as that is what it was designed to do.

If you store files in other locations O365, Deopbox, iCloud etc. or you wish to collaborate with other people on a ‘shared’ document I suspect it wasn’t part of the design spec of the product. There may be workaounds but the overhead might be significant.

In terms of search, I agree that spotlight is usesless unless you learn all of the special typed filters. I use HoudaSpot - this works really well as a dedicated search tool.

No requirement to be anywhere near an Internet connection to access your data. (And yes, even on my phone I am sometimes not within cell phone service and if I do have it data connections may not be very fast)

Security, you control the devices your data is on no dependence on someone else to secure your system.

More powerful and robust searching.

Handles multiple ways of organizing your stuff.

Handles huge databases with ease, my largest has about 150,000 items in it and is over 14GB in size and yet searching and locating stuff is fast and easy. My most used one is about 400MB and fits on all my portable devices. The limits on performance in DT databases are based on the number of words due to the AI algorithms and the see also and classify stuff. The numbers I’ve heard are somewhere around 35 million words before it gets slowed down.

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I have a similar job to you and I use it basically only for storage of profession-specific PDF’s (after a first-pass annotation, in my case in Goodnotes). The search and organization features (boolean logic, tagging, etc) are powerful but it is also nice to just have a dedicated site to search for those things that won’t bring up other results. Devon personal for Mac has a long free trial (150 hrs of use), so you could try that out cost-free.

I am using DTP to collect content for a textbook. I have files from over about a decade. I dumped them onto a USB drive. I used DTP to INDEX the drive. In DTP, I set up folders with searches to collect specific content for various chapters in the textbook. This may serve as an example to which you can relate for your position (faculty/student in academia).

My major gripe with DTP is that its UI design (seriously aging) and its approach to certain actions (quirky or somewhat counter intuitive) often get in the way of fluid work flow for me. Discussions on the DTP forum typically include the mantra that DTP is so powerful that you can do anything with it (i.e. power trumps design) and that UI concerns are purely a subjective matter (i.e. the more features that we can make visible for users, the better). My summary after raising such concerns (and sometimes venting them as strong frustrations) is that a significant class of folks, including the designers themselves, have cut their teeth thoroughly on the app and are seemingly numb to issues of UI and approach. I hear rumors that a new version is in the works, but those rumors have been floating for over a year. I also acknowledge that folks on the forum and here speak highly of the app to meet their needs.

In short: I suggest that you try DTP when you know that you need an app to set up various types of (boolean and smart) searches across a collect of files in order to collect documents that follow common themes. I would however also check out other somewhat equally capable apps such as EagleFiler or FoxTrot Professional. Otherwise, I recommend to pass on buying DTP just based on comments about how good it is. When you do not know specifically why you need it, you will likely not miss it. When you are not prepared to spend time cutting past some of the UI quirks to do what you need, you may likely end up setting it aside rather than getting full use from it.




I only use it for storing my research (textbooks and web clips) and for keeping paperless. It is amazingly versatile and good at these tasks. I still use iCloud and spotlight for the rest of my files just because I prefer the interface.

The search is the star feature but it is also the place I do all my researching, scanning and OCRing so I use it every day.

Valid criticism on the UI side of things – it can certainly do with an update.

That said, the titbits dropped here and there, suggest that DTPO 3 is going to see quite the overhaul in terms of UI, and several of the ‘more-frequently’ requested features…

No idea when it will drop - they are understandably averse to making any sort of promises, or even hinting at expected time-lines. No doubt the unexpected(?) success of DTTG2 possibly pushed things i.r.o. DTPO 3 back a bit…

But regardless, I am cautiously optimistic that the warranted complaints about it looking a bit long in the tooth, will be a thing of the past when v3 drops.

See this long thread in the Devon forums -

I use DevonThink Pro because

  1. I own the databases. I put them where I want, I am in charge of security and storage…my data is mine and you cannot have it.
  2. therefore, you buy the software, not a service
  3. It will take anything and everything
  4. it syncs everywhere
  5. support is awesome
    if you do not like these reasons, go back to #1 and ponder that

It’s a great document management database. Search and “see also” suggestions are firstrate.

I think of it as “better Evernote than Evernote.”

I think that the search of DF simply gets it. If only google would work like this - it finds me things I want under the hundreds of documents with similar keywords. So I don’t really care how beautiful it is as long as it outperforms other tools in search. It was the “Aha”-moment for me when I was testing DT: I’ve exported my notes from Bear, imported them into DT, tried to search in both of them, scratched my head… and deleted Bear. Because I hat to recognise that it is no use as a knowledge hub since it hicks up on its own data :slight_smile:

I took the plunge to experiment and try DTPO, but so far, I don’t see anything amazing about it.

As “first world” as this sounds, I see a clunky-ugly looking app each time I open it. I only have the Mac version because of the trial. It would be nice to test-drive the iOS version, since I am on my iPad Pro a lot, but I don’t want to spend $14 on an app that may not cut it.

I am a heavy note Evernote Premium user. The premium features I get…
-Unlimited Sync across devices
-Monthly Uploads of 10GB (I only use about 1~2gb)
-Access notebooks offline if I want
-Forward emails to evernote
-Search in docs & attachments
-Annotate PDFs
-Scan and Digitize Business Cards (one I never use)
-Browse history of your notes
-Discover related content

I used to use the Evernote Web Clipper alot, but then I discovered Pocket about 2 years ago. So I send what I want to Pocket, it simplifies the article, and then I send to Evernote.

My DTPO setup so far…
I have 6 Databases set up. These 6 Databases reflect the 6 “Stacks” of Notebooks that I had.

I might have to rethink all this and put everything into 1 Database to get better search-ability. I can’t figure out what I am missing out on it.


Have you looked at the other thread here at Talk.MPU about Devonthink? Some good suggestions there about how to get into it.

This one is a good start: DTPO


I’m tinkering with the Mac version demo as a finder replacement for client files: I need a viable way to encrypt everything and still be able to use cloud services for sync and iOS access (lawyer in EU + GDPR + outside-EU based clouds)

Regarding what you have from Evernote, most of these can be done with DTPO.

-Unlimited Sync across devices
[Certainly possible with DTPO and DTTG2 – and you get to control/choose the location/cloud system]

-Monthly Uploads of 10GB (I only use about 1~2gb)
[Since DTPO<>DTTG2 can work with Dropbox, iCloud, Box etc., this is kind of ‘built-in’]

-Access notebooks offline if I want
[Again, depending on how you ‘sync’ to your devices, this is a given. I have +/-40GBs of data on my iPad/iPhone, all accessible (downloaded) and synced from DTPO on my Macs]

-Forward emails to evernote
[This will require a little bit of a workaround. DTPO allows for rules to be set up in, and when the criteria is met, the email is imported into DTPO. Since DTPO can also index cloud based folders, there are other options – using something like IFTTT – to get an email to where you need it. But the short of it, is that there isn’t a dedicated email address for DTPO. That said, depending on your mail-client over on iOS, you can simply ‘share’ the email to DTTG2, so that’s also an option].

-Search in docs & attachments
[This is a given – if the file is readable inside DTPO – content can be found.]

-Annotate PDFs
[The DTPO annotation options are OK. But, since you can open anything inside DTPO in your ‘default’ application, annotating PDF’s can be done using DTPO, PDFPen, Skim, Preview,, PDF Expert, Preview etc. etc. That said, I prefer using the Apple Pencil over on the iPad to annotate, and this too works very well. I had a simple workflow that worked prior to DTTG2, and with DTTG2, it’s now even easier.]

-Scan and Digitize Business Cards (one I never use)
[Again, getting stuff into DTTG2 from other apps on iOS is really simple, so this is a given, should you need it.]

-Browse history of your notes
[Not quite sure what you mean by this, but since anything inside DTPO is searchable, combined with Smart Folders, you should be covered.]

-Discover related content
[DTPO excels at this. Here and there, you will see comments about it not being effective, or not doing what was expected. The AI features are heavily dependent on how you set up your DBs, and so it might very well be that your ‘system’ is not allowing the AI to do all that it could. But there are plenty of resources available in the Forums, explaining ‘best-practices’… When set up correctly, the Auto-Classify feature, using the AI, always makes me smile!]

I take your point on the UI – I am hopeful that it will be dramatically improved with V3 – but in all honestly, given how I am now so familiar with it, I find my focus is exclusively on my files and their content, and the UI is pretty much in the background – especially in 3-Pane view (where I am 99% of the time).

That said - keep in mind that you are able to ‘personalise’ group icons and the toolbar etc., so there is an element of ‘customisability’ to having it look more like something you would prefer.

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UI Issues?

OK Maybe I’m just blind to it but what specific UI issues do the folks that don’t like DT’s UI see?

For me it’s clean, compact and works as I expect it to 99.99% of the time. The other .01% it’s usually a user problem not the fault of the app.

I might mention that I use the 3 panes view all the time.