How do you manage files and documents?

I’ve been on what David used to call a “spirit quest.” My work requires me to write articles for marketing purposes. For each project, I will have plain text documents, Microsoft Word douments, and email messages, often along with PowerPoints, PDFs, audio and video files, and Web pages. Plus I have the usual things to keep track of that everybody does – bills, receipts, product manuals, HR documents, and so on.

I had been using DevonThink for all of that, but I decided a few weeks ago to find something else. DevonThink just seemed too complex for my purposes, and I worried that the database format might prove too brittle for long-term storage. I wrote about this here:

Since then, I’ve looked at Obsidian, IA Writer, nvUltra, Notebooks, FSNotes, Zettlr, Quiver, and a couple more, and none of them are entirely satisfying.

How do you manage those types of documents?

I’m starting to think that maybe the Finder, supplemented by the new app Hook for linking documents, is the way to go. But that still seems like it could be better?

I am in the position on this that I often am when I search for new apps – I feel like the solution I’m now using isn’t working, but I don’t quite know what I’m looking for or what the problem is that I’m trying to solve, other than making it easier to organize and move around between documents.

We had an earlier topic on this in 2018 – has anything changed?

As a side-project, I looked at NotePlan as a replacement for Things. Not the first time I’ve done that, and not the first time I’ve concluded that NotePlan is a nifty idea but it’s not for me. I like the idea of having a journal and my to-do list in the same documents, but in practice it seems to become unwieldy in a matter of days.

Also posted to my blog.

I’m using DT which I have indexing my iCloud and Google Drive folders. I copy project document URLs and paste into Things if/as needed. I also create an “index” of key project folders in the Project notes area in Things so that I have a quick cross-reference both ways. I also use Drafts to take all meeting notes and then upload them to the appropriate group in DT. This is working well for me. I find everything I need quickly and it is easy to get information into both Things and DT.


Do you need to refer to documents for months and years at a time? I do a half-dozen projects a month, and when a project is done I don’t need to look at the source documents again.

There seems to be a dichotomy here, as the first list is a half-dozen file types, and the second list is note-taking apps. The things in the first list are much more than notes. It would seem you need a replacement dumpster for your DEVONthink dumpster. Maybe KeepIt! or Eagle Filer would be more in line with what you’re seeking.


Maybe an actual dumpster.


I love Hook. I don’t like that there is no way to know that a file in the filesystem or in DEVONthink or anywhere else has an active Hook relationship. Hook claims it creates a “mesh” of documents and other digital assets, but unless the thought comes to mind “I wonder if this file (or whatever) has a Hook relationship” there’s no clue just what that “mesh” comprises. That to me is a major roadblock to using Hook for what you want – managing files and documents. So, I only use it casually.

That said, I guess I’d wonder just what your definition of “manage” or “keep track of” document is? Is it simple hierarchical storage? Naming conventions? Discovery (finding things with automation, smart groups, visual maps)? All, none, or something different from these? Maybe before shopping around further you might want to take a blank sheet of paper and write down your requirements and specifications for “manage”, and then do your own Consumer Reports matrix of “meets” “does not meet” requirements. A little formal analysis can go a long way to solving problems like this.

You’re consulting with a client – yourself – so write up a formal analysis or story treatment that the client can understand and buy or reject. (“What’s the best way to manage my stuff” is NP-complete – you can test answers but you cannot solve the problem without testing.)

Personally: for me I’m sticking with DEVONthink. I have multiple databases – family stuff; individual work and personal projects; and a small database I use for syncing to iOS/iPadOS DEVONthink to Go because I don’t need to ship all my freight back and forth to cloud-cuckoo-land just to use the handful of things I need to be mobile.

I also use cold storage for documents that just need to be someplace but don’t need to be referenced much. Cold storage is mainly ~/Documents and subfolders. Things like financial records go here, manuals, business files, etc. I’ve never stored bank/credit statements, employer stubs, tax records, etc., in DEVONthink because after tax season who needs that stuff? In other words, cold storage is for things at that best I’d need to see a couple times a year. A lot of gigabytes fall into that category. I don’t use DEVONthink for photos and videos – though some do – because it sucks as a DAM.


It depends on the project. For example, I refer to elements of our five-year strategic plan often and over many years. Other projects are relatively short lived. When a project is completed, I archive the notes and completed tasks.

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Using DT. I actually intend to slowly replace any kind of file cloud storage with it, using it as my main document platform. I think the format and company are extremely robust, on the contrary, DT has been there for almost two decades, and extracting data is just a matter of drag and drop if I ever want to leave.

Just snatched a heavily discounted lifetime pCloud 2 Tb plan to go with it, syncing via WebDAV, looks very promising so far - and no recurring costs.

Might just keep a small additional iCloud plan on the side for photos, downloads and iOS backups.


I’ll second @JohnAtl . EagleFiler accepts all kinds of files including email, deduplicates on import, and keeps everything in standard files and folders.


I might be misunderstanding what you mean, but I have Hook adding Finder tags, so each Hooked file has a little green dot in Finder.

[can’t upload the screenshot, but it’s in Linking in Hook’s preferences.]


I look at the note taking apps because they tend to support other file types as well. But what I’m seeing is that those other file types are generally supported as second class citizens within those apps, which makes that unsuitable to me.

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While, as they say, past performance is not an indicator of future results, I’ve used DEVONthink for nearly 19 years now, and I’ve never experienced any database issues that couldn’t be fixed by using the app’s rebuild database command. It does have a lot of power, which does result in it being more complex and more ‘cluttered’ than similar apps, but I just use the features I need and ignore the ones that I don’t.


That’s fine for files. But Hook can link to a lot more than files. That’s only part of my concern. Hook should have a view to browse all the existing “meshes” that it knows about. Like the graph view in Roam or Obsidian maybe. As time passes and more things are linked together with Hook, and memory fades, there’s no simple way to rediscover that fact that you once created a mesh from web sites, files, etc.


I have a not dissimilar work flow to you. My output tends to be a presentation rather than written document, although not always. Projects tend to get closed down quickly after completion, but I do need to be able to access them

I have tried quite a lot of apps and ended up with Notebooks. My process starts with research. I set up new notebook then as I collect data, articles reports etc I just dump them in the notebook (often via the share extension - particularly on the iPad). Anything like a powerpoint deck is exported to pdf. If it can be can be saved as plain text or markdown I will do that. Once I have all the information notebooks is pretty good at letting me review and reread stuff and of course you can start a draft. In fact I have used Deckset and started to write the presentation in text.

The notebooks are in fact just folders, mine are synched and stored on drop box. If I want to archive I just go there and zip the folders up. All pretty easy.

My biggest problem is app creep. I keep trying new stuff. About a year ago I decided to settle on notebooks and make it work. Having spend time with many other options (including Devonthink) none of which I could make work. Notebooks is good enough, I have learned to use it and stuck with it.


I tried Notebooks in my sprite quest of the past two weeks. It is a fine app, but a little too mouse-centric in navigating folders and documents, for my taste.

Or am I missing something?

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No, I don’t think you are missing anything. You reach the limits of keyboard folder navigation pretty quickly! As a moderate keyboard navigation user it is not too much of a problem for me, but I can see it would be deeply frustrating for a power user.

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lately after reading the Nuke and Pave post in here by @Bmosbacker, I found myself in the same spot, so for the last couple days/weeks I’ve been using what I call the “minimalist Zen Monk approach”:

  • Hook
  • Finder, and
  • Calendar (BusyCalendar)
    and of course KM for shortcuts

I found myself wasting too much time in Curio, DevonThink, OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, Things, etc, etc,

With the new minimal setup I keep everything in one place, inside iCloud. No fiddle. It just works.
Not much to install or manage, my phone/pc already have everything I need.

I manage two types of folders:
Active - everything you’re working on
Inactive(Archive) - by year/month

- Hook app - is something that should be included by default in any Mac, it’s great for linking to Websites, Apps, Folders, individual Notes, etc.


  • Notes can be edited anytime
  • Reminders can be as simple or complex as possible
  • Files in Finder - can be accessed anywhere as well

Working great so far, and I can keep on top of everything


Though I’ve worked hard to minimize apps, Reminders just isn’t enough. It lacks several essential features I need for the projects I manage. For me, Things is the Goldilocks solution. Far more powerful than Reminders but less fiddly and overbearing compared to OF.


Would love to somehow allay the concern about DT’s file storage being brittle. It probably has the best format if you want to get the benefits of an integrated database while being able to export originals at any time, whether through the app or via Finder.


I have only been using DT3 for about a year or so and am still learning how to use this complex system. I’ve kept it as a simple organization similar to folders in finder. What I appreciate is the cross pollination when using tags and replicated files/groups. This was something that finder couldn’t do. My brain likes to classify things in different ways and it allows that flexibility.

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