Viable DEVONthink alternatives?

I am due to upgrade to DT3 and before shelling out so much money I thought it’d be a good idea to check what’s out there.

Keep It seems to be the main contender but it wasn’t able to handle my database. It kept hanging, freezing, crashing and just didn’t feel like a tool that I want to trust my entire paperless office to. It looks very good and modern though which is something I really miss with DEVONthink To Go…

My requirements are: Rock-solid sync, good search and indexing, apps for iOS + Mac, able to handle years and years of OCRed high res PDF files (<- the high resolution might the thing that gives Keep It problems). E2e would be very nice to have

I don’t necessarily need in-app OCR because I have applescripts setup to automatically use standalone Abbyy to do the heavy lifting that I can hook up to anything.

And maybe to the Keep It users: Any performance tips / steps you take to make the app more usable?


Try a 30-day trial of EagleFiler (Mac only), from the developer of SpamSieve.

Mac App Store

If you want something cross-platform with an iOS app take a look at NoteBooks.

I have both and find them rock-solid apps. Not sure about how they handle files like yours (I believe both leverage Apple’s built-in pdf reader) but you can try them out.

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I never heard of Notebooks. Very nice looking app! I’ll check it out

How about sticking with Finder and folders? Keep it simple.

(FYI, I have huge DEVONthink databases and have no issues with crashing, freezing, and hanging. I assume you have reported the “bugs” to DEVONthink? And as you may wish to discover, your files in DEVONthink are not converted to some “secret” and/or non-standard format, so when you chose to abandon it, you don’t have the risk of data loss like with other apps of this sort).

I think @fairlydoughnut talked about Keep It when complaining about crashes, not DT.

Yes correct! DEVONthink never crashed on me. It’s definitely the most reliable of the bunch. Just, yeah, DTTGO and pricing. $500 for the version that has a webserver is really dang pricey

Indeed… I am fairly frustrated by DT because of the lack of ongoing development on iPad. The iPad version lacks so many features compared to its Mac counterpart and I don’t even talk about new features like dark mode or multi-window support…


I think they are pretty much aware of it though. The focus was obviously to get DT3 out, so DTTGO3 could be next. Maybe. Or maybe not. I agree that the biggest downside of DT are the iOS apps which is pretty much why I created this thread to check on alternatives. A lot of work happens on my iPad these days

In either way, Notebooks looks interesting. I imported my databases and started playing around. It handles my load of files better than Keep It but still too early to make an verdict.

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I would be very interested in your experiences when you had the time to use it ling enough as I am in the same position.

I upgraded my DevonThink, but I trialled Notebooks for a while. It’s really great and has some clever task list features built in.

The reason I didn’t persist with it is because it doesn’t have the depth of DT, doesn’t have the cross-referencing, and relies on Dropbox for sync. I’ve quit Dropbox so that was the final dagger for Notebooks.

I still rate it as the best non-DT option, though.

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I’m somewhat in the same boat as you are @fairlydoughnut. I have been using DT2 for some years now and I realized I essentially using it as a Finder replacement that allows me to access to all my files on Mac or iOS. I have 5 main databases files with reference material, working material, etc. for different parts of my life and work.

Considering all of that, and the improvements to the Files app on iOS, I was wondering if I could use the Finder and iCloud sync (I sync my Documents folder and my Desktop folder with iCloud) instead of DT. I have setup an Inbox folder on my Desktop where everything goes to (just like the universal inbox of DT) and then use the finder to sort, tag and search files.

What I have discovered over the last month or so is that:
1- it takes a bit more time to setup Finder in a way that makes my workflow similar to DT but once setup, its done.
2- I can easily search within Finder for whatever I want without any problems, same with iOS (note that I was note really using the “similar” files AI feature in DT very much at all)
3- The only thing I have been missing is the “link” to files so I can just link them in my task manager (which is Omnifocus) instead of embedding them in it. This is still a bit of a pain point but I kind of solved that using a specific tag (the word Omnifocus) to allow for easy and quick search of these files when needed

I hope this helps, so far I’ve been pretty happy with the solution and I can even access files that I have recently edited directly by long-press on the Files app on iOS! For me, this is a bigger advantage.

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Worth looking at the discussions elsewhere on this:

There’s others—it’s funny how MPU is probably a useful measure of what’s needed on the app store.

And yes, the DEVONtechnology team has acknowledged that DTtG v3 is in progress, though what that means/when it’ll be released is kept secret as per usual.

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You might want to look at @LucCogZest’s Hook, which allows you to link files together, paste links into docs, etc.


This is V E R Y interesting… :open_mouth: I took exactly the same route as @davidpgagnon with exactly the same experience/issues - I want to reference files as I did with DT. This could be the missing link… The perfect solution would be one that works platform-agnostically but this seems to be a very big step for solving my main problem. Thank you!

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I’ve now switched to running DT in a Mojave VM on 1 machine, and use/view content just from the iOS clients. Until I have figured out what to do this will suit me fine. So for the next year or two I am ok. O until I find an alternative

NoteBooks can sync over local WiFi. I did not know the new Mac version can do that. That is actually great :slight_smile:

Hook is really neat. Huh.

I’m guessing there’s no iOS analogue… I can’t really think of how that’d work anyway.

My opinions on “Bucket App” vs Filesystem:

  • I really like the e2e capabilities of DEVONthink. Nowadays you have no idea who’s snooping at your data and having the databases fully encrypted wherever they are is giving me a lot of peace of mind. Some people might not care about it that much but if I have everything from contracts to bank records inside it, it’s something I’d like to feel secure about even if someone manages to crack my dropbox/iCloud. All they can see are blobs of data but not the actual content.
  • Multi-sync: DEVONthink can sync to multiple stores all at once. Just with the recent Catalina beta a lot of users nuked their iCloud and lost a lot of data. Having multiple locations (including a local USB stick I sync to that’s also encrypted) makes this bomb proof
  • Indexing, smart references, and other value apps give on top
  • Everything happens in the app and that is sometimes not good. I don’t like DEVONthink annotation features for PDF for example. Their file editing experience like markdown is horrendous and I’m going out of my way to not use it.
  • Relying on third party sync vs native-like iCloud gives problems
  • Same with file providers. iCloud works sooo well on iOS but the file providers of things like DT or Keep It aren’t great and buggy.

Search with finder is a bit annoying, yeah, but DT is able to have an indexable version of their database on the filesystem to use with Alfred for example. Don’t know about spotlight though.

I guess what I really like about an app like DT is that everything that is inside DT I consider to be “safe” even if my computer starts catching fire. When I switched from Dropbox to iCloud I just added a new store and killed the old one when it was time. When I finished setting up my server at home I added a WebDAV target.

Looking at my reply, maybe I just answered my own question and will buy the upgrade to DT3. Just wish it was usable besides just viewing my database on iOS hnnnnggggg