Why DevonThink?

Hi guys, I have been hearing a lot about DevonThink since I started listening to MPU and lurking in this forum. The apps MPU and this forum have recommended have been more than amazing for my workflows which is why I am asking this.

Why Devonthink? I’m sure you guys definitely have great reasons to use and love it and I want to hear from you to make an informed decision. Although, they allow you to choose from multiple storage options (iCloud, Dropbox, local disk, etc.), but it also costs a lot right? $200 for mac only version (can only use on two machines!!), plus $40 for the iOS version. Not sure if there’s something else?

Here come the questions:

  • Is that worth the money?
  • Do they allow unlimited storage if I use their cloud service?
  • How frequently do they release major versions? Do I pay for the upgrade or is it free?
  • If I want to keep using the old version, how would that work, since the old app version might be removed from the app store and I might not be able to reinstall it in case my phone/laptop crashes?
  • How does it compare to Evernote? Evernote offers the best in class web clipper…do they have a good clipper?
  • How is the search?
  • Is the app slow/bloated?
  • FINALLY, how do you use it? What is the size of your database in it? What do you store in it and how do you backup?
  • “Worth the money” … for me well worth it. Only you can decide that.
  • “their cloud service” … they don’t provide a cloud service. You can use your own devices (Bonjour, synch store, WebDAV) or 3rd party cloud services for sync. See the DEVONthink Handbook. Sync is NOT backup, nor are cloud services a place to store databases.
  • “Major Releases” … you can probably find that on their web site. There are many years between payable upgrades, and maintenance releases along the way. Haven’t the foggiest idea of future but my hunch is that future won’t be unlike the past. They do not publish a plan.
  • “Old Version” … probably will work for as long as it works. Eventually support will be withdrawn or OS changes will kill it. that’s up to you.
  • “Evernote” … DEVONthink’s getting web pages works well. Sometimes issues when web site does a lot of fancy dancy stuff (as I would guess would foil Evernote also). Many different ways to get web pages.
  • “Search” … that’s the whole point about DEVONthink.
  • “Slow or bloated”. Not that I can tell
  • “how used”. I store (and index) gb’s of web, research source stuff, personal records, family history, notes, et. al. basically stuff that we use computers for. about a dozen different databases, some synced to other devices, some not.

Best recommendations

  • Download and try
  • read the “Taking Control of DEVONthink” available on their web site
  • skim/read the outstanding DEVONthink Handbook. At least get familiar with what it says and use in future. Same content as in Help
  • Don’t try too hard to project Evernote way of doing things to DEVONthink. Just different (starting with DEVONthink doesn’t capture your files in their own proprietary format).
  • search past answers and see FAQ’s on the very-friendly DEVONthink Technologies Forum. Of course ask questions, but most beginner questions have been asked and answered (probably more than once, esp the questions you have asked here :wink:)
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I endorse everything that @rms said so won’t repeat any of it save to emphasise the amazing comprehensiveness of the user guide (also available through the in-app Help) and the fact that the free trial is really useful.

About one month ago I wrote rather a long post on the DEVONThink forums about my personal experience with DT. Rather than repeat all of that here I have provided a link and hope that’s acceptable.

In essence, DEVONThink is an app which I would not wish to do without and which has become more and more useful the more I have used it.

Stephen

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Considering the upcoming privacy issues with iCloud and Apple, DevonThink may be a far more secure way to sync your data in the Mac system. Especially if you sync device to device. This is going to be a major concern as companies like Apple start to snoop into more and more users data.

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DevonThink was at the cutting edge – about a decade ago. An arrogant and dismissive team, slow development and little innovation, and a dire mobile app make for a poor experience. The fuzzy logic executed by DT search remains useful, but I get similar results from HoudahSpot and PDF Search. Now that excellent OCR is built in to iOS and MacOS, its OCR capabilities are less important than they used to be (I use them infrequently).

The knowledge management space has moved on, and “everything buckets” such as DevonThink are looking increasingly irrelevant. It’s a sorry day when all I use DT for now is to pump MD web clippings toward a watched Obsidian vault.

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I do appreciate that is your experience and view but it really is not mine.

I’m not sure where that came from! I’ve always found the team—through the forum—incredibly helpful and supportive, and very responsive at all times.

I find the app does what I need extremely effectively and any features that are introduced (like the recent significant improvements to markdown handling) are well thought through and equally thoughtfully introduced. I prefer slow and careful to speedy and accident-prone in that context. :grinning:

I can’t speak to the mobile app because I don’t use it, but I assume you’re talking to DTTG 3 rather than DTTG 2 (for I understand the former was a substantial upgrade to the latter).

Everyone will have differing experiences and yours is doubtless as valid as mine—but I couldn’t really let go the comment about the “arrogant and dismissive team”.

Stephen

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Me neither. I agree, @Stephen_C. the “arrogant and dismissive team” is wide of the target.

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In the past my why for DEVONThink was that it could safely store anything I could send it. I was a long time, over 10 years user, of DT and had it deeply embedded in my system.

Unfortunately over time the user experience had been getting worse and worse and it has failed in the primary reason I was using it, keeping my data safe.

I totally agree with this comment.

Re the arrogant team. On the forum users are dismissed if they happen to explain, in excruciating detail, why changes in their app experience due to features being removed has broken long time existing workflows or made the tool impossible to use in their scenarios. There is never an acknowledgement that the user may have valid reason for that set-up. DT changes the way the app works in ways that cause problems if you depended on how it worked in a previous version without any workaround available. The first assumption for any problem is that not only is the problem a user caused error but that even wanting to do something that way is ridiculous.

Slow development is fine but as a user I expect that critical tools will not be removed and that since the development is so slow things will work properly when it is released. Neither is the case with DEVONThink.

DTTG 3 was a total disaster. I personally lost over 500 archived files that I NEVER KNEW were gone until I had to reference them. I had backups going back 2 years and they were gone even that far back. The DT manual had lots of things that a good user would do on a regular basis, with verifying and rebuilding the database on a schedule. All of that was for nought and critical data was gone with no warning. That problem is STILL happeneing. But now I’ve got scripts and other tools that allow me to discover before the information has rolled off my backup string.

Where DTY still shines and the only place it still has in my workflow is a decent rich text web clipper. The output of which is then massaged into markdowna nd figures and images as attachemnts into my Obsidian vault.

I still have tens of thousands of files in my existing DEVONThink database and I’m moving them out and into safer storeage as fast as I can.

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Is this true? I thought you needed a third party app.

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Can confirm - arrogant and dismissive maybe a little strong but I’ve had DTTG for a LONG time and I have posted with GREAT detail issues, logs etc. and you’re definitely guilty until proven innocent. IE., it’s you not the software until you can conclusive prove otherwise.

My TLDR review of DTTG - Desktop software is too much. Sounds crazy, how could there be too many options?, but to drill down for my needs was not impossible but difficult. I need an iOS companion and their iOS version is definitely an after thought. The price is in agreement with the features. But I’ve never bought a Mercedes, the car is over engineered for what I need to drive.

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I’d evaluated DT on and off over years but finally committed with DT3; DTTG 3 was also a nice upgrade due to the OCR and the improvement in iCloud sync. Prior to that, I was heavily using Dropbox. My personal use is to have a few topical databases, a “family documents” database we share through DTTG, a general research database for me, and a few specialized research databases (e.g. a database with about 8 million small text files and ~10k images.) I don’t try to keep everything in DT.

Figuring out auto-OCR and auto-filing will really help and make your searches a lot better; that’s where a lot of the value comes from for me. I use Scanner Pro to ingest most paper I need to keep and let DT OCR it, and most digital documents enter via the browser extension or printing to DevonThink. At this point, I can find information more reliably than I could with Dropbox.

I second the suggestion to read the manual and the free Take Control book. I’d also take an hour and read through all the menus, click/right-click on a lot of the UI elements, and search for things you might want to do in help.

Financially, it’s certainly not cheap! I agree with rms’ speculation that DT 4 won’t take nearly as long as DT 3 to arrive. The other expense is whatever (encrypted) sync storage you need and however much RAM you want to make sure your computer has to keep large databases loaded and quickly searchable. To me these are perfectly fine tradeoffs in order to own your own data, but they’re not for everyone. Edit: you also need to factor backup; I do snapshots of my DBs in addition to whole drive backups and store those snapshots longer.

As to the holy war topics (does it lose data, is its wikilinking good enough, is support good), I can only say it’s working out for me. :slight_smile:

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Honestly, I ask myself this question all the time. In the end, it comes down to end-to-end encrypted sync. If Apple implemented that in iCloud Docs I’d have a hard time justifying DEVONthink.

simple control measure if this risk concerns you, do not sync via the internet. optional to do so.

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That’s exactly what I’d expect rms to say!

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I tried it years ago and don’t remember any details but what put me off was the complexity.

I agree :arrow_up:

I did use the app a lot until it corrupted a few months worth of data, lots of files were empty when they used to contain important information that I needed. I had to spend considerable time trawling through backups and luckily recovered the corrupted files. After this, I will not trust my important data with this application. I immediately moved everything out and I am now happily using Obsidian for the same purpose (as my GTD reference filing system).

In this case the phrase “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” applies I’m afraid. I cut my losses and ran, despite spending a considerable amount on licenses.

If you decide to go this route, make sure you have multiple backups and lots of disk space on your backup disks.

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I tried DevonThink a couple of years ago, to see what the fuzz was about.
I never got friends with it.
I’m a long time OmniFocus user, and I can’t see any reason to switch.

Interesting as DEVONthink and OmniFocus aren’t competitive.

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Data loss is not a widepsread phenomenon.
Unexpected data loss can also be symptomatic of failing hardware.

Did you start a support ticket on this incident?

OCR, i.e., Convert > to Searchable PDF, is included in DEVONthink To Go 3.

Long-press an image or PDF with no text layer and access the command from the contextual menu.