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DEVONthink: Your Ultimate Universal Notepad


Continuing along the lines of the value of the lowly notepad in the collection of critical information that makes one more productive the discussion isn’t complete without addressing how DEVONthink, a powerful Information and Knowledge Management system that can simply fulfill this universal role. I would not suggest the purchase of DEVONthink solely to do this, especially as I really tend to concentrate on DEVONthink Pro Office, a more expensive proposition however, if you happen to have DEVONthink Pro Office this is an ideal application. To make it a touch more ideal you’ll need Keyboard Maestro.

A Universal Notepad

One thing that I said about a notepad is the best one is universal. That is, it is immediately accessible from anywhere; from any desktop. This is certainly the case with DEVONthink. You will be able to access it regardless of where you are and enter a note.

There are three methods of taking a note in DEVONthink outside of the application itself. You can use the universal sorter’s notepad to jot down a quick note and save it to the inbox or a folder of your choice. At this point, I would just save the information in the inbox. The idea is just to grab the information as fast as possible, save it and move along.

The second method for saving a note is to use DEVONthink Jot, a widget that is access by hitting F12. When you’re asked if you have a pen and paper handy just hit F12 and the widget will appear. Write your note and even add the categories if you like and it will save in the universal inbox. Again, the idea here is sheer productivity. You grab your information from anywhere, save it and move along.

My favourite method though is to use Keyboard Maestro to access the Take Note command in DEVONthink. Using this method, there is no need to go to the app to access the command but rather this allows this note to appear instantly where you are exactly in the center of the screen. It also supports the most formatting capability around your notes. Although this is my favourite method to grab a note you might prefer one of the others.

Markdown Support

If you’re a person who loves Markdown you’ll love DEVONthink as it supports all Markdown formatting commands. You will not be able to see your Markdown in one of these simple note entry apps but you will be able to write in Markdown and then view the note properly formatted in DEVONthink by choosing the command “Best View”.

Markdown is becoming very important now and is being used fairly generally. Say you wanted to add an image to your note to give it more context. If you have your image on a cloud server that provides you with a direct link such as Cloudup, Cloudapp (my new favourite) or Imgur you can just insert the direct link to the image in your document and that image will then display not only in DEVONthink‘s desktop app but also in it’s IOS counter part. Finally, this text is 100% portable to any Markdown app and the text with formatting and image will display.

DEVONthink is much more than a Notepad but …

DEVONthink is a very powerful and flexible information management system of which I have written a number of articles on the product. As I said, I would never recommend you buy the product for that sole purpose of taking a note with it. However, if you have it for another need, then there is no reason at all not to take advantage of its note taking capabilities. It is, if not just an ideal product for this application us, it is a superb note taker. There simply is no reason to get one of the other note takers that I wrote about.

However, if you did want or have another note taking application that you particularly liked and should the information stored in the note be valuable that information should be added to DEVONthink. There are a variety of quick ways you could do this.

Some of my favourite methods for adding information to DEVONthink are:

  • Popclip (OSX)
  • Services (OSX)
  • Instant Send (Launchbar; OSX)
  • Drafts (IOS)

GTD Foundation

A simple note could be the foundation of a complete GTD sequence. That piece of information that you jot down may eventually prove valuable if not critical in your workflow. Use your task management system as the control centre to manage the workflow. DEVONthink should be your ultimate bucket or storage system for all long term information in the workflow.

As the model guides the workflow, that lowly note is not so lowly after all. Jotting down that person’s name and telephone number or a reference number may prove one of the most valuable things you’ll do. Always having a notepad that suits you at the ready when they say do you have a piece of paper in this day and age translates to digital.

Of the styles of notepads I’ve outlined in this series of articles ensure you choose a notepad that really works for you or you’re very fond of. That information can always make it’s way to another important part in the process of Getting things Done but try to avoid thinking that you can remember what you’re given. That way the other part of the coin in GTD of ensuring a stress free way will happen. There’s nothing more frustrating than looking for something you thought you wrote down but didn’t or trying to find something that just didn’t make it into that all important note.

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