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DEVONthink: Productivity through Full Reference System


Aspects of DEVONthink have been discussed at length in previous articles but in this article I would like to discuss DEVONthink as your prime source of storage for everything. No matter how small or large either every item of information should be maintained in DEVONthink.

There’s a simple reason for this. DEVONthink has been discussed as your information management system and to be that it needs all the information you have to manage. However, it also has been discussed as your Knowledgement Management system. To be this the system needs not only all the information so that the AI engine can assist in generating what I call Knowledge but so too that you can generarte it by creating important links between bits of information to create knowledge.

The High Level is Critcal but so too is the Low Level

Information and Knowledgemagment can be viewed as high level goals for DEVONthink and there is a mild distinction between the two which have been covered in articles such as “APPROACHING DEVONTHINK”. However, at a lower level there is the lowly note which isn’t so lowly. Often in a simple note is kept critical information. In my article DEVONthink: Your Ultimate Universal Notepad I discuss the importance of the Notepad and DEVONthink’s particular attributes which make it you best notepad.

There is a hierarchy of information that DEVONthink can handle well. In fact, DEVONthink can handle all forms of information from the highest to the lowest level. This is pretty astonishing and holds great capability in how you handle your information. However, of importance here is the simple aspect that all the information is seachable and findable to that of thesmallest note.

Often we jot something done in a program that is of the greatest convenience. It might be a menubar notepad that is always there. If you don’t transfer the information to DEVONthink two things can happen. You go to find the note and you can’t remember where you stored it. All the searching in the world seems to accomplish nothing. The information is there it just can’t be found.

Secondly, that information if it were in DEVONthink could be of a nature that it is deemed critical. In an AI search the information in the note might show some interesting relationships when searched. Or upon creation of the note you might have draw some interesting. Regardless, both of these activities result in information management and knowledge creation.

Fits with the GTD model

GTD or “Getting Things Done” requires as part of the process of completion of activities or projects a place where you store all your information. GTD at the front end also requires a mechanism to store proactive material. If you record all you information in DEVONthink it is then available to GTD the model and the actionable component of the model. Let’s say that you choose OmniFocus as your tool to guide you through your set of activities. To properly get through the process you always need at your disposal the best information available.

The process may go in two directions. You may gather research material that you store in DEVONthink. As your working on tasks and projects in OmniFocus you retrieve information from DEVONthink. Thus, DEVONthink becomes the source of information required in completing a task or project.

Second it can go in the reverse. You might generatei information in DEVONthink that is required to create a task in OmniFocus. Using a DEVONthink AppleScript the task is created in DEVONthink with a link back to DEVONthink.

This to fro aspect between DEVONthink and your task management system is essential. This is how a good project gets carried out. Theres’s lot’ls of s of relevant information to support a decision in the project and in the creation of information it may naturally lead to the creaton of a task.

This is a very symbiotic relationship.

Storing Everything

DEVONthink has the ability to store any kind of information you have. You can store text and rich text notes, notes written in Markdown, images and anything you can think of. There is a point though where certain things, such as files in a folder should simply be indexed in DEVONthink so that your pointed to the file or folder of informtion as opposed to it all residing in DEVONthink.

Regardless, by either importing, indexing or just creating everything in DEVONthink you ensure when you go to find that piece of information you find it. Spotlight is good but it’s not 100%.

This strategy for DEVONthink does take some forethought and work but in the end it’s worth it. Look at the time you can spend searching for information. If it’s all in DEVONthink you know exactly where to go to get your information.


Unfortunately, the mobile component of DEVONthink is weak. Satya Nadella’s vision of “mobile first, cloud first” could not be more right on. Although there is an iPad and iPhone app for DEVONthink you can only really view it as a viewer of your information or a place to create fairly simple notes unless you’re prepared to jump hoops. Regardless, the ability to have your information is important and it does reflect mobilty and the creation of notes cannot be underestimated. Yet, to do this you need to use WIFI a much older approach to the problem.

To understand this problem it is important to recognize that the DEVONthink the Desktop is an incredibly powerful database. The replication of functionalities in IOS is impossible if not near impossible for many reasons non the least of which is IOS itself has core limitations. Yet, it is the hope that more can be done as it can especially around the cloud and then around some key functionalities. No one is expecting a DEVONthink on IOS but the current app for DEVONthink is very old and has not kept pace with the times. Finally, IOS 7 itself as a platform is a huge leap is core functionalities and has been designed for advanced application capabilities that Apple knows is coming. DEVONthink needs to take advantage of these functionalities sooner than later as it’s not that suddenly the world got to where it got without warning.

Productivity First

This article broadens the scope of the opportunity, at face value, that exists for DEVONthink. This program could benefit many but in reality DEVONthink is a niche program that does its job incredibly well. Not everyone should or would want to take on the complexities of DEVONthink. However, there are many who, as previous articles have mentioned such as researchers, professors, students, journalists and writers of many ilk can benefit from such a program immensely.

Productivity comes first and for a reason. It inherently reduces our stress and frees us to either take on more work, do our work more precisely or allow us to apply the benefits of productivity to leisure time pursuits. All of the above fits psychologically with our needs.

The value of the model of GTD is that it reduces disorganization and potentially chaos. In GTD all work, either in progress or finished needs a place to be stored for the long term. However, you want to store your work in a spot in which that which you have stored is findable. If you can’t find what you need when you need it then you will be very stressed the opposite of what is trying to be achieved when we talk about productivity.

So we need to quickly jump back to the benefits of productivity. It is not intended for wealth creation as an example but that could be an outcome. The intent is to get organized and Get Things Done. The resulting psychological factors which is essential is competency, control, harmony which leads to stress reduction through the increase of available time.

With this in mind, DEVONthink fits well into the GTD model and the end result of increased productivity. As it addresses the needs of “mobility first, cloud first” DEVONthink can only produce an enhanced benefit. I’m fully convinced that Microsoft is on the come back trail so to speak and is ready to step up as a leader. Satya Nadella in a very short space of time has proven his mettle through not only a clear vision which is in keeping with the times but in deliverables.

It is to those in the Apple sphere to take heed. “Mobile First, Cloud First” is nothing but the advancement of GTD in terms of technique due to advancing technology. The bounds of applications from the approach are wide. DEVONthink certainly fulfills a fundamental requirement to help with the advancement of producitivity no doubt. Once its weak areas are better addressed than with the current IOS products it will continue to advance as an ever important productivity tool ensuring that you know where your information is an all too important function.

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