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Evernote, OneNote and DEVONthink: Two Audiences; Three Products


Grumpy man taking a note

The landscape is rapidly changing for all forms of digital productivity. The move to cloud based computing is happening at quite the clip. it’s been heading in this direction for a while but the pace has picked up. Cloud computing is becoming not only in vogue but increasingly very reasonable and capable.

With this had been the demand for technologies to manage our information. This requirement has been with us forever in terms of the library, the way we filed paper and from the earliest incarnation of the computer. Document management has grown though in significance and importance especially as the deluge of information comes at us unabated.

Certain technologies have failed or succeeded over the years which allow us to manage our information. The demand though continues on these tools just as much as any tool. In some ways, this is one of the most important classes of computing that exists. If we cannot find information or it is managed in an obscure way the technology is destined to fail.

Information Management and the Products

This article will fully concentrate on that which is available today and the manner in which Information Management is done. Further, the article is rooted in Microsoft’s vision of modern computing as premised by Satya Nadella referred to as ” Mobile First, Cloud First.”

I would contend that there are three major products at the consumer through to business level to manage information. Two are from one class that being geared to a general but highly mobile audience. These two products are Evernote and OneNote (certainly there are more but the article has to be delineated). Then there is another from a different class of product which is niche oriented. The major contender in this category would be DEVONthink. DEVONthink unfortunately is showing its age but can’t be knocked for its power and thus its niche class status. It is very powerful but lacks a couple of key components that today’s modern generation of work requires and that’s mobility and seamless sync’g across various devices.

There are of course more products geared towards these two audiences but I want to deal with the major ones to keep this as straightforward as possible.

Three Products; Two Audiences


As mentioned, I will keep the discussion to the concept that there are two macro audiences and will look at three products that can be applied to these two audiences. In the case though of your audience one has to think of this as existing on a continuum and certainly not in concrete, black and white terms. In terms of the products I again am looking at the major players in this field.

The products used to manage information are Evernote, OneNote and DEVONthink. Evernote and OneNote I would see competing for the same audience which is broad based and requires high mobility. DEVONthink on the other hand would appeal to a very niche oriented market.

I would define this even a bit further. The general and broad based market would really be managing information but with tools that are intuitive, fast and modern. DEVONthink though would be a tool that would have great appeal to the person that not only needs to manage all kinds of information but requires Knowledge Management capabilitlies. That is, the tool is capable of making advanced links between information that can produce knowledge.

General versus Specific/Niche

General store

Evernote and OneNote are general in their appeal. They attract a broad based consumer market. They are capable of managing vast amounts of information. They are also easy to use, powerful, cloud based, mobile and intuitive. They can hold a great variety of information and I’ll go so far as to say any and all kinds information can be managed by these products.


DEVONthink could be used in a broad based way also but it is overkill for the general purpose management of information. DEVONthink is very difficult to learn and has a ton of options and capabilities making this more of a knowledge management system than a general, intuitive system as are the Evernote and OneNote.

Some aspects of OneNote and Evernote have functions that make them specific and allow for more than the management of information at its broadest level making them knowledge management systems. However, if you really know DEVONthink, it’s power will dance rings around the former making it truly a knowledge management system. Yet, this same capability defines DEVONthink as a niche product and is only suited to some such as researchers, lawyers, scientists, academics and researchers.

On the other hand, OneNote and Evernote are suited for everyone including those that would require a niche oriented product. There is no one that cannot take advantage of these programs. They are both easy to learn and use. Being cloud based and available on multiple platforms they are widely usable from a device standpoint and the data syncs nicely through them. DEVONthink cannot claim this and is Mac only plus is poorly represented on IOS devices. Although DEVONtechnologies is working on version 2 of DEVONthink to Go since it is not here this cannot be considered what Satya Nadella of Microsoft calls “Mobile First, Cloud First.” Above all else in today’s modern world there is a strong requirement for Mobility and cross platform functionality to deliver services.

Choosing a Solution

Which way to go

If you can, you’re best served by choosing the solution that fits with today’s world of computing. OneNote or Evernote would then be what you’d choose from as you’ll want power, mobility and it must be cloud based and nothing less. I’ll add to this another reason you’ll want to choose between either of these products (I plan on doing a followup article discussing them specifically and why you might choose one over the other) and that’s ease of use and learning. I found I never had to pick up a manual to use Evernote. I can’t say this about OneNote yet as I am not deep enough into to make that observation. I can say OneNote is one of the most fluid, richest work environments I’ve ever worked with and as a result I tend to be leaning towards this solution.

However, not all computing needs can be served by the general nor broad based application no matter how easy it is to work with or fluid. Rather, there will always be a requirement for niche oriented systems and solutions. That’s where DEVONthink steps in. This is a powerful environment that has tremendous flexibility and power and goes beyond the needs of the general marketplace. Additionally, due to its complexity I would never feel comfortable recommending it as a general approach.

Yet, where there’s a need for greater power and further a requirement not only to manage your information but to more or less create knowledge from that then DEVONthink is the solution. This is a mature product capable of a great deal.

I have written a lot about DEVONthink at the Daily Mac View and you can let this be a bit of your guide as to whether you need delve into the app. It is an open app which supports Markdown so should something happen to the company do not worry that your information will be locked in.

Should you need something though which is more niche oriented and requires power to produce the kind of results you’re looking for then you’ll want to check out DEVONthink. My only concern at this point in my writing is the state of the company’s mobile apps and their sync technology plus the manner in which they are using cloud services (or not) yet you can always do your own design around that but it starts to get delicate when you do. The key question here now is whether DEVONthink is on the verge of being eclipsed by “Mobile First, Cloud First.” The advantages of this kind of computing are now far too important.

Information management as a function is just as important or more important than it’s ever been. You’ll want to choose the solution that both fits your needs the best and works for you smoothly. Friction will only lead to non-compliance and the in-use or lack of use of an information management system is not wise at all. As said, there are more than just these solutions on the market but these three products should best meet the needs of what can easily be defined as two distinct but overlapping audiences.

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