I have used DEVONthink Pro Office successfully for ten years with a very positive outcome. It is probably the most powerful Note-taking and Information Management system on the market. It is based on a free flowing database system. It allows me to take the most simple note through to the most complicated and everything in between. It has proven not only an indispensable Information Manager but it goes a step further in that it is a Knowledge Manager with the ability to create the paperless office.
I have tried tons of Note-taking systems from Evernote through to Nimbus Notes and Zoho Notes to the more simplistic or easy ones such as Simple Note, SideNotes and Standard Notes. There are so many Note-taking systems you can easily get lost in this myriad of complexity. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Based on your needs a note taking system for you is waiting. However, DEVONthink Pro is a mature and advanced system capable of taking on anything you throw at it.
Finally, if there is something you feel DEVONthink is missing there is no problem with bringing something else into the equation. As an example, I love Notion for its rich text page capability. However, with all its power it cannot put information together the way DEVONthink can. Is there anything wrong with using Notion for certain things as it is extremely good. Not at all as long as the information is well referenced to say a primary Note in DEVONthink (link).
I Started with Evernote
Evernote was probably the first significant, cloud based Note-taking system I used. I loved it. However, there was something lacking. At its simplest what was lacking was an hierarchically based system that could relate information to other information in a simple structure.
I used Evernote avidly. I still use Evernote but not as my main note taking system. That role is left to DEVONthink. Everything I might use other than DEVONthink either just ends up in DEVONthink or is considered fine where it sits.
When I found DEVONthink I was definitely ready for a change. At first blush, DEVONthink seemed very complex and not so pretty. However, as I read about it and then began to fool with it, the lights went on. DEVONthink was not just a Notetaker or and Information Manager. It went beyond this and was a Knowledge Manager.
DEVONthink was the gateway to the paperless office which was one of the key things I employed with it. It was the place I stored everything. If I was working on a project, my material went into DEVONthink in its appropriate database, grouped with relevant information and tagged with that which was to recall the info quickly and relate it to other info of its nature.
A Jewel in the Woods
Although I liked Evernote I took to DEVONthink very quickly. I much preferred the hierarchical structure of groups/folders, the multiple databases, tags, links and the storage of any kind of data. I never really took to Evernote’s style of doing Notebooks. When Markdown was added that was it and since then every note I write is a Markdown Note.
Evernote could store any kind of data. However, so could DEVONthink. As I got used to DEVONthink, one of the first tasks I assigned to it was the use of it in the paperless office. Working with the Scansnap ix500 and now the 1500 I can get all written material into it in no time. This is powerful but the best was yet to come.
Handling the volume of information is quite the task in 2020. DEVONthink though helps you manage all this information. You can jot a quick note from the menu bar to store PDFs and files and capture web pages and so much more. In fact, DEVONthink can store any kind information and relate that information to other information in a myriad of ways.
Find the information fast and easy. A search is instantaneous. If you’ve created your groups/folders in a logical fashion it’s easy to determine where you probably filed something and having multiple databases reduces volume so that you’re not inundated.
Add to all this tagging and there are many ways of relating information including wiki style links. Tagging items allows you to relate similar items. Linking items allows you to relate specific pieces of information. Smart folders provides the ability to quickly grab a number of entries based on a smart definition to capture information.
All these ways of managing information has an interesting effect. There is the possibility of creating knowledge as you explore the relationships and links. Bringing together information can allow you to speculate on the meaning of the related information which thus could be considered the creation of knowledge. You’re not just managing the information but you create knowledge when the links lead to different postulates.
Rather than exploring this any farther in this article as this could be an article in and of itself, the creation of and management of potential knowledge is a powerful aspect of DEVONthink. It might be one of the reasons DEVONthink is so heavily used in research and academic areas.
The Use of DEVONthink in a Productivity System
DEVONthink is a tool that goes beyond that of a simple Notetaker. There are often differing aspects to a productivity system but one generally involves the use of a task manager. A task manager helps you focus on what needs to be done and serves as a tool in the planning of a project or just as a simple guide to doing various activities. A task manager is not the best place to store significant amounts of information around the tasks though.
DEVONthink comes in at this point storing outcomes and research around a project. It is critical in analyzing the results of a project and sometimes leads to the creation new information as a result.
Notes, Data Capture and More
We have seen that DEVONthink can be used effectively in the very simple taking of a note through to say class notes or meeting minutes etc to the holding of a variety of data which can enhance outcome. DEVONthink is ultimately a very versatile Notetaker.
Some Notetakers are great taking simple notes and useless at storing reams of information. Others tend to be good at taking more complex Notes but not fast enough to just jot something down that is simple.
DEVONthink can create a variety of databases each with a particular purpose. One might want to do this to constrain their data. That is, organizing by database puts specific data in front you which works to decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed. At the same time, you can create logical links to pull together that which is important and relates.
Not to worry about search though. A search can cross many databases and come up with the relevant information.
Using DEVONthink in Conjunction with Something like Notion
DEVONthink is probably one of the most powerful Notetakers on the market if not the most powerful. However, there are some things it isn’t as good at as another system. The one I’m thinking about is Notion. Again Notion is a powerful Notetaker that generates great outputs.
DEVONthink can handle a variety of Note types however it is not as robust as Notion for creating multiple elements in a page such as a Note with a database combined with a graph and more notes. In a page in Notion you can have a variety of elements on the same page all working together.
It is possible that you might use something in conjunction with DEVONthink providing flexibility. Links can pull items related together. However, it would be foolish to try to do something in DEVONthink it isn’t suited for. Place it in say Notion and the results are phenomenal.
DEVONthink points to the outside world very well. Something created in Notion could be very pertinent when put together with the right information. DEVONthink has the ability to pull things together.
My Days of Evernote are well Behind Me
From a Note taking perspective I primarily use DEVONthink for almost everything. However, I will use the less robust app just jot down something quickly. if it’s important it finds itself in DEVONthink very fast.
Evernote used to be my prime Note taking database where everything went. It no longer is. DEVONthink is the only system that I’ve found that can take on the breadth of activities I undertake. Since I’ve used it for so long it is second nature to me. I don’t use all the functions and if I veer too far from what I generally do I can run up against DEVONthink’s complexity but that’s a good thing as it can grow with you.
DEVONthink might not be the prettiest app but that’s not what I’m after. It’s the functionality.
I’ve Used DEVONthink Extensively and See no Reason to Change this
There has been the occasion, where i’ve been using an Android handset and had to draw on something else that worked with Android. I’m always pulled back to IOS due to DEVONthink and a lesser degree Omnifocus. There are other programs I like using occasionally and they too draw me back to IOS. I am never gone long.
However, the truth be told it is DEVONthink that is always the main driver. I’ve simply not found anything to replace DEVONthink. For an individual worker this is not a problem. However, where it does come to a team it might end up being a problem because of the heterogeneity of the handsets.
Regardless, if you are a researcher, a student who takes a variety of voluminous notes, a professional trying to achieve the paperless office and what have you, DEVONthink is as good as it gets. It is highly cost effective, flexible system that can almost jump hoops. Further, it is very cost effective.
DEVONthink seems to have been drowned out in recent times as those around have tended to look at the newer products forgetting one of the best on the market. No matter how adept you get with the program, it will always continue to grow with you.