A user’s journey into DEVONthink: The future

(yes, ‘one app to rule them all’ again…)

Stuart IngramThe following are some thoughts on what I think could be added to or improved in DEVONthink Pro Office (DTPO) or DEVONthink To Go (DTTG2). From this series of blog posts you will have guessed that I am a big fan of this software. It has genuinely made life so much easier for me (especially academically) and even after a good few months of daily use, some of the features I come across still surprise and delight with their simplicity and logical manner! Still, anyone using a piece of software to this extent will occasionally think ‘I wish it did this’ or ‘wouldn’t it be good if’, so here is my collection of those moments.

Reader-style view in built in browser — I love the macOS/iOS reader view. It does an amazing job of stripping the junk out of a web page so that I can actually read, review, and annotate it, yet keeps the useful stuff like metadata, source, and embedded links. I wonder if this is what web-based documents on the very early internet were like before the advertisers got their paws on it (yes, exactly — the editor)!? Anyway, currently I have to navigate out of DTPO to Safari to get my fix. It’s only a few clicks, but is a bit of a chore.

Reader view document

Readability or similar integration with built-in browser for RSS feeds — I see a lot of items imported from RSS feeds are ‘HTML’ items. These display as a single line of text in the built-in browser and I need to click on the link in the address bar to go out to Safari to read anything more than that. If I go use Reeder however, I get the same single line summary, but I can hit the Readability add-in button and get a distraction free version of the full story right there. If this could be done in the DTPO browser, a distraction-free version could be automatically imported.

Pulling of further metadata on import (e.g images shot with DSLR) — I know this is a complex issue. There are about a billion (guessing) different types of metadata out there and people may want DTPO to pull in any one of them. I suppose this could be approached in terms of prevalence: DSLR and music file metadata must be a pretty common requirement, and would allow the user to search and categorise by lens, f-stop, exposure time, or album, year, artist, etc. to curate sets of images or music. This is just one example though.

DSLR metadata in OS X Finders 'Get Info' window

Ad blocker on built in browser — Yes I’m looking at you National Geographic! Advertising on the net is annoying enough anyway, but I’ve found on certain sites it take up most/all of the DTPO browser window, obscuring the actual content. Ads on websites are not something that DEVONtech have any control over, of course, but an ad block extension would go some way to mitigating it.

Search highlights in opened document — If you enter a search term in the basic search box, you can see and browse that term (highlighted) in the preview window (using the next/previous highlight arrows) when you select the document with a single click, all from the DTPO main screen. What you can’t do (I think I am right in saying) is use Command-Shift-F, search, and then open a document with highlighted instances of the search term. Having said that, you CAN use Command-Shift-G to scroll through instances of the search term in the opened document. So perhaps this one would only come down to linking this function to the next/previous highlight arrows to bring it in line with the preview window.

Search terms highlighted in preview screen

A similar feature to ‘Scrivenings’ mode — If you have used Scrivener, you will know this one. Turn it on in the app, enter a search term, and Scrivener pulls together all the text from inside your documents displaying that term, and presents it in a single rolling window. I’ve found this very useful in the past for cutting through large research documents or written text to quickly get a summary of everything concerning ‘search term’.

Finally a small one — What if the DTPO main window could automatically go back to the original size once the See-Also/Classify sidebar is closed? At the moment this has to be done manually after the main window is shrunk to open the sidebar. It’s a tiny thing but it bugs me a bit!

It would be great to hear what others think on these and any other ideas, so over to you! This is the part where you tell me I can do almost everything above already and just haven’t found it yet! And of course, outside the scope of this article, when you start to think of the possibilities for this software once AI and VR/AR really gets going…

So now it’s over and out. That’s it for this series of articles. I’ve enjoyed writing these and using DEVONtechnologies products immensely over the course of the series, and want to thank the developers and the team for hosting my ramblings on their site. I’m looking forward to many more years of use, and I’ll leave you with this final image.

Stuart Ingram

I love fossils


19 Responses to “A user’s journey into DEVONthink: The future”

  1. I have really enjoyed this journey and I’m sorry that it’s come to an end. I’ve learned a lot from your experience and insight and it will help me on my own journey with DEVONthink.

    Just as an aside, having a degree in Geology, I have always delighted at DEVONthink’s fossil imagery – the Nautilus shell is particularly beautiful.

    Thanks again, Stuart (and DEVONthink).


  2. hayssam says:

    I love DTpro as well, but I experience those moments as well.
    E.g. I’d love to have an override for the built-in browsers. E.g. pdf’s are shown in DTs own pdf viewer, even though my default is pdf-expert. So the “open-with” moments annoy a little..

  3. Stuart says:

    Thanks David and Hayssam, it’s good to know these posts have been useful, and perhaps this one and any comments will be useful for future development!

  4. darwin says:

    Thanks for this in-depth series. What annoys me most is the handling of the built-in browser (Devon Agent as well). It’s not possible to use gestures on my Magic Mouse to flip one webpage back or forward, since years. Would be nice to have this included.

  5. Mott says:

    I have also enjoyed these and am sorry to see them end. Am trying to put some of this into action with my own transition to DTPO, found the workflow ideas enormously helpful and think I may be on my way to many fewer programs in consequence.

  6. David says:

    Thank you for this, Stuart. I am also an academic and have found your workflows and other observations about DTPO useful (although I am a mere DTP user, although this series has me tempted to upgrade).

    I understand your desire for more browser functionality, but my one caveat would be that we don’t want DTP(O) to become bloatware. Browsers tend to be resource hogs and the more features added to DTP(O)’s browser the more I worry about such things. I would prefer a more bare-bones browser over one that causes DTP(O) to bog down.

    Good luck in your academic career — mine is winding down!

  7. Stuart says:

    Glad this helped Motton!
    And yes that’s a fair point David, less bloated is always a good thing.

  8. Randy Stokes says:

    Stuart, once you open a DTPO page in Safari and switch to Reader mode, how do you highlight and annotate that page, and how do you then save those highlights and annotations?

  9. Stuart says:

    Hi Randy,
    From the reader view I import to DTPO, which runs the OCR software, and then I open with Skim to annotate and save. You can also annotate/save right from DTPO.

  10. Jim Neumann says:

    @David: You know a story is good when you don’t want it to end. Stuart’s indeed has that quality. Thanks for your kind words, to both him and us. And thanks! We love our fossils too!

  11. Stuart says:

    Thanks David, pleasure was all mine!

  12. Des Dougan says:

    Stuart, I’ve enjoyed your articles. It’s been interesting getting your experiences from your academic perspective. I’m a small business owner (IT consulting and support) so will use it differently that you do. Your journey has been an interesting one, so thank you for your articles.

    I’m in the process of migrating from Evernote to DTP now that DTTG is more solid. The one thing I have found so far that is an annoyance is where I wanted to copy a field from a sheet in DTTG, and found there is no copy feature. I don’t mind if the stuff in DTTG is read-only but the ability to copy when mobile is something I’d very much like to see.

  13. Jim Neumann says:

    Sheets are not an iOS-native format, so they’re currently only viewable. We have a list of future enhancements for DTTG2, so stay tuned.

  14. Uwe Brenner says:

    Hi Stuart,
    iam a long Time Evernote User, a Home-DJ and in private a fan of paperless Office. After your Interview on Mac Power Users i do a test with Devonthinks Office Pro, because i cant found anything in Evernote and i got a sleeping Synology Diskstation. The Design of DTOP is a little rustical, but the features are awesome. Yesterday i Import the first 1.500 Notes from Evernote. In the next Time i want to do more Tests. Also the Search for Tracks and a short way to see where i can buy them i think iam testing the Agent.
    Thanks for your Work!

  15. Stuart says:

    Great to hear you have found this useful Uwe, and glad you enjoyed the podcast. I’ll be interested to hear how you get on with Agent, I haven’t yet looked at this closely.

  16. C Foxgrover says:

    Great post. These are all things that I do outside of DT and would be very happy to live in DT if these features were available. I AM very happy with DTTG and that may be the biggest win of the year for bringing me into daily use of DT. Thank you for writing it up and all your posts.

  17. Stuart says:

    Thanks Foxgrover!

  18. Mel Buckpitt says:

    Great series and really interesting interview on MPU. I would like to know more about your tagging scheme. Tagging according to the source of information or file is intriguing.

  19. Stuart says:

    Hello Mel,
    Thanks for the comment. I don’t think I’ve fully developed this system, but the basis is that I want the following information for any document:
    Title: content
    Grouping: context
    Tag: source
    I find if I use tags in the ‘normal’ way, I’m largely duplicating the title or grouping e.g. a document titled and tagged ‘invoice’, whereas under the provenance system that would be titled ‘invoice’ and tagged ‘HMRC’, for example.
    It falls down a little for research I find – it’s OK if I have a pdf from a journal, but if it’s something I’ve found on the net, or notes I’ve put together from various sources, it’s a little harder to tag.
    Thoughts are very welcome!