RE(Devon)THINKING My Brain

Long story short, I think I’ve made permanent changes in how I structure documents, blog posts, web pages and writing on the computer. A ticker tape parade ensues. Stock prices soar!

At the end of the story, I’m moving away from Evernote and towards Devonthink Pro. Here’s why (and thank you for asking.)

Devonthink Pro was maybe the first (and most expensive) Mac software I purchased when I made the move from PC in early 2008. I used it to organize the elements that would become What We Hold in Our Hands in 2009. Then we broke up.

Evernote, about that time, had moved from its earliest incarnation as a long scrolling strip of information to its more sophisticated folder and files format. I jumped ship.

I still use Evernote, but for fewer things than I did before I had the V8 Dope Slap moment a few weeks back thinking “I could have used Devonthink Pro!” And it turns out, you can easily import Evernote folders into DTP where they become part of the Artificial Intelligence and other cataloging functions of Devonthink. The faster iMac with 32GB of RAM has also helped this program to rise up in the ranks of apps I use.

I will admit that DTP is not the sexiest, most transparent or intuitive application on the Mac. This information database takes wrapping your head around its particular way of doing things.

But it is perhaps one of the most versatile and potentially useful apps around if you need what it does. Who might need what it does are folks who deal with a wide variety of document types and attempt to glean quick or aggregated information from the docs, snippets, web pages, pdfs and images that would otherwise live on their hard drives.

DTP becomes a super FINDER to either store (import) or reference (index) files and cross-reference some or many  that used to live invisible and helpless on your hard drive. The app is understandibly popular among historians, students, teachers and research types.

I run Workflowy, Nimbus Notes and Simplenote (or others at times–like weather radar this morning) within DTP in tabbed browser windows so I don’t have to switch from DTP to Firefox and back for many routine writing/recording actions.

DTP works [Screen shot from my current open database] best with Safari and Mac Mail, and I  don’t use either. But there are bookmarklets and add-ons for Firefox, plus the “SORTER” which stays ready like an open file cabinet to pop in notes, tasks and “bookmarks” which are active links to web pages.

For digital packrats like me, it is finally becoming obvious that this is an app worth its rather high price. If you do a lot of document scanning then you’ll want DTP Office that is even pricier.

Okay. Take a breath. The excitement has passed and the frenzied parade has crept over the event horizon, so you may resume your boring ordinary life you lived before you were titillated by this account of my software fetish.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I bought DevonThink as one of my first Mac purchases years ago with great expectation. Was a great program but I could never quite figure out what to use it for. It ended up being an archive for mostly-photos, and Evernote became my go-to. Like you, I started with the big scroll version and migrated to the newer versions, mainly because it’s accessible over Mac & Windows, and now has a browser based interface. But I’ve always felt badly that DevonThink still floats in hardly-ever-used land. I cringe when I think of the money I’ve spent on software I don’t use!

  2. I figure w regards to software investment, a guy will make some mistakes along the way, but nothing ventured… If these are the tools you use for things that matter to you, free is great, but a few bucks (or $80 in the case of DTP) isn’t too much, even if neglected for now. I’ve just come to discover I will have more use ahead than I have in the past for Devonthink. Even so, Evernote, OneNote, Nimbus Note, Quip, Intellinote, NVAlt and others keep vying for my attention and have their places.