DEVONthink Part 1 - What is it?

Just over a year ago now, I created a series of posts that highlighted how I use a quite wonderful product called DEVONthink Pro Office. I use DEVONthink Pro Office as my paperless office solution and over the last twelve months, my workflows have matured, reaching the stage now whereby I feel as though I need to provide you with some updates. In fact, I'm so into the application at the moment, I'm going to re-write the articles from scratch! 

It's going to take a while because DEVONthink Pro Office is such a huge application. However, I'm using this as an opportunity to refresh my memory as to some of the functions that I don't find myself leveraging as much as I could do. For example, one thing that sets DEVONthink Pro Office above it's competitors is the amazing AI engine that allows you to have your files automatically classified and filed. I don't use that too much, namely because I utilise tags far more than I use folders. Also, there are some great Search parameters that can be used, which I don't feel I need to that much currently. Yet as my databases mature, this will change, however my use of the application has definitely reached a maturity now that justifies a re-write so I hope you enjoy. 

What is DEVONthink?

DEVONthink is essentially a database for tagging and tracking all kinds of information. The whole point of DEVONthink's existence is to make it as easy as possible for you to be able to store and retrieve any information. No longer do you need to store Office files, PDFs or bookmarks in separate applications - simply keep them all in DEVONthink. 

I used to struggle with knowing exactly what to use DEVONthink for as opposed to a different application, such as Evernote. My rule of thumb became simple. If the file or note that I am creating would ordinarily be stored in some form of physical filing cabinet or folder, then I'm going to keep it in DEVONthink. If it's related to a much larger project, then that's going straight into DEVONthink. If it's a one-off note about something which is not going to need to be referred to long-term and has a very short shelf-life, then it's one for Evernote. (In fact, as I write this, I'm now dropping Evernote in favour of a plain-text note taking system using nvAlt and indexing with DEVONthink, yet I need to take some time to write this up properly for you)

DEVONthink comes in four flavours - DEVONthink Pro Office, DEVONthink ProDEVONthink Personal and DEVONthink To GO and, as you would expect, they come with differing levels of functionality. If you are wondering which version to go for, I strongly recommend that you check out the comparison chart, available here. Note - DEVONthink To Go is a mobile application, used on iOS to capture information on the move, ready to sync with it's OS X parent. 


As you can see, if finances permit, DEVONthink Pro Office is definitely the way to go, not least because of it's ability to be able to offer OCR and ScanSnapsupport off the shelf, which is probably going to form the cornerstone of any paperless workflow you have. That's not to say you have to go down that route though. If the amount of paper you find yourself scanning is negligible, then using a mobile application such as PDFpen Scan+, which supports OCR as well as exporting to a cloud service, could very well be a more economical solution for you. 

My workflows will all centre around DEVONthink Pro Office as that is the product I use day to day. I use it at work, with databases setup for different projects I am currently working on. Each client has their own database. In fact, one particular client at the moment has multiple databases because I am working on multiple projects with them! I take this approach because I like to have the option of being able to mark a project as complete by archiving the database away when the time comes to close. If I need to refer to it, I can open it from it's archived location, yet it's not using up storage space on my working machine. 

I also use DEVONthink Pro Office for all of my home filing needs. Utility bills, instruction manuals, order confirmations, warranty information, medical history, holiday information - you name it, it goes into DEVONthink Pro Office. There is very little in my life that I am unable to retrieve with a simple search. 

So that tells you what I use DEVONthink Pro Office for and why I recommend it so highly. The next few posts will look in more detail as to how I have it configured, how I import data on both OS X and iOS, how I invoke searches, tagging, backing up databases. I'm looking forward to reviewing my workflows by creating this series of posts - I hope you enjoy reading them!