Plain Text Notes with DEVONthink To Go 2

I recently decided that I wanted to move away from a traditional note taking application and more towards a plain-text solution. This is no slight at all on Evernote - I certainly am not part of the band-wagon of people berating them for their recent
price hike and change to their plan offerings. Personally, I think that the subscription model they run works and if that's what they need to do to sustain themselves and continue to provide an offering to customers that rely on them, then more power to them.

No, my driver for this shift in workflow is more down to simplicity. I want to make every effort to centralise as much activity as I can into as few applications as necessary. To that end, I want DEVONthink Pro Office to be my hub application of choice.

I have always had resistance to this, mainly because I get a lot of my research on the move and their iOS offering, DEVONthink To Go was distinctly lacking in functionality. I didn't want to rely on this for retrieving information.

With the release of DEVONthink To Go 2, that problem is no more. I've been part of the beta program and I can safely say it's revolutionised how I gather information on the move in iOS. To the point where, even on the beta version, I was able to migrate my notes away from Evernote and into plain text format.

The components to this are as follows:


All of my plain text notes live within Dropbox in a folder named nvALT/Cabinet. Everything goes in here, from running lists to pieces of information that I know I'm going to need to retrieve at some point in the future. I reference everything from this one folder. Storing within Dropbox gives me the peace of mind of knowing I can reliably obtain any notes quickly and efficiently on any device and, being in plain text format, retrieval is quick and easy.


nvALT is my note taking application of choice on the Mac. This is the main method I use to get the notes into Dropbox when
sat at my laptop. By utilising the keyboard hack I wrote about here to modify the Caps Lock key, I can simply depress Caps Lock + N to open nvALT ready to take a new note or search for an existing one. It's lightning fast.

The location that nvALT queries to pull up the list of available plain text files is
the Dropbox location identified earlier.

Note - when configuring, it's important to store the files as Plain Text Files within nvALT as opposed to a Single Database.



Drafts is an iOS application, used to get thoughts out of your head and into some other ecosystem, ready for you to deal with at a more appropriate time. When you open the app, there is a blank screen (similar to nvALT) ready for you to unload. Once you have entered your text, you can perform actions that transmit your entry into a further application. I use Drafts extensively, however the main use involves uploading/appending plain text files in Dropbox. I roughly outline that process here

DEVONthink Pro Office

Now we move into the central hub. DEVONthink Pro Office is an OS X application that I use for my document management solution. Everything goes in here, from bank statements to client contracts and with seamless synchronisation now in place to DEVONthink To Go, I've got everything searchable from any device.

In order for DEVONthink to see the plain text notes contained within Dropbox, we need to point it towards their location. This process is referred to as indexing and I've previously published an article on how this process works. Indexing a folder located on your Mac is as easy as selecting File -> Index or using the keyboard shortcut ⌘⬆X. The standard dialogue window for Finder will appear, allowing you to browse for the folder containing your plain text notes.

This allows you to use DEVONThink Pro Office to search for your plain text notes and amend them as you like.

Indexing isn't just restricted to text files. You can use this function to index any external folder you need. All of your screenshots contained within an iCloud Drive folder? Link it to DEVONthink via an index. I have all my mindmaps stored in a Dropbox folder so that I can work on both my iPad and MacBook as appropriate, however this folder is indexed within DEVONthink so that I can tag and link to the appropriate project it's related to.

DEVONthink To Go 2

Searching for my notes on iOS is now simpler than ever. With DEVONthink To GO 2, I can set up synchronisation of any databases stored on my Mac to my iOS devices. With the original iteration of DEVONthink To Go, this was a manual process. I was reliant on an OmniFocus task to nudge me in the direction of carrying out this sync task and more often than not, it would be missed. Now, I have set it and can forget it. Synchronisation is automatic, so my data is always available.

To search for a note, pull down on the screen just as you would do within iOS itself and enter your search criteria. You can search all databases or a specific database/group.


So - that's pretty much that. What may appear to be a lengthy workflow is simple when you look at it's individual parts. I'm very happy with how this works and it's worth pointing out, this doesn't just apply to the plain text notes I would have stored within Evernote. Some image files are indexed from a Dropbox folder to DEVONthink, with others stored directly in the DEVONthink database itself, alongside the web-clippings that would have otherwise been stored in Evernote.

I genuinely think DEVONthink now acts as my all-in-one solution for document management on all platforms now.