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Critical View of Devon Think - or the Emperor Is Missing Some Clothes

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Posted by Daly de Gagne
Sep 2, 2010 at 02:53 PM


Steve, I see what you mean.

For me, I use a lot of bullet points and what one’d call, I guess, internal outlines or lists.

To a far greater extent than in PC programs, I found some of the Mac programs used fairly primitive approaches to making these kinds of outlines. In at least one of the programs, I had to actually play around with the little do-hickeys on the ruler to get what I wanted. Not impressive.

I wonder if in both the Mac and PC worlds there’s an issue with software developers not always listening to the end users.


Stephen Zeoli wrote:
>We all know there is no perfect application—that holy grail of PIMs we are all
>searching for. There are certainly valid criticisms that can be made of DevonThink.
>But if I could have an exact version of DT on my PC, I’d take it in a second over any other
>Windows application. And I say that as a fan of MyInfo and Zoot and OneNote. This is not
>to say that it does everything better than those applications. But all in all it is, in
>my opinion of course, a fuller, more useful application. AND, it uses a pretty
>standard word processing engine, unlike any of the three Windows apps I’ve just
>mentioned. Try doing extended selection in any of those applications and you’ll get
>three different responses. Do it in DevonThink and it behaves just like almost every
>other Mac Application and most dedicated word processors for Windows.
> >I know I’ve
>sounded this drum many times in the past, but I believe it is an important point,
>especially for anyone doing any extensive writing in these programs. The editors
>should behave in a standard way. Like it or not, the standard way has been set by Word
>(for the record, I think it is a pretty good standard). If I have to stop and think about
>how I use extended selection—or if any kind of extended selection is even supported
>—it breaks my concentration on my work. As an example, say you’ve written a paragraph
>and decide that the third sentence is really a better lead than the original, so you
>want to move it. With standard extended selection, you just double click on the first
>word of the sentence you want to move and drag to the end of that sentence—the editor
>scoops up words in full. Now just cut and paste it where you want it to go. Without
>extended selection (and the way in which MyInfo and OneNote work), you have to
>carefully place the cursor in front of the first word—oh, but don’t get that leading
>space—then drag to the end. Of course, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I
>find that when I have to do this, it pulls me right out of my thinking process, because
>I’ve got to concentrate on placing that cursor in just the correct spot. It’s annoying
>and really unnecessary.
> >One of the benefits of my Mac book is that almost all of the
>applications use the same editor. So writing in DevonThink or Scrivener or VoodooPad
>or MacJournal feels exactly the same. Perhaps this isn’t the most powerful of word
>processors, but in making notes and first drafts, I don’t need a powerful word
>processor. I just need something that’s easy to use. I can always export to Pages or
>Mellel for final primping of the text if need be.
> >Steve
> > 


Posted by Chris Thompson
Sep 2, 2010 at 03:40 PM


I don’t really see much in the blog posting. It refers to the 1.0 series of DT, which lacked the orthogonal tagging system of 2.0.

I tend to agree with Steve, that if there was only one program I could wish for on Windows, it would be DevonThink. Even setting aside the artificial intelligence features (algorithmic classification, clustering, document similarity detection) which just don’t exist elsewhere in a PIM format, the program breezes through extremely large data sets. There are people with 750,000 PDFs in DT, fully indexed, while a lot of PIM applications get bogged down at 1/100th that number of files.

(Throw in goodies like the ABBYY OCR engine, live editing of stored web pages, scriptability, support for arbitrary file formats through the QuickLook system, etc., and it just becomes more compelling.)

I find the way the tagging system is implemented pretty compelling. The most serious weakness the program has, in my view, is rather limited metadata editing. There are tools that do that better, e.g. UltraRecall.



Posted by Hugh
Sep 2, 2010 at 05:19 PM


Well to quote Joe E. Brown at the end of Some Like It Hot, “Nobody’s perfect”, and neither are Mac programmes - or to put it another way, the true Crimper’s work is never done. But I agree with Steve and Chris: DevonThink is pretty good at the things it tries to be good at.

As someone who used software on the PC, including many applications such as UR mentioned here, for many years, before switching most though not all my work to the Mac, I don’t think there’s evidence of generalised developer slackness of effort or inspiration, or weakened customer demand, on either platform. It’s just that some Mac programmes are better for certain tasks, whilst some Windows programmes are better for others. Horses for courses…



Posted by rogbar
Sep 2, 2010 at 06:34 PM


And strokes for folks.

Having used pretty much every information manager in my Windows decades, only Ecco Pro had more capabilities than I needed.  All the others - OneNote, Evernote, Zoot, UltraRecall, even Lotus Agenda - paled by comparison - for me.  Since I’ve gone to Mac, I have found that the combination of OmniOutliner and DevonThink pretty much covered my bases dependably and reliably.

I agree that DT isn’t eye candy.  But it’s by no means ugly (as, alas, I find Zoot to be).  It was clearly designed to be industrial-strength, rock-solid and bullet-proof.  I’ve yet to crash it or even make it burp.  The combination of nested folders (which some programs like Yojimbo amazingly don’t have), and tagging, the terrific AI features, and - most importantly for me - the Replicate function, mean that I can organize my stuff any way I want, look at my data in different ways, and make connections I might not have known existed.  I use it a lot and feel I’ve still only scratched the surface of what this remarkable program can do.  I respect anyone who tries it and rejects it - but I’m a big fan.


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