My thoughts on Devonthink

Posted: April 13, 2009 in organization, software
Tags: , ,

I was always taught if you didn’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  So when i had the opportunity to get a free copy of Devonthink through MacHeist i grabbed it and because my initial use of the program left me unimpressed i toyed with the idea of just not commenting on it since i had nothing good to say, but decided against that since afterall that’s what this blog is here for – the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to my opinions of programs and products.  Let me start by saying there really is nothing wrong with Devonthink but i fail to see the difference from the program i already use and have done for some time, MacJournal.

I applaud anyone who has the technical know-how to create a good app, but when it comes to building a better mousetrap, i am looking for something that makes this new app better than what is already out there and better than what i am already using.  In case you are unfamiliar with Devonthink or MacJournal (MJ), they are both organizational programs designed to help you keep track of information and clips, or screen grabs or notes, whatever.  You really can do so much with this type of program to help your Mac stay clutter-free, or at least less cluttered.

Devonthink allows you to create entries and drag info and links and images, etc into that entry for storage and organizing, which again, is the same thing MacJournal does, and does it for less money.  MacJournal 5 $34.95 download version, ($39.95 CD) as opposed to Devonthink Personal $49.95.  Not much difference in price, but like i said, i’m not seeing anything new and different in this app than others on the market.

Judging this app solely from a users standpoint, it is quick to load, easy to navigate and seems to be able to do pretty much anything you would need to use in order to help keep your thoughts and ideas organized.  The need to tell the program what kind of entry you want to create is not something i like though.  Many times i just want to drop some info onto a temporary entry while i build ideas, and having to classify it ahead of time seems like a stumbling block in my creative process.  Also, the way you add a new entry seems awkward.  Instead of just clicking a “+” button on the bottom of the entry tab, you need to ctrl-click to get a menu and then select the type of entry you want to create.

Another point against this app is the lack of a “Save As…”.  Its nice to have the ability to drop notes into an existing entry and then save it as something else if you decide you want to split the entry up.  In Devonthink, there is no saveas, but you can always duplicate the entry and then rename it, which adds an extra step to the process.  The nice thing about this is that the new entry and the old entry are bolded so they stand out and indicate they are duplicates.

I hate to keep comparing this app to MJ but one thing i noticed missing was the calendar.  In MJ i can click an entry and graphically see the date it was created on a calendar.  This may seem unnecessary to some people but its a nice feature in MacJournal that i use often, at a glance i can see entry dates when trying to find info.

I’m not sure why this feature is in Devonthink (Dt), but you can very easily import all your bookmarks from a number of browsers, which after they are imported still work as urls and when clicked show you the webpage in question using your default browser.  So, am i to assume Devonthink wants to be your go to app for browsing?  Or are they just trying to be a better way of handling bookmarks and favorites?  This is one of the things that Devonthink does that MJ does not, but i’m not sure if its enough to justify the extra cost. (When i speak of cost i am only referring to the Personal version of Dt, if you want the Pro version its an additional $30 and adds in a bit more functionality.)  Also i’m not sure if this feature alone is enough to sway some people into using Dt in place of other less expensive organizers.

Interestingly Devon Technologies ( has released version 2.0 as a public beta and it seems to have a few nice new features in it that might make it worthwhile, such as the ability to easily use bookmarklets in Safari and Firefox (and any other browser that supports bookmarklets).  I haven’t downloaded it yet, and may at some point in the future just to see what changed, but for now, i’m not impressed enough with the current version of Devonthink to rush out a try a beta of the next.

If you are looking for organizer software, then Devonthink is worth looking at, or you can try out the app i am currently using, MacJournal, and save yourself a few dollars as well.


p.s. – another thing that is missing from Devonthink is the ability to change the date of the entries.  I was importing some older entries into Dt from MJ and realized i cannot edit the dates of the entries, which is an option in MJ and one i find handy in keeping things organized from a chronological standpoint.  Maybe in version 2?


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