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Delve into DEVONthink
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4

Delve Deeper

  • DEVONthink Pro can be used as a basic outliner. Control-click a document, and choose State -> Show. The document's icon will be replaced with a checkbox. Standard OPML files can be imported and exported.
  • There's a huge selection of AppleScripts included with DEVONthink that you might find useful. One imports all of your Mail mailboxes as plain text files; others allow you to perform basic image manipulation, such as flipping, scaling, and rotating.
  • While reading a document, you can select any text within it, right- or Control-click, and choose Set As Title; the document's name will be changed accordingly.
  • Of course, DEVONthink is also a writing and note-taking environment. As with many other note-takers, you can use Wiki-like links between documents, add color and text labels, or highlight chunks of text with color backgrounds.
  • A Service menu command, Command+Shift+), allows you to grab text from any other Services-aware application and instantly create a new note in DEVONthink.
  • Any document, or database, can be locked to prevent further editing.
  • Databases can be exported in an impressive range of formats (text, Word, RTF, OmniOutliner, OPML), as well as to your iPod or as a self-contained web site.
  • The full-screen mode gives you the chance to immerse yourself in your words; very useful for writing tasks that require concentration.
    Full-screen mode
  • Image, video, and audio (MP3) files can be organized, played, and classified within the application. It's no iPhoto replacement, but DEVONthink can search a bunch of captioned and keyworded images with impressive speed.
  • Bookmarks can be imported from various web browsers, and will be automatically put in a new group together.
  • Click Data -> New -> Sheet, and you create a mini-spreadsheet document within your database. A dialog box appears first to help you customize the column titles for the sheet.
  • RSS and Atom feeds can be imported and read, turning DEVONthink Pro into an aggregator. It lacks many features of other aggregators, but offers the benefit of being able to instantly save, archive, and classify interesting posts.
  • Web pages, or entire web sites, can be downloaded and archived from within DEVONthink; it includes a WebKit-powered browser.
  • The beta included two Dashboard widgets, a search tool with an odd jungle-themed background, and a note-taker. Your attitude to these might depend on your attitude to Dashboard in general; personally, I see no reason to use them when you could switch to the more usable, more useful GUI of the application itself.

Search tool Note taker



The Big Picture

DEVONthink is a big tool for big tasks. If you need a simple writing tool and your needs are basic, then TextEdit and Spotlight, and perhaps DEVONnote, are better choices. The same applies if you're looking for an outliner or an RSS aggregator.

DEVONthink Pro is for people who have a huge amount of information that needs to be cross-referenced, indexed, and sliced and diced in ways that the user might not have considered before.

If you collect any sort of text-based data or write a lot of text, and are prepared to invest some time in getting it into DEVONthink in the first place, the rewards can be significant.

This application is ideally suited to a wide range of people who handle lots of data but find it hard to keep an overview of it in mind. People like students, authors, academics, or project and people managers.

The biggest barrier to adopting DEVONthink as your information management tool is the initial task of importing, grouping, and classifying; if your data store is already huge, this will be daunting and possibly frustrating, even with the use of the automated grouping and classifying tools.

But this application is one that rewards your investment of time. If you use it often, to organize lots of information over a period of time, you will soon discover the benefits: powerful searching and cross-referencing, and an ability to make semantic, intelligent links between what were previously unsorted and unhelpful data.

Giles Turnbull is a freelance writer and editor. He has been writing on and about the Internet since 1997. He has a web site at http://gilest.org.


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