DEVONthink - A Ferrari engine in a Volkswagen Beetle Body

I'm now a fully paid up member of the DEVONthink fan club.

I initially started with the base application - DEVONthink Personal - then, over the past year or so, have purchased the updates to DEVONthink Pro, and finally, Pro Office.

I could've gone for Pro at the start, but I wasn't convinced it was for me at that stage. My initial purchase was more of an experiment than anything, as I was heavily invested in Evernote at the time. You can read more about my move from Evernote to DEVONthink here.

So why did it take me so long to move? On reflection, and I think this might be why the application often gets overlooked by people who clearly would benefit from the functionality it offers (I'm looking at you, Mac Power Users crew!), is its appearance.

Not a Looker

I touched on this in my earlier post, but I'm now thinking its appearance is perhaps having an even worse impact than I previously believed. It's so damn good at what it does, there has to be some reason why everybody isn't shouting from the rooftops about how brilliant it is.

That may sound shallow and indeed beauty is only skin deep, but, let's face it, DEVONthink ain't pretty. It looks old. And maybe people (me included, initially) take a superficial look and think, well, if it looks old, it can't be much good. Of course, the opposite may be true (and indeed this appears to be the case) and the developers decision to concentrate on functionality rather than looks is perhaps a good thing, in as much as they've produced an almost uniquely useful application that runs rings around any application that tries to do anything even remotely similar.

It's all in the Search

When I was using Evernote, I was constantly frustrated by a difficulty in actually finding stuff, which to me seemed a fundamental flaw with their entire suite of applications. I shouldn't have to think about how I need to search for stuff. I should be able to to just chuck some stuff in a text box and it'll find it for me. I tried messing around with various permutations of lots of/very few notebooks, lots of/very few tags etc. Nothing really seemed to work for me.

With DEVONthink, I type what I want to find into a text box and it finds it for me. Every time. Quickly. I rarely use tags. I've got very few folders. This is what I want.

I don't need my data everywhere

Another realisation I had is that I don't actually need access to all of my thousands of documents on my iPhone, iPad and web browser. I have my MacBook Air with me pretty much at all times, so the data is always there waiting for me to use. It's quicker for me to get my Air out of its case, open it and search in DEVONthink than it is is to try and find it in Evernote on the iPhone in my hand.

There is the DEVONthink To Go app for the iPhone and iPad, which allows you to sync selected documents to those devices. I use that for a select few, but I primarily use the apps to write notes on the iOS devices and then sync them back to the desktop app.

I've left Evernote on my MBA for now, but have imported everything in it to DT. Additionally, once a week or so, I import any new emails into a separate DT database. My main database contains everything else, including the index to my various cloud storage folders, so I can search across all of them, too.

In a nutshell, I can search for anything, on all of my data, and find the stuff I'm looking for about as quickly as I can type the search query.

My data

An added bonus is that all this data exists wherever you want it to, so you have complete control, which is obviously way better for security than trusting it all to some cloud provider. I back it all up to multiple devices, so I'll always be able to get at least one good copy back, assuming the end of the world doesn't come along.

Give it a try

Do yourself a favour, download the free trial, ignore the looks, and give DT a fair try. I did, eventually, and I've never looked back.