DEVONthink Pro

At a Glance

Devonthink Pro Review

Expert’s Rating


  • Built-in Web browser and newsreader
  • Intuitive interface
  • Artificial Intelligence features classify and cross-reference documents
  • AppleScript and Automator support
  • Dashboard widgets
  • Handy sheets (collections of records based on tables and forms)

Devonthink Pro Office Review

DEVONthink Pro scans paper documents and makes them searchable, imports email, and even downloads complete web sites. Add data of any kind, regardless of where it came from. Don’t fight the information flood alone. Let DEVONthink for Mac categorize documents based on how you filed similar documents before. DEVONthink Alternatives. DEVONthink is described as 'solution to the digital age conundrum. It is your second brain, the one and only database for all your digital files, be they PDFs, emails, Word docs or even multimedia files' and is a well-known app in the Office & Productivity category. What is the difference between Devonthink 3 and Devonthink 3 Pro. I have always had Devonthink Pro Office and have used a really old Scansnap, so regularly made use of OCR. However now with Catalina the Scansnap is defunct, so I have started using an iPhone app Scanner Pro which actually does OCR for you. I get Devonthink to Index the scans. So I don’t need OCR. I am thinking of upgrading. DEVONthink is the solution to the digital age conundrum. It is your second brain, the one and only database for all your digital files, be they PDFs, emails, Word docs or even multimedia files. Boasting a refined artificial intelligence, DEVONthink is exceedingly flexible and adapts to your personal needs.


  • Limited to one open database at a time
  • Weak Web export
  • No Spotlight support
  • Can’t edit indexed files

Our Verdict

Most information managers, like Chronos’ StickyBrain ( , July 2005 ), allow you to collect documents, notes, clippings, and multimedia files in a searchable database. But multitalented Devonthink Pro 1.0.2 offers more, including an integrated Web browser and newsreader, and powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence) features to give you greater insight into your data. If you’re a student, researcher, consultant, or anyone who has to tame an abundance of information, Devonthink Pro has the tools to help.

Evernote is a good alternative. You can input a large number of documents in various types (PDF, text, JPEG, HTML, many more). You can assign them to notebooks. You can assign tags.

Devonthink Pro is flexible, feature-rich, and extensible (via plug-ins, AppleScripts, and Automator actions), but its interface is clean and intuitive. Unlike information managers that mimic notebooks, such as Circus Ponies’ NoteBook ( , November 2004 ) and AquaMinds’ NoteTaker ( , July 2005 ), a Devonthink Pro database offers a choice of views: List, Icons, Columns, Vertical or Horizontal split views, and a Three Pane view similar to Apple’s Mail, with folders on the left, documents on top, and a view/edit pane below.

You can create an empty database and add new documents, or import files, folders, Address Book entries, bookmarks (from Camino, Firefox, OmniWeb, or Safari), and Web sites (a download manager can connect to a site via FTP, but you’ll need a password; it won’t crawl a site and download content for you). To add clippings from a selection, you can use shortcut keys, the Dock menu, or the Services menu. Dashboard widgets let you add a quick note or search the open database. You can have only one database open at a time, but DEVONtechnologies says this limitation will be removed in a future version. You can display more than one window of the open database.

Devonthink Pro combines features found in few other information managers, like integrated Web browsing, a See Also drawer that shows related files, and sheets (collections of records based on tables and forms).
(Click image to open full screenshot)

Indexed files

When you import files, Devonthink Pro adds the data to the database. Large databases can become unwieldy, but Devonthink Pro can also index files, reading their contents and displaying the external file without adding the file to the database. For example, you could create a catalog by indexing a CD-ROM. When you need to find a file, just search the database, then insert the CD and launch the file from within Devonthink Pro. Indexed databases are locked and require manual updating (a future version will allow editing of indexed files and update automatically).

Editing and browsing

Using OS X’s built-in text engine, Devonthink Pro is a capable text editor. A full screen-mode makes it easy to edit files, but zooming while in full-screen mode also zooms the normal view, which makes switching between views a hassle. You can display a word count column in the document list, and a Concordance function lets you analyze the words in your database in detail.

Devonthink Pro includes a built-in Web browser based on Safari’s engine. You can browse Web pages and RSS feeds, clip contents, archive pages (once archived, you can also edit them), and step through all of the bookmarks in a folder by clicking arrow buttons. Devonthink Pro even lets you view Web pages in full-screen mode. It doesn’t replace Safari, but it’s a great way to surf when you’re conducting research; select bookmarks from the hierarchical folders on the left of the window and capture notes and clippings from Web pages into the same database.

Devonthink Pro isn’t just for documents and files. You can create collections of records, called sheets, using tables and forms. The formatting of forms—in terms of text, layout, and appearance—is limited, but adding new fields is as easy as adding a new column to the table view. A Devonthink Pro database can include multiple sheets; you could, for example, keep a contacts sheet and a project notes sheet in the same database.

Finding data

All information managers provide some method of searching within your data. Devonthink Pro offers a search field in the toolbar and an enhanced Search dialog, which gives you even more options. For example, you can search for an exact match, a case-insensitive match, or a “fuzzy” match, which will find similar and misspelled words. And Devonthink Pro’s AI features go beyond normal search functions, helping you to analyze even large databases. A See Also button opens a drawer listing content similar to the current document. A Topics pop-up menu displays the most important words in the document; clicking a word displays a list of related files. A Classify button displays related folders, but the Auto Classify feature is spotty—if your files are too diverse, or your database doesn’t have enough files, its choice of folders won’t be very accurate or it won’t work at all. Unfortunately, the contents of a Devonthink Pro database are hidden from Spotlight (this will also change in a future version, according to DEVONtechnologies).

You can export data from Devonthink Pro to OmniOutliner ( , August 2005 ) or OPML format, Rich Text Format, text, or Microsoft Word. You can also export selected items such as plain text files to a third-generation or later iPod. Web site export converts files to HTML, but doesn’t automatically create links or an index for navigation.

Devonthink Pro 3

Macworld’s buying advice

Devonthink Pro 1.0.2 is brimming with organizational and search features without feeling bloated. It’s powerful without feeling overwhelming. If you need to make sense of a lot of information, Devonthink Pro is a smart choice.

[ Robert Ellis is a freelance writer, a Mac fanatic, and an avid digital photographer. He maintains the blogFuturosity.]

In this post I'm going to discuss one of the most important factors when it comes to DEVONthink Pro Office and that is Importing Data. It's all well and good knowing what DEVONthink is for, yet how do we get data in there in the first place?

Import or Index?

Firstly, it's important to understand how files are referenced. There are two distinct ways that DEVONthink can reference files. Documents can either be imported or indexed. Imported files are copied directly into the DEVONthink database itself, whereas indexed files are stored externally to the database.

Importing files is very simple. You can select File then Import and make your selection from the Finder window that appears. You can also drag and drop files directly into DEVONthink groups from the desktop or Finder. This is really handy, especially when you are using your device in Split Screen mode.

Personally, I import documents in the following ways:

1) Hazel - I have various folders that have Hazel rules applied to them. The rules will process, tag and rename my files and then move them from their original location to the Global Inbox in DEVONthink. I don't have to think about it until I process my Global Inbox and move them to the relevant project database.

2) ScanSnap Manager - DEVONthink has superb ScanSnap support and I use my Fujitsu ScanSnap to scan documents and send directly into DEVONthink (or to one of my Hazel controlled folders for rule processing if I know it's a common statement, invoice etc)

3) DEVONthink To Go - This will be covered in a later post, however if you install DEVONthink To Go, then you can clip content in there on your iOS devices. I have to admit, it's not as reliable as I need from a mobile solution (especially one that is so key to my business) so I don't use this as often as I would like. I tend to place documents into a Dropbox folder when I'm roaming and let Hazel send that document to my Global Inbox.

4) Web Clipper Extension - DEVONthink To Go may be a chore but the Web Clipper extension for Safari is great and I use this a lot for gathering web content and saving to DEVONthink. When you find a site whose content you wish to store in a database, click the Safari extension (there is a Chrome one too) and you can select the group you would like to save to, change the reference name, make Notes/Tags and select the Format you would like to save to. You can even format the output with Instapaper to give that gorgeous look to your documents that Instapaper brings.

Getting data out of DEVONthink is simple. Remember, your files don't become entities in some SQL-style database. They are files that you can still drag/drop anywhere you like. Quite often I will find myself right-clicking a file, selecting Show In Finder so I can see exactly where a given file is located and then moving it out of DEVONthink into a new location. That is an important distinction to make when you try to compare DEVONthink Pro Office with Evernote. Quite often you will find it hard to export something from Evernote once you've imported. Not the case with DEVONthink.

Indexing Files is even easier. An example of one of my indexed workflows is as follows:

I have a folder in Dropbox called Client A. I keep all manner of documents pertaining to this client within that folder, and the fact that it is a Dropbox folder means I can make changes on the move on any device.In order to indexthis folder in DEVONthink to allow it to be referenced in search results, I select File then Index (or click ⌥⌘X)

and on the resulting Finder window, I select the Client A Folder. This folder, despite living externally to DEVONthink Pro Office, is now presented for us to use. You can tell it is an indexed folder by the arrow to the right of the folder name. Imagine it as an arrow pointing to a location outside of the application.

If you delete a file from an indexed folder in DEVONthink, it does NOT make any changes to the original location.

I use indexing a lot, especially when I know I'm going to need to make frequent changes to files when I'm on the move, so I will invariably use Dropbox folders for the source location of the items and then index the folders as a whole. You aren't restricted to indexing folders only, however. Individual items can be indexed as well if required.

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Import Preferences

Most of the Preferences that you can set for importing documents into DEVONthink will be left at their defaults.

You can see that you can specify a range of file types that are able to be imported. I'm rarely going to need to import Quick Time Movies or AppleScripts, however there is no harm for me in leaving them checked should the need arise.

DEVONthink Pro

The areas that are more susceptible to a change in setting are for Titles and Destination. I like to see the extension as part of the name so I can see at a glance exactly what file type I'm looking at. Lots of people prefer to have the extension stripped out so it's a case of personal taste.

Destination is a little more involved. I like all new documents to go straight into the Global Inbox (a default catch-all container). From here, I will then process the files accordingly with tags and send them on their way to their final container. You may decide that you wish to Select the group as your documents are imported. This is a way of filing as you go however I'd rather dedicate time to processing my inbox as a whole rather than file as they are imported. It works better for me that way.

You can also set to automatically import documents to the index of your current database which I occasionally set when I know I'm spending the whole day in just one database.

That pretty much covers how to reference data in DEVONthink. Next time, I look at the differences between Duplicates and Replicants and why they are so ace!