DEVONthink alternatives?


#1

Okay this is a weird place to ask but I found out about DEVONthink here in the first place plus it seems to be a very popular combination with OF.

I am currently organizing my life with OF but am very dreadful in document management. I want everything I reference in OF to be retrievable easily which I currently don’t do. I have stuff in iCloud, in Dropbox, in Notes, in 1Password - you name it.

DEVONthink is really damn good. It handles everything, encrypts files before uploading them into iCloud / Dropbox (which I value a lot) and even allows multiple sync destinations at the same time for backups! I like it a lot but it just feels like an app that didn’t get updated for a veeery long time (I know it is being maintained actively, but it still feels like one). The UI is horrible and a lot of simple features are missing (changing the file extension of a file after importing it for example). The shortcuts don’t make sense and require me to rebind almost everything manually with Keyboard Maestro or other apps. Help on the app is horribly outdated. Most search results are from 2009 or later and might not be relevant anymore.

I want something like… OmniFocus but for documents. Some app I can stuff everything I need into, that takes care of syncing and encrypting and something that I can rely on.
Something like DEVONthink but a bit more polished, pretty and intuitive.

Does anyone know of something? (I highly value encryption and data safety so Evernote is already out)


#2

Some folks rave about Tinderbox. It is outside my expertise level (at the moment).

As for DTP, I agree. The hold up for me using it routinely is the overall dated, cluttered feel of the app. I have the sense that it is an app that you have to know you need enough to overlook the flaws … Somewhat in my field like a Windows XP computer that is the only way you have to control your outdated yet vital research instrument.

BTW, @SupportHumans … this thread is likely better moved to the Lounge section.


JJW


#3

Two I’m aware of:

Yojimbo, from Bare Bones software
Curio from Zengobi

They both have their fans, Yojimbo especially, because it’s been around for a long time.

However:
Curio has no IOS version
Yojimbo has an IOS version that syncs only via WiFi with the Mac; Mac to Mac sync requires a paid subscription

I haven’t spent a lot of time with either but it seems to me that Yojimbo is good as a bucket for collecting information (similar to DevonThink) and Curio can provide a wider range of support, but at the cost of a tougher learning curve.

I’ve recently switched to DevonThink from Evernote and did some research before I did. Taking your points about the UI etc, it was still the best I found.


#4

DEVONthink is truly functional, but I share your distaste for its UI. I mean… it’s really ugly. But its search is great. I used to use it extensively on a single Mac, but syncing to multiple Macs was a challenge. And iOS support used to be really bad, though I think it’s better.

I wouldn’t go to Yojimbo at this point. Its iPad support is awful (it’s read only, and syncs over WiFi). Neither the macOS nor iOS version has been updated in YEARS. IMO it’s dead; BareBones hasn’t pulled it, but they are not developing it any more.

Curio… I think it’s really just for one computer? Is there any sync at all? I use 4 separate computers so I need something that works with all of them.

I think “Together” would be as close as you could get; it probably syncs better than DEVONthink, but in my testing I found it rather “crashy.”

Personally, these days I just use iCloud Drive, Spotlight, and tags. It works fine for me, all my files are accessible on all my devices, and I haven’t had any sync changes since iCloud Drive + CloudKit came out back in… what… Yosemite?


#5

You can store in Dropbox. This is not a true sync. Consider it as “one-access-point-only” sharing. IOW, you must be sure to close the Project in Curio on all other machines before you open it as a new instance on a different machine.


JJW


#6

The problem here for me is on one side document organization, searching and then encryption. The reason why I started using DEVONthink in the first place was because it gave me exactly that. My files were no longer ‘flying around’ and felt secured and archived.

Maybe if we are loud enough Ken Case will come and save us :p


#7

The UI is horrible and a lot of simple features are missing (changing the file extension of a file after importing it for example).

DEVONthink’s UI is cluttered. It has so many features it’s hard to imagine how to declutter it. But simple features missing? That seems unlikely because it’s one of the most scriptable apps I’ve seen. Need something? A short script will add the functionality. The people on the forums there will write it for you, or, often, tell you it already exists.

Tinderbox is not really a “hold everything bucket.” It’s a powerful, customizable tool to gather and organize notes and ideas. It’s got a lot of “interface” too.

If you’re looking for something to stuff everything into, and keep your date private and secure, with sophisticated search and the ability to link to it from other apps, then DEVONthink is tough to beat, especially if used together with the Omni apps and/or Tinderbox.

SG


#8

Devonthink is a wonderful, sophisticated program, but I found it more cumbersome than Evernote for clipping, uploading, and creating notes in all kinds of formats. It has become my personal file cabinet. The only limitation is that its browsing structure has only two levels. There is a sophisticated, multilevel tag system, but sometimes browsing categorized groups of items would benefit from more sub-levels than the two provided. It does encrypt all transport (“Evernote uses industry standard encryption to protect your data in transit. This is commonly referred to as transport layer security (“TLS”) or secure socket layer (“SSL”) technology. In addition, we support HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) for the Evernote service (www.evernote.com).”) and you can also encrypt selected text in the evernote data on your computer. You can copy the URL of any note and paste it into an Omnifocus note, creating a clickable link to your Evernote content. There are sometimes other avenues to create such links as well, depending on your device and appetite for research and set-up. It has a pretty robust free level, though I have chosen to pay for additional features. There are a couple of levels. For your project I would definitely check it out before committing to Devonthink.


#9

I thought about Evernote but after the recent privacy debacle I’m not so sure that’s a app / company I would want to trust with my entire data with to be honest.

The encryption during transport sadly does only mean so much when the data itself is still stored on the server as-is.

Looks like there might indeed not be many options for my particuar edge case out there


#10

I don’t think yours is an “edge case”, I think secure document management is a worthy goal. I have been reticent to try out DEVONthink for all of the reasons mentioned in this thread - but I think it may be the best place to start. Hearing that it is scriptable is something that tells me I might be able to modify it to get it more to my liking.


#11

Two more options:

  • Together 3
  • Eagle Filer

#12

+1 for EF… have been using it for years: rock solid, excellent (tech) support. Fully-featured. Perhaps most importantly it keeps all your files in a conventional Finder folder hierarchy and index them etc in place. So you’re not tied to a proprietary format.


#13

DevonThink can index files too and does not use a proprietary format, you can add documents in any format (PDF, Word, Pages etc).


#14

I’ve been spending some with DT recently - I’m increasingly uncomfortable with Evernote (privacy, mainly, and it’s general outlook - plus the web clipper doesn’t work reliably any more - a known issue with no apparent solution).

The good - great security (keep the files on your own servers, encrypted); very good support; great range of features; tremendous searching; scripting; shedloads of way to get info into it; connections from Mail and to Omnifocus with a url scheme; very good IOS app; excellent syncing with great control; imports Evernote notes; indexes existing files/folders and auto-reindexes; very good AI

The less good - great range of features (= learning curve to get the most from it); ugly interface (apparently due for a revamp in v3, but I don’t know when; proprietary database (but really very good export options and indexing).

I’d looked at DT some time ago and let it go. Things that changed my mind - syncing, spotlight search, syncing, frequent updates. Oh, and syncing .

Egalefiler looks very good, but I don’t have any capacity to take it on now. It would have to be very special to wean me off DT at this point


#15

I did some more research, played some more with DEVONthink and I think I have to accept that this is currently the best app out there.

The UI is still dreadful and I keep finding things I don’t like almost on a daily base. For example markdown and text preview is just so ugly that almost any other note taking app is better than this. Even my normal mac quickview looks better with plugins

I’m hoping for a revamp in v3 but for now the UI will do I guess. It’s good for archiving things and making sure that my stuff is encrypted at different backup locations which eases my mind a lot.


#16

I would love to hear how this is working out for you. I have been demoing DT Pro for what must be the third time and I am still really put off by the ca. 2005 ui and general carelessness about aesthetics (e.g. documents don’t remember their zoom and there’s no way to set a default zoom level so every time I open something I need to increase the zoom… At least that taught me the non-standard keyboard shortcut quickly). I’m tempted primarily because I need a solution that lets me have a URL to a file that will open in ios and macos.


#17

I’m still using it, just because there is no alternative. Ran into a few bugs on the iOS app but support was always very very responsive and tried to help.

I’m using it as my primary document dump and treat everything that’s not in DT on my Mac as ‘temporary’. It gives me the safety and peace of mind that all my important stuff is backupped encrypted to 3 different locations. My important Database is then automatically synced down to my phone for on the go things like boarding passes and booking confirmations.

One feature I use a ton is the integration with Mac stuff. I very often print emails and receipts as ‘pdf’ and simply select ‘safe PDF to DevonTHINK’ in the dialogue. Found a interesting website I want to access later? Stuff it into DT. Some documents someone emailed me that are not relevant yet but I need in a month? That goes into DT as well.
I also wrote some scripts to automatically push things into the DT inbox from different locations to ‘secure’ them.

I still don’t like the Mac app but besides the UI it is a very very powerful tool. (A workaround I do is to just use smaller apps for different purposes and open the file directly in them. PDF? Open in Preview. Markdown file? Use Ulysses or iA Writer, etc)


#18

Thanks for getting back to me. I’m going to continue to kick the tires – still not sure there are significant advantages over the Finder. I’m considering it for a historical/ethnographic project that involves several thousand documents (so far) but the more I read about how historians have used it, the more it seems that most of what they’re doing can be done with Finder tags and Smart Folders.


#19

I think that DT offers 3 benefits over Finder - and if they’re not relevant to you, then Finder may well be the better solution:

  • Multiple device (Mac/IOS) availability. It’s helpful to me to me able to access much of my material on various locations, including ones where I don’t have Mac access
  • Quick, reliable capture into a single dump location - I find it helpful to be able to dump mail messages, web page links & content, document snippets. images into a single location, and I can do so at my desk or on the move (via IOS). Search is great The DT “Index” function is a major benefit to me here
  • Integration with other apps I use - especially Curio - being able to dump a DT url into another app is a nice way of collecting info when needed for specific purposes

If you need or want any of those, much of the benefit of DT is moot.

I echo various (negative) comments about the UI, although I’m getting used to it. And the support and user forum are excellent.


#20

Give it a try and if you don’t see a clear use case for it, just stick with what works best for you. Don’t just use it because other people use it :)

For me, I needed to solve very specific problems, mainly better organization, encryption at rest, data redundancy, central document dump, offline sync and crosslinks with other apps (like OmniFocus). As @Nick said, if you don’t need any of the features, don’t waste your money on it.