Is there anything better than Evernote? DevonThink?

Another +1 for Devonthink.

One of my most used apps. It remains open on my machines, rock-solid, excellent support. The learning curve is steep [primarily because you have to first understand what it is what you want to get out of it] – but boy, you get way more out than what you put in! :)

That being said – it’s iOS environment is not yet where it needs to be. The updated version is coming – for some, it’s taken too long. I can wait. The desktop version is my primary focus in any event.

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I used DevonThink Pro Office for years and about a year ago switched to Evernote for all my information repository needs and have been very happy with that switch. Your mileage may vary.

Why did I make the switch? A few reasons:

  • I wanted access to my database both on my laptop and on my iPhone. If I’m sitting somewhere in a waiting room and want to review a cool anatomy article I captured, or chew through my to-read list, or was talking at dinner with a friend and wanted to share a fascinating article I found, or I’m on a website on my phone and want to immediately capture it into my database, Evernote makes all of that really easy.

  • I like Evernote’s interface WAY more than DevonThink’s. Theirs hasn’t been updated in any meaningful way in over 10 years, and it was ugly back then.

  • much easier to get information into this database. Virtually every app on my phone or laptop can directly create notes in Evernote. Virtually none of them can with DTPO.

  • I like having this information stored in the cloud from a security and data retention perspective. For example, my last laptop crashed, probably the logic board gone bad. I do weekly fully bootable cloned backups but my last one was 5 days prior to this crash. Had I been on DTPO I would’ve lost what I input for those 5 days. But in this case, no biggie. Bought a new laptop, restored from the backup, then Evernote synced with the cloud and I was immediately current, didn’t lose a single entry. I realize some hate having this kind of data in the cloud, but I’m fine with it.

  • one of the biggest arguments people make for DT and against Evernote is ability to export data out of the app. No question it’s easier and simpler in DT, but you absolutely can do it from Evernote, just a bit wonkier. And for me, at least, this argument is far more theoretical than practical. In 10 years of using DT I never once exported any significant amount of data out of the app. I’d occasionally share it with others, but not export it. And Evernote makes sharing easier than does DTPO.

  • Evernote’s ability (with a premium subscription) to search images and PDFs is hugely important for me. I can take hand written notes, use an iPhone app (in my case, Scannable) to scan and upload them into evernote, and now if my hand writing is halfway legible, I can search Evernote for those handwritten notes. Can’t do that in DT.

I’m NOT saying one is better than the other. really depends on what you need, your process flows and your usage scenarios. For some, I can see DT being the right choice. For me, Evernote has helped me realize a significant improvement in my productivity and I haven’t missed DT at all. Both are great apps designed to do similar things but in different ways.


What rmathes said.

I spent a good amount of time trying to like Devonthink Pro Office, and even maintained my licence to it for a while… However, I’m far too “mobile” for a solution like that to fully work for me… Their iOS app was lightyears behind solutions like Evernote, and still drags quite a bit in terms of functionality, and while things could be OCR’ed in Devonthink, that’s still a client-side process.

The only real argument I can see against using Evernote is the annual subscription fee, and the idea of having stuff stored “in the cloud.” I don’t put anything into Evernote that I’d consider particularly sensitive, and $45/year is more than worth it for what I get out of Evernote.

As much as I really love the power of Devonthink, I think that if mobile is an important part of your workflow, it just really doesn’t cut it. The iOS app for DT was too little too late when it first came out, and while there have been great strides forward, last time I fired it up last fall it still seems far less polished than I’d expect an iOS app to be.

That said, there are some other decent alternatives to Evernote, but it’s probably fair to ask yourself how much power you really need when it comes to organizing information. Devonthink absolutely rules on the desktop in terms of features, but I think it’s one of those things where 80% of the people only use 20% of the capabilities, and there are other solutions out there that may provide that same 20% in a better way.

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So are you using Evernote?

What alternatives you know about?

Thank you

I’m definitely an Evernote fan, but that’s also because it suits my mobile approach to things very well with its iOS apps and requires a minimum of fuss on the desktop version to do things like OCR documents.

I store just about everything in Evernote, from bills and statements to recipes, and use it extensively for project notes. I link those projects notes back into OmniFocus where they’re directly connected to a task or deliverable, and handle my note-taking and brainstorming almost entirely in there.

Alternatives that I’ve tried include many of the ones listed here, although I’ve generally been satisfied with Evernote enough over the years that I’m not really sure what more recent versions now provide. Devonthink Pro Office was the only one that ever came close to Evernote for me, but the big downside, as I mentioned earlier, was the lack of robust iOS support.

I also looked at Microsoft OneNote recently, just out of curiosity. Despite being a Microsoft product, they’ve done a pretty respectable job of it, and if you were looking for something a bit more freeform in its note-taking and layout approach and could live with a more limited feature set (OCR was particularly odd, although I believe the latest Mac version improves that), it doesn’t look like a bad solution. However, it’s pretty basic compared to what Evernote offers.

Others I’ve looked at over the years include Yojimbo, Simplenote, Notational Velocity, VoodooPad, Notability, and a few others whose names I can’t recall off the top of my head right now. Simpleton and Notational Velocity were actually really nice, clean, frictionless solutions if all you wanted was basic note-taking capabilities, and in the early days, I used Simplenote alongside Evernote, since Evernote’s early iOS clients were anything but frictionless for taking quick notes. Fortunately, Evernote has improved in leaps and bounds since then, and while one could argue that solutions like Simplenote are still more straightforward, it makes little sense to keep notes in more than one place now that Evernote can do the job reasonably well.

I highly recommend Curio instead of OneNote. It has good Evernote integration, some built-in GTD tools, mind-maps, and lots more.

Other than Curio and Mendeley, my document resources end up mostly in the Finder because, in truth, I am not really in to adopting YAFT (yet another finder tool). I have however played off and on more seriously with Leap. I cannot say that it is better or worse than DevonThink. FWIW, when and if I would ever get decide I need something more than just the standard OS Finder, I think I would almost prefer Leap because of its tag (and meta-tag) integration.


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I had actually forgotten about Curio. I used it a number of years ago when I was doing more free-form brainstorming and outlining, but ultimately, it just sort of fell into disuse as a tool I didn’t really “need” and was probably trying harder to adapt to my situations than the other way around. Essentially, Curio was one of those really cool pieces of software that I wanted to find uses for, but it never really ‘fit’ my workflow.

I also fall back on Finder for the vast majority of my documents, although I also dabbled in Leap and Yep, but they also did more than I needed. For me, Evernote is more about collecting free-form stuff that either needs more organization or doesn’t really inherently ‘fit’ into the file system… Notes, web clippings, images, and scanned documents. Again, though, my need to have stuff available on the iPhone while I’m on the go sort of precludes my ability to simply leave stuff in the Finder. While something like Dropbox could sync it, that’s messier as it lacks the editing and search capabilities that Evernote offers.

For those who are interested about the alternative, there is an app already installed on your Mac. It’s called OmniReference:

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