OmniOutliner vs. DevonThink

Are these tools comparable to each other or is OmniOutliner just for outlining writing? I couldn’t find the right kind of information on the web to ascertain this.

I see DevonThink as a knowledge database for gathering all sorts of electronic-accessible knowledge, not just for writing, but perhaps for organizing thoughts etc. Is OmniOutliner comparable to that?

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OmniOutliner is an outliner. It’s a very advanced outliner, with columns and formatting options out the wazoo, but still it’s an outliner and each outline is a document.

DEVONthink is a “kitchen sink.” It’s more of a big database, that lets you throw in many different types of files and organize them and search them and it tries to find similarities in the documents to help you search and pull more information out of them. That’s a very different thing than an outliner, even if in some ways you can use outline-like functionality in DEVONthink.


Ok, so like the name suggests, outliner is really for outlining stuff. Ok.


@CatOne spells out the differences well. If OmniFocus is a container for the verbs in your projects, then DEVONthink is the container for the nouns. Evernote and other applications can fill this role. OmniOutliner can do a very limited version of this in a pinch. For instance, you can keep graphics and audio files in your outlines as they relate to a project, lecture, or other note repository. Applications like DEVONthink and Evernote seem more useful the more you throw at them, and their search process needs to be easy, fast, and reliable.

I’d suggest trying to use the heck out of OmniOutliner and when you hit the limit of what you are able to do, look up one of those “everything buckets.”

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Thanks. I guess what I’m looking for is a tool to collect and organize thoughts and reading notes. I don’t have a writing assignment at task, so it’s not like I’m organizing for an article, a book, or what not, though that could come later. I’m organizing knowledge.

Not sure if Scrivener, Ulysses, DevonThink, or OmniOutliner would be best. DevonThink seems to be a tool for organizing web Clips, pdf, etc. I think I’m looking for organizing reading notes, thoughts, and sure the occasional article etc.


Ha ha - nice comparison with verbs and nouns, @TheWart! And good description, @CatOne. I would like to add that both Omnioutliner and Devonthink are great tools. I use Devonthink all the time for gathering all kinds of text based material, from other sources or written by myself, that I would like to structure in different documents and have easily accessible - the facilities for sorting and searching are excellent. But If I have a specific project or task that I would like to elaborate within a document, I’ll definitely turn to Omnioutliner. It is an outliner, which Devonthink isn’t, and to me it also is the best outliner. It’s amazing for structuring both text and other material, for reorganizing it, for getting an overview, for adding unlimited amounts of notes without losing the overview, for searching within a document, for showing only a part of a document, and for making things clearer with colours for highlights and paragraph backgrounds.


I think Devonthink would be great for you, chomni. You may get the impression that it is more for collecting pdf:s and other documents, but I don’t do that at all. To me, Devonthink is a tool for things such as those you describe. Scrivener is great, but more for writing than collecting notes, and I think that counts for Ulysses too (which I haven’t used recently).

I use a system similar to that described briefly here. My noun/verb analogy came from here, @Jan_H. Yet another “where to store project notes” thread from the old Omni forum can be found here.

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Thanks! I will definitely check out DevonThink then.

Continuing the discussion from OmniOutliner vs. DevonThink:

I use both.

OmniOutliner 4 for Mac: Writing and outlining.
DEVONthink Pro Office: Storing OmniOutliner 4 files, PDFs, images, Word documents, … Essentially a personal database.

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Hi savantier.

(If this is still à propos…) (Context: I’m in search of a replacement for Circus Ponies" NoteBook)

After spending a few hours trying DevonThink, reading the manual, asking a few questions in their forum, I’m haunted by this question: what’s the difference between the combination [DevonThink + OmniOutliner] and the combination [Finder + Spotlight + OmniOutliner]…

Care to comment?


If you are welcoming other opinions, then I would say 4 things make DTPO+OO superior to Finder+Spotlight+OO for me. The key is not to think of DTPO as a Finder replacement, like Path Finder.

  1. Search is much clearer and more relevant for me within DTPO. I do not place all my files in it, and I carefully maintain my databases, but my desired file is usually in the top 3 results. Spotlight is more complicated to me, and yields less relevant results.
  2. Intelligence. The See Also results, Auto Classification, and other sorting makes filing a breeze. I’ve come across several links between data in my database simply by watching the similar files that are suggested when I am working within another file.
  3. DTPO is a text workshop. I can convert documents from one filetype to another through the contextual menu, and creating and working with templates makes repetitive tasks a snap.
  4. Index vs. import means that I can have files that live totally within DTPO or others (like OO files) that actually live in Finder’s OmniPresence folder but are referenced in DTPO and grant me all the searching, textual similarities, and other features of DTPO.

Just a quick overview until you get your desired response. Like any system, GIGO applies so if you treat DTPO as a Finder replacement and don’t utilize databases (Pro feature) or sane groups (like folders) then the efficiency of DTPO decreases.

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Hi TheWart. I certainly welcome other opinions. And you certainly seem to be very knowledgeable about DT.

For the time being (I’m in a very busy phase of my activities), I’m going to concentrate on migrating my NoteBook documents to OmniOutliner.

I recently “discovered” the Search function of OO and that will have to suffice for now.

I can see that DT is a very complete environment; it’s not without reason that the trial period is set at 150 hours!

I’ll certainly take the time to learn more about it, but not now.

Thanks for your comments.