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DEVONthink

This is the third of the features that I will be writing as part of the DEVONtechnologies sponsorship of my segment on The MacReviewCast.

Don’t forget that as a listener to the show, or a reader of this blog you can get 25% off any of their products – just look out for the link in the sidebar.

Just to be clear this is a feature not a review. As I have in effect been paid for this I am not giving you my opinion or the application a rating. I am giving you the information on the application so that you can make up your own mind.

About

In today’s world, everything is digital. From shopping receipts to important research papers, your life often fills your hard drive in the form of emails, PDFs, Word documents, multimedia files and more. Questions eventually pop up, like where do you store all of this stuff? How do you organize these very different file types, and even better, how do you find the exact file you’re looking for the second you need it?

It’s almost as if you need a second brain just to keep your digital life straight. And that is what DEVONthink was made for. A single database for all your digital files, be they PDFs, emails, Word documents or even multimedia files. If you believe it’s maker, DEVONtechnologies, it is built on Artificial Intelligence that is unique to the Mac and assists you in filing, organizing, and searching your data.

You can use DEVONthink as your document repository, your filing cabinet, your email archive, or your project organizer; DEVONthink can do it all. You can even collect and organize data from the web for your own use. And if the files are not digital yet, digitize them with your scanner and DEVONthink Pro Office.

A Paperless Life

In today’s world, everything is digital. From shopping receipts to important research papers, your life often fills your hard drive in the form of emails, PDFs, Word documents, multimedia files and more. Questions eventually pop up, like where do you store all of this stuff? How do you organize these very different file types, and even better, how do you find the exact file you’re looking for the second you need it? It’s almost as if you need a second brain just to keep your digital life straight.

Enter DEVONthink: The solution to this 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. And if the files are not digital yet, digitize them with DEVONthink Pro Office.

Use it as your document repository, your filing cabinet, your email archive, or your project organizer; DEVONthink can do it all. You can even collect and organize data from the web for your own use, enrich it with sound and movie files from your hard drive, and then export the finished product as a website or to an Apple Pages document to print, should you so desire. Or copy the content to your iPod! The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.

The Database for the Internet Age

Because DEVONthink keeps your important data in one database, it doesn’t matter where the data is physically located; keep information on your hard drive or pull it from the web. DEVONthink uniquely integrates both local documents and live content from the Internet to keep all project-related information together in one place. No more folders full of loosely organized files and overflowing bookmark bars in Safari; with DEVONthink, you seamlessly mix local documents, clippings, and live web pages in one dynamic database.

Your Digital Workplace

DEVONthink is not only a simple database, it’s a flexible work environment, too, with powerful management features suited to any professional project. It provides you with all the tools you need to effectively work with your documents. Use the integrated RTF editor to write new documents, or open the document in a third-party application. You’re sure to enjoy the application’s flexibility and customization options.

Intelligent Assistant

DEVONthink is based on a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) architecture that helps you organize and navigate your information collection quickly and accurately. It assists you with both filing documents and with finding similar items, and can help you make connections that you might have missed on your own. It can even master huge data collections with a few simple clicks, saving you time and aggravation.

Share Your Knowledge

Don’t keep your knowledge for yourself. Share it! Post it to your website, or let your coworkers access your database with a search-engine like interface (DEVONthink Pro Office only) or the Apple iPhone.

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Screenshots

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Similar to Mac OS X’s Finder, our user interface makes organizing data a simple point and click experience. Organize your documents in groups and import and export them using drag-and-drop. It really is that easy.

View your documents in any way you want. DEVONthink Professional even shows them in a view familiar to Apple Mail users.

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DEVONthink’s artificial intelligence (AI) functions help you work with a large number of documents painlessly. Use the Classify button to file newly added files into the most appropriate group, or let DEVONthink show you documents similar to a given one for additional grouping possibilities.

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The powerful search function finds documents faster and more accurately than Mac OS X’s Spotlight. The built-in AI makes suggestions that you can use to broaden or narrow your search, resulting in even more fruitful searches.

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DEVONthink supports all major standard file formats, from plain text to RTF, Microsoft Word, XML/HTML, and PDF. It imports all image, audio, and multimedia formats that are supported by QuickTime. Also, DEVONthink stores web addresses and shows live webpages just like any other document on your hard drive.

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Sheets and records in DEVONthink Professional organize structured data, such as lists and tables. Import your data, sort it by any column and view it as form entries or in a table.

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DEVONthink Professional can be easily enhanced by creating scripts and integrating them. It comes with one of the largest AppleScript dictionaries available in a third-party Mac OS X app, and even comes with a library of ready-to-use scripts specifically written to help you get the most out of your daily work.

Of course, DEVONthink Professional also supports Automator, with many useful actions and workflow examples available for you to try.

DEVONthink Pro Office Screenshots

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DEVONthink Professional Office archives single messages or complete mailboxes from all major email applications. Formatting as well as attachments are preserved.

It comes with a handy plugin, too, that allows to archive selected messages directly from within Apple Mail.

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DEVONthink Professional Office creates searchable PDFs from paper documents using all Image Capture compatible flatbed scanners as well as using the Fujitsu ScanSnap auto-feeder scanner. The built-in optical character recognition is based on the industrial-strength ReadIRIS engine.

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An integrated web server allows other users on the local network or on the Internet to search your database. They don’t need to own DEVONthink themselves. In fact, they don’t even need to use a Mac.

Bonjour makes it easy for your colleagues to find your database, and username/password protection keeps unwanted eyes away.

Besides the regular web interface, DEVONthink Pro Office features a special JavaScript-driven interface optimized for the Apple iPhone.

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Search your database conveniently from anywhere in the world and view your important documents.

Price

DEVONthink personal costs $39.95

DEVONthink Pro Office costs $149.95

DEVONthink Professional costs $79.95

DEVONthink Pro Office bundled with DEVONagent costs $169.95

DEVONthink Professional bundled with DEVONagent costs $99.95

Interview With Developer

What was the inspiration behind the Devon Technologies applications?

On the technological side, the inpiration was to create a form of Artificial Intelligence that was actually ‘usable.’ On the application side, the goal was to use the AI for applications that help manage the daily data flood. While our computers get faster every day, they still fail to actually assist us in dealing with the enourmous amount of data they generate. Our applications were intended to do exactly this.

Assuming you had a life before development what did that entail, and why the move?

Before joining Christian Grunenberg, our head developer, at DEVONtechnologies, I worked as the editor-in-chief of Publishing Praxis, Germany’s #1 prepress magazine as well as for Macwelt magazine, the German branch of Macworld. Christian worked as a freelance writer for a number of magazines at that time, too, so our journalistic work definitely inspired the information management and researc focus of our applications.

You are based in Germany which isn’t necessarily seen a s ‘hotbed’ of Apple fans, what is the local Mac Scene like where you are?

While I am personally not that involved in the local scene, there are many MUGs around that meet regularly. Also the Mac shops often organize smaller gatherings, presentations, etc.

Elevator pitch time, what three words would you use to persuade people to buy your products.

Get organized, intelligently.

17 Comments

  1. I am having a bit of a struggle at the moment – with Quick Look and Coverflow, and seriously improved Spotlight, I think the value of these info-aggregators has diminished greatly. I use Yojimbo, am trialling Together 2.0 (used to be KIT), and have a license to DevonThink also.

    Would love to start a discussion here about WHY the new Finder with the above enhancements is not just as good as a 3rd party application (if you discount fancy-pants stuff like RSS feeds etc…).

  2. Now that will be an interesting one for sure!

    My natural inclination is that the Mac stuff is good to a point, but that it doesn’t offer depth and hasn’t been built for the specific task – a good generalist rather than a good expert.

    That said as the majority of users are probably generalists the Mac options are probably more than good enough for most people.

  3. That is an interesting question. The updated spotlight is definitely great help, but there is one situation when Yojimbo (especially) trumps it. It’s the way it syncs using .mac, between all of my systems. One change on 1 system and it’s reflected across all. This must be the best feature out of Yojimbo, which I use for everything. Quick notes/ serials/ web archives/ all of my info, and I can sync it with my blackberry to boot. So right now unless something better comes along, you could not pull yojimbo out of my cold dead hands.

  4. I also use Yojimbo…and have no real need for syncing so far but can see its value.

    What annoys me:

    1. Webjimbo is a further $30 on top of an already expensive application. I will get an iPhone, and will want Webjimbo’s iPhone interface, but can’t help feeling like I am bending over on this one… 😉 $70 for the two.
    2. Why can Yojimbo still not do other filetypes, particularly images?
    3. Bare Bones’ web talk list thing bugs the living hell out of me. Use a forum just like everyone else.
    4. Performance, especially with Spotlight content search, is seriously borked.
    5. Spotlight often returns a long alphanumeric string instead of a proper name for library items.

    From Bare Bones’ site:

    “Store almost anything in Yojimbo—text, rich text, images, PDFs, even serial numbers and passwords”

    Try dragging any image into Yojimbo. It will not accept it, so the above is a plain outright fib. You have to embed it into another filetype first and who wants to bother with that?

    Unless Bare Bones come out with a Leopardised version doing Quicklook and supporting multiple media filetypes, it will be gone from my machine very soon.

    I like the app but am unhappy with the pace of development and absent functionality.

  5. Hmm…
    1. I agree that a web would be beneficial, but not necessary in my opinion. I rather have it sync. I understand, to each is own.
    2. Yojimbo does images fine, at least on this end. It would be nice to include spreadsheets, though.
    3. Never used that part so can’t say much about it, but that should not reflect on the software title, or should it? 🙂
    4/5. Performance on my Macbook Pro is fine with spotlight, and it can find all my data in yojimbo without any problems, even within saved PDF files. All my searches using spotlight never failed yet. I never saw a long alphanumeric string.

    Dragging photos to yojimbo works fine, also dragging videos works as well. Plays fine in Yojimbo (just tested the video/photo). Might be that your database is buggered up somehow. Don’t know.

  6. My database is fine – images and video are NOT properly supported in Yojimbo. You can put an image in put only if you copy and paste it into a rich text note…presumably same for video. This is not the same as properly supported filetypes…

    See here:

    “One data type whose support seems to be strangely lacking is images. If you try to drag an image Yojimbo, nothing happens. It’s not that you can’t add images to Yojimbo, but it takes a few more steps. You either need to create a new Note and drag the image to the note’s body, which allows you to add commentary to the picture, add it as Web Archive by opening the image in Safari, or add it as a PDF using OS X’s PDF Services. While effective, these workarounds seem out of place when compared to how seamless it is to add other data types to Yojimbo.”

  7. Ah yes, you are absolutely correct. Dragging an image or a video to a new note in yojimbo works, but trying to add it like any other text based file doesn’t. So I am humbled :(. Sorry. But the spotlight integration still works….

    On a different note, I think DevonThink allows for image/video import though. I haven’t used it in a long while, so I might be wrong.

  8. I will let you off just this once… 😉

    Spotlight works, but is so slow you may as well have a cup of tea while it does its thing. I am only on a lowly PowerBook but it was top of the range when Yojimbo came out so no excuses accepted! Plus I am not the only one to complain.

    Just to clarify, this is CONTENT searching inside Yojimbo. Outside in the system Spotlight individual Yojimbo items can be found fine, and quickly. But the title string gobbledegook thing is a known issue too…

    Leopard has made this better, but that is down to underlying improvements in Spotlight, nothing to do with BB.

    I just can’t understand why what was billed as your digital junk drawer didn’t do multimedia out of the box.

  9. So basically giving it some more thought, we are slowly moving in the right direction with finder. What we need is a Finder on steroids. Since all of our data already on the HD, why duplicate it in a proprietary database. Right now what is missing is easy access to tags or spotlight keywords. Once that is properly resolved I can almost say that all these info managers are going to be history.

  10. Well it’s a natural way of doing things. When you look at all the apps on a mac, most that deal with libraries of some kind (iphoto, aperture, lightroom etc) use keywords or tags. Each file on a mac has the ability to be tagged/keyworded. Except there is no easy way of doing it. Yet. Quicksilver has some rudimentary support, so does Default Folder X. As you can see they are 3rd party apps, not native to the OS. I was waiting for this to become native in leopard, but nope.

  11. Yeah exactly. These are ultimately just fancy front-ends to the filesystem, and without some good value-adding features they will go away. Core Data and SQL are generally very fast for lookups but Spotlight’s index is already there…

    Keywords, tagging, ratings, colour-coding, some filing options, and convenient quick-entry methods for different data types (passwords, serial numbers, notes) are keeping these apps alive now, but how long will Apple ignore these guys? 10.6 will give us all these things and more I suspect.

    For the moment Yojimbo has value for me, definitely, despite moaning. Tagging is useful but I am very reluctant to invest serious time in it without knowing some kind of system-level standard is going to evolve.

  12. Auto-generation of tags based on content is going to be the “enabler” for this I think, a little like Yep for PDFs or Devon’s AI.

    Nobody can be bothered to manually tag EVERY file on the system…!

  13. Tagging every file on the system…. yikes! I’ve been trying to do my part when creating new files, or resaving old ones. The problem is there no unified list of used tags. So I catch myself misspelling certain tags, creating all kind of havoc. I dare say that microsoft was on the right track when they announced the SQL based file system for longhorn. They scrapped it, and we got vista. Nevertheless they were on the right track.

  14. Same here for new files…but there really isn’t a good/easy way to do it so I have fallen way behind.

    Now all I want is a native tag viewer so I can look at what existing tags I have used…time to learn Xcode and Cocoa? 😀

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