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Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2
Mar 20, 2012
The Author

Joe Kissell has written more than 50 books about the Mac, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He runs Joe On Tech and is also a contributing editor of TidBITS and a senior contributor to Macworld.

Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2, Second Edition

Take control of your PDFs, paper documents, email messages, and scribbled notes with DEVONthink 2 and Joe Kissell’s expert advice!

With the information-management program DEVONthink 2, you no longer have to swim in a sea of Web bookmarks, email receipts, RSS feeds, scanned memorabilia, Post-it notes, and phone bills. DEVONthink stores your digital documents and clippings, helps you scan and store paper documents, and serves as home base for organizing and viewing all your information. But mastering all that power can take effort, and this ebook—created in partnership with DEVONtechnologies—has the real-world advice you need to understand how DEVONthink can bring order to your information.

This book got me around some suboptimal usage patterns that were holding up my profitable use of this excellent software. I’d recommend this book to any level of DEVONthink user. —Scott McGrath

More Info

After covering essential DEVONthink vocabulary and concepts, Joe helps you start using DEVONthink effectively. You’ll learn how to:

  • Get around in the interface.
  • Decide how many databases you need and set them up.
  • Determine whether to input or index data.
  • Configure where incoming data will go.
  • Import data from many different applications.
  • Input data from a scanner, including OCR options.
  • Use grouping and tagging to organize data.
  • Use simple (and sophisticated) techniques for searching.
  • Create smart groups that automatically gather newly imported data.
  • Edit data in DEVONthink (or externally).
  • Find the best way to sync DEVONthink data with other devices.
  • Share DEVONthink data with other people.
  • Export data from DEVONthink.
  • Back up and maintain healthy databases.

Questions answered in the book include:

  • What is DEVONthink good for, and what should be left to other programs?
  • What kinds of data can I import? (Short answer: Nearly everything!)
  • Which of DEVONthink’s many views should I use?
  • When I import data from different sources, where does it end up, and why?
  • Is it better to sort imported data right away, or leave it for later?
  • Should I group my data, tag it, or both?
  • What are duplicates and replicants, and how can I tell them apart?
  • Which types of data can be created or edited within DEVONthink?
  • How do I make my DEVONthink database accessible via the Web?
  • How do I use DEVONthink To Go on my iOS device?
  • Are there Automator or AppleScript options for DEVONthink? (Hint: Yes!)
What's New

What’s New in the Second Edition

DEVONthink has been updated quite a few times since I wrote the first edition of this book, and even though the software is still “DEVONthink 2” (that is, version 2.x), the latest version as I write this text—version 2.3.3—includes hundreds of differences from version 2.0. (I am reliably informed that the next major update, version 2.5—due at some point in the first several months of 2012—will still closely match what this book describes.) In addition, since the first edition appeared, Apple released Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, which introduces its own long list of changes.

Accordingly, I’ve updated this book in many ways, both large and small. 

Tip: If you already read the first edition of this book, take a glance at Quicker Start for First Edition Readers!

Among the most significant changes are the following:

  • A new section about the Assistant, which provides tips and support tools. See Assistant.
  • Information about the two forms of Full Screen mode (one of which is the Lion method). See Full Screen.
  • A mention of the Activity panel, used during syncing. See Activity.
  • An introduction to the new Workspaces feature, which lets you save windows, views, and other onscreen elements. See Workspaces.
  • A sidebar explaining why Dropbox and local network servers aren’t good places to store your DEVONthink databases. See Where Not to Store Your Databases.
  • Thoroughly revised guidance regarding groups and tags, now that “Exclude Groups from Tagging” is the default setting for new databases. See Configure Database Properties and Understand Groups and Tags.
  • A tip about importing and deleting documents in one step. See the sidebar Import and Delete.
  • Details about how the Sorter now interacts with Lion’s Full Screen mode. See Use the Sorter.
  • Instructions on installing and working with the new DEVONthink extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. See Use the Clip to DEVONthink Browser Extension.
  • Significantly revised instructions on using bookmarklets. See Grab Web Data with Bookmarklets.
  • An expanded discussion about adding email messages, which now includes importing them from Microsoft Outlook and Entourage. See Add Email Messages, and especially Use the Outlook and Entourage AppleScripts.
  • Coverage of DEVONthink’s new capability to communicate directly with many scanners and digital cameras. See Scan Documents into DEVONthink, and in particular Pull an Image from a Scanner or Camera.
  • Information about using compound predicates in smart groups. See Use the Smart Group Editor.
  • A new chapter about using the recently introduced capability to sync databases with other copies of DEVONthink, Dropbox, and other locations. See Sync DEVONthink Databases between Macs.
  • A new chapter about DEVONthink To Go, an iOS app that lets you take your DEVONthink databases with you. See Use DEVONthink To Go.
  • An appendix listing shortcuts involving the keyboard (with or without the mouse) that may not be obvious. See Appendix A: Keyboard Shortcuts.

What versions/editions of DEVONthink does this ebook cover?

This ebook was released in tandem with DEVONthink version 2.3.3 and is completely up to date for that version. It covers the Personal, Professional, and Pro Office editions. Where important differences among the editions occur in the text, the ebook notes them using a yellow “note” box. See the Update Plans and Blog tabs, below, for more about what’s covered.

Update Plans

October 4, 2016 - Joe continues to work on the third edition of Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2. The book will cover the many changes in the new version of DEVONthink, and will cover the newly released DEVONthink To Go 2 for iOS. Joe hopes to have this book ready for an October release. If you purchase this book now, you will receive a free update to the third edition when it is published.

Posted by Lauri Reinhardt

  1. What’s New and on the Horizon for DEVONthink

    DEVONthink 2.9 (released July 22, 2016) introduces an entirely new syncing engine, which is astonishingly fast, flexible, and reliable—three things that couldn’t be said about the previous sync capability it replaces. This is just the latest in a series of updates that have changed DEVONthink significantly (and very much for the better) since Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2 was last updated. I’m working on a completely revised third edition of the book, which will cover not only the new way of syncing but also the many other improvements that have taken place over the last few years. In addition, the new edition of the book will cover DEVONthink To Go 2.0 (for iOS), which has been rewritten from scratch and is now a highly competent mobile note-taking and organizational tool, which (bonus!) uses that same new syncing engine. I beta tested it for months before its public release on August 4, 2016, and it’s fantastic!

    I hope to release the revised book by the end of the summer (give or take). I wish it could be even sooner, but it has to compete with many other projects we’re juggling right now. Rest assured, though, that it will happen in the reasonably near future.

    Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

  2. DEVONthink 2.5 Released with Sync, Updated Web Sharing

    When we released the second edition of Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2—almost exactly a year ago, in March 2012—I included a chapter about a new database syncing capability that, at the time, was in beta testing with a final release expected within a few months. On page 154, I wrote:

    This book is being published before the public beta test is finished, and the sync feature is likely to change somewhat before it’s finalized. Therefore, in this chapter I provide only an overview of this new feature and omit specific, step-by-step details. Instead, I plan to create a screencast that will walk you through the entire process. I’ll make that available at some point after DEVONthink version 2.5 has shipped…

    It took longer than anyone had anticipated, but DEVONthink version 2.5 finally shipped last week (see DEVONthink and DEVONnote 2.5 in TidBITS, 28 February 2013), and finally the sync feature is available to everyone. (DEVONthink 2.5 includes quite a few other changes, too, including a greatly revamped Web sharing feature.) Not only that, but DEVONtechnologies has their own screencast about using the sync feature that’s probably even better than what I would have come up with myself. So instead of creating my own, I’ll refer you to theirs. You can view it within DEVONthink by choosing Help > Tutorials and clicking the link to the Synchronizing tutorial (if it’s not immediately visible, click the left or right arrow to navigate to it) or on the Vimeo Web site.

    The way syncing works has changed a bit over the last year; the layout of the Sync preference pane (an early version of which appeared in Figure 56 on page 156) is slightly different, and DEVONthink no longer uses the term “Folder” (see p. 158) for a copy of your database on a local or network volume; instead, that’s now called a Local Sync Store. Otherwise, pretty much everything I said in the book is still correct. However, there is a workaround to a problem I described in the “Syncing with Dropbox” sidebar on page 160, in which syncing with Dropbox duplicates all your data. Choose Preferences from the Dropbox menu, click Advanced, click the Change Settings button next to Selective Sync, and deselect DEVONthink within the Apps folder. That way, your Mac won’t store yet another copy of your entire database locally, wasting considerable disk space.

    As for Web sharing, which I discuss starting on page 178, the layout and wording in the Server preference pane is a bit different now. Apart from some wording differences, the most significant change is the addition of a checkbox: “Convert images & PDF documents to searchable PDF.” If you select that checkbox, then image files and PDFs uploaded to your database over the Web will be made searchable automatically, just as if you had selected the documents in your own database and chosen Data > Convert > to Searchable PDF.

    The Web interface itself—what people see when they connect to your DEVONthink server—is also considerably improved. It’s more pleasant to look at, especially on an iOS device, and has additional features such as support for renaming, moving, grouping, tagging, and deleting existing documents; and adding plain text documents (not just notes).

    Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

  3. Getting Started with DEVONthink 2: Mountain Lion Update

    Everything in Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink is still valid in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Pretty much everywhere the book refers to “Lion,” take it to mean “Lion or Mountain Lion.” For example, I talk about Lion’s Full Screen mode; in Mountain Lion, it’s the same.

    Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

  4. Listen to Joe Talk about DEVONthink

    In MacVoices #1066, Joe decompresses from his many months of writing work to complete Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2 and chats with host Chuck Joiner about some unique aspects of the DEVONthink ebook project. He talks what DEVONthink is, describing it as “a centralized-storage-place, seach-tool, indexing, document-management everything, for just about any kind of information, and that’s only the beginning.” He also discusses various DEVONthink features and concepts, and how to get up and running with DEVONthink.

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)