Take control of all your information with DEVONthink and Joe Kissell's advice!

Take Control of
Getting Started with DEVONthink 2

Third Edition
Joe Kissell

DEVONthink 2 offers a slew of features for defeating information overload, but mastering its power is easier with real-world advice from DEVONthink power user Joe Kissell. He helps you understand the best ways to put information into DEVONthink and how to organize it so you can find it later. He also covers syncing DEVONthink databases among your Apple devices and using DEVONthink To Go in iOS.

This product has been discontinued.

NOTE: Now that DEVONthink 3 is shipping, this book has been discontinued and replaced with Take Control of DEVONthink 3, which is free.

With the information-management program DEVONthink 2, you no longer have to swim in a sea of Web bookmarks, email receipts, RSS feeds, scanned memos, and downloaded bank statements. 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 book—created in partnership with DEVONtechnologies—has the real-world advice you need to understand how DEVONthink can bring order to your information.

You’ll also learn how to extend your DEVONthink experience beyond your main Mac with Joe’s detailed explanation of the many ways you can sync DEVONthink databases to your other Apple devices and his lucid look at the DEVONthink To Go iOS app.

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 apps
  • Import 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
  • Create documents in plain text, HTML, Markdown, and more
  • Edit documents in DEVONthink (or externally)
  • Find the best way to sync DEVONthink data with other devices
  • Get tips for working effectively in the DEVONthink To Go iOS app
  • Share DEVONthink documents with other people
  • Export documents 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 documents from different sources, where do they end up, and why?
  • Is it better to sort imported documents right away, or leave them 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 move documents out of DEVONthink using the Share feature?
  • How do I use DEVONthink To Go on my iOS device?
  • Are there Automator or AppleScript options for DEVONthink? (Hint: Yes!)
Joe Kissell

About Joe Kissell

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He formerly wrote for publications such as Macworld, Wirecutter, and TidBITS. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, his two children, and his cat.

What’s New in the Third Edition

DEVONthink has been updated quite a few times since I wrote the second edition of this book (back when version 2.3.3 was current). Even though the software is still “DEVONthink 2” (that is, version 2.x), the latest version as I write this text—version 2.9.6—includes hundreds of (mostly minor) changes and bug fixes compared to what I described earlier, as well as some significant new features. In addition, since the second edition appeared, Apple released several major upgrades to the Mac operating system, each of which had 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 second edition of this book, take a glance at Quicker Start for Second Edition Readers!

Among the most significant changes are the following:

  • Updated the page Quicker Start for Second Edition Readers to help readers of the previous edition find new information quickly

  • Revised the sidebar Where Not to Store Your Databases to reflect the new sync capabilities, and to mention that iCloud Drive isn’t a good place for your databases

  • Added a number of newer options to Create Documents in DEVONthink, including Formatted Note, HTML Page, and Markdown Text

  • Thoroughly revised Clip to DEVONthink Browser Extension to describe its current behavior

  • Added instructions to Use the Share Extension for getting data into DEVONthink

  • Revised Scan Documents with up-to-date instructions for using ScanSnap Manager or ExactScan

  • Added the topic Convert Document Formats about converting documents from one format to another

  • Rewrote nearly all of the Sync Your DEVONthink Databases chapter, which now covers DEVONthink’s new (and vastly improved) sync capability

  • Rewrote the entire Use DEVONthink To Go chapter, which now covers the completely rewritten DEVONthink To Go version 2

  • In the Get Information Out of DEVONthink chapter, significantly updated the topics Use DEVONthink’s Web Server and Export Data, and added the topic Share Data

  • Revised much of Use AppleScript and Automator with DEVONthink

  • Replaced all the graphics with up-to-date versions

  • Modernized the look and feel of the book to reflect the latest Take Control style

What Was 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. 

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 book cover?

It is completely up to date with DEVONthink version 2.9.6 and DEVONthink To Go 2 for iOS, and it covers the Personal, Professional, and Pro Office editions of DEVONthink. Where important differences among the editions occur in the text, the book notes them.

  • Read Me First
  • Introduction
  • DEVONthink Quick Start
  • Understand DEVONthink Basics
  • Explore DEVONthink’s Interface
  • Set Up DEVONthink Databases
  • Get Information into DEVONthink
  • Organize Your Information
  • Find Your Information
  • Work with Your Information
  • Sync DEVONthink Databases between Macs
  • Use DEVONthink To Go
  • Get Information Out of DEVONthink
  • Dig Deeper
  • Appendix A: Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Learn More
  • Listen to Joe Talk about DEVONthink

    Posted by Tonya Engst on March 26, 2010

    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.

    October 11, 2019— This book has been replaced with our new title, Take Control of DEVONthink 3, which is free for everyone.


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