Most information managers, like Chronos’ StickyBrain (
), allow you to collect documents, notes, clippings, and multimedia files in a searchable database. But multitalented Devonthink Pro 1.0.2 offers more, including an integrated Web browser and newsreader, and powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence) features to give you greater insight into your data. If you’re a student, researcher, consultant, or anyone who has to tame an abundance of information, Devonthink Pro has the tools to help.
Devonthink Pro is flexible, feature-rich, and extensible (via plug-ins, AppleScripts, and Automator actions), but its interface is clean and intuitive. Unlike information managers that mimic notebooks, such as Circus Ponies’ NoteBook (
) and AquaMinds’ NoteTaker (
), a Devonthink Pro database offers a choice of views: List, Icons, Columns, Vertical or Horizontal split views, and a Three Pane view similar to Apple’s Mail, with folders on the left, documents on top, and a view/edit pane below.
You can create an empty database and add new documents, or import files, folders, Address Book entries, bookmarks (from Camino, Firefox, OmniWeb, or Safari), and Web sites (a download manager can connect to a site via FTP, but you’ll need a password; it won’t crawl a site and download content for you). To add clippings from a selection, you can use shortcut keys, the Dock menu, or the Services menu. Dashboard widgets let you add a quick note or search the open database. You can have only one database open at a time, but DEVONtechnologies says this limitation will be removed in a future version. You can display more than one window of the open database.
Devonthink Pro combines features found in few other information managers, like integrated Web browsing, a See Also drawer that shows related files, and sheets (collections of records based on tables and forms).
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When you import files, Devonthink Pro adds the data to the database. Large databases can become unwieldy, but Devonthink Pro can also index files, reading their contents and displaying the external file without adding the file to the database. For example, you could create a catalog by indexing a CD-ROM. When you need to find a file, just search the database, then insert the CD and launch the file from within Devonthink Pro. Indexed databases are locked and require manual updating (a future version will allow editing of indexed files and update automatically).
Editing and browsing
Using OS X’s built-in text engine, Devonthink Pro is a capable text editor. A full screen-mode makes it easy to edit files, but zooming while in full-screen mode also zooms the normal view, which makes switching between views a hassle. You can display a word count column in the document list, and a Concordance function lets you analyze the words in your database in detail.
Devonthink Pro includes a built-in Web browser based on Safari’s engine. You can browse Web pages and RSS feeds, clip contents, archive pages (once archived, you can also edit them), and step through all of the bookmarks in a folder by clicking arrow buttons. Devonthink Pro even lets you view Web pages in full-screen mode. It doesn’t replace Safari, but it’s a great way to surf when you’re conducting research; select bookmarks from the hierarchical folders on the left of the window and capture notes and clippings from Web pages into the same database.
Devonthink Pro isn’t just for documents and files. You can create collections of records, called sheets, using tables and forms. The formatting of forms—in terms of text, layout, and appearance—is limited, but adding new fields is as easy as adding a new column to the table view. A Devonthink Pro database can include multiple sheets; you could, for example, keep a contacts sheet and a project notes sheet in the same database.
All information managers provide some method of searching within your data. Devonthink Pro offers a search field in the toolbar and an enhanced Search dialog, which gives you even more options. For example, you can search for an exact match, a case-insensitive match, or a “fuzzy” match, which will find similar and misspelled words. And Devonthink Pro’s AI features go beyond normal search functions, helping you to analyze even large databases. A See Also button opens a drawer listing content similar to the current document. A Topics pop-up menu displays the most important words in the document; clicking a word displays a list of related files. A Classify button displays related folders, but the Auto Classify feature is spotty—if your files are too diverse, or your database doesn’t have enough files, its choice of folders won’t be very accurate or it won’t work at all. Unfortunately, the contents of a Devonthink Pro database are hidden from Spotlight (this will also change in a future version, according to DEVONtechnologies).
You can export data from Devonthink Pro to OmniOutliner (
) or OPML format, Rich Text Format, text, or Microsoft Word. You can also export selected items such as plain text files to a third-generation or later iPod. Web site export converts files to HTML, but doesn’t automatically create links or an index for navigation.
Macworld’s buying advice
Devonthink Pro 1.0.2 is brimming with organizational and search features without feeling bloated. It’s powerful without feeling overwhelming. If you need to make sense of a lot of information, Devonthink Pro is a smart choice.
Robert Ellis is a freelance writer, a Mac fanatic, and an avid digital photographer. He maintains the blog