DEVONThink Pro Office: The Most Useful Mac App Ever?

I've been musing more and more about how to get more use from my DEVONThink Pro Office (DTPO). Have you heard of, or ever used DEVONThink? It is an amazing product for storing, retrieving and making connections among digital content such as word documents, pdf's, RSS feeds and the like.

I rarely blog about DTPO. Perhaps because the program is so powerful. It's almost like a secret weapon. I can find deep connections in data quickly and simply. For example, I have several large databases related to topics such as Ericksonian Hypnosis, The Feldenkrais Method and various research areas in psychology. Some of the databases contain thousands of articles and scans of hundreds of books. I can find information almost instantaneously. If I am interested in what Moshe Feldenkrais had to say about Gurdjieff or curious what Milton Erickson wrote about the body and awareness, I can do a quick search and get information in a matter of minutes. And then, thanks to DTPO's "artificial intelligence" I am instantly shown other articles that mention similar ideas and words. At times, it can seem rather sci fi.

The issue that I am running into now, is how to sync DevonThink Pro. For years, I have never had more than one computer. Now, I found myself owning several computers and a laptop and a iPad all spread out over different locations in different countries. How to keep them all synced? Well, it's seems to be a damned impossibility at this point. But for now, DropBox is doing the trick.

These days, I am doing my best to keep up with DTPO and how people use it effectively. This blog post, and perhaps several more will chronicle information that I have found online about DEVONThink users and what they are doing with the software. To be perfectly blunt, I am using these blog posts as a way to organize my thoughts and perhaps connected with a few interested DTPO users. You may find this stuff boring. And that's OK. If you don't want to read, click that little "unsubscribe" link in your notification email.

For now, a few people sharing information on how they use DEVONthink Pro Office:

1) Arno Wouters, a postdoctoral research in philosophy talks about how he uses DevonThink and other research tools: Arno's Tech Tools. A take home message for me is how Arno does not use DTPO for tasks such as outlining and note taking. He uses other programs. hmm.

2) David Shafer, an academic talks about the pros and cons of DEVONthink. He mentions something that scares the living hell out of me:

One issue I have had is that by using my database (albeit incorrectly) on multiple computers I managed to ‘break’ a number of databases which, in turn, ‘broke’ the export features. In these cases I was not able to rebuild the databases using the internal ‘verify and repair’ tool and had to copy documents into new databases in order to resume backups. This was mainly because of my failure to properly sync my databases between my home computer and laptop—and the lack of a strong, integrated sync feature in DEVONthink, its primary flaw IMHO—more on syncing later.

That is why I am currently on sharing a few files via DropBox and letting my copies of DEVONThink exist separately and non-synced on two different computers. I hope they do not speciate and become new life forms. Time will tell.

2) Ryan Nagy. (Yo lo soy.) For now, DTPO is a repository for everything digital that I find interestng. I have 4 large databases that I am doing my damnedest to organize. They are so large and encompassing that they feel a bit overwhelming at times. And I have one small database that I am using to organize the research and draft copy of a book on transforming TMJ pain. The TMJ database is incredibly useful as it is tightly focused and only has information relevant to researching and writing the book. When I think I might have something of relevance in other databases, I search them. And then duplicate what seems relevant and bring it my TMJ database.

There are many other DevonThink people out there...I may find them and blog about their doings at a later date.

cheers! - Ryan

Update: Download a Free Trial Of DEVONthink Pro Office

I neglected to mention that DEVONtechnologies has a very generous trial program. You can download any of their apps and try them for free. And if you need more time, contact them and they will usually extend your trial. Here is a link to download DTPO. It is also an affiliate link, so if you eventually buy the product, I will get a commission: DEVONthink Pro Office Trial.


  1. I’m using DTPO on two desktops, two laptops and an iPad. The latter is easy, the others use it with the database sitting in dropbox. I try to make it my rule when I move desks or go out with a laptop that I shut down the open DTPO (its always open). The mac tells me when I try to open one and the file is being accessed elsewhere. Thats annoying and I know there is aa scripting way of remotely closing DTPO but as yet I haven’ done that.

    I migrated to DTPO from playing with Yojimbo, Notebook, Evernote etc into one single DTPO. I religiously file non current pdfs etc in Bookends which I run similarly on four machines). I took Evernote etc off my iPad so i wouldn’t be tempted. I have retained Simplenote for quickies but rarely use it as I live with Omnifocus which is fully registered as a family pack on all my machines, generally open on two the two desktops 24hrs a day.

  2. Peter – Thanks for the comment. Sorry for taking so long to approve your comment. I have not been on the blog in a while.

    I have taken to storing my DTPO databases on a large (64 gig) USB thumb drive and will work off that for a while. I think a sensible thing to do would be to get CarbonCopycloner or ChronoSync or some other solution, but I have yet to do so.

    Thanks for the input on how you are using DTPO.

    – Ryan

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