DEVONthink - worth the investment

Hi Joe & Wilson: I hear many good things about DEVONthink, and you can store everything in one place. I also hear it is a steep learning curve. Is it worth the investment of time & money for myself? Right now I use Omnifocus- currently WIP in setting it up, Evernote, Drafts 5 & Airmail. At times I get a feeling of information overload b/w your site Joe & Mac Power User. Trust me, I am no Power User!
Your thoughts, when you have a minute.
Thank you, Yaakov

Was there something about Evernote that you didn’t care for? If you have Evernote, that might be all you ever need.

I think DevonThink feels like a little bit like Evernote without the privacy concerns and the subscription. Your data stays on your computer, not on a cloud computer. The number one complaint I’ve seen is that it feels “old” and “outdated” - like a program designed in the 1990s. I’m not concerned about the user interface or hoping for an interface makeover. But it looks like many users just wished that DevonThink would receive a pretty makeover.

I think the biggest reason to get DevonThink was the AI features. If saved document contains text about Crossfit, DevonThink will do a Spotlight-styled search looking for similar entries(Crossfit, exercise, health) for you to go down different rabbit holes.

Thankfully there is a demo trial that will let you see if you can use it. I would probably start with one small database instead of burning a lot of time sending your entire Evernote database to DevonThink. Then see if your workflow changes or you gain significant advantages using DevonThink.

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Interesting question, Yaakov. I’ve never been impressed by DevonThink. It sounds interesting to me, but I’m one of those UI guys. If they can’t take the time to keep the UI up to date, I start to get concerned about updates in general. That makes me worry about the tool going away. Thus, I find that if a company doesn’t make an effort there, I won’t make an effort to learn it. :man_shrugging:

That said, it’s actually rare that Evernote doesn’t work out for folks. As long as you’re willing to pay for it, it can serve you well. I just personally have issues with paying so much to use it and prefer more integrated solutions on my end.

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If UI was the most important thing then Things 3 and Agenda would win.

Things 3 users consistently gets high praise for the UI experience over OmniFocus 3. But I still prefer OmniFocus despite not looking as beautiful as Things 3.

DevonThink has made great strides. It’s essentially a file manager. Think of it as a smarter Finder with Spotlight on steroids.

I do see updates and bug fixes every couple of weeks from Devonthink. A peek at their blog describes many of their updates here.

Click on the Olders Posts link to go back in time to see the numerous release notes for each update.

Devon seems to be more focused on the engine and behind the scenes work over just putting new lipstick on a pig.


Hi Wilson: Thank you for valued thoughts & experience using Devon Think. I will do the demo trial and see if this is something that is helpful for me. Hope all is well in Hong Kong. I would love to visit Hong Kong in the near future, and my wife is a close neighbor growing up in Taiwan.
Thanks again, and hope you are having a successful week.

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I switched from Evernote to DEVONThink about a year ago and have been very pleased. This is quite long, so the tl;dr is that it works very well for me, meets all my needs and is extremely well supported.

Two things started me thinking:

  • EN’s apparently upward pricing curve. I had been a premium user for several years and I could force a gradually rising annual cost for the service. I don’t criticise EN for that - they have t make money to survive - but I had started to become quite concerned about my rising annual commitment to subscriptions as the market started to move that way. I decided to see what was there for e one-time fee.
  • Some increasing concern about privacy and security. Again, I’m not worried about EN as such - just the increasing potential threats to data kept in the cloud. I’m a freelance project manager, working with confidential client data and I have a duty of care to my clients (as well, naturally as wanting my own data to be safe and secure).

I looked at DEVONThink and Eaglefiler and trialled them both. I went for DT because it dd a better job of organising and syncing and gave me the following:

  • Robust and full-featured clients on both Mac and IOS
  • An extremely functional and well-integrated IOS client
  • Many sync methods, including (important to me) encrypted sync via my own private WebDAV server (no 3rd party involved)
  • Very good scripting support, for both input and output. I find this a blessing for mail management
  • A great mail archive facility - I finish a project, archive all the mail related to it and clear out may mail client. Lovely.
  • Integration with Omnifocus and other task managers
  • Can index Finder folders (i.e. don’t have to import files to be able to access/search). If the folders are on a cloud services (iCloud, DropBox etc), the indexing carries over to the IOS client.
  • Great search facilities
  • Built-in web server so available from “foreign” devices
  • A very active support forum with direct access to DT support people
  • A frequent update schedule
  • some great integration with Tinderbox (minority interest,I know, but …)

The UI is unattractive but very functional - I understand that a forthcoming version 3 (no release date) will do something about that.
It’s not as easy to get into as EN, but I’d argue that the learning curve for base functionality isn’t bad. There are a couple of key concepts that need thinking about. There’s a very good 3rd party “Take Control…” guide, but EN is much easier at the outset.
There’s no Windows version and no web version (but you may be able to use the built-in server - not everyone can, of course).
It’s not cheap - to get al the bells and whistles, you need DT Office pro - there are cheaper versions with less features - which costs about 3 years of EN premium.

All in all, I made the right decision and I’m being more productive than I was with EN and I have end to end control of my data.

I hope that all makes sense -


This far I have not faired as well. For my workflows, I find EN a better fit. Yes, you have to pay a subscription… But to me it’s worth it.

Three things DT doesn’t do easily:

  1. Get email with attachments into the app (on iOS at least)
  2. Auto OCR all documents (on iOS)
  3. Search inside office document. (I don’t personally use office, but it’s unavoidable )

There may be others, but these are the big things that sent me back. That said, I’m always tinkering… Checking out keep it right now… But the same 3 limitations seem to apply.


Hi Joe: If you are not impressed with Devonthink or paying for Evernote. What other programs do you suggest? Please let me know & thank you

It seems like Bear is an alternative. I haven’t tried Apple Notes but it’s also another choice.

The ones I tend to recommend are Bear, Notes, and Discourse. Though Discourse would be a bit intense for this if you don’t understand the software from a forum stance.

Frankly I like Devonthink . One cosmetic reason item links DON’T involve opening browser , I link references to my task manager & it opens up in DTgo(on iOS) or DT (on MAC) directly , evernote on other hand goes browser route (This was the behaviour I noticed last year)


Frankly after using Evernote for 5 years , I realised I don’t need the OCR /attachment scanning feature , I just need all my notes at one place with wicked fast searching. With the introduction of syncing to Dropbox , DT works like a charm.


Devonthink is awesome. The app is rock solid, things actually work. It sometimes takes longer to get features such as the iOS app, but when it was released it was solid and works well.

Devonthink can store everything, search everything and works snappily with 10+GB databases. The sync gives you everything on your desktop on iOS. Smart groups, advanced searches are awesome. PDF’s are made searchable, templates can be created with text snippets that expand.

There is no way you can compare Bear withe Devonthink and Evernote pales into insignificance.

Devonthink is the backbone of my mac. Everything goes into it and I can find anything I need. A 12 year old email, text in a picture, etc. All my printed matter is archived into Devonthink. You can create as many databases as you want. Tags are hierarchical and the classification AI brilliant.

'nuff said!


Hi Simon: You confirmed my decision to purchase DEVONthink. Thank you for explaining the benefits of DEVONthink, and hope you have a nice weekend. Sincerely, Yaakov

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This helped tremendously in making my decision to switch from Evernote to DEVONthink. Thank you!

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It does take some learning and you do need to recognise that there is a huge difference between Devonthink and Devonthink Pro Office (the version I use). I have a snapscan scanner and things end up in Devonthink direct from the scanner.

I have 70K+ emails in one database and use smart groups to list them by year. If you sign up for the tips email you’ll get some great info on how to use it. You can also index folders from your hard disk without putting them into Devonthink so that they are searchable but stay out side Devonthink.

The UI isn’t as pretty as other apps, but functionality always triumphs over look in my opinion as I want to get work done not swoon over the interface.


Hell yeah, DEVONthink (Pro) is such an amazing tool, I can’t stop using it for organizing almost every bit of data and have it accessible on all of my devices.

And about the steep learning curve, it’s just hearsay (I was there too!): DEVONthink capabilities start unfolding as you start using the app.

My recommendation is to approach to it in the same way you’d do with every new complex software package: read the docs, play with it until you feel comfortable enough to become aware of your usage patterns, then find out what can be improved in your workflow and so on.

In no time you’ll be mastering it and DEVONthink will become your one-stop resource for keeping all your data organized in such a smooth fashion!


Thank you very much for your valued experience with DEVONthink. You made my decision to purchase this program. Thanks again!

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Awesome! I wholeheartedly believe you won’t regret your decision. Feel free to ping me if you’re stuck with anything.

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Agreee that Devonthink is a great replacement for Evernote. The only major downside I experienced was the steep learning curve at first but it’s worth it!