Switching from Evernote to DEVONtechnologies products

I’ve used Evernote since 2014, with over 3k notes of all kinds stored in it. Though I did try to capture everything of interest – the procedure was never fast or streamlined enough for me. The Evernote app runs ridiculously slower on older phones. In particular, being used to the speed of Emacs and Org mode – I was mostly displeased with the Evernote Mac / Windows apps as well. I ended up using the drafts app for writing on iOS devices.

However, using Evernote was still worth due to the availability of an excellent catch-all bucket for multiple kinds of information, that can be searched on demand. I could literally whip up important receipts or scanned copies of a document and it felt wonderful to have that kind of control over your information. This foray was also fueled by the deficiencies of Emacs in mobile apps and the ability to store and refer to rich content and several file types.

Switching to DEVONthink Pro (DTP)

I’ve recently converted to DEVONthink Pro (DTP). Though DTP is Mac / iOS only, I would personally prefer DTP over Evernote. Some advantages of DTP:

  • blazing fast application response + search on both iOS and Mac.
  • leverages AI to provide interesting connections between notes and ideas. Users have leveraged these connections to help generate new ideas from unforeseen connections. There’s more information here.
    • so far, my experience is that the notes have to be in a particular format,I.e one article or principal idea per note to enable a sensible matching with other relevant articles. There are several incorrect connections also made.
  • Better control over content organisation.
    • Project and folder creation, including separate databases for different kinds of work.
  • One time payment for a major version of the software, along with discounted upgrades.
  • Ability to index local folders.
  • using multiple ‘databases’ customised to any workflow, along with the provision of password protection and syncing to multiple sources.
  • ability to confidently store private information based on the encryption and custom syncing options available.
  • Ability to store web archives of Linked in posts (or any content). This was not always possible with Evernote. The iOS share option of clipping to the DEVONthink to go app as a web archive works rather well most of the time.
  • The Evernote plug-in for Chrome/ Firefox works relatively slower.
  • connection with DEVONAgent Pro (a fascinating tool dedicated to customised and deep web search. More on this on another blog post)
  • Deploy scripts on databases / notes and thus allowing custom workflows with particular note categories.
  • DTP can import all your Evernote notes and tags as they are. This worked for me in a single attempt.

It’s actually hard to quantify the benefits of using DTP. There are a myriad of features within, including the ability to index locations and script automated workflows.

For most of the part, I found the speed and response of Evernote to be frustrating. It hindered a streamlined workflow. There are also additional irritations with respect to the .enex format and being able to encrypt information.

No doubt, the ubiquity of Evernote in almost all the platforms (except Linux1) works in its favor. However, the search response with DTP is incredibly rapid and the note viewing experience of DTP is extremely smooth. This is on an ancient mid 2010 macbook pro!

It’s also worth noting that unlike Evernote – I was actually intrigued enough to correspond with the technical support team of DTP to understand features like indexing a folder, and their responses have been prompt and helpful.

The best place to find up to date information is on the DEVONtechnologies forum. Even a deep search on the internet does not lead to many articles about the DEVONthink technologies products.

Some caveats of DTP

  • DTP does offer all the flexibility above. However the quality of the Evernote webclipper’s output is better in several cases. The uncluttered text grab is not automated well enough. I’m yet to discover the best pattern.
  • Several apps offer Evernote integration as a premium feature.
  • Evernote offers a more ‘polished’ and simpler interface and is mainstream and available on multiple platforms. The note taking editors and capture mechanism is more user friendly.

DEVONagent Pro (DAP)

DAP is an intriguing bit of software that facilitates deep searches of the web and developing automated workflows including report development. Their algorithm filters searches from any number of databases / engines / websites to provide the best matches.

One could use this to monitor the website of a competitor for news announcements. Or crawl Hackernews for the keyword Datascience. It appears to be a tool that can provide exactly the information that we seek by processing the information out there in the web.

This includes generation of mind-map esque graphs connecting keywords in all the search results. I’m yet to explore more, but it is very interesting so far, especially to gain an overview of the subject.

Some Conclusions

Exploring DTP in conjunction with DEVONagent Pro is absolutely a worthwhile exercise for those relying a lot on information from the internet for their jobs and work, and those working in an apple eco-system. It has a steep(er) learning curve, but will transform your information management. DAP is also a worthy option to explore to deep search the web on focused topics.

Yes, it is mac only software. I have not been able to find any equivalent apps on windows. Another reason to stick to the Apple-verse.

The system is addictive and once a good workflow has been built up, it would be difficult to use anything else.

Archiving interesting Linked in posts:

One of the most killer features of using the DEVON 2 GO app is the ability to capture Linked in posts as web archives. Though not optimal, in terms of the format – it is still extremely useful to rapidly build up a reference database of web resources.

Footnotes:

1

Nixnote is one solution. I’ve seen it in action and it is useful, and probably even closer to DEVONthink. However, I could never get it working in Arch Linux reliably.

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