DevonThink Pro for PhD

Well I have been promising for a while to write a blog post on DevonThink.  On the details on how to use it and manage information.

This… is not that blog post.  This is an interim short post on DevonThink and why I replaced Evernote with DevonThink on the Mac.

But just a quick note to say that I do use DevonThink a lot in managing my phd research.  

Some highlights for me include:

  • Tagging of documents (I tag by author, journal, year, keywords, and reference [James & Huntley 2009]).
  • Seamless working with Preview so I can immediately open up a PDF and annotate it (highlights) straight into the database (saves back to where Devonthink does
  • Full text indexing of the OCRd PDF (and the fact that you can then copy the OCR’d text out of the PDF into a separate ‘quotations’ folder.  This is a DevonThink Pro feature.
  • I use smart folders to search quickly for the tags etc that I want (created several smart folders that you just double-click and edit the search criteria e.g. tags).
  • I have two folders – one for the original PDF documents, and another for quotations (I copy the quotation out of the PDF with page and paragraph reference, and put that in a comment when I cite it in my phd thesis).
  • Oh – for quotations, I tag it with the original paper, tag the quotation with any relevant keywords, and put the page order/para order in the title of the quotation (e.g. “p299 para3 Jones & Huntley (2006) provide a theoretical basis for the anomalous findings of Blake & Waldron (1976).”  That way when you do your search if you have multiple quotations from the same source you can see them in order and, perhaps a little, context.
  • The magic-hat searching is quite useful once you build a bit of a database up of papers – click the magic hat and you’ll see papers and quotations the AI thinks are relevant inside your database.

I am also exploring the RSS feeds from journals more, but they do seem very useful as the magic-hat will tell you if there are new publications (within reason) related to your topic area.

So… not the full post on DevonThink that I intended to create but this is a good potted summary of what matters to me.

Only negatives:  data is only in one place (doesn’t sync to multiple devices like EverNote – and no DropBox doesn’t count).  And Mac only – I am concerned that if I move platforms I won’t have access to my DevonThink work any more (files can be easily moved but the tagging I’m not so sure about).

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