DEVONthink

Only Evernote does what Evernote does. Just in case, I’m talking about the ability to store lots of documents and notes, sync all of these between a bunch of devices, and provide a world-class search over your entire repository.

And yet, the advent of “features” like “Context” or “Work Chat1 may be taken as an indication that Evernote is evolving into a direction that makes me start to worry about the long-term viability for my intended purpose.

If you’re an Evernote user you probably know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, you probably don’t care.

Anyway, while I’m actively2 using Evernote on a daily basis, I’m always on the lookout for alternative solutions that could better fit my needs long-term.

Enter DEVONthink. I’ve had it on my radar of potential replacements for Evernote for quite a while. The Mac app convinced me on the spot, but the mobile counterparts (a.k.a. DEVONthink To Go) left a lot to be desired.

This extended to syncing options but also to the general functionality and stability of the apps. Note that this asessment applies to the 1.x versions of DEVONthink To Go

This has changed in the meantime, DEVONthink To Go has been released in early Augst. It is taking benefit from an improved syncing technology that has been rolled out on the Mac version previous to the new mobile app3.

Development of DEVONthink To Go continues at a steady pace4, and I couldn’t be happier with it. Naturally, the app follows the same approach as Devonthink for Mac. This means that new content appears in the inbox of a database, which is roughly an equivalent to a notebook in Evernote.

DEVONthink To Go does not sync in the background. However, in most cases, a short syncing period as the app starts up doesn’t really take that much time. I’m getting used to that quicker than I thought I would.

One detail that makes DEVONthink in general stand out from Evernote is meta-data. I love that I can assign a URL to a note or document in my database. That’s a simple feature, but pure genius in day-to-day work.

Search is another discipline that left much to be desired in V1.x of DEVONthink To Go. V2.x has improved in that regard, although it does not reach the level of the Mac app. The latter, in it’s most expensive incarnation, is required to OCR documents in the database.

This ability to OCR documents comes by default in Evernote, and the quality of the results are mostly good. The OCR algorithm of DEVONthink Pro Office, however, plays in a different league. The results that I get from DEVONthink Pro Office are simply outstanding.

In contrast, DEVONthink To Go does not do any OCR at all. It would be really nice if it did (and I would pay real money for such a capability, especially if it delivers on the level of DEVONthink ProOffice). On iOS, there’s no shortage of apps5 capable of running an OCR on a document. But the results are on average just not as good.

To summarize, there’s a stable chance that I’m going retire my Evernote account soon. I’m still in the process of evaluating DEVONthink, but it is already safe to say that it would take some serious issue to get me back onto Evernote.


  1. Yes, I heard about it. Just in case. 
  2. and, more or less, happily 
  3. When the new technology was announced I was skeptical at first, because the 1.x version of DEVONthink to go was so much behind, it was almost hopeless. I was pleasantly surprised to see the progress made between V1.x and V2.0. 
  4. The current version, as of mid November, is 2.0.6. 
  5. My personal favorite is Scanbot 

Step Two

From an e-mail to subscribers:

As you know, some of the best Instapaper features were limited or gated behind the Instapaper Premium paywall. Now that we’re better resourced, we’re able to offer everyone the best version of Instapaper.

This is the second milestone on the road to assimilation. Optimism wasn’t warranted when the news about Pinterest acquiring Instapaper broke, and it is even less warranted now.

Converting a paid product into a freebie is done with the intention to put it on a growth trajectory to gain as many users as possible in the shortest amount of time. Then step three happens.

I’ve been a long-time active user of the Instapaper product, but this is now coming to an end. I don’t want to be part of the growth. I’ve tried Pinterest once, didn’t like it, and have no motivation to return.