Recall These Thoughts

DEVONthink and Evernote Part II

Last post we left off with how Evernote and DEVONthink handle data a bit differently. This week we begin with a very useful feature in both applications, but with slight differences in their implementation, which lead to very different possibilities.

Evernote allows you to create links to notes

“Note Links” are great for a few reasons. Note links are hyperlinks (like you see on any website), but they take you to specific Evernote notes. You can use links within Evernote to connect one Evernote note to another, or even use a link outside of Evernote to bring you to that specific note.

Here’s an example of using note links within Evernote. You might, for example, collect some travel documents for an upcoming trip: Hotel Confirmation email, flight itinerary, your airport shuttle ticket, and some interesting sights near your hotel. They live in your Travel notebook and perhaps you tag them “italy1014” (my tagging scheme involves the place name, followed by a MMYY suffix so, Italy October 2014 in the case of this example). You might also make a “Table of Contents” note by selecting all of these notes and choosing “Create Table of Contents”. You then end up with a nice single note that has links to all the itinerary items like this one:

An example of using note links outside of Evernote: My partner and I have a collection of recipes in a shared notebook that we add to regularly. We also share a household calendar. We plan our dinners out for each week (well, most of the time we at least try to do that) and create calendar events for each dinner. In the URL section for each event, if the recipe is stored in Evernote, we’ll put a note link to that recipe. This way, no matter who happens to be home that day to cook, she and I both have access to the recipe easily from our Mac or iOS device (Yes, the links even work for Calendar and Evernote in iOS even if you set up the link on the Mac!). The same goes for task managers. I use OmniFocus and regularly use note links to surface important documents associated with an action in Omnifocus.

DEVONthink allows you to create links to any document or file

You can make links to any file in DEVONthink, just as you can in Evernote, and you can also make Table of Contents notes. The major difference with DEVONthink is that you can link directly to any file imported to, or indexed by, DEVONthink, not just a note containing an attachment. This is a bit more elegant in some respects.

With PDFs you can go one step further and make links to specific PDF pages. One of the major benefits of this is discussed in my previous post Summarizing Academic Literature with OmniOutliner and DEVONthink. As with Evernote, I also use links to DEVONthink documents in Calendar and OmniFocus to surface important files related to events or actions. DEVONthink can even (automatically) make wiki-like links between files in your DEVONthink database, which is pretty special, but perhaps deserving of its own post.

Evernote has a web clipper

It is dead simple and works well almost all of the time.

DEVONthink has a web clipper

It is more complicated but a great deal more flexible, and works well once you figure out which combination of settings works for your needs.

Evernote shows me three notes (and external content) related to my current note

Evernote has a feature called “Context” (formerly “Related Notes”). This feature shows a few related notes, LinkedIn contacts, or articles from select news publications related to the content of the note you are viewing. I have never found this immensely useful for surfacing things I desperately need, but it is an interesting feature (which can be disabled). The idea is to connect you to related things to what you are reading. I’ve never found it immensely successful.

DEVONthink shows me where to put my files, and suggests dozens of related files as well

DEVONthink has what they refer to as an “Artificial Intelligence” engine that, among other things, serves two functions. One, “Classify”: It analyzes the contents of the currently open database and suggests which folders the selected file belongs in. For me, this is especially helpful when I have just added a whole pile of new journal articles to my database of academic literature. Instead of dwelling on where to put each one, the AI makes some suggestions that, in general are solid fits. One stroke of the keyboard shortcut and that article is filed away in the appropriate folder in DEVONthink.

Second, “See Also”: DEVONthink suggests other files that might be related to the one you currently have selected, as shown in the above image. When you have a large library of PDFs like I do, it can be very nice to have DEVONthink suggest a slew of related articles, allowing you to easily go down a bit of a literature-reviewing rabbit hole. More about how this set of features works can be found on DEVONtechnologies’ write up.