DEVONthink Pro Office Basics

Even though I have used DEVONthink Pro Office for years, I feel like I haven’t really used it beyond its most basic features. Now that I am done with my dissertation (the only thing I used DEVONthink for), I have been starting to explore some of the basic things DEVONthink does that I didn’t previously know about.

RSS Feeds


With the demise of Google Reader, I, like many people, have started looking for different ways to manage the RSS feeds I follow.  I am not sure if I will use DEVONthink for this in the long term (I also imported my feeds into Feedly), but it was an easy process.  Find out how to import your RSS feeds into Devonthink Pro Office on the DEVONthink Blog.

According the discussion about RSS feeds in DEVONthink Pro Office on the DEVONthink blog, it seems like DEVONthink’s handling of feeds might leave a little to be desired.  For example, there doesn’t appear to be a great way to view your feeds on a mobile device.  Also, if you like an RSS reader with a lot of features, putting your feeds into DEVONthink might not appeal to you — it shows the information in the feed and that is it.  You can sort things like you would anything in DEVONthink, but it isn’t an exact replacement for Google Reader.

I think that for the time being, I am going to not have my feeds delivered into DEVONthink directly, but rather, use its Web clipping feature to clip posts from Feedly.

Web Clipping


Shortly after I handed in my dissertation, I thought it was time to try another way to organize my research and other documents.  I gave Evernote a try, but I found that I liked the options that DEVONthink Pro Office included.  I enjoyed the Web clipping features of Evernote a lot,  so I looked to see if DEVONthink Pro Office included something like that.  It does!  You can install browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox which will save a version (you can select from options like .PDF or Web archive) of the pages you want to clip.

Once you get your clippings into DEVONthink, then the information is yours and you can use all of the features you like to organize it.

Smart Groups and Multiple Databases

DEVONthink Pro’s smart group feature was great for organizing my dissertation research. Smart Groups made it easy to shuffle sources arounds to help see what I needed to when drafting chapters. However, now that I have my Ph.D., and I am not in any rush to see dissertation-related research, I realized that I should have set up the smart groups a little differently.

The Smart Groups I didn't want are on the left.  When they are contained within the database, they are located on the right.

The smart groups I didn’t want are on the left. When they are contained within the database, they are located on the right.

DEVONthink Pro Office allows you to have multiple databases. But, when I went to create a new database for non-dissertation things, I found that I was still looking at my dissertation-related smart groups. What seemed to have happened was that when I originally created my dissertation smart groups, I’d inadvertantly created them as “global” smart groups.  This means that they can search all my databases, not just my dissertation database. This might work for some users, but I do not want to be passively reminded of my dissertation all the time.  So I changed these to local smart groups — or smart groups contained within my “dissertation” database.  When I close the database, these smart groups no longer appear.

Still a Useful Application

All in all, DEVONthink Pro Office was an excellent application for organizing my dissertation research, and it has surprised me in its flexibility in collecting and organizing stuff for other kinds of projects.  The more I investigate it for other projects, the more things I discover that it can do.  So, I’ll continue to use it even though my dissertation is finished.

About Evan Cordulack

Evan Cordulack is a Web Applications Specialist for Academic Technology. He helps faculty members with Web-based projects related to their research and teaching. He earned his PhD in American Studies at William & Mary in 2013. Find him at