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Summary:

Organizing information is hard work. There are many applications available to help manage your information. Rather than iterate through each one, let’s talk about two products that hold the key to information management: DEVONthink Pro Office (DTPro), which we reviewed yesterday, and Evernote Premium Edition. Both […]

Organizing information is hard work. There are many applications available to help manage your information. Rather than iterate through each one, let’s talk about two products that hold the key to information management: DEVONthink Pro Office (DTPro), which we reviewed yesterday, and Evernote Premium Edition.

DEVONthink vs. Evernote

Both of these apps have some functional overlap and some unique differences. Here are the categories for comparison:

  • Capturing data
  • Managing data
  • Sharing data
  • Unique features
  • iPhone Application

Capturing Data

There are many ways to capture data in these applications.

  • Drag-and-drop files in the application’s main window (both).
  • Import from a variety of other applications (DTPro: Import menu + AppleScripts).
  • Native support for many file formats. Evernote Premium account is required to support files other than PDF. DTPro supports native iWork files, Mail.app/Entourage mail messages and more.
  • Import of web archives via bookmarklets (both).
  • Mac extensions: DTPro Office Sorter & Evernote’s Clipper.

Sorter

DEVONthink Pro Office Sorter

Using the Sorter (which extends from the left or right side of your desktop), you can drag-and-drop items (documents, pictures, etc.) and they are automatically redirected to DTPro.

Clipper

Evernote’s Clipper

Using the Clipper (available via the menu bar), you can either select text and go to the menu or press command keys to send the information to Evernote.

Managing Data

DEVONthink Pro Office Main Window

DEVONthink Pro Office Main Window

The DTPro main window utilizes a folder metaphor, similar to the Mac OS Finder. There are many ways to view and work with the data. Further, you can quickly create new files (Rich Text, Text and more) directly from the application.

What really makes DTPro valuable is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine. Rather than manually tagging content, DTPro uses its engine to create relevant links between content.

Lastly, DTPro includes an OCR engine that converts images and PDFs into editable files so that you can search for text within each item.

Evernote Main Window

Evernote Main Window

Evernote Premium takes a different approach to managing data. The primary mechanism for organizing information is via user defined tags. You can also create different notebooks for different purposes (for example, PDFs or Office files).

Evernote allows you to quickly add new notes (via RTF) as well as take photo notes via your iSight camera. And, like DTPro, the app uses an OCR engine that converts images and PDFs into editable files. Just note that this OCR conversion is done via the Evernote Web service, not natively in the Evernote application.

Sharing Data

Both products enable you to share your data. With Evernote, you can specify which of your Notebooks you want to Publish to the web. You can then share the URL. Note, unless you use Evernote Premium, all of your data is sent insecurely to Evernote’s servers.

DTPro has the ability to publish its database to a local web server, of which you can either password protect or make public by sharing the IP address and directory.

iPhone Application

Both products have the capability of viewing your information via an iPhone application. For now, Evernote performs better due to its native iPhone app.

Currently, you can access your DTPro content via a web interface on the iPhone. When I spoke with the Devon Technologies CEO, he explained that a native iPhone app is on the roadmap.

DEVONthink Pro Office iPhone web app

DEVONthink Pro Office iPhone web app – Main interface

In order to use the DTPro iPhone web app, you first must set up the web server within DTPro. Next, you use the web app to search and view items (no edit).

Evernote iPhone app

Evernote iPhone app

With the native Evernote iPhone app, you can capture photos and voice notes, create text notes and view your captured data (including documents). The interface is pretty seamless and other than network lag, performs pretty well.

Unique Features

What makes Evernote Premium unique is its ubiquitous access. You can get to your data via a variety of apps (desktop, iPhone, web). What makes DTPro unique is its artificial intelligence and rich auto-categorization of your information.

Support

Both products have excellent support, including online video tutorials, help systems, blogs, and more. Devon-technologies also has a very active end-user support forum.

Conclusion

Ultimately, either app will serve you well. However, there are some issues with each.

With Evernote, you have to ask these questions:

  1. Do you want your data on your computer or someone else’s?
  2. Do you mind tagging all of your files and defining your own criteria for organization?
  3. Do you mind that some captured data is not true WYSIWYG (some files do not maintain formatting)?
  4. Are you prepared to have limitations on viewing large files (PDFs greater than 35 pages) in any of the apps?
  5. Do you mind having to export each file one-by-one, as Evernote does not have a standard export mechanism for your files?

With DTPro, you have to ask these questions:

  1. Do you want to spend $149 (retail) or $45/year (Evernote Premium account)?
  2. Do you mind playing with beta software? 2.0 of DTPro is in beta and won’t ship until the first half of this year.
  3. Do you want to spend the time learning DTPro’s UI? It isn’t challenging, although there is much more to learn than Evernote.
  4. Do you mind running a local web server to view your data via remote access?

What other choices do you have?

Each of these apps are excellent and are moderately priced. None of the three apps mentioned above have direct OCR capabilities or an iPhone app. Further, only Yojimbo has the ability to view its data remotely or via the iPhone by utilizing another application, Webjimbo ($30) from Flying Mac software.

Conclusion

I decided to part ways with Evernote and move forward with DEVONthink Pro Office, because I wanted more control of my data and the artificial intelligence features were very attractive to me.

What about you? Which tool (if any) do you use for information management? Or, do you use file system and avoid apps like these altogether?

  1. I’ve tried both and I’ve decided to stick with Evernote for the reasons you mentioned (price, ease of use, etc). I do wish, however, that there was a small note-taking application that I could setup via a hotkey that would add notes directly into my Evernote notebook.

    Any ideas?

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  2. @Schell – how comfortable are you writing an Automator script? That might work. If you also use a Macro tool like QuicKeys X3 (or something similar), you might be able to use that to automate TextEdit or another simple notetaking app to move content into Evernote.

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  3. I use Evernote, and am now evaluating Devonthink. Evernote has a place in my workflow, l like the ability to create notes on my iPod Touch (PDA), but I don’t want all my data on their server.

    What I’m liking so far about Devonthink is the ease of importing files and organizing data. I’m anal! I have a database of professional papers, which I currently store in Receipt Wallet, either printing to PDF through a droplet direct to RW, or scanning direct with my ScanSnap. BUT, RW does not have OCR, so I’m forced to keyword, which isn’t perfect. Early evaluation shows me that Devonthink’s OCR will work wonderfully for me. Type in a few search words, and voila, I have easy to peruse results almost instantly.

    I haven’t even got into the email importing fully, but early testing shows this too will keep my files, correspondence and related items grouped together. My next look is to see how if it can play nicely with OmniFocus.

    I’m still evaluating, don’t mind Beta programs, and even at $149, thats only three years of Evernote’s premium level. I’d rather own the program and store my files.

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  4. Evernote is definitely a great web app if you want to ‘remember’ something scribbled on a white board or that wine label from yesterday’s dinner and view them on your iphone. I tried Evernote in its beta phase and felt like it couldn’t do anything that Devonthink could not, and a whole lot less at that-there really isn’t a whole lot ground for comparison. Evernote is like a fancy black notebook with an elasticized closure and an accordian folder in the back-perfect for capturing the ephemera of everyday forgetfulness. Devonthink, on the other hand, is like the deep stacks, shelves, cabinets, card catalogues, and concordances of an actual archive, gathered and ordered with intention.

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  5. I, too, checked out the Evernote Beta and there were a few things I liked about it. However, I’ve been using DTPO for a couple of years and it’s a “must-have” not only for the features listed above, but for its utilitarian value for keeping disparate and unrelated documents in a single application. With version 2, it’s now possible to have multiple databases open at once.

    Part of my life is devoted to publishing a web zine and I do 90% of my work (scanning paper articles, doing the OCR, composing actual issues, getting graphic images together, etc) using DTPO. I use DTPO to collect lots of other data as well – receipts and other tax-related stuff, other dedicated projects, inventory, so much more it’s impossible to describe. Devon has a number of sample databases and tutorials available that are themselves worth the cost of the program.

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned in either the review or the above comparison is the “widget factor.” DTPO has a widget that allows you to jot down a thought or two and it will drop that note into any of your databases in whatever folder (or group) you want. There is also the DTPO “search” widget that allows you to enter a word or phrase and search the current database. While these might not be helpful to everyone, I find them occasionally useful.

    Finally, I want to emphasize Devon’s great customer support. As noted above, there are user forums, FAQs and email problem solving. Support is extremely responsive and the help given is right on the mark. Note that this is not to say that Evernote is any different – I just never had the opportunity to conduct support business with the Evernote team.

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  6. “One thing that wasn’t mentioned in either the review or the above comparison is the “widget factor.” DTPO has a widget that allows you to jot down a thought or two and it will drop that note into any of your databases in whatever folder (or group) you want. There is also the DTPO “search” widget that allows you to enter a word or phrase and search the current database. While these might not be helpful to everyone, I find them occasionally useful.”

    I love devonthink. Other than access everywhere, evernote isn’t in the same class. That said, the devonthink widgets are pitiful. Compare it to the way even something simple like shovebox does quick notes and they look positively archaic.

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  7. @ Jake: LOL and point taken! You’re right about the widgets. I did qualify my own use with the word “occasional.” Perhaps the “sorter” function will replace the widgets but I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet.

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  8. Apple really is the crappiest operating system ever! Linux will destroy it

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    1. Ummm…. Random off topic and a waste of EVERYONE’S time….

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    2. too bad artificial intelligence couldn’t detect and filter out this idiot

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  9. I’ve been using DevonThink for a while now, and I really like its power. I do agree with michaelnau though, the two are so different.

    I recently started using Evernote Premium and I love to be able to just jot down or record a (voice)note on my iPhone whereever I am. I use it for all those things I want to remember and capture immediately. This can’t be done with DEVONthink. I use Evernote for those quick notes, clipping web content, saving RSS articles (I directly email them from Google Reader into Evernote).I really like the instant syncing between different Evernote clients.

    I use DEVONthink to create a ‘paperless office’ by scanning in all paper letters and invoices that are sent to me. I would also use it for specific research purposes, as it’s nice to have a dedicated database with the AI capabilities of DEVONthink.

    So basically Evernote is wonderful for capturing information, and DEVONthink is wonderful for working with information. I have to say I want my desktop as clean as possible, and I really don’t like the Sorter tab. A menubar item is much better imho.

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  10. [...] our own Matthew Bookspan pitted two productivity services against each other — DEVONthink Pro Office and Evernote Premium. Contrary to my preference (I’m an avid [...]

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