DEVONthink Professional Office 2.0 Beta Review

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DEVONtechnologies this week released the second public betas of their new DEVONthink and DEVONnote information manager applications, and I downloaded Professional Office Version 2 to take a looksee. Already one a powerful productivity tool for OS X, this major update adds even more convenience, functionality and versatility to DEVONthink Pro Office.

To recap a bit, DEVONtechnologies insists that DEVONthink is not a “database,” and of course it’s much more than a database program, although it serves as one quite well, but the real genius of DEVONthink is that it does so many other useful things extremely well. The 1.x versions of DEVONthink Professional Office added email archiving, OCR, scanning, and Web sharing to the base DEVONthink feature set, which includes ability to open both Microsoft Word documents and PDF documents with formatting intact as editable text.

New features in DEVONthink Pro Office 2.0 include splitting and merging PDFs and the ability to copy and paste PDF pages from one document to another. RSS feeds are sped up using multi-threading and have a new, customizable RSS preferences panel. Also, any document can be emailed directly from within DEVONthink Pro Office. We’ll take a detailed look at some of the new features below.

Supports MS Office, PDF And Now iWork Files

DEVONthink 2.0, in addition to Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and PDF, also can now import and display OpenOffice and iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) files, skim PDF packages and any other file formats that support or are supported by Mac OS X 10.5 QuickLook.

Before the Version 2 beta could access my DEVONthink databases, they had to be converted to the new DEVONthink 2 format, a process that went quickly and happily leaves the existing Version 1.x files undisturbed. The downside, I presume, being that any revisions you make with the Version 2 beta database will not be backward compatible with the older final version of the application.

New User Interface Appearance

I really like DEVONthink’s new user interface appearance, which has been refreshed and feature-enhanced without changing its familiar core functionality.

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QuickLook Support

DEVONthink Pro Office taps into Spotlight importers and plugins for indexing and searching files, and also happily now supports QuickLook previews in its web interface. Support for PDF display in browsers other than Safari has been added, with the Sorter (see below) now able to create web archives from OmniWeb and Firefox and name documents more reliably. Email archiving has been sped up and converting databases and exporting files made more reliable, although I hadn’t experienced any problems in that department with Version 1.x.

The “Sorter”

Perhaps my favorite new feature is the ‘Sorter’ panel that lets you add data to your databases even when DEVONthink Pro is not open. A Global inbox replaces the erstwhile import destinations chaos and you can link any DEVONthink database group to be accessible via a pop-out tab in the OS X Finder.

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If the database connected to a Sorter box is not open at the moment, the Sorter stores your data until the database becomes available (e.g. when you open it in DEVONthink) and flushes the box content automatically. You can manually dispatch data still stored in the Sorter to DEVONthink by clicking the Sorter’s action menu button (in the lower right or left corner) and choosing ‘Send to DEVONthink.’

New Speedier Database Engine Uses Less Memory

DEVONthink 2.0’s new database engine is speedier and less of a memory hog than the old one, and multiple databases can be open simultaneously. DEVONthink now stores all files in their original file formats (big improvement) so they no longer need to be converted when importing and can be edited using external applications. All documents can be accessed from outside DEVONthink using a standard URL.

A New OCR Engine Based On ABBYY FineReader

Networking will be included in the final release, and is faster, more accurate, and produces much smaller PDFs than the engines used in previous releases.

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My only major criticism of DEVONthink is that it has been and continues to be not terribly intuitive to use and requires a fairly steep learning curve, but that is partly due to this application’s remarkably deep feature set. Once you get it figured out, it works really well.

The public beta releases of DEVONthink Pro and Pro Office 2.0, DEVONthink Personal 2.0, and DEVONnote 2.0 require Mac OS X 10.5 or later, and will expire on March 31, 2009. DEVONthink Professional Office sells for $149.95, DEVONthink Professional for $79.95, DEVONthink Personal for $49.95, and DEVONnote for $24.95. You can download the beta versions here.

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