Blog Post

Faceoff: DEVONthink Pro Office vs. Evernote Premium

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 messages and more.
  • Import of web archives via bookmarklets (both).
  • Mac extensions: DTPro Office Sorter & Evernote’s Clipper.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

36 Responses to “Faceoff: DEVONthink Pro Office vs. Evernote Premium”

    • I agree totally with Brian. If you’re storing lots of research paper PDFs, Papers is wonderful. I have about 1800 papers in Papers and it’s easy to search and to add more papers by doing searches in IEEE, etc.

      A KEY issue in all of this is, what happens if the program breaks semi-permanently for you, or the company goes belly-up or decides to charge $1,000 per year. Papers stores the PDFs in a Mac file hierarchy and puts the metadata into a database (perhaps sqlite3?). If Papers permanently broke tomorrow, I’d still have all of my 1800 papers and still be able to search via Spotlight and carry on.

      Similarly, Yojimbo puts everything in an sqlite3 database, so a little Terminal work could rescue everything if Bare Bones or Yojimbo suddenly became untenable. What about Evernote?

      I wouldn’t trust hours and hours and hours of work to something that I could not work around in the worst case.

  1. I just LOVE Evernote and use it happily and heavily since one year. It was the program to guide my change from PC to Mac: since I’m in research, I used OneNote daily and Evernote was the perfect tool for migrating this data. Even today, for meetings, phone calls, etc.: Evernote is the application of choice.

    – I hardly use the iPhone app, since the iPhone itself has great note taking features. This is mainly since I hate waiting for the Evernote app – it’s too slow in initializing
    – I don’t want my Data any longer on other people’s servers. It just feels wrong.
    – After three years, you start paying more for Evernote than you do for DTP.
    – Sorting in Evernote is pain in the ass. It’s not good for long-term data storage.
    -The more data you have in Evernote, the slower the search is – even if your processor screams as mine does.

    So I decided for changing to DTP. It feels better to have power on your data and the AI is a dream for researchers.

    – The sorter is quite nerving, but that’s forgetable if you’re ignorant like me
    – The sorter is blocking my workflow. It’s too slow and not responsive enough
    – The user interface is a nightmare, but managable.
    – The note taking feature is minor to the html-Evernote version. I’m missing the check-boxes, lines, bullet points, etc.
    -The OCR seems to me worse than Evernote’s – especially what pictures are concerned

    – Switching over to DevonThink, but keeping Evernote
    – Changing from Evernote premium to Evernote standard
    – Using Evernote only for harmless stuff and export every note taken there into DTP soon.
    -Using DTP for my paperless office and (research) work
    -Disabling Evernote’s clipper and browser button
    -Using the Sorter – even if it sucks.
    -As it is said here: Evernote is the short term memory, DTP the long term one.

    >>> Writing this and hoping that the DTP gurus are reading, taking care of it and making their genius app even more killer than it’s now:
    – a faster and better looking sorter
    – a native iPhone app or, better: using iPhone apps like Camera, notes, etc. themselves since they tend to be fastest
    – a web-interface that rocks and which is fully customizable (especially what’s the data choice about) – or, alternatively: a better and faster local web server with better security parameters.
    – a much cleaner interface which looks more Mac native
    – MOST IMPORTANT: a better and html empowered note taking feature which can be used in hard daily work.

  2. I experiment with DTP for scholarly purposes. The idea is to us as a database of all ideas, quotations, references, links to papers, websites etc. The search possibilities are the major advantage for me.
    What I miss in the program are
    1. better writing capabilities (outlines, notes)
    2. dates. DTP automatically enters creation and modification date, but it seems impossible to add a columns with “day due”.

    I looked at Circus-Ponies notebook. It seems very much suited for scholarly purposes. However, I am put off by the paper notebook metaphor, and I am not sure you can link files other than PDFs.
    Any ideas and suggestions?
    Thanks, Gideon

  3. I use DTPO. It’s much more flexible than Evernote for task such as document imaging/archiving. I believe DTPO to be similar to Evernote on the surface but a different beast altogether one one learns of it’s abilities.

    I read above that support by Devon Technologies was terrible. Apparently milage varies. I cannot say how happy I have been with their attentiveness to me about my scanning issues.

  4. Devonthink is not as elegant, but I have become more and more favorable to it. One of its biggest pluses is that it is much easier to get your data out of. Evernote is such a hybrid and the export functions are almost useless. I just wish Devonthink had plugins for firefox and safari, rather than relying on scripts!

    • ScottNYC

      there are bookmarks in the extras folder thats located in the install DMG that perform various tasks such as archive, bookmark, HTML, PDF, Selection, Text, and clip to devonthink.

  5. ScottNYC

    I just switched from evernote to devonthink. For one because I dont trust my personal documents in evernote. I have a premiere account that utilizes the encryption but still. Also I have way more info then evernote can handle. I like the nested folders in devonthink, and its ability to handle large quantities of information. And now that ive been using it, I see that devonthink has way more features then evernote. The most common reason why people say that dont use devonthink is because its overkill, but for me, its just right.

    • I second this. Evernote was perfect till I hit the 2500 notes mark (some of them are jumbo PDFs). Now it got too slow. Till I worked on Windows, the Evernote was the only option. Recently I have switched to Mac and I am ready to go with DT. I may still keep EN Premium for daily errands, but hope to shift research to DT.

  6. I use both. I have been using DEVONthink Pro for many years, and I have recently added Evernote to my toolbox. Evernote is my short-term memory, whereas DEVONthink is my long-term memory. Evernote is for reminders, to-do lists, etc., which I can consult from any computer and through my phone. After a week or so, most notes in Evernote get either deleted or moved to DEVONthink.

    • I have to agree with Konrad – these apps right now are complimentary, and should not be directly compared.

      I get away with using Evernote on its free service, jotting things when on the run, or clipping things I might need in the next few days. The syncing is great, as are the simple capture tools for voice and pictures of notes.

      However, DTPro is an industrial strength app with very powerful features. I have two 1Gb databases with research and personal scans in them, and have no problems.

      Don’t know what issues the above poster was having with the betas of 2.0. While it has been a drawn-out process, it is also optional — you can still use the previous version. I have had zero problems with the 2.0 beta, and I love the new features.

      If Devonthink really comes out with an iPhone app, and learns how to sync between machines, Evernote is history on my machine.

      Love them both.

  7. The support at Devon is TERRIBLE! The current version is always in Beta and has to renew itself every so often – even though you pay full price. When the update happens, it is 50/50 as to it working problem free. The tech support you get after this is pathetic.

    I would opt for something different that the Devon with what I know now! I am going to try the alternate metioned here or even document wallet!

    Too bad, Devon looked and worked nice (when it worked!)

  8. Great post and love the comments. I recently subscribed to Evernote premium and do like the info everywhere. I’m starting a graduate program and hoping to get all of my books in PDF or at least scan them into PDFs. (I’ve already scanned half of my first text.) I want to read the book on my MBP, occasionally on my MP, and take notes directly in the file. Trying Skim and PDFPen which both work fairly well for this. PDFPen is a little better for highlighting due to OCR. Now I’ve bumped into DevonThink. I’m also starting a project to make my home office paperless. I’ve already tossed every user manual I’ve been able to download as a PDF and I’m getting ready to start scanning receipts and files. Could DevonThink be the app that handles all of this for me? Web clips, PDF management, paperless office?

  9. T. Joseph Carter

    @Hugo, I disable the DTPro sorter entirely. What I do instead is go to Preferences -> Import and change Destination -> Select Group. By doing this, any item that DTPro imports brings up a little palette for selecting where it goes. I have set scanning not to automatically run OCR. It comes up when printing to PDF in DTPro as well. The only time the palette doesn’t come up is when you save to DTPro’s inbox. That could be expanded and perhaps will by the time we’re out of beta.

  10. #15 Jay says:
    Will someone please tell me why Mac OS with Spotlight and a logical filing (folder) system can’t do everything that these “digital organizers” do?

    Essentially, Spotlight will not find text within my documents, or even the documents that I’m looking for. I have a vast library (ever-growing) of research, literary work, projects, etc, which I need to reference regularly. While I kept a logical filing (folder) system, I still would draw a blank as to where a certain file was located. With DEVONthink, using its separate search window, I can enter terms, fine-tune search criteria, and even narrow the search down to certain databases and file structures within that database. The results are simply amazing, something Spotlight cannot do.

    Moreover, as I run a paperless office, I can easily import files as searchable PDF files via OCR. While I did this with Acrobat and my old filing system, I could not search the content of the files as I can with DEVONthink. With regard to my multiple projects, I can group items together, including email correspondence, into one repository for easy access. Again, in my old file structure system, this was much less efficient.

    DEVONthink Office Pro is just what the title suggests. If you are a casual user, it’s probably too much program for your needs. But for paperless offices, with a quantity of files, this has proven to be the most efficient means of organizing and accessing my work. As a bonus, compared to other systems I’ve looked at, DEVONthink keeps the original file structure intact so that you can export it and retain its original integrity.

    For my needs and workflow this program is proving to be most necessary, with a great support team. I’m anxious for the Beta period to end with a final polished release. It’s all good!

    • Julie K

      It can! Paperless office consist of Macs, Fujitsu ScanSnap Scan to PDF, OCR with Acrobat 9 Pro for Mac, and Spotlight for index and searching. I can find anything in seconds. We still file in folders and subfolders, but OCR and Spotlight on the Mac Os X works perfectly for us. I use Evernote for archive interesting reference items, but nothing important. Doesn’t Devonthink use a proprietary database? I just keep it simple with OCRed PDFs and Spotlight.

    • J. Scott Anderson

      I have to second Julie K. It sounds to me as though you don’t have a good handle on how to use Spotlight. That said, my response is to a very old post from you. So, you may have updated your knowledge of Spotlight since then.

      Either way, Spotlight is a huge tool for organization and finding stuff.

      With that said, DtOP has the intelligent assistant advantage and Evernote has the cloud storage advantage/disadvantage.

  11. Will someone please tell me why Mac OS with Spotlight and a logical filing (folder) system can’t do everything that these “digital organizers” do?

  12. I have tried using Devon products several times and I just can’t get into them.

    At present I am using Evernote and am getting more fond of it day by day,

    The free version is limited in what type of applications you can drop into it. But screenshots and PDFs work fine. For other types I just paste it into a new note field.

    When you set up a new notebook you have the option to make it a local only copy, basically it wont sync up to Evernote’s servers. This should satisfy users who are concerned about data security.

    All in all for a free app its fantastic, definitely well worth considering.

  13. The problem with ShoveBox is that it lives on a SINGLE computer, with no way to sync with other computers like these other apps can.

    I’m wondering where YoJimbo with WebJimbo falls in with these two apps.

  14. Evernote’s iPhone app is the big attraction for me–being able to read, write, edit and search notes (and grab images and audio in the same system) on the device, and have them synced back to my desktop automatically is supremely useful. Although I’d like better encryption features than even the paid version, for now I’m not worried about my grocery lists and notes about camcorders falling into the wrong hands. I don’t get why I’d want to import entire files – they are already searchable just fine in Spotlight on Leopard. Well, making certain files available on the device could be handy, but I haven’t really missed them–maybe because I’m using IMAP email.

    It was great to see Evernote in comparison, to better see its strengths and weaknesses.

    Why does Salon’s comments for this article say “The letters thread is now closed” and only show one comment? I’d prefer to comment there in context of my Salon identity.

  15. 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.

  16. @ 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.

  17. “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.

  18. 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.

  19. michaelnau

    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.

  20. 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.

  21. @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.

  22. 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?