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DEVONthink Pro and Scrivener – Tools for Writers

Posted By Darren Rowse 25th of January 2007 Blogging Tools and Services 0 Comments

Over the last few days I’ve been playing around with a couple of writing tools for Mac OSX users that are really excellent.

While they are not blogging tools specifically they do offer writers some useful resources and for larger writing projects I think both would be invaluable (although you probably wouldn’t use both of them).


DevonthinkThe first one is DEVONthink (I’ve been testing DEVONthink Pro). I found it after a recommendation over at Lifehacker (where Gina talked about using it to write her book) and am quite staggered by it’s power. You can import all kinds of documents (including importing parts of and full websites) then organize it in all kinds of different ways for printing or exporting. In essence it’s a database of content and I can see many applications for bloggers including the writing of books (as Gina did), having a version of your website on your computer (when you’re offline) or for drafting post.

One of the most useful parts of DEVONthink Pro is it’s concordance and ability to show you potential links between your different documents. There’s still a lot more for me to discover in it – but I’m seriously considering paying for the full version once my 150 hour trial ends.

DEVONthink is great for web users too – with RSS integration (I’m yet to fully explore it) and the ability to quickly clip information into your database as you surf. It also lets you export ‘as a website’ which is pretty cool (although I’m yet to do it).


ScrivenerThe second application that I’ve been testing is Scrivener – a program that has been getting quite a bit of attention in the last few days since it’s 1.0 release. Again it’s a Mac OSX application and again I can see many applications.

I’m still exploring this (having only just downloaded it) but there are some similarities with DevonTHINK as it gives you the opportunity to import documents, edit them and organize them for exporting in different forms.

Scrivener has a nice corkboard feature for organizing your different ideas (using ‘index cards’) and I can see myself using it if I were putting together a longer series of posts as it gives you a few different ways of viewing the information you’re compiling. Full screen editing is also very nice (a way of being able to fully concentrate upon your writing with no visual distractions).

My initial reaction to Scrivener is that it’s not as powerful a tool as DEVONthink Pro (and to compare them is probably not really fair) but I’m impressed by both so far and if I were about to start writing a book or some other larger project I’d definitely look to base it around one or the other.

Unfortunately there’s no direct or easy way of getting text out of Scrivener onto a blog without copying and pasting and a bit of messing around – otherwise it could well be perfect for bloggers.


Both DEVONthink and Scrivener are great tools for brain dumping information from different sources – something I do a lot of – and I could see either being useful in a day to day way to full time bloggers looking to get themselves organized.

Particularly Scrivener’s cordboard/index cards could be useful. You could assign a corkboard to each category from your blog and then brainstorm topics – one with each index card – which could then be expanded upon with examples, illustrations and ideas over time.

Both have free trial versions. DEVONthink’s is 150 hours and Scrivener 30 days.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Im gonna give this a go. It never ceases to amaze me what new products people keep coming up with. Everyday there is something new.

  2. I’ve been testing DevonThink Pro and Devon Agent for a couple of weeks now. Although the initial trial is 150 hours, you can request a 30-day trial license. I personally think it’s worth it to ask for the extended time to really get a sense of how the software will integrate into your work flow. In addition to blogging I’m a freelance writer. The ability to gather my research, pool it in a “group” and then draft an outline is rather amazing. I especially like clipping webpages I know I’ll refer to in the future and keeping them on file. The clippings are small, usually under 300k, but the links remain live. Like you I haven’t yet explored all the power the software has to offer but I am thoroughly in love with it.

  3. I’m going to see if DEVONthink works better for me than freemind. I’m also hoping that there’s a Windows version availble too.

  4. Well, I do use something like this for blogging, something by the name of MarsEdit. That’s a multi-post system that lets you save drafts, and really explore what you want to say without that pressing need to click the “Submit” button. And since the drafts you write are saved locally, and not on your server, there’s no upload time, except when you’re publishing.

    I decided to look at DEVONthink again (I’ve got a personal license), and it’s another tool for really organizing your life. On my internet life, I have code for advertising, CSS, and legal mumbo-jumbo I use, and I keep that stuff haphazardly organized on my hard drive. Now I’m moving my production into DEVONthink, and using folders in there to store the actual code I’ve written, instead of using various sprawling text files all over creation.

    Also, might wanna look at xPad, something similar to DEVONthink, and now free.

  5. Big fan of both, Darren.

    The difference between the two is DEVONthink is an information management application, while Scrivener is writing application.

    DT does allow you to write directly into it – which I particularly like – but once a project gets sizeable (eg 3000 words; or more than one chapter), I then move to Scrivener.

    I use DT for all my writing on Apple Matters before posting it as each article is only 500 to 2000 words.

    I did try using Scrivener for a bit for my Apple Matters writing but fell back to DT because of its information managment capabilities.

    My fave feature in both apps is the same – full screen! Love it.

    Personally, I reckon DEVONthink alone is a good enough reason to switch to Mac.

    And if you are a writer, Scrivener is the best writing app out there.

    I’ve reviewed both on Apple Matters in the last 6 months

    DEVONthink: http://www.applematters.com/index.php/section/comments/devonthink-information-management-for-everyone/

    Scrivener: http://www.applematters.com/index.php/section/comments/make-writing-easier-with-scrivener/

    PS One other fave feature of DT is you can print directly *to* it. This is great when I want to save a web page or an emailed invoice. Printed files are saved in DT as PDFs.

  6. Dang, these are some good looking tools. I can smell a Mac in my future more and more every day. One way you can tell a piece of software has real “goodness” is when someone describes a feature and you have to stop your hand in mid-movement from actually smacking yourself on the forehead, thinking, “Yes! that’s what I always wanted it to do”! The DT feature to “print” collected info as .pdfs is just fantastic sounding. My current hard drive is littered with “cleverly titled” folders where I have stored away bits and pieces and occasionally thought about, but seldom actually performed the act, of printing out collected bits of data. How much nicer to keep it in one electronic ‘sack’.
    Thanks for this info, Darren, as always I learn things here and it isn’t always related strictly to blogging.

  7. Does anyone know of good, comparable Windows applications?

  8. DEVONthink is nice. I’ve been using it since its MacAppADay giveaway. Another great one is Journler which is free. It can do audio, video, text, basic blogging and so much more.

  9. I bought the Devonthink Pro bundle when I first started my newest blog, Corn Nation – http://www.cornnation.com.

    I did this for several reasons…. DevonAgent is part of a bundle with Devonthink, and can be scheduled to run Internet searches for very specific research.

    Devonthink Pro, as stated, allows you to bring everything together, and as you gather this information over time allows you to instantly find what you’ve done in the past. Writing about sports, it’s important to know the players and the stats and have them available when you need them.

    One more very important thing about DPro that hasn’t been mentioned – you can store *all* of your information in a place and easily back it up.

    I am not aware of any comparable Windows programs. The problem on Windows is that Microsoft so controls the market that there is little room for this type of innovation – people just won’t buy the software even if the market appears to be bigger. Buy a Mac. :)

  10. Jason, I searched high and low 4 years ago before I’d switched to Mac and found nothing that comes close in Windows. Things should have improved since then though.

    There are lots of apps out there for Windows though. Go to somewhere like download.com and search on “document management” or “information management”.

    Dave Starr, what’s more, DT will search those saved PDFs when you search in DT. As one who gets slack sometimes and doesn’t get around to cataloging all the things I print to DT, the search feature is fantastic.

  11. […] Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger recently reviewed two writing tools for the Mac that both sound pretty nifty: DEVONthink Pro and Scrivener. (Darren’s review is aimed at bloggers, of course, but it’s easy enough to read between the lines.) […]

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