DEVONthink Pro and Pro Office are powerful, flexible freeform database management applications. You can use these apps to do anything you use a freeform database for — from desk research to the atcual structuring and writing of a book. While DEVONthink Pro and Pro Office need a computer, DEVONtechnologies actually developed a complete eco-system with DEVONthink to Go 2 as the iOS app that synchronises with your computer-based DEVONthink Pro databases. While DEVONthink to Go 2 is a richly featured app itself, it really shines when used in sync with the Pro version on the Mac.
DEVONtechnologies encountered a serious problem when they developed DEVONthink to Go 2. An iOS device usually has limited storage on board, so how do you manage large databases with often big chunks of content that users want to have access to instantly? The answer is a clever on demand system that uses Bonjour and/or a cloud service like box.com to synchronise databases between DEVONthink to Go 2 and DEVONthink on the Mac. The on demand sync feature, although an in-app purchase, is recommended.
When you’ve set up the sync system on the iOS device correctly, you’ll see your databases appear in the list on the cloud server. When the databases are synchronised and you select to sync on demand, the app will show you an empty database with pointers to and metadata of the content residing on the cloud server. You can sync file-by-file by clicking on the download link.
I used box.com as my cloud service, but I could also have used my local Bonjour network, a WebDAV or Dropbox account, or CloudMe server. As soon as you need a file, you can just click the Download button and DEVONthink to Go 2 will fetch it for you immediately. I found this to be a great way to work with database content, because with box.com at least, it works instantly.
The whole process, including the databases themselves, can also be encrypted using AES-256. If your content is even remotely sensitive, encryption prevents hackers from spying on you. The only drawback is that you must not forget the password, like I did with my first test database.
Automatic synchronisation depends on you filling in the exact same details of the “sync store” — the name given to the folder on the cloud server where the database resides — on both DEVONthink to Go 2 and DEVONthink Pro on the Mac. If you think synchronisation isn’t happening quickly enough after you’ve edited a file, you can always click the cloud icon in DEVONthink to Go 2. The app will then force a synchronisation. This worked well with box.com, especially when I made the iPad sleep immediately after editing a file.
DEVONthink to Go 2 has a well designed interface. It’s clean and clutter-free. Its icons, buttons and settings are kept at a minimum, without sacrificing functionality. For example, you can create and edit files in DEVONthink to Go 2 just as in its Mac counterpart. You also have the ability to scan documents for storage in the database, but not in the way you’re used to from the Mac. On my iPad, I could scan a document with Scanbot and then use the DEVONthink extension to dump the scan in the app.
After scanning, I could annotate the resulting PDF in DEVONthink to Go 2 with my Premium in-app purchase that also gave me on-demand sync and support for email messages and other document types.
Editing a RTF file in DEVONthink to Go 2 is just as straightforward as on the Mac. It’s only different in that it uses iOS’s text selection and editing approach. After editing a file, you can synchronise it with the Mac version. This doesn’t necessarily happen automatically, as I’ve explained earlier, but even after a forced sync — and with box.com, which I tested it with — it doesn’t take longer than a few seconds before things are perfectly identical on both devices.
DEVONthink to Go 2 on its own is a well-designed freeform database, but it really comes into its own when you use it as the mobile “hub” of a DEVONthink Pro system. If you use it in such a configuration, it becomes a powerful research and authoring tool, with features like concordance and fuzzy search — features which the DEVONthink to Go 2 version lacks for obvious reasons.
DEVONthink to Go 2 is available directly from the App Store.