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Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2

Product Review

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Book Title: Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2
Author: Joe Kissell
Company: Take Control Books
Contact: http://www.takecontrolbooks.com/devonthink-2
Price: $10
Pros: Introduces a powerful partnership between a great learning system (Take Control ebooks) and a powerful information manager (DEVONthink 2). This is the best $10 investment you can make to learn DEVONthink!
Cons: The complex document layout can make it difficult for Apple’s text-to-speech engine to read it aloud.

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Product Rating: 5/5 A Must Have!

by Michael Baranowski, Alaskan Apple Users Group Member

Conflict of interest disclosure: vendor provided a free copy of this item to me for the purposes of the review.

When I saw Take Control had a new ebook on DEVONthink 2 and it was by Joe Kissell I jumped on it! DEVONthink is such a multipurpose power tool that having a great guide would start you off with a strong foundation. That is why Take Control was the right choice. Take Control books always comes to me when I need one of two things; I need to understand how to do something in an application well or when deep knowledge early will save me time in the long run. This software package is such a power tool, going slow in the beginning is going fast and Take Control would be the best guide for the journey. This book covers all three of the latest versions of DEVONthink (Personal, Professional, and Pro Office). Take Control even includes a link to a 10 minute screencast, this was a perfect start to the ebook. It grounded me in the interface and showed me both power and complexity of creating and maintaing a DEVONthink database. I normally do not see Take Control creating screencasts but this was a great add on to the educational process. I do not see a screencast at DEVONacademy (were DEVONtechnologies puts its training material) on this latest version of DEVONthink. I also found this Take Control book for sale (at the same price $10) at the DEVONacademy site. At the DEVONacademy site DEVONtechnologies writes this about the Take Control ebook: “Mastering all that power can take effort, and Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2 — created in partnership with DEVONtechnologies — has the calm, thorough, and real-world advice you need to understand how DEVONthink can bring order to your information life. Joe’s suggestions aren’t just theoretical — he has relied on DEVONthink and a ScanSnap scanner to eliminate paper records from his life.” So DEVONtechnologies and Take Control books are in partnership to teach and support the application. I think this is a great partnership! Remember my first thoughts on this review were how I jumped on it because I saw a powerful application and a great teaching system together, now I see they already have a partnership to leverage their strengths! I am ready for the Take Control of DEVONagent ebook next.

What is DEVONthink? DEVONthink is a new category of tool in the information age called Computer Aided Research. DEVONthink is an outstanding multipurpose tool that can substitute for many other tools. As the author, Joe Kissell, points out DEVONthink can; be a database like FileMaker, a note taker like NoteBook, a snippet keeper like Evernote, a web and RSS reader like Safari, even a file system like Finder (create and organize files in a hierarchical folder structure). DEVONthink is all of these and quite a bit more. It lets you easily create, store, organize, find, and retrieve almost any kind of data. To find out more about the DEVONthink application you can read Ron Schoedel’s review at https://akappleug.org/2010/03/devonthink-pro-office-2/. Joe starts the reader off with some “cool things DEVONthink users do with the application” like writing books, performing research, managing medical practice, developing software, practicing law, maintaining a paperless office, and studying large bodies of text! Now I think you can see why a great guide early can catapult you into productivity! You could have spent the next month figuring these things out or you could have had Joe tell you in the first 2 minutes and you can spend next month capturing and mining your data!

After covering essential DEVONthink vocabulary and concepts, Joe helps you start using DEVONthink effectively. Only a quarter of the way into the book and I pulled this Take Control manual into DEVONthink as a fully searchable part of my DEVONthink database and it is now my augmented help file. This $10 investment in Take Control gave me a more useful help file, which I refer to as JOEthink. This is the power of DEVONthink melded with the Take Controls learning methodology – I get an ever-present agent. Much more then a help file showing the mechanics it is an advisor offering knowledge and advice not just technical facts. This is the tip of Computer Aided Research. After Joe walks me thru more it will most likely become my repository of all my Take Control books and be my TakeControlAgent! I wish Joe would write an ebook on How to use DEVONthink to Take Control of my Take Control ebooks (knowing the great work of Adam/Tonya/Joe at TidBits, I am sure they already have it in their schedule)!

This Take Control ebook and the screencast quickly familiarize you with the interface, educate you on the important terminology used in DEVONthink and get you into creating and using your own DEVONthink database. Joe makes sure you know the design decisions you are making and the power and/or restrictions of those choices on your data. Take Control then goes on to perfect your information workflow by showing how you can quickly input (imported to externally referenced, from “drag and drop” or hundreds of files at a time) your documents (scanned with OCR email, or clipped from web, etc). Once indexed you can organize your collection with a combination of grouping and/or tagging. Now those documents are ready for a multitude of simple to sophisticated searching and analysis tools. Then Take Control gets us into creating and editing documents within DEVONthink. With the collection processed you can provide scaled down access to the results on a network as well as add to the collection from a standard web browser (even optimized for an iPhone/iPod Touch). Take Control goes on a tour of keeping the data base healthy, backing up, restored and rebuilt. Finally you may wonder what more could DEVONthink do? Given the long list of Automator and Apple Script extensibility it is only limited by your imagination.

I especially enjoy the sections like “Joe’s Recommendations”. They really provide a way to focus in the way I would choose one solution over another!This Take Control ebook is loaded with helpful hints. An example of a typical helpful hint would be; currently it is not recommended to use the Encrypted Database option as if it were Key Chain or 1password because it is weak protection at best. DEVONthink doesn’t encrypt your data, and it can still be accessed in the Finder, so password protection won’t stop a knowledgeable or committed intruder. Then Take Control goes on to explain how I could do that with tools I already have. That is the differentiated value proposition I have come to expect from Take Control that I would not expect from the vendor!

Take Control does a great job using the applications icons in line with the text so you have a visual cue while reading. I really like that except when I have Apples Text-to-Speech read it. When I swipe over a paragraph and have Alex read it, sometimes the remainder of that line (after the graphical icon) will be missing. I am sure I am odd this way but I have the book read to me while I am in and using the application. For me this combined auditory/kinesthetic learning method is the most effective. The visual graphic icon disrupts the text selection from feeding it to the speech engine. This is a minor issue and you will never notice this issue if you visually read the text on line or in hard copy and you will appreciate the applications icon in the text.

As a knowledge worker, Take Control provides you an on-ramp into the Information age with what I believe to be the partnerships of the future. Take Control has always helped the person who wanted to do something in an application find out how to do it, but I have always valued the part of Take Control that quickly teaches you how to deeply understand all the features of an application. To me this book heralds a third facet of Take Control. Partnering with the application developer they can deliver their learning system in a more timely way then the vendor can get it out to the user. As vendors bring Take Control in earlier we will get great training material on the launch of great applications – not as we currently see it dribble out over several months from launch. The people of Take Control have been at this for a long time and I will support them however I can in this mission!

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