Discovery of the week: DEVONnote

by Giles Turnbull

Anyone who has read some of my previous scribblings may remember that I have something of an interest in text editing software. If anything, that's an understatement. I'm fascinated by tools for writers, as well as the whole process of finding and using different tools for different writing tasks.

Earlier this week, simply because it was something that had got buried in a darkened part of my todo.txt file some time ago, I got round to installing and trying out the writing and organizing tool DEVONnote, and found myself surprised and impressed by what I saw.

Why? Because, like the TAO outliner I mentioned back in October last year, it turns out to be a very impressive environment for writing in.

DEVONnote browser and editor
Here's DEVONnote at work, with the file browser to the left and an open text file in the workspace

There are several features that give it the edge.

  1. A live word, paragraph and character count above every text document, always in sight and always up-to-date. It's invaluable.
    word count in DEVONnote

  2. It works like an outliner, so if your list of things to do equates to a list of things to write, you can get yourself organized very quickly by creating a series of nested folders.

  3. It's fast. One of the most disappointing things about any editor or word processor is when, after using it for a few hours, you discover that it can't keep up with normal typing speed; you notice the software is a few characters, or in worst cases, words behind you. DEVONnote does not suffer this problem at all.

  4. It's clever. Although I don't anticipate using them much, DEVONnote's searching and collating features are amazing. I imported four years' worth of articles relating to a regular internet column I write for the Press Association. DEVONnote sucked them all in within seconds, and instantly offered me the chance to search through them as a group. I was able to find out, quickly and easily, how many times I've written about Firefox, for example. And yes, I know I could do this with plain text files and grep, but then I'd have to think. DEVONnote takes the thinking bit away from me and lets me concentrate on the writing.

I like the way DEVONnote lets me use standard plain text files (you can use rtf files if you like), so in the event that I should decide to stop using the app, I can move everything out of it and into another editor with ease.

What I came to realize, while lying in bed turning these thoughts over in my head, was that DEVONnote is very nearly the BBoutliner I talked about before. You can, if you wish, ignore all the search-based extras and use it as a plain text outliner; and since it's a fast and capable editor, you won't feel like you're abandoning the blissful simplicity of a Proper Editor.

I say "very nearly" because of course, DEVONnote isn't quite everything I need. One of my main requirements is to write articles in HTML, and frankly nothing touches BBEdit or TextWrangler on that score.

But I am tempted to put DEVONnote to work as a drafting environment; an app I can use just to churn out words (in the right amounts, thanks to the live word count) before pasting them into BBEdit for final conversion to HTML, or (in the case of my personal site, saving directly to a server via SFTP.

If I do that, will I miss the simplicity of my trusty plain text file in which I currently do (almost) everything? (Current size of said file: 1532 lines.) The only way to find out is to try it.

Have you tried DEVONnote or its big brother, DEVONthink? What do you, um, devonthink of them?


2005-02-21 15:43:01
Haven't tried DevonNOTE but love DevonTHINK. It's amazing. And then, there's DevonAGENT also...give it a whirl.
2005-02-21 19:16:21
agree with previous post - for a scientist devonthink is a must, for a reporting/webbing crowd - devonnote and agent are quite helpful as well