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Creating a Personal Journal in DEVONthink

Since the recent updates to both DEVONthink and DEVONthink To Go, I’ve had a new impetus to make more and better use of both products to collect and organise information.

I’ve already got workflows in place to deal with important emails and financial documents, and those are working really well. I also have a system in place to collect the logs of my conversations in Second Life, and help separate out group and conference chats plus anything where I’m not involved (candidates for moving to the Trash.) I use Hazel to identify, tag and move files to the DEVONthink Inbox on my Mac, then once they’re in DEVONthink smart rules process them automatically and place them in the relevant databases.

My current journalling system consists of a folder in Documents (which is synched to iCloud Drive) and iA Writer, with a Hazel rule to archive old entries. Everything is in Markdown format, and that has been working for me for nearly three years now. But it occurred to me the other day that DEVONthink can work with Markdown text, as can DEVONthink To Go, so could it handle my personal journal instead?

Importing the existing data was simply a case of renaming all the files so they’d be recognised as Markdown by DEVONthink, then tagging them and dragging them in batches to the Inbox folder (which I keep in the sidebar in Finder for occasions like this.)

Once the journal entries were imported, I renamed a few older files so that they matched the naming conventions I used for later ones, then grouped them by year and month.

Creating a new journal entry is currently a manual affair. DEVONthink does have a template to create a Markdown daily journal file, but it’s too clever for my needs, as it adds a random quote and some headlines. I just want a Markdown text file with today’s date as the heading. I’ve copied the DEVONthink template to see if I can edit it to do what I want, but it involves AppleScript and that’s something I’ve yet to fully wrap my head around.

Still, it works, and I can create and add to a journal entry in either DEVONthink on the Mac or DEVONthink To Go on my iPad Mini. Synching over iCloud CloudKit isn’t instantaneous, but it’s definitely faster than the old iCloud synching that DEVONthink used to use, and on a par with the synching of iCloud Drive.

I will note at this point that DEVONthink doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of iA Writer when it comes to the writing experience. While it does have a preview mode, the default output is pretty basic, although it’s possible to customise this using CSS if you know how. There aren’t any keyboard shortcuts for Markdown formatting, either, although I could add those fairly easily using Keyboard Maestro if I wanted to save on keystrokes. (Then again, the beauty of Markdown is that the formatting isn’t that hard to memorise.)

If I really wanted to, I could open the Markdown files in iA Writer and edit them that way, and that is something I will investigate.

The big advantage of having my journal in DEVONthink is that it can generate WikiLinks for me automagically, and its searching is much more powerful compared to using Spotlight.

Overall, I’m really happy with how this has gone. I’m now reading up in order to learn more about how to harness DEVONthink’s capabilities to do more with my data. :)

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