Compare DevonThink and EagleFiler

Wow–a complete answer could easily run to book length (in fact, Take Control’s Joe Kissell has written an e-book on DevonThink Pro (DTP)).

At a high level, both products are used to store, search, sort etc. documents in a structured database format. EagleFiler (EF) is the more straight-forward, less expensive product providing powerful but limited capabilities while DTP is more expensive with greatly extended features.

I own (no rent-ware here) and use both. I use EF primarily for daily journaling and email archives (a very simple and fast feature). I use DTP for full scale (to my own needs) document/info processing, including storage of all my own records, storage/manipulation of records involving research and other database support, and as an historical archive for supporting future projects (i.e., a database of 10s of thousands of archived PDFs and RTFs of “clipped” on-line periodicals over the last 6+ years or so).

Sorry but I can’t do justice to your last two questions because of the depth of features of both programs. If you haven’t tried them, I recommend downloading the demo versions of both. Both Michael Tsai (for EF) and the Devon Technologies people have done excellent jobs for many years and I can recommend either product.

Happy to discuss further if you can narrow the focus of your questions a bit! :smiley:


Hi David - I went through this in 2020 but maybe for different reasons than you.

Here is my thread

I ended up with DT although I liked EagleFiler very much as well! I finally bought the Pro version end of 2021 but I’m not sure I have that setup right (or maybe I thought it could do something it can’t).


I would be interested in a comparison of DevonThink and EagleFiler, but perhaps more interested in a comparison between either of the two and the Finder and Notes. I read the thread that @dianed143 cited, but most of it was too foreign to my experience to be meaningful. Once upon a time, I downloaded EagleFiler, but without a specific goal, I didn’t get much from it.

Please compare briefly one or the other (that’s not an exclusive or) to Notes, which I think would suit my purposes if it allowed nested notes. Most of what I save is short synopses that I write and URLs that point to where I got the information that I summarized. For example, I have a note in Notes where I try to record information from TidBITS that I think I might want in the future, but I would like to be able to have Notes > TidBITS > macOS and Notes > TidBITS > iOS (and probably Notes > TidBITS > other). I got the impression from a comment in a TidBITS thread (that I didn’t save) that EagleFiler did not do nesting or did not do it well.

Please compare briefly one or the other to the Finder (which obviously does have nesting capability). I save PDFs only occasionally; how would a document management program be better than saving a file (text, Pages, Word, whatever) with my notes and a PDF (if any) in a folder?

Do either or both of DevonThink and EagleFiler have any problem storing information in iCloud and supporting two users on different Macs? Since I have only the no-cost storage in iCloud (5 GB), I would be disappointed the program’s storage tended to use more space than necessary. In other words, if I put add a 5 MB PDF or picture, does the storage consumed go up by 5 MB or something noticeably more?

Thanks for any insight.

I can only speak to DT at the moment since it’s been over a year that I tried them.

I am a tab-a-holic. DevonThink allows me, with a keystroke, to save a webpage. Of course, so do all the browsers, but the real plus for me is that I can do the following:
Save a simple bookmark
Save a pdf of the webpage (how many times have links completely gone away?)
Save a webarchive, which saves everything including photos (I use this for Zillow ads at times)

Once that’s done, I have the option of adding tags which makes things easy to search for. I can add notes if I want.

I do have folders and nested folders as well, which can all be accessed from that first keystroke, or I can dump things into my Inbox and move them later.

I was trying to do this in Notes and I just ended up with a mess of links and no real organization.

I don’t use it in the cloud so I can’t answer any of those other questions.


Tidbits, ftw, as usual, thanks, all.

In a brilliant move, @mark4, the DT people have provided a link to download Joe Kissell’s book for free.

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Since hierarchy is important for you, you should check out outliners. I love OmniOutliner Pro, which has an Essentials version for $20 (non-subscription, 14 day trial) as well as an extremely powerful Pro version ($100). During the trial you can swap back and forth between Essentials and Pro. There are also iOS versions that can sync–the prices are similar to the mac versions. They have a comparison table to help choose.

Outlining Software For Pros - OmniOutliner - The Omni Group
Outlining Software For Pros - OmniOutliner Feature Comparison Chart - The Omni Group

David Dunham has also kindly made his Opal (an updated Acta from the Classic days) free now, and it should run at least through Catalina. It’s basic compared to Omni, but depending on taste and needs could be good enough. I’ve always liked it’s interface, though these days I mostly use it to open my old Acta files.

I also (under)use both Eaglefiler and Devonthink Pro. Mostly I use Eaglefiler for my old eudora mail which works well enough that I haven’t done a proper conversion of it to Mail. Devon is the document scanner repository and I let it do the OCR. Devon’s search is much better than most with BEFORE, NEAR, and much more.

I still refuse to use Notes for anything, because there’s no sane way to get the data out. pdfs are not sufficient. Apple also always tries to force everything to be running the latest versions, and that’s just not going to happen at my house.


Those that own DevonThinkPro, I have a user whose MacPro late 2013 lost its power supply (seems it might be a common long term demise?), and had registered DTP on it. I might remove the SSD to an OWC shell to boot from, as the user need to unregister that device to use the license on a replacement computer.
My question: can’t the registered user just email DTP to have that device removed so he can reuse second device license?
Thanks for info about EagleFiler…been looking for something similar.

I don’t own DTP, but I checked their FAQ concerning licenses. It appears that the standard way to do this is to log into your account with the vendor. There should be a listing of the devices using the license. You then remove the device that you are not using. That will allow the registration of the software on a new device. This is quite common for vendors who license by device.

Thank you Alan! I found this from your link to further inform (and sent to my user)…

“Licenses for DEVONthink 3 and later can be used on up to two Macs. When you enter the license code into the app an identifier for your computer is added to the license, occupying one seat. You can check on which devices a license is currently being used in your customer account. Here you can also remove devices from a license to free up the seat.”

Thanks, @dianed143 and @gastropod.

I’m sorry, would you elaborate slightly? It sounds like you save a PDF and then put it in your email Inbox. That seems like an odd juxtaposition. Oh, and two sentences explaining webarchive would help me. Is Firefox’s Save Page As… > Web page, complete the same thing?

Thanks for picking up on what is an important feature for me, more important than I had realized. Since I think Notes with multiple layers of sub-notes would satisfy my needs, I think hierarchy is perhaps the most important feature for me. Unfortunately, the OmniOutliner web site seems to be marketing fluff rather than substance (seriously, “Beautiful Themes”?) and buzz phrases that didn’t seem to have a clear meaning (for example, “Inline Notes” and “Typewriter Mode”). And that’s part of my problem: I would like to get additional capability, but I don’t know what I want—and “Think, write, brainstorm, and create the perfect outline with this powerful, all-purpose, productivity tool” doesn’t help me understand that the program offers me something I would find useful.

This ties in with “I don’t know what I want.” I write a snippet and save a URL. When I have a question, I look for the snippet, and go to the URL. My lack of imagination seems to place me in the paper note card realm with a digital update. (Of course, I hope the URL is still valid, as @dianed143 warned. And wasn’t there a TidBITS article titled something like The Incredible Lightness of Being…a URL many years ago? A search did not find it.) In any event, if I move to something more capable than Notes, I would like to learn a better way to save information than what I have been doing, but I don’t know what that is. And trying to learn a program’s view of how information should be organized in a trial period has been a losing battle. Again, I think it’s my lack of imagination.

Sure! DT has a global Inbox.

I have three databases setup: Me, Clients (in general), and one specific client. Each database has nested folders (or topics) and each of those can have nested folders.

DT allows me to easily put data into the global inbox if I’m quickly moving along. That’s what I meant by “Inbox”.

It doesn’t have to be a pdf, it can be anything.

Webarchive is supposed to save the entire webpage on your screen locally, so that when you look at it, you’re pulling it off your computer vs going out to the web for it. However, when I just did a quick google I found a recent post saying their DT webarchives were not working as expected so now I will have to dig deeper into that. I use them most often for Zillow and social media as those sites change quickly and things get lost otherwise.

Some pages I can save as PDF but Zillow doesn’t work out so well due to the number of photos in a listing.

I’m not sure which thread that’s in reference to, but I wanted to clarify that EagleFiler does support nested folders.

It has a hotkey that you can use from your browser to import the current Web page in a variety of formats. For example, you could save the full page as a Web archive or PDF and enter your notes to attach to it at the same time. Or, you could just import a bookmark with attached notes or make a freeform RTF file if you want to paste in the URL yourself.

EagleFiler stores its library as a regular folder with files, so you can still directly access the files using Finder if you want. However, I think you’ll find that searching and browsing from within EagleFiler is more convenient.

EagleFiler does work with iCloud drive. Most of the storage is due to the files themselves. There’s a small amount of overhead to keep track of the files and to index them for searching (very little for a picture, could be a fraction of the size of the PDF if it has lots of text). There is a setting to build more limited indexes if storage is at a premium.

I have used OmniOutliner Pro for years and it was always a critical part of my research for speeches, articles and writing work. It can be confusing and at times frustrating but once learned it was excellent.

I also use Devonthink Pro as a way of keeping receipts, expenses, articles, etc. Excellent program that I have also used for years. It synchs beautifully with my MBP and my iMac which makes it even more valuable. BTW they also have their own excellent manual that is a great supplement to Joe Kissell’s excellent book. I got DevonThink years ago when it was offered free to not-for-profits, which my church most certainly was lol. I had a great e-mail discussion with their CEO and found him to be very interesting and extremely nice. When they no longer offered DevonThink Pro free I bit the bullet and purchased it and have no regrets!

Thanks for the Opal suggestion. Used that a lot for simple tasks. I’ve never found anything to compare with the old MOST program of early Mac days. That was an amazing program and deeply missed!

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ThinkTank and later, ThinkTank 512 were harbingers of MOST, which I agree was the apex of outliners. Both in its visual/interface design and its features including hoisting and cloning, surely that program was Dave Winer’s crowning achievement. Deeply missed, indeed.

Not that OmniOutliner isn’t a very fine program, because it is–it’s the default editor I use in both EagleFiler and DTP.

Doug–we’re both off. The name of the program was MORE (see reference in wikipedia):

Omnigroup has been writing some of the best Mac software since they were NeXT developers. Of course the introductory pages of their software includes marketing, just like most software companies. But if you go prowling through the support section, you’ll find manuals and a good help system. They also have a user forum, though for some reason I can’t find a link from their site:

Since you’re new to outliners, try playing with Opal first if it will run on your system. The 64-bit version is the free (unsupported) one, and it’s for high sierra through catalina, maybe later. The older one will run for 30 days, but it’s no longer for sale. It’s quite simple and won’t have features you’d probably want such as setting up a hotkey to save a url or web page, but it can give you a basic idea of how outline hierarchies and styles work.

Acta, the classic outliner

If you like the basics, then give the 14 day day trial of omnioutliner a good workout. Start in Essentials mode, and if it can do everything you need immediately that’s great, though you should also play with Pro to see if some of the extra features such as styles or automation are enticing.

Then give the Eaglefiler and Devonthink demos a good workout. Be sure to scan/read at least the introductory chapters of the manuals and the tables of contents. It saves tons of time in the long run.

If you think up a particular sample project and set that up in each of the programs, you’ll get a better idea of which matches the way you think/work best. I suspect that the Devon learning curve could be excessive for your use, but only you can tell for sure.

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Yes, you are so right. My old brain had dust in it. MORE was it. I loved it because I could do my final version of a sermon on it, would deliver it at our 8 AM service, then duck into my study and easily move items and/or replace items that needed work so it was ready for the 11 AM service and it would almost make sense then!! Loved the ease of movement.

The other feature was the ease of turning an outline into a flow chart. That was so simple and yet so powerful for committee work and planning.

Thanks Mark!

Well, that clears up that confusion (where I thought Inbox was an email reference). Thanks. And thanks for the webarchive discussion.

Thanks for that useful bit of info. As I said, I don’t recall what thread it was (and it’s possible that I misunderstood what the person was saying).

For clarity, does EagleFiler put its files in one folder or does it have nested Finder folders for the nested EagleFiler folders?

Well, I’m afraid that our shared nostalgia for software that’s nearly 40 years old dates us both rather badly, so we might be excused for a little dust!! :smiley:

The folder structure in Finder corresponds to the structure in EagleFiler. So if you nest them in EagleFiler they will be nested in Finder, too.