DevonThink : Convert your data with ease or use text!

First I tell you that DevonThinkOfficePro (DTPO) and DevonThinkToGo can handle all sorts of data and now I come up with conversion of data…

Conversion of data has two main uses:

  • Gives user a better overview and layout
  • more possibilities of layout designs.

An email in a file format *.eml can be searched and indexed - no issue at all until a human is looking for some attachments :-) There are now two options to solve this problem:

  • Open file in an email program / app
  • or convert into a format which displays attachment nicely - ready for human reading.

Types of files

Well, here it comes again and many people want this and the other half something else. I think it really depends on your own workflow. If you use PDF only then a text or RFT document will not fit your workflow. Hence, it really depends on your own circumstances which format will fit your needs.


I mean here really plain text - is the best data type to me and I use it a lot on a daily base. Also for my blog it is just ideal and plain text can be used everywhere - not only for writing. Sometimes it will be a blog post, next time a database and another time it can be a presentation.

Now you think I am getting crazy - right? :-)

No, I do not - the earliest computer were text-based and the lasted innovations today use text too! Everything is based on text and it does not matter how all the pretty software for processing text are called - the main idea is: It is and will always be a text file at the end.


  • Any operating system in the world can open and read this files
    It does not matter if it is Linux, Unix, MAC, Windows or IOS and Android - without needing an additional or special software.
  • I do not need to think about if the receiver of a message or email can read my text file which I have sent him. He can!
  • No other format is so versatile like text and can be used in so many ways
  • Copy, sharing - done in minutes
    Nothing will be left out i.e. Special Symbols and the likes
  • Text files are not huge - thought they can contain a wealth of information - this will left you with more space on your drives

Where can you find text?

The usability of text is just unbelievable and you can do everything with it like:

  1. Simple word document without text format
  2. Advanced word document with text formats and writing in Markdown/Markup or TextileLet’s call them „languages“ which can be adapted by human writers easily. They will give you the possibilities to format your text like make bold, italic, underline, cross out, indents, notes, comments to text, foot notes and much more.
  3. Lists and databases
    From simple lists you can just create your own database which can be managed from anywhere.Create a *.csv file with a text editor and use comma, colons or other symbols to separate your data into columns. Save it and ready is your CSV file using a text editor without having to open Excel or Numbers at all.
  4. All other types of documents are based on text
    PDF, HTML, RTF, CSV, Doc(x), table calculation or Scripts and programs as well as apps
  5. Sometime you want more in word processing
    For this there are several apps around with a compiler included such as Ulysses, Sublime, Byword and many more. A compiler has the task to create the correct format for the final file type such as HTML or .pages etcetera.This will save you time and you do not have to fiddle around with coding.


My favourite text editor

is Ulysses which I use every day. The advantages to the competitors are:

  1. Not too many functions
    Sounds odd but less is more
  2. No disruption in your writing
    There are no menus or similar which could disturb your flow of writing and bring your ideas to „paper“
  3. Long text can be separated into pieces
    and later just added to a finished document. Hence you can concentrate on small portions of your writings.
  4. Folder- based system and create your folders (internally and externally)
  5. Preview of loads of export formats and an
  6. Integration to publisher sites
  7. Export in PDF, ePub, HTML, Text (formate) and more
  8. WebDAV under IOS no issue at all - works superbly!
    (Just a note: the full WebDav-Connection like it is used for iCloud will be implemented in a new update. Currently, im- and export are available for WebDav.
    Having said that and you own DTTG - Then just see my tip on DTTG and saving locations below!
  9. Ready made documents with images, videos, links ready for publishing or sending it off by email.
  10. Further work can be done in all word processing apps and software does not matter what they call or under which operating system they ran.

Tip for DTTG

Since the last update of DTTG there are some „hidden“ features included. It is now possible to use DTTG as a saving location - like any other cloud-based location-. Hence it will be a cloud in your own cloud. The advantage is clear - just save everything into DTTG and let is synchronise to all your other devices.

You are also able to render data directly without having to go to the Share Icon - use it as a location to save your data and change them if needed.


This function can used in all cloud-supported apps like Pages, Numbers, Ulysses and much more. Just use the Cloud Symbol - choose DTTG and choose your database in which the documents should be saved.

Hence, you have all your data and documents in one place and can be sync’ed across your devices.

Disadvantage of text

Text is pretty awesome and machines can read it very quickly but some users are afraid of the learning curve to use text correctly. Let me comfort you: It is not hard to learn and with time you will format directly your text whilst writing without going from you keyboard.

Pure text is not pretty but with Markdown your text will be awaken to a living text with text format, images, videos, links, lists and much more.

At the end of the day there is still pure text and only to the rendering within a software it becomes a nicely structured - human friendly - document.

RTF (Rich Text Format)

I use RTF mostly to convert my emails because the attachments will be displayed nicer in DTTG and DTPO.

Based on pure Text, RTF has the advantages that text formats can be just clicked or using a shortcut applied to the text without having to worry about how it’s actually works.

Import of images and embedded documents are no issue here.

For instance it will convert the email attachments into a kind of little windows displaying the attachment.

But not always can a receiver of a message can really open it with the correct format and some of them need to use an additional software to open it altogether.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

PDF- the star of the document types in which you can do almost everything using a WYSIWYG editor. In past times, PDF could not be altered and therefore they got their image of „Originality“ without having to worry about to get a falsified document.

But this times are over now and PDF can be altered, changed, annotated with or without password protection.

But it has a more important advantage: Thought it can contain so many information the files are small compared to word processors which increase the size of a file just because they contain one image.

The advantages are almost as versatile like pure text if you using it for documents and information. However, even today you see the warning on the bottom: „In order to open this file you need A….Reader or a similar program which can open PDF“.

Today, it is not an issue any more just to download a free version of a PDF reader if you like just to read the document. Even your browser can handle and display PDF today.

DevonThink conversion of files

It is easy n DTPO to convert an email file from *.eml to RTF or PDF:

Select the file - right mouse click - go to conversion and choose your format. DTPO will create a new file in your chosen format.

The original file can either be deleted or saved as a reference.

Personally, I do not like duplicates therefore, I delete the original file.

Many files to be converted

A bunch of files can be converted like above mentioned but is that really productive??

I recommend to use Scripts which will take the burden from you and do the tasks automatically.

In DTPO there are in the menu - Scripts (before help) - further scripts

In the newly opened windows you will see a bunch of scripts available. All you need to to is to install and use them.

There are scripts for calendars, comments, search, moving of files, find duplicates, group or un-group certain documents, convert from URLS to PDF or web archives.

Format with just one click all your text in capital letters and use sub titles. Rename your documents in one go perfectly - add suffix or prefix or replace entire text with ease.

Scripts the power for your workflow

Scripts are just commands for the computer what it should do and are based on pure text as described earlier.

Apple - Scripts

Apple uses it own „language“ for scripting which follows a logical approach with „natural“ commands.

The first thing to do is to tell the computer some variables if needed. Later you can use these variables in your commands.

If you like to tell an app something to do you can use:

tell application "Finder" or for DTPO tell application id "DNtp".

After this initiation, the action will be followed in the text document.

There is also the already implemented scrip editor in which you can record the actions to be done and the editor will convert them into commands.

The „Automator“ which is integrated in MAC OS can help you to do the first steps in scripting. Using a drag-and-drop approach it makes it easy to use it.

A little test is for example to start programs and apps automatically once your computer started.


Of course you can let apps start using the user setup too but you will not be able to:

  • Turn off speakers
  • make a break ie. To connect to all your drives first
  • or give DTPO the command to open and synchronise immediately or only specific databases.

This are only three example you can accomplish but there is much more.

Easy example to follow

Open Automator and choose „NEW“ Workflow. From left to right you can drag-and-drop the commands which you like to have. For instance:

"Computer-Speakers“ OFF

„Start program" - DTPO

"Synchronize Records"

„Hide all programs "

„Start program " - AirMail.

Save the created file in your document folder and use this as a start object in the user preferences.

After your computer started, the speakers will be turned off, DTPO will start and all databases get sync’ed. After this AirMail will be open and ready for usage.

With this little example you can save five clicks immediately and gives you a little inside into scripting.

All recurring tasks can be automated this way and will save your time for more important things. Test it out and count how many times you have to click on something before you can start with your actual work.

You will be amazed how many tasks can be automated by scripts.

The good news is that you do not have to be a programmer to get your recurring tasks automated. Because Automator runs with a WYSIWYG editor and therefore it is easy to implement it.

The script editor will be the next step to your automation and is even mightier than Automator. Scripts can be used for DTPO but also for any other application.

Open the Script Editor and click on Files - Functions when choose a program such as DTPO and on your right you will see -so called „Suites“.

This suites contain all commands to be used with a specific software on your computer.

Under Script - Record you can record your scripts by showing the editor what to do using your keyboard or mouse. The actual script will be displayed after recording in the editor.

If you need some support - just let me know.

Should you really convert data?

Depending on your needs and the purpose of the information and data to be used. If you like to send out a presentation it would wise to convert this into a pretty looking file - even thought the initial task was done in plain text.

My three favourite types

Personally, I work with three data types:


For everything what goes external or need a „pretty“ format I use PDF mostly after I have written up everything in text only.

If I know before I send something that the receiver cannot use PDF or RTF when I use another format such as ePub or HTML or pure text.

Everything will be written in Text using Markdown before converting the whole file into other formats.

Often, I just a send a text file too - just in case :-) In this way I make sure that the attachment can be read.


I always use text - which is to me the most versatile type to „produce“ everything and share it an appropriate format.

Markup / Markdown

That is my way to go - for everything, I use markdown even for my emails i use it and the recipient will not notice what the email was original written using Markup.

The distinct advantage to me is, that i can concentrate on the text and the information containing in this. There is no destruction in my workflow and I think it is the most efficient way to produce text.

With time it goes easier with all the commands for text formats and it will become a second nature without think on it, that:

**for BOLD is ## This the first heading will be ## the second title is, * italic underlined, +++ for comments which are not printed or exported ans so on…


The possibilities are versatile but how on Earth can you remember all these commands?

What do I use?

That’s why I like Ulysses for Markdown - I can:

  1. Use my own commands
  2. Exports can be adjusted in the way I like
    For instance, there is no option for underlining text but I need it pretty often, so I just added it.
  3. Adjust views in the editor
    Colours, bold, underlined, cross out etc. Can be adjusted to your likings and needs. I can see just on the colour if it is a comment, footer note or an image.
  4. Shorten a long text into smaller portions
    It makes sense when you have to write a report for instance with loads of paragraphs and need to concentrate on them.
    After you finished all of them, just select them and it will be one big document ready for exporting.
  5. Themes:
    There are many themes to be used and which can be adjusted too.
  6. Settings:
    All settings can be exported and imported into IOS; hence there is no need to learn again but using your own commands and styles.
  7. Export to PDF, ePub, Pages, Word, HTML and much more
    is only a keystroke far away. Publishing on Medium for instance is implemented too.

Every start is not easy

Especially, if you like to change old habits or changing your entire workflow. But just try it out and use only text without Word or Pages. You will be astonished what you can do with it.

Your benefits will come fast- The often you are using it the more benefit will flow to you and you will have more time for other things in your life.

Almost forgot to mention that DTPO, DTTG, AirMail can understand Markdown and you can try in these environments too. With a little bit of praxis you will see how easy it is to write up reports, essays and presentation by using text and Markdown.

I hope, I could give you a little inside in the conversion of data and that you not always need to convert them. The „old“ methods are still around and heavy in use as well as scripting can make your life easier and helps you to boost your workflow.

How do you use text and which experience do you have?

[accordion title='Information Sources about Markdown' open='true']

Wikipedia Link

Tutorial in English

Ulysses App - developed in Germany


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