PRODUCTIVED.NET

How I connect DevonThink and Obsidian

Sep, 19 2021
Sep, 25 2021

For knowledgement I am using a combination of Obsidian and DevonThink. Why two apps? Well, I like to keep text notes (mainly “my own thoughts”) and archived materials (both created by myself, but lots of literature, too) seperate.

What I put in each app

Obsidian

  • My own thoughts
  • Meeting notes, project notes, literature notes
  • A “Wiki” style knowledge base

DevonThink

  • Long-term archive of all my resources
  • Figures, PowerPoint and Word files; basically all “source materials” of my own work
  • PDFs and materials I receive from other people (e.g., presentations and handout from my students, literature from other researchers, …)

Essentially, the divide is DevonThink = “random materials in all kinds of file types” whereas Obsidian is “structured knowledge I built by hand”.

DevonThink has very few structure, I only use a limited amount of tags and groups. Mostly it’s a garbage dump with excellent full-text search, so I trust the DevonThink AI features to find the correct files for me if I need them.

Connecting DevonThink and Obsidian

One problem when using multiple apps is interconnectivity. It is very hard to actually connect contents in different apps.

Luckily, DevonThink and Obsidian make this relatively easy. In my case, I mostly want to link materials archived inside DevonThink in some Obsidian note. Thus, I can copy the itemlink in DevonThink (right-click > Copy Item Link) and link it in Obsidian with a standard linking syntax:

[Text](x-devonthink-item://.....)

If clicked, it will open DevonThink with the corresponding file. This should work on all plattforms with DevonThink installed and the same databases available, including iOS (with Obsidian Mobile + DevonThink To Go)

The same thing also works the other way around. If you right-click > Copy Obsidian URL in Obsidian, it will copy a link like this, which can be copied into Devonthink:

obsidian://open?vault=vaultname&file=YourFile

One thing to note: The DevonThink link uses some kind of hashing and is unique in your database. It will actually still work if you move the file or change its name. In contrast, the Obsidian link just plainly links to a file. Thus, it won’t work, if you rename the file or move it.

Another neat trick

Another cool workflow I found with newer DevonThink versions is including your Obsidian database as an indexed folder (File > Index Files and Folders). Using this, the Obsidian data will show up and sync through DevonThink.

As another neat feature, it will allow backlinks to work in DevonThink. If I link a PDF from DevonThink in Obsidian as discussed above, this additional setup will allow me to see it in the backlink pane of DevonThink. I.e., if opening the said PDF, the backlink pane of DevonThink will show me that there is a backlink from Obsidian.

There’s also an Obsidian plugin called DEVONlink which can further help with this. Basically, you get some shortcuts which allow you to jump from the current Obsidian note to the same note in Devonthink.

It has some other neat stuff, like finding related DT items from inside Obsidian.

Not yet tested

I have also looked into some other tools like Hook. It looks super cool but it did not really make click. I worry a bit about discoverability of my hooks, because it seems like easy to lose information in this system. But well, I should probably still take a deeper look at it.


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