How do you write with both Devonthink and Scrivener?
October 28, 2011 4:48 AM   Subscribe

How do you use Scrivener and Devonthink together? I've seen lots of blog posts and comments about individuals using both products for researching, drafting, and writing complicated projects, and each looks awesome on its own, but I can't figure out a workflow that uses the strengths of both. If you use both tools, how do you do it? Insights from any area are welcome, but thoughts from academics are especially useful to me.
posted by philosophygeek to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Well one simple way would be to use Devonthink as your everyday database of sources: clipped web pages, excerpts and summaries of books and articles, etc. -- on any and all topics. I believe you want to store each "snippet" that represents a separate concept as a separate item. Devonthink would then automatically relate stuff together using its "this is similar to that" function. But you need quite a few items to make this useful -- hundreds or thousands.

You could then use this database to pump stuff into specific Scrivener projects, taking a select number of sources/excerpts from Devonthink and putting them into Scrivener, and then massaging them into an outline.
posted by shivohum at 5:19 AM on October 28, 2011

Yes, I would also suggest using Devonthink as a general repository, and pull things from it into Scrivener for specific projects.

I'm a doctoral student in the humanities. I keep all of my source material and notes on sources (primary and secondary), in DT, organized by author as strictly as possible.

I write in Scrivener, and I don't keep a lot of notes there, because that makes my writing environment too overwhelming. I make a sincere effort to write at least a first draft, or a sketch of a first draft, without the support of notes. When I have an argument in place, I go to Devonthink to look things up, so that I can add details and support to my writing. The DT search is great, very fast, and I also make use of the See Also function at this stage.

Typically, once I've found the information I'm looking for, I copy and paste what I need into the Notes field of the related document in Scrivener. That way it's always at hand without cluttering up the Scrivener binder (again, for me, too many separate snippets of stuff in the category of "might be important, let me just look at that again" in Scrivener makes the writing process too hard).

If there are images or transcriptions or sets of notes I need to refer to repeatedly while writing, then I do drag those into Scrivener as documents. You can drag and drop documents directly from DT into Scrivener, so that's helpful.

I'm pretty happy with this workflow, because I feel like it maintains Scrivener as a focused writing environment, and make use of the search and capture functions of DT. (The only thing I don't like is that I actually would prefer to take notes in Scrivener, because DT is absolutely no fun to write anything in. But if I do that, then I've got remember to get the notes from Scrivener into DT, and that's too much to keep up with.)

If you haven't searched the L&L forums, definitely do that, as this topic comes up pretty often and there are a lot of good answers there.
posted by bluebird at 8:09 AM on October 28, 2011

I'm not an academic, but Scrivener is something I know quite well, so I can offer some technical tips that might come in handy.

In addition to the above advice, which I all pretty much agree with (though I prefer another large-scale manager; I use the same principle of keeping .scriv files as taut as possible): you can also link to items in DT from Scrivener. Best place in my opinion is the references pane in the Inspector. You can copy any object out of DT as a URL, which is in my opinion the best way to establish a link, because then DT continues to manage the resource. Basically the URL it gives you doesn't store the file's name and location, but a unique identifier. DT catches the inbound link request and uses its central database to locate the record based on the requested ID, wherever it may actually be located on the drive.

So while you can just drag and drop resources from a DT list into Scrivener's reference inspector---that produces an absolute file URI to the spot on the disk. If DT or you move/rename the file at any point in the future it'll break. So instead, click the + button in the reference panel to create a new external ref; paste the URL in and give it a descriptive name. Now you can just flip that panel open, double-click the icon, and your research is instantly available.

Since it's a URL, you can embed it in a hyperlink too, so you could combine the above snippet suggestion of pasting an excerpt into the Notes pane and follow up the note with a citation link going back to the full record. You can create an arbitrary hyperlink by selecting the anchor text and using `Edit/Add Link...`.

This technique also works for DT groups. Pretty much anything in a DT database can have a URL, and thus you can link to it. The one big advantage of dragging the resource straight into the reference pane so it creates a file link: you can then later on drag that reference into Scrivener's own editor header bar and view it in a split view alongside your work.

Another thing you can do, if you don't mind the binder clutter and are more concerned about project size (because keeping a 2gb file backed up every day isn't fun), is use the `File/Import/Research Files as Aliases` command, then just drop DT files in the dialogue box to link to them. Aliases are resilient to name and location changes. This method pops the resource into the binder like a normal Scrivener citizen, complete with its own meta-data and addition to the search index if applicable, but without the bulk.
posted by MysteriousMan at 3:59 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

A question of MysteriousMan. What is the "large-scale manager" that you refer to? It would be interesting to know why you selected it and how you are using it.
posted by VK6XZ at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2012

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