DEVONthink Pro 3 vs Bear app for capturing web pages

DEVONthink Pro 3 is DEVONtechnologies’ newest version of the venerable and highly powerful “free database” app, a Mac-only app that allows you to collect, manage and analyse all kinds of data, including text, PDFs, images, sound bites and more. DEVONthink Pro 3 (review) comes with a re-designed system-wide extension that lets you grab entire web pages in various formats from any web browser. When you combine it with DEVONthink’s content capabilities you’ll have an extremely powerful research annex information collection tool at your fingertips – much better than Bear app, which I am using now.

Bear app is subscription based, but that’s not the reason why I abandoned it. It simply can’t compete with the new version of DEVONthink Pro. For starters, DEVONthink Pro 3 is markdown compatible, meaning you can just as easily enter content with markdown in DEVONthink as you can in Bear. In addition, DEVONthink can immediately show you a preview of your markdown document without the codes. OK, so you do have to type the markdown symbols – like “**” for bold text – yourself, but that’s a small price to pay for an otherwise much more powerful environment.

The main appeal of DEVONthink Pro 3 versus Bear, however, is that when you want to download a web page, Bear tries to download it in markdown only, whereas DEVONthink gives you file format options as well as the ability to decide where to send the page, whether you want to flag it, rate it, give it a label colour, etc. The only thing it doesn’t allow for is to include custom metadata if you have created some.

The second appeal of DEVONthink over Bear is that, when you opt for a PDF download of a web page, it will create a continuous or paged PDF – your choice – which allows you to do away with breaks where they interfere with the content. That PDF also contains the live links on the page.

The third appeal is that Bear often doesn’t grab a web page at all, but instead only generates a title and the link to the page. You then have to go back to the browser and copy the page and paste it into Bear’s document yourself. That frequently messes up the page layout.

Finally, Bear is subscription based, while DEVONthink is licence based. Contrary to what developers would like you to believe, that doesn’t mean DEVONthink is only updated once in a year or so before the developer asks for an upgrade fee. If I recall that correctly, DEVONtechnologies has kept updating the previous version for some seven (yes: 7!) years before the current new version saw the day of light.

There’s a downside to that long period as well, of course. At the end, DEVONthink 2 really began to show its age in its design, but not in its capabilities which have been impressive for a very long time.

There’s only one area where I would like to see some more support and that’s image metadata. It would be very nice if we could have (read-only or read/write) access to the full EXIF data. That’s now lacking but generously compensated for by the ability to download bibliographic metadata with a new smart rule script.

Still, it would be awesome to have!