An App for Everything and Everything in its Place

A book is like a garden
carried in the pocket.
Chinese Proverb

It’s amazing what you can carry in your pocket — or your backpack. If you had told the Ancient Greeks that you could carry the Library of Alexandria with you — it would not have been the library that got burned.

Personally, I love the idea of carrying whole bookshelves with me. However, I also find it confusing and paralyzing to have mix:

  1. literature that I want to have available
  2. literature that I want to read
  3. literature that I have read and want to cite
  4. literature notes that I want to use in articles of my own

So I use a different App for each of the steps. It works on my MacBook and my iPad, not so much on my iPhone (given that No. 4 requires Circus Ponies Notebook, whose app only runs on Macs and iPads, not on iPhones). Still, it works fine for the most part, and it looks kinda nice on my iPad:


The apps take care of:

  1. literature that I want to have available — synced with DEVONthink (To Go), see DEVONthink To Go — A Second Look and DEVONthink To Go – Advantages and Risks.
  2. literature that I want to read — using GoodReader, a very useful PDF reader (under iOS7 still with a very annoying bug)
  3. literature that I have read and want to cite — using Papers, works on Mac and iPad/iPhone, still using version 2.0 as version 3.0 seems to buggy
  4. literature notes that I want to use in articles of my own — using Circus Ponies Notebook (topic notebooks, created on Mac and copied via the iTunes interface to the iPad version of Circus Ponies Notebook).

Like written, it works quite nicely … and it’s incredible what is possible today. Digital reading rocks. 🙂


  1. I can’t wait for the day that Devonthink to Go 2 is released – version 1 is a not pleasant to use.

  2. Yup, as a colleague commented yesterday … it’s been announced for ages, no wonder people are migrating to dropbox and the like. Still, like written, exceptionally high potential … but I do wonder what is taking them so long.

  3. Hi,

    You mentioned few posts ago about potential for file corruption in CPN. Is that still an issue of concern one that would warrant not investing in doing notes in CPN? If so, what is a better alternative? I am still confused about what CPN does that OneNote could not. I’d appreciate some perspective.

  4. I haven’t encountered it since and I am guessing that it was an interaction with DEVONthink. Still, I do backups and keep the old versions and check the pages of my notebooks occasionally. It’s not an argument against CPN per se, although it is a really ugly error (and CPN should really do some consistency checking upon opening).

    I think CPN is just perfect for topic notebooks and for structuring writing projects. I am not using OneNote but if it works for you, no need to change. But personally, I could not write complex texts without content outlines (e.g., How to create a content outline in Circus Ponies Notebook or Outliner in Scrivener vs Outliner in Circus Ponies Notebook — Structure (Scrivener) vs Content (CPN) Outlines).

  5. Hi Daniel,

    I have a question regarding file renaming. I noticed that after I export (open in..) from DEVONthink To Go to other application for reading/annotating (I use PDF Expert 5), the file name changed to something like “66613445_222R-98723U-24982934KHNOD”. Very annoying. Thus, I need to rename it all over again. Do you have the same case?

  6. Yup, same issue here, although it does not bug me that much. When I read it (= highlight, make notes), I export the notes/highlighted sentences (using GoodReader). So I end up with a highlighted/annotated document in GoodReader, which I then delete, and the notes/relevant passages in my eMail inbox (which I then put into my Circus Ponies Notebook files). The only consequence this renaming has for me is that I highlight the author name and the title first, which makes finding out to which document the notes in my eMail Inbox belong very easy. BTW, I use DT2Go as storage for literature, but when I export something into GoodReader, it means I (usually) read it before I export something else, so, yeah, it’s a bit annoying and I would hope for a setting to use the original name, but it does not affect me that much.

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