In my spare time I have been trying to wrap my head around the power of Devon Think. This program fascinates me, I really do think there are a thousand Oompa Loompas running around inside my computer sorting and retrieving data. The hard part of this application is that there are so many uses and it can do so much that at times it is impossible to figure out anything it can do. The videos over at the Devon Academy help. But from trolling the forums there seem to be a lot of academics who are using this program, but who are mostly in the sciences. This is not surprising as it does take some tech savy, to get used to this program. But here are the few introductory ways I have already found Devon to be immeasurably valuable (in fact now when I sit down to do research at a computer without Devon I have to rethink my patterns).
- Web ArchiveThe first thing I started doing with Devon is using it to “hold” all of the things I want to be able to find later. While Devon is useful for keeping track of all of the things you have read and later want to find again, it is just as useful for holding all of the things you haven’t. I have been planning on writing a piece soon (like next month) about Wikipedia (or Wikis in General) and the University. But over the course of the past six months I keep coming across news articles, or discussions on various on-line resources that discuss this topic. I don’t want to spend time reading these now (I am busy working on a couple of dissertation chapters) so instead I just select the text I want in the browser, hit Command+Shift+0 (or Command+) ) and away it goes, copied into Devon. (Note: this only works if you are using Safari, OmniWeb, Shiira, or other Webkit Browsers. But even if you are not there are ways to get it to Devon-just not in one key stroke). So Devon holds all this stuff for me and I can look at it later. If there are whole web pages I want, rather than just the text, Devon captures this as an archive. Again so I can read it later.
- Summarize Before You Read: So Devon lets you summarize. I have no idea how this tech works (again I imagine all of those Oompa-Loompas scribing), but you select the text you want, select summarize from the edit menu. This will shorten the document so generally I copy all of the text into a new document before doing this so as to keep the original in tact. This gives you a sense of what the article is about, and can save time. It’s like having an abstract even if the author didn’t give you one.
- Summarize Yourself: This one I tried a couple of days ago and it worked great. Sometimes when I am writing I have trouble seeing the forest thru the trees. I get lost in everything I am saying. I have this 40 page chapter and I want to strip it down to a 20 page writing sample. So, I plugged it into Devon and hit summarize. Outcomes my summary, and allows me to read my piece fresh, and think about how to rework into a shorter piece. (Now you can’t actually use the summary, as it does make mistakes, but it is a really good start.)
- Saving Leftover Writing: Today I was editing a chapter and cutting some from my writing. The writing I thought was good, something I wanted to save, just didn’t need in this piece. It was getting in the way. But, I didn’t want to loose the “thought” entirely. Before I kept this kind of textual leftover in a folder of notes, but who is to say that I would find it when I need it. But now it is in Devon, and the next time I am writing about Lolita, or narrative endings-this little “leftover” will pop-up in a search as relevant which will allow me to use it, or at least stimulate some thinking. No longer do I have to delete text and feel like it is gone, now it is just waiting to be used later.
- User manuals: My old wireless router failed the other day (R.I.P. it lasted almost four years, and I moved it around a lot so I don’t feel too bad about it) so I bought a new one. Anyway, first thing I did was drop the manual into Devon-while the pdf it came as is searchable, in Devon the search feature works better, and now I don’t have to keep track of the manual in case I ever need to find it again. For now I have all of this in one database, in the future though I think I plan on migrating all of the “functional” stuff to one database, leaving the “academic” one to itself.