My Knowledge Management Process with PDF Files – Part 2

This articles continues from My Knowledge Management Process With PDF Files – Part 1 on managing collections of text and PDF files.

OpenMeta Tags

OpenMeta Tags uses a Unix file feature to add tags to files. Frankly, it’s a brilliant idea. Short description from the OpenMeta Tags google project.

OpenMeta is an OS X Cocoa Objective – C technology that allows any application to read and or write tags, ratings, etc to any file. It works with 10.5 and 10.6

The idea of the project is for commercial, open source and in house programs to be able to use OpenMeta for reading, writing and dealing with user defined meta data. The metadata is stored in extended attributes (xattr).

Where xattr is a Unix file meta attribute that hasn’t been used in many years. More on OpenMeta in this PDF file :AboutOpenMeta – PDF Download

PDF Document Explaining Open Meta – Google Docs PDF Preview

Tags and Hazel

So, know you know that I can mark PDF files by tag. Thus I can slice my search in many ways according to how I have tagged the file.

This makes the TAGGING really really important.

For a while I used Leap to work through files but this didn’t work out well. I tended not to tag reliably. I tried a number of different methods over a year or so to get a workflow that I would reliably use. Then I discovered a program Tags. Tags consists of two parts, a browser that lets you search by Tags:

Caption Text.

Leap preview and search window.(Click for a full size image)

But you can mark files from the Toolbar by opening the Tag Window: Map information 5 Then dropping a file onto the Tag Window: Map information 6 And entering your tags: Map information 7

Magic Sauce Time

So this improved things but, really, I needed to TAG files as I downloaded them. For this, I use Hazel from Noodlesoft. Honestly, I can’t say enough wonderful things about Hazel and I hope I can write more about what I use it for. This section will just show you briefly how this works.

In simple terms, I setup Hazel to monitor the Downloads Folder on my MAC. When it sees a PDF file that is downloaded (in this case I have a specific rule for PDFs that are downloaded from a URL).

I’ll summarise the process and you can see how it works from the screenshots:

  1. Hazel Monitors the Downloads folder
  2. When a file is downloaded from the website with “” on the URL, then run Tags so I can add tags to the file. Then copy the file to the directory “CiscoDownloads” to make it easier to find (for IOS images etc).
  3. Another rule monitors the CiscoDownloads directory.
  4. If the file is a PDF file, then wait 5 minutes so that the Tagging can be completed and saved then move the file into DevonThinkPro.
Hazel - Monitoring Downloads Directory.

Hazel – Monitoring Downloads Directory.(Click for a full size image)

Downloads from Cisco Rule

Downloads from Cisco Rule and tagging.(Click for a full size image)

After Moving Directory - a new rule.

After Moving Directory – a new rule.(Click for a full size image)

Inboxing the DevonThink Pro with PDFs.

Inboxing the DevonThink Pro with PDFs.(Click for a full size image)

I’m especially fond of the “Source URL/Address” rule. This allows me to slice my Downloads folder into working sub-folders. When I do a lot of work with a specific vendor, I add new folders and rules for that vendor. For example, I have a rule:

SourceURL: FileType: bin Directory: CiscoIOSDownloads

Very handy. My IOS source downloads end up in a specific directory.

Project Research

So I could really have stopped there. My files are tagged and searchable using HoudahSpot, Leap or Tags no matter where they are on my disk drive. I can preview them as needed with QuickLook and then open into the correct application.

But I often need to group research material together. If I’m working on a large project, or researching a particular topic, I find that my brain need to gather files into groups. And I’m also need to capture content that isn’t PDF files – configs, text files, word docs, visio files all make up some projects.

I spent a long time trying out various apps before settling on DevonThink Pro. DevonThink Pro focusses completely on Knowledge Management instead of document management. This is much more effective in helping to organise stuff.

DevonThink Pro

I’ve really only just started to feel that I’m on control of how I’m using DevonThink. it’s quite flexible in how you can adapt it to your

This is my preferred view of the document database, with the list of document databases on the left, a list of folders

DevonThink Pro - Opening View.

DevonThink Pro – Opening View.(Click for a full size image)

This shot show a view Tag List so I can locate document object that have been tagged.

DevonThink Tag view.

DevonThink Tag view.(Click for a full size image)

In the following screenshot, you can see that I’ve captured a webarchive. Although you can save web pages to view later as a webarchive, I never used the features until I could organise them. Having a local copy of a web page means I’m not worried about having Internet access, it’s locally searchable, and if the blog get shuts down, I’ve still got the web page. The URL is stored with the file so I can always return to the site if needed.

Viewing Werb archive in DevonThink

Viewing a Web Archive(Click for a full size image)

An Example

I’ve been researching the nature of Ethernet Fabrics – including the silicon designs and theory as part of preparing (hopefully) to publish an e-book about them for ordinary network engineers like me.

I’ve created a new DevonThink database and started collecting information. This includes a bunch of links, PDF files, and web archives that I’ve stored locally.

DevonThink Database .

DevonThink Database.(Click for a full size image)

It’s possible to write a book in DevonThink as per How to Write a Book with DEVONThink Pro but I’ve found that this didn’t work for me.

DevonThink Sorter

Although many applications have popup windows, DevonThink has an Inbox sorter. This is a quick way to capture data when I’m searching the

DevonThink Sorter.

DevonThink Sorter.(Click for a full size image)

and now you see the captured text in the Inbox.

Collected Text in the Inbox.

Collected Text in the Inbox(Click for a full size image)

Before this, I used to have many word documents, with headings as database headers for the collected information. Looking back, I can see how dumb this was. I’ve wasted thousands of hours using sub-standard tools for knowledge management. MS Office is a desktop publishing system, it’s not

A lot of people get excited about Evernote – while Evernote is a good start, it’s not a very good product. I had several problems with it, plus I found it’s knowledge management capabilities are amateurish. Because it’s designed to be multi-platform it’s user experience doesn’t work well on Windows or Mac. Plus, it’s costs money every month or year to use Evernote will cost much more (between USD$150 to USD$600 per year) that a DevonThink purchase (about USD$100 one time cost).

Also, I do store customer information and there are serious legal concerns about offshoring customer data when you work in the UK jurisdiction. Thus replication is done using Dropbox which keeps that in a separate process so I don’t make mistakes and replicate data illegally.

Note that Devonthink does support over the air syncing to an iPad or iPhone using wireless, but I don’t use that because it’s doesn’t work for strong technical data.

The EtherealMind View

So that’s it for now. I’d look forward to discussing how you handle knowledge management. Are there other products I should consider ? Have you got any favourite tips ? I look forward to seeing them in the comments.

Other Posts in A Series On The Same Topic

  1. Screencast: Knowledge Management in Technology - Part 3 (9th January 2013)
  2. Screencast: Knowledge Management in Technology - Part 2 (3rd January 2013)
  3. Screencast: Knowledge Management in Technology - Part 1 (30th December 2012)
  4. Important to Get Data Out and Well as In (21st May 2012)
  5. My Knowledge Management Process with PDF Files - Part 2 (13th March 2012)
  6. My Knowledge Management Process with PDF Files - Part 1 (12th March 2012)