Workflow with Sente, Devonthink, Scrivener using Hazel and Dropbox as glue: part 2

On Mirroring

In this second post, I am going to talk about a method, rather than a tool (software). I call the method “mirroring”. The method is a complementary approach for syncing. I generally like syncing files across my macs and iOS devices. The problem is: syncing is possible only when the app developers offer it. For Sente, for example, you can sync your Sente library to your Sente in IOS. But, you can not do so to other applications such as Devonthink; or Scrivener. The tags in Sente are not visible in Finder; and the notes and annotations, all are specific to the application. It is a locked application in that sense. Most reference managers are lock-down applications, unfortunately. I would be wise to avoid them; but they facilitate workflow.


Therefore, since I am relying on Sente and other locked applications, for my work flow, mirroring is a way around the locking weakness. What do I mirror? I mirror my projects.

My works are project based. I move from one project to another; writing small articles and developing small pieces of works for my dissertation is what I am doing, and will be doing for the next two years. I already talked about how I organize my PDF files based on projects. How do I mirror it? I mirror my project inside Sente to Finder by creating a folder. For example: if I am working on a project called “Object Shift”; i will have a tag in sente with the same name. All the PDF files that I will need to read will be tagged “Object Shift”. Look at the following picture: ppic82 When I double click the Tag, Sente hooks me to what I call the  project mood. The project mood is my favorite mood for reading in Sente. It also helps me to see the relationships and differences between the papers. ppic83


Now, I have all the papers I believe are important for the project. I then read and annotate them as fast as I can; and export the annotations to a Folder in Finder. The folder I create inside Dropbox is a mirrored folder; with the same name. The folder itself is inside a big folder called “Projects” which itself is inside Dropbox.  That mirrored folder (“Object Shift”) is where I keep all the notes I export from Sente  as well as the Tex file I will finally compile it to a finished paper. The “Project” folder is indexed inside Devonthink. Therefore, anything I add inside “Object Shift” is automatically available inside DT.  Now, you see I am in a good shape. My project files are in a separate folder inside Dropbox; but still in communication with the rest of my files inside Devonthink. The next step is  to develop a dozen of search algorithms (smart groups) inside DT that will hunt down all the relevant  files  to my topic. File selection and grouping in Sente is manual. Grouping inside DT is automatic. There are both pros and cons for for manual and automatic approaches of grouping files for project. I combine the two to get the best results.


As I have mentioned, I have “Object Shift” inside Sente, Dropbox (a folder) and Devonthink (indexed).  I also open a project under the same name inside Scrivener (I use it for some projects) and also a paper folder tagged with same name where I put all the papers relevant for the project.  That is mirroring.

It is a way of organizing myself wherever syncing is not available globally.

I mirror not only the projects and folder; but also the Statuses. The Statuses that I assign in Sente, demonstrated in the first post, are used across the board: inside Devonthink, Finder (Path Finder), Scrivener and even printed papers and books. Their application in the printed materials is actually quite interesting. I was a reading a book titled “How to Read a  Book”. In that book, the authors have a notion called x-raying the book.  X-raying a book is going through the major sections of the book, and evaluating the organization of the topics to evaluate the topics for your purpose. It is very effective method. I have developed the habit of examine the Table of Contents, the Sections and Sub-sections of the books before I read them. As soon as I finished examining the book, which takes just 2 minutes, I assign my statuses to the sections; with small notes; by attaching small stickers on them. That way, I will make sure that I l read the “Must Read” sections; and skip the “Repelling” sections (too much details or digressions) etc. As one can see from its multiple applications (on folders, projects, books and articles),  I can say that Mirroring is rather a habit; a useful habit to get things done.

You can make it your habit too.



Must have windows applications

Here, I will list some of the best windows application that, I presume, that every windows user “need” to have. Of course, there are a dozen of tech magazines and website that list a dozen of such stuffs. These sources can tell you all the powers that the applications can do, the features they come with. But, the writers of thee sources rarely tell you the actual experience they have with the applications. Yes, some many application these come crammed with so many great features. These so many features, however,  usually obscure the main objectives that the applications made for. That is what makes a pedantic application different from a usable application. Usability is what most tools lack these days. They cause you more confusion and annoyance than enjoyment and service.  Here, I will mention some of applications that I found to be more useful, based on my experience. Let me start from the academic tools

Academic Apps

LaTex (freeware) for writing your documents. If you have some serous academic paper to write, you have to get LaTex. But, for simple texts, stick with Microsoft Windows  or whatever text processing apps you have.

Notepad++(freeware) for text editing; TextStudio for LaTex documents; emacs/vim if you are a serous programmer.

Jabref: to manage your bibliography, if you are using Latex.

Mendeley Desktop to organize your PDF files: Currently there is no any alternative than mendeley to manage your pdf files. it is a great too. it can extract the metadata of the files, tag from Google Scholar, and even rename  and organize your files into groups.

PDF-Exchange to read PDF: you can also try Foxit. These two softwares are equally efficient for reading PDF files, though the former has more features in the free version than the latter.

Microsoft OneNote: for more serous notes. yes, Evernote is one of the greatest tools for clipping pages from websites and writing your own notes. But, after some practice and learning a lot about these two applications, I found OneNote to be better than Evernote, specially to write more serous notes. The way OneNote organizes the notes more intuitive and robust than Evernote. Now, it can also synchronize your note online (with SkyDrive).

Dropbox for your cloud computing needs. You already know it!

Calibre: to manage your ebooks. If you have e-reader like Nook or Kindle, the chances are you have a dozen of ebooks (EPub or Mobi) files. Calibre can help you to clean up the clutter. It can also convert from one format to the other. The best in the game!

Wordweb: desktop dictionary. No doubt, Wordweb is the most popular and the best dictionary application for windows. Lingoes is also great.

CutePDF: to convert your documents into PDF

Adobe Pro: to convert PDF files to other formats such as word, excel etc

Media Apps

MediaMonkey:for audio. MM is the best and probably the only software you need  to manage your music and audiobook. I know so many people use iTunes.  The main turn off for me with iTunes is the fact that it stores metadata about my files in a separate folder. That means, if you edit (tag) the name of the singer, the Album, the CD cover, all these information will be stored in iTunes library, not with your actual files. If you want to migrate to another application some time, you will lose all the editing you did on your files. You will not get the name of the artist, not the album…. That is bad. I want my files as clean and edited as I want. MediaMonkey can do it and store the information with the files. MediaMonkey also has better editing (tagging) tools than iTunes.

The KMPlayer: for videos. I know many people prefer VLC player. VLC is great for the fact that it can play almost all links of video/audio files you throw in to it. But, I found The KMPlayer more efficient in managing my video file. It can also play  all the popular video files.

Other Utilities

Google Chrome for browsing: I am sure you have already tried Chrome. it is a great  browser. It also seems a bit faster than Firefox.

UTorrent: small but efficient torrent downloader. you have to download the earlier version of uTorrent (2.1 or earlier)  if you what small size and efficient torrent downloader. The new versions have been damn shit!

IDM: for downloading files from internet: Internet download manager is  the fastest download manager in the market.  There are some other free alternatives to it. But, yah. I am not as such satisfied with them.

Revo Uninstaller: to uninstall applications. it removes all the junkie that uninstalled applications leave behind.

Ditto: to manage your clipboards. It keeps the contents you copied for latter use.

Everything: for desktop searching. Windows has its own desktop search engine. But, Everyting does the job faster. Switching off the search indexing of  the windows also helps your computer to perform  faster.

Directory Opus. Though  quite expensive, Opus is the best desktop explorer software. It has been two years since I used the regular explorer.

Avast free: for antivirus. Both avast and avira are great  antivirus programs. I prefer avast for two reasons. First, it doesn’t display adds ( Avira had been quite intrusive for some time. I am not sure right now if it still displays adds so aggressively as before). Secondly, it uses less resources than avira (in my pc)

Evernote: to clip webpages from website and write down notes.

7zip: to extract archive files: a free, fast  and powerful software! You get almost all the features of the expensive extractors such as winrar. Just wonderful!

Bulk Rename Utility: for renaming files, though its interface is ugly,  there is not better software than this one! It does the job very well

Tell me your favorite application!

Update: 2017-08-26

First, I am not using Windows that much any more. My daily computer is a 2012 macbook pro. But, I open my windows occasionally for some specific task.

Quite surprisingly, I am still sticking with most of the same tools that I have here. Only minimal changes.

  1. Google Chrome –> Opera. I have replaced Chrome with Opera because Opera is faster, less bulky and has free VPN. I still sometimes fire Chrome.
  2. Mendeley Desktop is removed for good. Zotero has gotten better. Qiqqa is even best. I was hopeful that Mendeley will be great. Over the years, my experience is, this application doesn’t change that much. It is a dead end, specially in heavily relied on Googld Scholar for metadata extraction.
  3. CutePDF: is no more necessary. There is default print to pdf service now.
  4. Directory Opus: is less required as the Windows own explorer has gotten much better these days. I am not using it that much anymore.
  5. Utorrent –> Qbittorent. I still have utorrent version 2.1; the last great utorrent. But, over the years, Qbittorent has gone much better. It has internal search ingine as well as downloader. It is free as well.
  6. Wordweb + Antidote: Now, I have one additional dictionary called Antidote. What is best about Antidote is that it can check grammar and correct spelling. It is more of a complete writing and editing system, alongside the dictionary. Very useful piece of software.
  7. Add a new search tool called dtSearch. I learned about this tool after searching for many search tools windows has to offer. I still use everything. But, dtsearch is in a different league. The most powerful searching tool in the Windows in existence. NO doubt.