When comparing Org mode for Emacs vs DEVONthink, the Slant community recommends Org mode for Emacs for most people. In the question“What are the best knowledge base systems for personal use?” Org mode for Emacs is ranked 5th while DEVONthink is ranked 19th.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Libre/open source
Pro Cross platform
Emacs runs on all platforms, Windows, Linux, OSX, even Android and IOS
Pro Can be as simple or as complex as you want
Org mode started out as a simple outlining/note taking app. Then each outline heading can optionally be a TODO list item. And if you desire, you can add SCHEDULE and DEADLINE dates. (Schedule being the date you'd like to start the item.) You can customize the TODO states to add things like DELEGATED, WAITING, BLOCKED, etc.
Pro Exports data to PDF, LaTeX, HMTL and other
You can even build presentation or blog from your data
Pro Supports tables with formules (quite powerful!)
Pro Plain text data storage
Pro Inline image displaying
Pro Free but copyrighted
Pro Fast interaction
Once muscle-memory sets in, can be much faster to use than a point & click program.
Pro Uses Emacs
Pro All apps
Pro Can store any file type
File types containing text are indexed.
Pro Very flexible
An extensive feature set makes it easy to adapt to your work flow.
Pro Completely offline
Sync between different macs and/or ios devices is fast, safe and easy. You can sync via iCloud, Dropbox, WebDAV or WiFi.
Pro Full text search
Pro Webpage Clipper
A flexible web clipper can add contents of any web page to DevonThink.
Pro One-time purchase vs monthly subscription.
Pro Paperless office functions available in PRO Office version
Includes processing of scanned documents, OCR etc.
The OCR function is based on FineReader and is probably the best one on the market.
Con Complicated to get started
Con Obtuse documentation
The documentation assumes a level of understanding of basic Emacs usage that not all users may have.
Con Difficult to use as a database
For example, if you need to quickly populate client details on quotes, unfortunately its easier to find, copy & paste.
Con Not suitable for normal users
Not even a majority of software developers can be bothered to use Emacs (or VI, for that matter).
Con PDF export can be difficult
Latex assumes you're a (compliant) student, have to do a lot of research to get what you want out of it.
Con Uses Emacs (for those who prefer vi, menus, etc.)
Con Stores in a proprietary format
It stores the whole database in a proprietary file package, that you cannot easily access from another app or from the Finder. Considering you might be classifying a huge quantity of files there, it is quite problematic if you want to interact with this data from other applications.
Con Only runs on Macs, iPoneOS, iPadOS & Web
It does not run on Windows, Android, and Linux.
Con Very limited automation
While the marketing claims are about an intelligent document manager, it actually does not offer many automation features, such as automatic classification, tagging and renaming of the files. It's much more like an extended file explorer.
Con Costs US$79.95 for just the Personal version
One-time purchase instead of monthly subscription.