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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Hands On: DevonAgent Pro (OS X)

Hands On: DevonAgent Pro (OS X)
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Apr 16, 2015, 09:25 AM
You've got to really need to find something before you'll bother going away from Google, and you've really, really got to need to find it before you'll spend money on a search utility. Yet don't see this as a reason why DevonAgent Pro must be a niche product, or see it as telling that this app satisfies those most demanding searches and searchers. It's a $50 utility for your Mac that does just do searches, but it does them through an intelligent and supremely customizable set of tools.

You also shouldn't see this as a way to occasionally look up that fourth-grade teacher who said you'd never amount to anything, and definitely do not see it as something to check out the latest sports scores on. It will do both, if possible even finding the teacher, but DevonAgent Pro is more meant to be part of your regular workflow. You're doing a job that needs a lot of digging around, and you are building up research, you are building up data about a topic. You're doing a job where a simple search is not enough: you need to analyze the results you get.

DevonAgent Pro analyzes. Take this for an example: we Googled the name "DEVONagent Pro," and we also popped that word into this app itself. Secretly, we were hoping it would return a result saying why the first half of the name is usually written in all caps, and whether it has anything to do with Devon in England, where we once had a very lovely vacation. Check out Plymouth if you're ever going: it has an Apple Store.

We didn't get that information, but we did get the typical result from each service. Google was back at lightspeed, taking 0.25 seconds to return 49,800 results. DevonAgent Pro took 56 times longer: it finished searching in 14 seconds, and it returned only 87 results. This is key, though: both searches were across Google. The only difference is that we did one of them within DevonAgent Pro. The visible difference, that the app took 56 times longer, and returned 573 times fewer results, is because DevonAgent Pro analyzed what it found.

It did find the same 49,800 results, but then it worked the list, cutting down to what it thinks you need the most. It then presents that in a digest that shows you segments of the pages its found online, plus a full results list. You can start your search all over again, you do an entirely new one that will append its findings to the search results you just got. It will drill down, and it will let you build up, until you get what you're looking for.

The first time you open it, you get a mini search bar, and that's it. Once you've found anything, it changes to the full app window displaying those results. We'd rather it just began with that full window and stayed with it; the mini search bar is good for staying out of your way, but you only ever need to see it when you want to use it. Also, once we would want to start a new search, we kept expecting to find the mini-search bar waiting, and instead it was all within this full window.

Similarly, while you can adjust many settings, the key tool in DevonAgent Pro is that you can tell it what you want it to search. Not just what you're looking for, but where it looks. So Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and the rest are all here, but there are combinations of them, there are collections of search tools like digging through all Apple news. You can also search the deep, deeper and deepest web.

Think of the deep web like this. If you can get to a web page and see the text you're looking for, that's a normal Google search. If you had to go to a site, into its database, enter a query and wait for it to return an answer, that's a deeper web search. It goes much further, and it takes much longer: we just ran that same "DevonAgent Pro" term on its Deepest Web search, and it took 19 minutes to return 913 entries. All of which are interesting, many of which are useful, none of them tell us were Mr. Pritchard is today.

DevonAgent Pro requires OS X 10.7.5 or later, and costs $50 from the official site.

Who is DevonAgent Pro for:
Academics, researchers, journalists, archivists, anyone with a series -- and recurring -- need to search online.

Who is DevonAgent Pro not for:
Actually, most people. It's not for most people because Google and the rest are fine for practically everything.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; May 1, 2015 at 01:02 AM. )
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Apr 16, 2015, 05:22 PM
As a long-time user of DEVONagent I can attest to it being an invaluable tool if you regularly do online research. If I was sending a child off to college I would make sure that he/she was proficient in using both DEVONagent and its companion application DEVONthink before leaving for school. I use the apps for medical research and I cannot imagine having to find, compile and make sense of the thousands of scientific papers that reside in my DEVONthink Pro databases.

Think of Google as being geared toward consumers; DEVONagent is the "professional" search engine... DEVON agent can be configured to dig much deeper than Google and other search engines. It searches databases and other online resources that are missed because of how Google's search algorithm works.

You can schedule regular automated searches and the results will be saved until you have the time to review them. The scheduling feature is fantastic if you are doing research on a dynamic topic or you merely want to stay abreast of developments in an area of interest. You can also view the results in several ways that are much more functional than Google results.

All Devon Technologies products are regularly available at a discount. Some of the best deals are bundles of Mac apps offered by various websites. Devon Technologies also offers a nice discount if you buy both apps at the same time directly from the company. (They are also available via the App Store.)

Every year around Thanksgiving the apps are available at a 25% discount. I recommend signing up for a free account at Appshopper.com. Add any app to your "wish list" and AppShopper will send you an email alert when the price drops. (There is a chart on every app's webpage detailing historical price changes; that makes it easier to predict if and when an app might be discounted.)

Discounts made available in Mac app bundles don't seem to be monitored by AppShopper. For those deals I rely on Dealmac.com which also has free email alerts for discounts on a wide variety of technology hardware and software.
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