DevonThink: Importing vs. indexing?

Do you work in DevonThink, or do you use the Finder and other apps to store your working documents, and then index to DevonThink?

I’ve been using DevonThink since April and liking it. After years as an Evernote guy, I’ve essentially given Evernote up in favor of DevonThink. I keep all my working documents, for current projects and completed projects, in DevonThink.

However, I have encountered two problems. Or maybe one problem with two faces.

The UI on DevonThink is not great. Starting a document takes several steps. Navigating through Groups seems to take a few extra clicks. The Finder seems like it’s easier to work with.

Also, this week I had a scare where my MacBook Air seemed to be dead. It stopped responding to the power button for about 12 hours. Then it spontaneously came back to life; I think that moving the MBA from one place to another literally shook something loose that needed to be shook loose.

However, this got me thinking about what would happen if I had to be without my MBA for several days. I do not have a second Mac to work from, and my iPad is an ancient mini – find for reading and social media, but underpowered for work purposes.

And I’m concerned that DevonThink To Go on the iPad Mini doesn’t seem to sync reliably in background; so if my MacBook Air dies my documents in DTTG on the iPad Mini would be several days out of date.

This leads me to think that maybe I should be working in the Finder, and then when I’m done with a project, index the folder to that project in Devonthink. Or index at intervals as I go. That way I get the best of both worlds – search and AI-driven magic hat of DevonThink, along with the portability and ease-of-use of working in the Finder.

If my MBA dies I could even, theoretically access documents in iCloud from a Chromebook, and keep working that way, right?

What do you think? Do you keep your daily work documents in DevonThink, or do you use other apps for your daily work, storing documents in the Finder, and index them to DevonThink?

1 Like

Syncing to the cloud isn’t your only other copy, I assume?

I think I don’t understand your question.

I have my Mac set to mirror the documents folder to iCloud and back up to backblaze as well as a local time machine backup.

DEVONthink is specifically designed to not sync the database to the cloud, just metadata to tell each instance what needs updating. Actual data lives on my MacBook Air.

1 Like

No, I understood. You just hadn’t mentioned that you had backups in your posts that I’ve read. Just checking…

1 Like

For me everything goes into DT. Easy access from macOS through iOS

1 Like

Out of curiosity why would it be an issue for the iPad Mini to be out of date? You should be able to force a sync, and it grabs everything to date that the Mac synced to your sync store whether or not a background sync occurred in that timeframe on the iPad unless of course, you have no internet connection.

But to the point, I do almost all of my work in documents and files that are stored in a database. I only index a couple of folders on my Synology which are video files so I can tie a note to a video and write comments on a video.

If I understand DevonThink correctly, it doesn’t sync the entire database to the cloud, just metadata that tells each instance what to sync. So if my Mac and iPad are both internet-connected, then, yeah, I can just sync everything manually and everything will be up-to-date.

But I often go for days without opening DevonThink on the iPad mini. And if my Macbook Air crashes during that time, then the databases on the iPad mini will be out of date, with no way to update them until the MBA is repaired.

Or am I misunderstanding the way DT works?


I think you might be confusing Always Download vs On demand settings in the iOS DTTG version. When you sync from DEVONthink of macOS you sync everything, the file and metadata. On the iOS device you have the 2 options in the sync store or at the individual database level, to only download the Meta data (On Demand, which saves space) or everything (Always, consumes as much space as the database size is).

Therefore if your MBA crashes on Tuesday but is synced to the sync store in DEVONthink, on Friday when you open DTTG on your iPad mini if you choose On Demand Sync your meta data will sync immediately, but if you tap the file and download it, the entire file will download from the last sync on Tuesday. If you have Always download then when you open DTTG and force a sync it will download the entire file.

Hope that helps.


My understanding is that DEVONthink stores a full copy in the cloud. When I go to the Apps/DEVONthink Packet Sync folder in my Dropbox there’s a .dtCloud file that’s approximately the same size as my DEVONthink database.

1 Like

That is good to know!

I checked my directories on Dropbox - the total DevonThink file size is 6 TB, which seems like it could be the combined size of all my synced databases.

I’d feel better if this information was explicitly in the documentation, which it appears to not be. DevonThink’s documentation is IMO one of its weak points.

I blame it on my ADD

I started a test of Devonthink and just put a copy on my MAC, one on my iPad and one on my iPhone how do I merge these database and the set up sync.

I am always worried about putting my data in 3rd Party container due to possible corruption or the company deciding they are going in a new direction.

I recognize that you would probably lose all of the meta data but is there a way extract all of the files and save them to an external drive.

Do they all have the same data on them? Are all the files same?

If so I would delete DEVONthink To Go (DTTG) on your iPad and iPhone then on macOS, create a Sync Store in Preferences. Once all the data is synced to the sync store, download DTTG on your iOS devices, go into Settings > Edit Location > Add a location (the same service you used on your Mac) then select the databases you want to download.

I really wouldn’t worry about your DEVONthink databases in the case of the company going in a new direction, one thing about a DEVONthink database is you can think of it as a ZIP file. You can navigate to the database file in Finder, right click > Show Package Contents > Files.noindex folder. Inside that folder is a hierarchy of all your files in their original format.

As for corruption, there are scripts you can use that will verify a database (makes sure there isn’t any corruption), optimize it, then create a zip archive (backup) of the database. I have a Keyboard Maestro timed macro, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, at 3AM sequentially that runs this script automatically for each database I have, it then saves the archive to my Synology NAS. At 4 AM my Synology backs up to Backblaze B2 bucket which covers my backup strategy for immediate recovers. Every week on Friday evening when I get home I plug a USB external drive into my Synology which with HyperBackup backs up my entire Synology over night. Every 2 weeks on Saturday morning I drive to the bank and swap another hard drive I have in my safety deposit box. All this being said (I’m a little paranoid about backups), I’ve been using DEVONthink for 4 years now and have never had a corruption issue that wasn’t my fault. (I put the database file in my documents folder which I then had syncing with iCloud, which they specifically say not to do)

Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help.


I love your extensive backup system! Glad to know someone is just as paranoid as I am.

In relating to the original post and maybe better explained in the “Taking Control of DevonThink” book, I find myself torn. On one hand I love DevonThink for organizing my files and for whatever reason find it less tedious then the Finder to organize. That said I am using it for current projects instead of all my past stuff. Would love to dump all my documents and stuff in their but seemingly maybe that’s not how DevonThink should be used?

1 Like

This says that a recent update will let you store sync database in iCloud.

I am just worried that the database would be in iCloud and on my Mac.

If I added something from my iPad it would write to the cloud version while if I added something I imagine it would write to the cloud version that was actually on my local drive.

Yes your Sync Store can be stored in iCloud (not to be confused with a database .dtbase2 file which is the actual database file). The Sync Store is not actually stored on your Mac or iOS devices, but before upload to the servers they are added to a Sync Store location on your local disk then after upload iCloud cleans up the sync files on your disk.

Therefore wherever you are changing something, whether it be iOS or macOS the only local space taken up are within the app on iOS and the amount of space the .dtbase2 file takes up on macOS. So to your first question, yes there is a database file on your Mac and there is an encrypted version of the database (if you enable it to sync) in iCloud, but only the database file will take up space on your Mac.