Devonthink with sync to Windows

Just wondering if anyone has achieved this with Devonthink. I’m still in my 30-day trial so not decided yet if I want to stick with it.

What’s the best way (if there is a way) of having a Devonthink database set up with master access on my Mac, synced to two iOS devices, and then also have (some or all) of the files sync to something that’s accessible from a Windows laptop?

Reason for this: I use a Mac and an iPhone, but my wife using a Windows laptop and an iPhone. I’d like all of our documents, at least our household stuff, receipts, kids’ stuff and so on to be in Devonthink for me but also accessible to my wife on her laptop if she needs to get to it. Obviously not through Devonthink, but through a Windows explorer window.

Is it as simple as creating a shared Dropbox account and using that as the location for the files, then having my wife access the files via Dropbox sync on her Windows laptop? Or does that mess up Devonthink?

Ideas needed please!

You could put documents on Dropbox for your wife to be able to access them. Then, in DEVONthink, you index that folder (i.e. you do not import the documents into the DT database but you let it index that folder). You may need to rescan and reindex that folder every now and then in DT.

Indexing vs. importing: see the Take Control of DEVONthink book, p. 21 and the DEVONthink Manual p. 52.

Do not, under any circumstances, move the DT database into the Dropbox folder. You can sync the DT database to iCloud using CloudKit if you wish.

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Thanks for replying!

I was really hoping I could import everything into Devonthink, and then just sync the folder with Dropbox or iCloud, then my wife would be able to access the structure of the folders (groups) just without the Devonthink layer over the top of the files.

Hmmm… didn’t really want to just index everything, as I’d like our entire document library to be organised by Devonthink.

Does it work differently on iCloud, then? Or does that work the same as the Dropbox setup? I’m happy to use Dropbox or iCloud.

What @dario suggests is the way to do it. DEVONthink manages indexed files als well as imported. read carefully the DEVONthink Handbook about indexing and importing. Get beat forum guidance from the DEVONthink forum.

Since you have DT installed, try Help > DEVONthink Help > Documentation > In & Out > Importing & Indexing. That section describes in detail the integration between Finder and DEVONthink if you decide to index your documents.

A common example is people using a cloud service like Dropbox and indexing folders in the local Dropbox folders. DEVONthink indexes the content and metadata for use with classification and other content-related functions, just as it does with imported items. Do note while indexing doesn’t copy the contents of the files, the full text of text-based is stored.

This essentially means that you still get DT’s search capabilities when indexing as that index is stored in DT’s database (which is local on your Mac and can be synced to iCloud using CloudKit), and you still get the automatic classification and other DT features — so you are losing nothing when it comes to DT features as opposed to importing.

Meanwhile, the documents stay on Dropbox where they are accessible to your wife and all changes reflect between Finder and DT. This is how it works:

With indexing, the integration with the filesystem is very tight. When you rename a file in DEVONthink, the file’s name changes in the Finder. If you rename in the Finder, the change should be automatically reflected in the database. DEVONthink tries to keep the group in the database and the folder in the Finder in the same state.

Now, as both the handbook and the documentation state, indexing is best used if you do not expect a lot of files moving around to happen (there’s a note in the documentation recommending indexing to be used with fairly static folder structures, do have a look as it specifically mentions Dropbox). For example, if your wife moves entire folders around within the indexed folder, DT may not update automatically, but it takes just one click to force reindexing. DT should be able to detect any new files which your wife uploads to Dropbox after they sync locally to your machine though.

Indexing is by design not the default behaviour in DEVONthink as it requires a bit more understanding of what happens with your local files and folders as you rename, move or delete them within DT, as opposed to importing (where DT has a separate copy of everything imported in the database and your local files are not affected).

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This has all been incredibly helpful. Thank you so much! I had got it into my head that importing was far superior to just indexing and that I’d be losing a lot of features. But it seems not. I think I’d maybe misunderstood somewhere along the way. Your responses have made it all clear!

Now I need to decide between Dropbox and iCloud… do they work pretty much in the same way? My wife can get both on her Windows laptop. Is one more reliable with Devonthink than the other?

DEVONthink does not care as long as the files are available. It reads and writes files exclusively to the local disk regardless of the sync product.

In my humble opinion, for syncing Apple’s iCloud is not reliable whereas Dropbox just works.

Pay attention to ensure all the files are always available “offline” on the local hard disk.

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I’d go with Dropbox too, especially as iCloud is not that great on Windows.

Moreover, on your Mac, turn off Smart Sync in Dropbox. Smart Sync may remove files which have not been accessed for a while and keep them in cloud only (essentially downloading them on demand), which DT will probably not like (I’m just guessing here as I have not tried that setup but it seems too risky to use with indexing in DT).

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I’m wondering if this would work…

I set up a DEVONthink database which IMPORTS all of our files into it and I use that to do The Mass File Clean Up 2022, during which I move things into folders, change filenames, add meta data, all that sort of thing.

Then once it’s all organised, I export the file/folder structure from DEVONthink into Dropbox and re-add it as an indexed database rather than imported?

Is that possible? I’m reading the help guides now… trying to get my head around it all. :slight_smile: Just wondering if I can do the big clean up in DEVONthink while it’s set up as an “import” database.

try. experiment with a few files. Better than asking. Look and see if your metadata is retained.

and i urge you to get any guidance you need from the DEVONthink forum where there are many experts there.

Thank you. :slight_smile: I get a bit nervous about these things!

Try. Best way to learn. have a way to go back. little steps. and (repeating i know) discuss on the DEVONthink forum.

How many files does your wife really need on their Laptop?
Is she really in need of all those files, or is the main purpose more like, giving her the possibility to access?
If it is just the second one, I would rather “import” everything into DT and let my wife look at the files on the iPhone (which works pretty nice from my experience) and let her export files she really need then from the iPhone e.g. into a Dropbox-Folder she could access than from the Windows Laptop.
While it is technical possible to work with indexed files in DT, it is nothing you really do, IF you have a chance to work instead with imported files.
There are in my experiences often already problems with indexed files, even if those files are not moved around, and if they also getting moved, it could start being a real headache.

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