Getting started w Devonthink

I find getting started with Devonthink to be almost overwhelming, I’m not sure how to set up the database is so that they sync and there seems to be conflicting advice on how to do that.

While I work through that, in David Spark’s Field Guide on going paperless he indicates that you should bring your documents into Devonthink and not just use Devonthink to index them in place.

Unfortunately he does not explain why he makes this recommendation and if you see says he will hopefully explain is here. Having been burned before by getting Information into certain containers that then having them blow up destroying all your work I am somewhat hesitant to do that.

I currently break my file system down like this

Personal growth
Focused and organized
Entertainment and travel
System Management

I would love to just have one database that has all of these items but that would mean it would be 350 GB and I have found that even creating a database of 50 GB even on the new M1 Mac mini with 16 GB of memory tends to make Devonthink not perform well.

If I make each one of these folders its own database can I then open them all at the same time to be able to search across them.

How does having data bases affect working with Devonthink to go?

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated,

If you have set up your databases and are syncing them between two macs an iPad and an iPhone I would love to know how you can figured them

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indexing in place means you lose the connection when you are on a different machine, since it does not contain the item.

Yes you can.

You would sync the same databases across. Or at least the database, you can choose to not store the files locally.

My suggestion would be to start with one area. Get a feel for the app, and expand bit by bit.

It is a bit of a learning curve, but imo well worth it.


That’s not accurate. If you are syncing databases with indexed documents, the the connection is absolutely maintained.

I noticed that this is the second post today about DEVONthink. I have a few suggestions that I hope are helpful.

  1. Search this forum for the various DEVONthink treads, there are several and they are helpful.
  2. Check out the DEVONthink forums.
  3. I highly recommend Take Control of DEVONthink 3:

  1. The question of indexing vs importing is a common one. I hope I’m not violating some copyright here but I took a few screenshots of the four pages from the book referenced above. This may be helpful. Keep me out of trouble and buy the book. :slight_smile:


I’ve had mine give errors very often, so I’ve stopped doing that.

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I second @Bmosbacker suggestion to post your question on the DEVONthink forum, as syncing indexed documents is supported. I index 100% of my documents into databases on macOS, and then sync them to iOS/iPadOS devices where I do the bulk of my work.


@GregJones That is exactly my workflow as well.


and just to elaborate, indexed files on a Mac can be downloaded to an iPad if you sync that indexed database on an iPad for example.

I more or less agree, but have seen this fail too many times to be useful for me.

using cloudkit or bonjour?

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iCloud sync (now named legacy)

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I’ve never had it fail other than the DTTG issue with corrupted files.

but i also have never used iCloud I use my own custom WebDAV sync.

I have several DT databases. One is all my archived emails. That one the items are imported into DT because I then delete them from mail.

Also imported or only exist in the DT ecosphere are the databases for my LambTracker codeand queries and ntoes, my general reference notes

One is indexed and is an index of my main filing cabinet folder into which all my regular digital files are placed. The database itself is about 5 GB but the folder it indexes is 127 GB. I have that one set to only download files to my device as needed. Which means I do not get them if I am away from my house, see sync below

I have a couple others that are testbeds for various things that will come and go as required.

I sync all the databases except the email one to my iPad and iPhone using my own WebDAV server that runs on our Synology NAS. It was fiddly to get set up but has worked without any sync issues since.

Ok within Bonjour the download of indexed files works fine. I am however having an issue when I am outside of the house using cloudkit. I have posted a question in DT forums.

Do the basics initially. It is a rich deep program that is immensely powerful. Your knowledge will improve with time and usage

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I’ve got them all non-indexed (so the files are in the database.) Most are syncing with the new CloudKit sync released with DTTG 3 and one is syncing with Dropbox, so it can be used by a user with a different iCloud account. The Macs have all the DBs and the iOS devices each have some of the DBs as needed.

Agree with the slow-and-steady adoption. The Take Control book was good. The documentation is better for specific things but not for grokking the big picture, although the encouragement in the DevonThink splash screen to learn the app by using it is the single best bit of advice. I’ve found that doing something in DT a few dozen times, and trying variations, is better than any amount of reading. Duplicating a database into a test is a good way to try things that sound scary.

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How does that work? How does the file get synced if it is not in the DT database?

I guess you would rely on a 3rd party sync (like Dropbox to do that right?

it indexes and can retrieve the files on demand from wherever they are indexed.

All explained in the DEVONthink Manual (and Help) in section titled “INDEXING AND SYNC”.

There’s no one right answer, because it depends on what you’re putting into DEVONthink and how you use it. For 350G of source material, indexing is indeed extremely useful. On the other hand, my major use for DT is organizing and filing my financial life - statements, receipts, financially-related emails, warrantees, insurance policies, etc. etc. For this use case, moving the documents into the DT database is exactly the right thing to do. Of course, I have much less stuff to work with - at this point, under 10G. I use DT sync between my iMac, my MacBook Pro, my iPhone, and my iPad, and I can instantly access my documents from any of them.

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