Moving “all” of my files to DevonThink

OK… so I’ve been reading through some items on the forums and I’m hoping to get some feedback and possibly workflows for moving “all” of my files into the DevonThink system.

1. Would you even do this? I currently have most things in the Finder. I started placing things in DevonThink a long time ago, but that fell off. So now I have things in multiple places.

2. What do you think the best method to do this is? Literally drag and drop from Finder folders into the DT Database of choice? Seems like that could take a long time, but I don’t mind doing it in the background.

3. Would you then just delete everything in Finder? Obviously, I’ll back up the entire system before I even start this, but after I’ve moved the files into DT… just delete from Finder?

  1. I’ve read people’s opinions on shared files (OneDrive, Google Docs, etc.). I like the idea that those systems just need to be treated like two separate places. Personal and Shared.

5.) Theoretically, if I have enough space on my cloud syncing service, everything should sync through the DT databases (given enough time). I can selectively sync things to avoid using space on smaller devices. Seem reasonable?

Other thoughts or cautions?


May I offer a recommendation? Assuming you have not already done so, I’d recommend that you purchase and go through @MacSparky’s field guide on DT before proceeding. I have gone through over 50% of the course and it is invaluable. I think this will provide you a solid foundation before making any radical changes.

That said, and I’m sure others will have a different perspective, I index all of my Finder files in DT rather than importing them. There are pros and cons to both approaches but Indexing works best for me. The nice thing is that when indexed, if you add a file directly to DT, it also shows up in Finder and iCloud.

I hope this helps!


You don’t need a book to know: Don’t do this. If you move everything into DEVONthink you’ve just moved everything from one part of the file system to another.

DEVONthink is NOT a different file system – there’s only one file system on your Mac and DEVONthink lives inside it just like Finder or any other app.

If you put “all my files” into DEVONthink then all DEVONthink will do is suck them into an incomprehensible hierarchy inside a hidden folder, and you’ve turned management of all your data over to an app.

I’ve used DEVONthink extensively for over a decade, for all my client work and all my personal projects, and still never kept more than 5% of my files in the app.


Your perspective on this is abundantly clear.

I know there is only one file system. I know that this would merely move the files into DT’s hierarchy (this is implied in Q3). I also know that my realistic/useful access to these files would then be almost 100% through the DT app. I’d essentially be foregoing the Finder and choosing to use DT as my new finder.

The point of my post was to see if people thought this was a good/bad idea. Then, if they thought it was a good idea, to suggest some of the mechanics.

Thanks for your feedback.

If I were wanting to use much of a filesystem/drive in DevonThink, I’d index it rather than import it. In DevonThink, you can set the indexed folder when you create the database. You wouldn’t need to delete or mess with the underlying files.

My opinion is that importing the files is going to make your database way too big. DT official support probably knows the limits, but I’d be concerned about a huge imported database never finishing syncing on some devices. I’d also worry about having enough headroom on the system to load the DB of imported files into RAM on searches. You’d expect each search to take longer than Spotlight would take, based on my experience, assuming a substantial number of these files have a lot of text in them.

Second David’s guide as well as the Take Control book.

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Why? What problem are you solving that can only be solved this way? Or what dream do you have that absolutely requires you to take this step?

I am oft accused (to my detriment I suppose) of not giving an answer but of saying instead that you should be able to figure this out yourself. So …

Every app in macOS finds files using the Finder. Given this, would it be good or bad for you when DevonThink crashes and you have deleted all your files in the Finder? Or perhaps not deleted but when you have to return back to the Finder to assure that you can still “find” them, for example while working in your mail app to add an attachment? Or perhaps not even have to return to the Finder for specific things that need to be done, but have to go back and forth between DevonThink and the Finder to assure yourself that you have not missed something in one place or the other?

As for my opinion, the idea is a bad one. But this is just my opinion.



Another vote for indexing.

Be extra careful with sync. If you’re going to have DT syncing files, it needs to be the only one who does so. I.e. don’t have DT and iCloud syncing the same folders.

I have lost confidence in DT. I do miss its indexing. The search is good, and I’ve gone through gyrations to use it on a copy of my important files.

I saw in the release notes for the latest version that they now have a way to relink indexed files if you move them. That’s been a long time coming, and caused me lots of grief in the past.

As previously mentioned, there’s a new function that allows you to confirm your files have been corrupted.

Do lots of backups and retain them for a long while. Check for zero length files, and use the corruption confirmation tool.


As noted, DEVONthink is not a Finder (nor a Spotlight) replacement, so no this would not be a wise idea.
Even indexing all the data would be inadvisable unless you were being careful and thoughtful in your interactions with the files in DEVONthink. See the built-in Help > Documentation > In & Out > Importing & Indexing, especially the Indexing and the filesystem subsection.

Also, I suggest you read this blog post of ours…


Let me a bad example to you. I have definitely used DevonThink as a junk drawer in the past.

As I return to using the app after a long absence, I am trying to be more mindful building new databases.

On the other hand, I do have a database called “Misc” which is likely to become a junk drawer. However, there’s a difference between having a junk drawer in your house vs. turning your whole house into a candidate for a reality TV show about hoarders!


Love that! :rofl:

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Signal vs noise. I have certain files/notes I need to access when I am at work. These need to live in a database by themselves, and have their own set of tags. I get excellent search results because I have kept only the relevant files in their own walled garden. Most of the my most useful Devonthink databases have a dedicated purpose. The beauty of DT is that a search /see also can apply to multiple open databases if desired. My bills and non work materials - Finder/Spotlight, Alfred, Houdah Spot do a good job. If I want extra there is nothing stopping me from creating a separate DT database and indexing the files.


I have definitely used DevonThink as a junk drawer in the past.

Indeed, so have I. It’s what prompted me to write the post initially :slight_smile:


Have you personally lost data in DT, or are you observing other users’ experiences? Or is there some other reason for your lost confidence?


It’s also a bad idea to use the Finder as a junk drawer. I realized recently that I have about 20 years worth of documents on my Mac, most of it organized in ways that made sense during the months I was using those documents for active projects, but which probably don’t make sense now.

We recently buried my brother-in-law, who died in July at age 80. His belongings included several big containers of letters, hundreds or thousands of them, over 40-50 years, including his deployment as a Green Beret in Vietnam. It occurred to me that our societal conversion to digital makes it easier to preserve documents–and also makes it easier to lose them. Future generations will not have the experience of going into the attic or closet and discovering a trove of historical letters and documents.

Related, and bringing it back to DevonThink: on the DevonThink forums, a person was asking how they could prepare their DevonThink databases for their heirs, given that none of those heirs are DT users. My suggestion: Don’t. Export all important documents.


Can’t say for sure. Some of the many issues and frustrations I’ve had may have been self-inflicted and/or due to trying to work around some other issue I had with DT, or they may have been due to DT itself.


link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link, link
After 5+ years, it gets old, so I moved on.


I came to DT after being a Evernote customer (still am, but that’s another story). Yes, I put everything into DT just like I did with Evernote. I have two databases, for personal and work stuff and that’s it.

The key feature for me is sync, I need all my content to be available on my tablet and phone. So if I resorted to indexing I would need to index iCloud folders. As iCloud Folders can be a little pesky when “optimizing” space in my local devices I feel I prefer using DT’s own CloudKit syncing.

I truly understand that DT’s specialized correlation features will be less effective as I put more unrelated content into it. But apart from that I see no real drawback other tahn categorizing everytyhing into a sensible taxonomy (I’m still struggling with that :wink:
but that’s an issue with any application.


I really wanted to love DEVONthink after coming back to it from Evernote. But too many issues with managing files and constant database error problems preventing sync to mobile. I am now using OneDrive as my file cabinet. Not a junk drawer but a lot of critical, important, and just useful/needed stuff to avoid having paper (ScanSnap FTW).


You can index a “non cloud” folder on your Mac and have it synced to iOS / iPadOS and other Macs via CloudKit, no need to import into DT database.