Storing and accessing documents with Devonthink

I just bought DT for my Mac and am confused about managing documents.
My Mac is provided by my employer and it is where I will install the SW .
I keep my work docs on the local drive synced with OneDrive. I will also add some of these to DT.
I keep all of my personal docs in ICloud.
I’m really confused (and have read through a lot of literature on line) as to what exactly DT does /doesn’t do with these files. Can I just index them and leave them exclusively in ICloud? In that case would I just continue to upload files via Finder?
I do have a private Mac mini I use as a server in the house- would I do better to install the database there?
Thank you in advance for any guidance you can provide this perplexed newbie!

you did not say what you have read. highly recommend you go to DEVON Technologies’ web site and get the Manual and “Take Control of DEVONthink 3” a free of charge ebook compliments of them. read and understand the important bits in the ebook first. the manual is outstanding.

some of the things you are thinking about are not good ideas yet but rather than comment here you will get that info in the above documents

idea. put these documents into one of your new DEVONthink databases.


I downloaded the Take Control book and am reading it. I’m also going through the DT help files in the program and reading their forums.
I think that I just found the answer (via the help) that I cannot index files that are exclusively cloud based. It can be tricky to find answers when you’re not sure of the lingo (Take Control was helpful there).
Since I have the Mini perhaps I’ll install the add’l DT license there for the personal docs and sync databases with my work machine. That a better idea in your opinion?

while the Help files are the same as the Manual, get, store, and read this document for your training in using this document management tool. context may be easier to discern.

if i were you i would put all databases on all machines that you use and sync. but if your company does not approve or like that then change the plan.

read carefully and understand sync. the instructions are clear.

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Thanks for your feedback

There’s a lot going on in your post, but let’s start with the basics.

DEVONthink “databases” are a special type of folder within macOS called a “package”. What that means is that the thing you see in finder with a name like myDatabase.dtBase2 is the top level of set of folders.

So, a file in a DEVONthink database can either be stored intact within the database, or it can be stored in a folder outside of the DEVONthink database and "indexed by DEVONthink. It doesn’t matter in most respects where the file is physically located.

Yes, you can index files that reside in iCloud, or Dropbox, or OneDrive, or on a local file share, etc. Your experience will vary depending on how reliably your computer’s access to those cloud or local network sources is. For example, we have almost no control over what files iCloud keeps on the local drive. A database might throw off a “missing” warning for an iCloud file because iCloud is not caching that file locally. This is rare – but it happens. Similarly for a local file share – if your Mac loses connectivity to a NAS, for example, then the DEVONthink database might know about a file that you told the database is stored there, but cannot access it. So it is “missing”.

There is a version of DEVONthink that operates as a sort of server and allows access to local (or internet) users depending on your router and firewall config. The server edition of DEVONthink is really expensive. Sleep on it for a few weeks before deciding to invest in it.

Although I implied that DEVONthink doesn’t care if a file is indexed or imported (i.e., resides inside the database), there are cases that affect indexing to be aware of. Moving indexed files can outside of the indexed folder can cause issues in some cases and should be avoided. Use the DEVONthink interface to move files. This is explained in great depth in the books and manuals that @rms suggested.

The DEVONthink forum is absolutely the better place to get DEVONthink advice – where you’ll encounter the developers and help staff who can help get you started.


Thanks for this. I cannot imagine I need the server version. I will continue poking around the DT forums. Enjoy the weekend and happy new year to all

i urge you to temper expectations using the forums in lieu of those two documents i pointed to. less random and higher quality. and experiment.

I love DevonThink and use it all the time. I prefer to keep my documents in the DT databases, rather than indexed (with the actual files being external to DT).

You can have more than one database open at the same time. In your case, you can have a database for personal documents and a separate one for work documents. Or multiple for each (such as one per work project), it’s up to you.

I tend to use DT for long-term storage and reference documents rather than anything I’m actively writing at the time, you can keep those in iCloud or as a regular file. But then put it into DT for future reference. But that’s a personal preference, you can use it any way you like.

Do NOT put DT databases in cloud storage. Keep the databases on your local drives and use DT’s native sharing between machines. In my case, I use DT on an iMac and a MacBook Pro, and DT To Go on my iPhone and on an iPad. I use the Dropbox sync to keep them all synchronized so I have access to my documents on all of them.

Enjoy DT, there’s a lot to it.