1 DT database; multiple devices - advice? (not re syncing)

Hi all -

I’m writing to ask the community for advice about using one DT database across multiple devices. I apologize for the long post, but I’m hoping to get reactions to a “second best” solution, and context for how I use it seems necesary.

Main caveat:
I have basically abandoned hopes of syncing, since it seems to be beyond my limited technical skills. Every time I’ve tried it, I’ve messed it up somehow. And every time I read the various “sync” posts on this forum to figure out what I’ve done wrong this time, I immediately get confused, uncertain, and nervous about all the references to technologies I don’t understand, and especially all the ways to destroy my vital data. My perspective is a less well-informed version of the conclusion at this blog post: strauser.com/making-devonthink- … computers/. I just don’t have the skills to reliably manage the sophistication of the tool in this way. So: what to do.

How I use DT:
I use DT Pro to manage my historical research. I collect archival materials and secondary sources in a single “Sources” folder. As I work through each source, I then make lots of “electronic notecards” with comments/observations/quotes/etc from that source. Then I use replicants to allocate multiple copies of those notecards to a parallel structure that is organized by concept/topic/argument rather than by source. When I am writing (which I do in Scrivener), I then constantly reference the DT database as I write.

My devices:
Work desktop. I use work desktop to write articles/books, to search DT while I am writing articles/books, and to do at least some data entry into the DT database. (Besides DevonThink, all my work files sit on a Dropbox folder that is located in a central university server. I can access these server files remotely, but DevonThink runs too slowly when accessed like this to be genuinely usable. So functionally the work server DT database = my work desktop DT database)
Laptop. I use laptop to write articles/books and to search DT while I am writing articles/books. I sometimes use it to enter data into DT by manually copying the whole DT database to laptop, and then copying it back to Work desktop.
Home desktop: I use home desktop to write articles/books and to search DT while I am writing articles/books. I sometimes use it to enter data into DT, also by manually copying the whole database to home desktop and then back to work.
iPhone: I use DT To Go to dictate electronic notecards on sources as I read them–saves time typing, and is more portable. I then sync this to the main DT database and allocate the notecards to the appropriate sources and subject tags/folders…

My proposed solution:
Forget finding the ideal, perfectly synced solution. Instead adopt a workable second best.

  1. Only one device at a time will be the “Home Base” for DevonThink. This might occasionally change—e.g. right now I am on sabbatical overseas, so it will be my laptop. But typically it will be my work desktop.

  2. While I’m in a research phase, do all data entry in the “Home Base” DevonThink (typically by syncing from notes taken in my iPhone DT To Go). Totally abandon the practice of entering data on different computers—just do it all from the “Home Base” computer at all times, even if that is inconvenient.

  3. When I turn to a writing phase, copy the most recent version of the “Home Base” DevonThink database to all devices on which I will be writing, and delete the old versions of the DevonThink database that were on those devices. But don’t do any new entry on those devices. Continue to centralize all data entry through the “Home Base” device, even though this will occasionally be inconvenient.

  4. Back up DevonThink regularly by manually dragging-and-dropping the database to copy it to backup folders in two places: (a) a different folder on the work server, which is backed up every day; and (b) Dropbox, solely for the purpose of backup and never used to actually access the materials. This will be manual and not automated.

Does that sound safe, and workable? Am I missing something obvious about either (1) risks of this approach, or (2) a better and technically straightforward even for a mediocre tech thinker like me to achieve all of this?

Any thoughts will be ENORMOUSLY appreciated–especially as regards any risks associated with manually copying the entire DT Database on those occasions when I actually need to switch “Home Base” from e.g. work desktop to my laptop.

Thanks so much,

This blog post refers to the old synchronization of DEVONthink 2.5-2.8.11, version 2.9 introduced a completely rewritten, much faster and more reliable synchronization.


Please ensure that DEVONthink doesn’t run while copying databases.

I think your process sounds safe and workable, especially given the context you provided.

I generally find when doing complex projects with multiple files and work places that the best approach is to use one machine. If you try to spread your project work across two or more machines you gradually spend more time fiddling with configurations and sync than with real work, and subsequently worrying if you got it right and whether you have the latest versions at hand. Years ago I tried to work back and forth between a desktop (MacPro) and laptop and eventually abandoned trying to keep the desktop and laptop aligned with respect to my source files, notes, and work artifacts. I stick to a laptop for all my data needs, and use DTTG2 on an iPad Pro minimally and only for discrete subsets of data needed for a meeting or a day away from the laptop.

So, I am sympathetic with and familiar with your process. Works for me.