Advice on How Many Databases

I’m new to DEVONthink Pro (a nerves-ravaged refugee from Chronos SOHO Notes) and there are a few points I’d love forum users to advise me on.

  1. What are the pro’s and cons of having more than one database? In an ideal world I’d like two main databases - one for work, and one for personal information. The main problem I can see with splitting my data this way is that - as I understand it - I can only take clippings from the internet or documents in another application to ONE designated folder in ONE database. Or I have got it wrong? Is it possible to set different key combinations, so that I can clip items to the Inbox in my work database, and have another key combination to clip to the Inbox in my personal database if I choose? If not, why not?

  2. Do the databases “talk” to each other? By that I mean, is it possible to do a search that will look for an item in not just one database but my other databases too? If not, why not?

  3. On the same “talk” point, is there an easier way to transfer notes from one database to another rather than drag and drop to the desktop? At the moment I am test-driving DEVONnote and it’s easy to send notes from that straight to the Inbox I have designated in my DTP work database, but I can’t see a way of transferring notes from one DTP database to another. Again, if there’s no way of doing it, why shouldn’t these sophisticated databases be able to talk to each other?

Thanks for your time.


Greetings and welcome to our “family”. :slight_smile:

There are pros and cons to each.
Having more than one database allows greater focus and can help avoid information creep. I started with one massive database and it quickly became unmanageable for me. I was collecting information from many domains and would lose track because of the lack of focus.

You can also maintain your information in the Finder and index it to DTPro. If you decide to use one central database, you can easily share information between Finder folders. Understand that you can synchronize your indexed Finder folders (and files) with DTP but that it is one way (Finder ->DTP).

If you index your information (storing items directly in the Finder) and want to add items directly to DTP, they will not be sync’d with information in the Finder.
For this reason, you might consider keeping shared items in the Finder and maintaining two databases if you want to store most of your stuff directly in DTP.

Having one central, well structured database means that you may find additional relationships in your information that would be missed in two separate databases. It also allows you to use the myriad ways of getting information directly into DTP instead of storing info in the Finder and remembering to synchronize.

Version 2.0 will allow multiple databases to be open at once and will store all information in the file system (Finder) but we have no ETA for it’s arrival.

As for designating different keystokes to specific folders/applications, do a search for Quicksilver, Quickkeys (or iKeys etc) and Rooswitch. You can create some neat time-saving functions that are accessible via a few keystrokes. There is a significant learning curve to some of the functionality but, IMO, it’s worthwhile. I have only scratched the surface and am still learning myself.

They do not “talk” to one another. IMO, that sounds more like an enterprise version feature. However, as noted above, that point is moot because at some point in the near future DTP will use the file system for storing information and then it should be a simple matter to share information between databases or libraries.

I think that if you add items to a database that is not “running” it has no way to track the information. It might even see the change as an error or corruption.

DEVONnote is a different application than DTP so you can send information from that, like many other applications, to DTP.

IIRC, you will need to export items from one database to the Finder and re-import them to another database.

Perhaps this might be automated somewhat by using a designated folder for exporting to and importing from. There may be one or two applescripts that help to automate the process.

For example, the hypothetical script would have to export information to a target folder in the Finder, close the current database, open (or prompt the user to open) a target database and import from the target folder.

It seems “doable” at face value but it may not be possible, as written.

You are welcome. :slight_smile:
There are many others here with more knowledge than myself. Perhaps you’ll receive additional insights shortly.

I hope this has been helpful. I’m sure Bill will correct my inaccuracies.



welcome to the DevonThink family, and please excuse my rough late night post. The problem “1 database or more?” is a problem that haunts me since I started using DT 3 years ago, and it haunts me more and more. So I would like to add some experiences though I did not read the thread thoroughly, sorry if I am not really answering your question.

Having several databases is NOT a good solution because as a rule of thumb you have always the wrong database open at that particular moment, and if you are looking for something, you have to check all databases in a worst case scenario. Spotlight won’t help.

Having several databases is INDEED a good solution if you have used DevonThink vastly and dumped in anything you thought that might be useful before you get 90 or 95, and therefore has grown up to 10 GB or more (without backups). Then even DevonThink may become slow and you have certainly lost any control.

I have come to that point early last year. So I splitted my database into several databases, since then speed is a pleasure, and the more I clean the individual databases the more pleasure I get in finding what I am looking for.

I have abandoned the habit of collecting anything that might be useful and have started a new database that shall cover everything in the future (until they come out with ver 2.0 where you can open several databases or do a Spotlight search – in 2010 or so). In the meantime I am cleaning the old databases and export the “good” parts to the new one. It is a long process, and as long as I have to open many databases sequentially just to do a simple search it is horrible. But I hope to be through that process in summer…

Youm the new user, may never come into that mess because you are clever enough to restrict what you collect and to keep everything tidy. Perhaps you are not working in several languages – which makes things even a lot easier compared to my situation.


Try to keep control of what you collect and keep it in one database. You may later (2056 or so) divide everything into several databases, when you can work with version 2.0. Basically, different databases are a clean solution which I absolutely prefer.

btw, I am quite unsatisfied that we have to live with these restriction so long, but I have tried many competitors and nothing comes even close to DevonThink. I has changed my work to the better despite all.


As I was reading Maria’s post it made me think. You might collect all of your tidbits in the Finder and sort them into separate databases at a later date, if you want to go that route.

Alternatively, you might use a central database and break that into more discrete databases at a later date, if needed.

You can let the process determine the outcome. Allow the necessary structure to emerge and do what is necessary at that time.



I’m hugely appreciative of the above posts replying to my queries. To MILHOUSE I would like to say the following –

I hadn’t grasped the potential of the index and synchronize menu commands (being a Newbie). An hour’s experimentation with them has opened up an exciting vista of DTP data management. But it’s hard to know whether I should now spend huge amounts of time using index and sync when you say that, actually, Version 2.0 will store all information in the Finder anyway. So my gut feeling is – don’t make a decision about splitting databases or pulling in lots of archived documents until DEVONtechnologies release DTP 2.0, which is no doubt awaiting the forthcoming Mac OS 10.5.

I welcome your statement that “at some point in the near future…it should be a simple matter to share information between libraries and databases.” If that means I’ll be able to search multiple databases at once, that will surely be DTP Heaven!

BTW, I do use both QuicKeys and QuickSilver, and I’m already deploying them to get close to my ideal usage scenario for DTP.

But the single insoluble problem (for me) that I have identified in the wonderful and absolutely must-have DEVONthink Pro is the fact that I can clip to only one database, and there is no instant way of sending clippings or notes to other databases – for example, Services submenu items set up in preferences that say something like Send To “Personal” Inbox and Send to “Work” Inbox or whatever the user chooses to name his or her databases. I could then configure QuicKeys for these submenu items and my inability to designate notes/clippings to different databases would be over.

To MARIA I would like to say –

Many thanks for taking the time to help me out. I’m a little unsure if you concluded that I should stick with ONE database, given that you say you have personally split your huge database into several. I’m grateful for your advice about keeping down the size of databases.

As DTP Pro stands at the moment, it will be easier if I do have just one database until I see DTP 2.0 – easier to add clippings to, easier to index and sync, and easier to search for information or relationships. But as DTP evolves, perhaps working with multiple databases will become possible and I’ll split my database.