After a very long while

I will be leaving Devonthink. I’ve used it for ten years or so and I have a massive amount of personal and professional information, that if lost…well, I just don’t know what I’d do. Since the upgrade to Devonthink3, twice I have been unable to access my folders. The first time, Devonthink didn’t recognize my database. After installing and reinstalling and doing something with my license, which the new Devonthink didn’t recognize, I got my stuff, with great great relief. I thought that a sophisticated, well past start-up app like Devonthink couldn’t do that again. It must have been some weird fluke. And honestly, I didn’t want to bother looking for alternatives. I’m busy.

This past week I tried to access a massive folder of personal information in order to complete an application. I could open the database, but anything after 2018 simply wasn’t there. When I clicked on the database in my Documents folder, it told me something like I must have moved the database and would I please move it back. Hadn’t moved it. I still can’t get the information from Devonthink. It seems to have disappeared into the ether. Luckily–very luckily in this circumstance–I had kept the folder on my desktop for about a year (laziness sometimes pays off), so the folder was in Time Machine, where I retrieved it from. I can’t risk losing the amount and the type of information I’ve kept in Devonthink, and honestly think that the fact this is not a cheap app made in someone’s basement, and that it advertises itself as a database that can hold, index, and retrieve massive amounts of data, makes me seriously wonder about its integrity at this point.

On a lesser point, I’ve never been able to make sync work. That may be due to some lack of technological expertise on my part, but again, I would think if Devonthink offers sync, someone such as myself should be able to figure it out.

Just curious, you said you had the folder with the database on your desktop and documents at one point?

Did you have the desktop / documents in iCloud enabled? ( not related to DT) It is a setting in MacOS.

I would imagine, if you did, that could cause all sorts of issues with DT.

No. I don’t actually use icloud for anything – except DT sync. This folder was on my desktop because – as I said I was lazy – and I was adding/changing documents daily. It was entirely disconnected from DT. I don’t actually use DT for active files because it takes too long to get them in and out of the database. This was a regular folder with a bunch of pdfs and Word docs. As I said, it was being backed up by Time Machine, but that’s it. I put it in Devonthink after the work inside the folder was no longer active and needed to be stored. I will say, if this was Word or Mail or what have you, an incident such as this wouldn’t make me fret. It generally would be one document (stored in Time Machine). When it is a database that has thousands of documents, over ten years of research, writing, and storing, I can’t risk the thing falling apart. Reliability is way more important with an app such as Devonthink than with Word. Word makes me scream daily (and I only use it when I have to), but it’s not critical. Devonthink, Scrivener, Ulysess, Lightroom etc – if those break down, the world crashes around me. Actually Adobe does break down regularly, but seeing as designers are chained to it, I have to work with it until they fix their quirk of the week. But I still have the files, even if I can’t open them. In this case, Devonthink didn’t acknowledge their existence. When I used Easyfind, it told me they were in Devonthink. Devonthink didn’t show any sign of their existence.

It’s an unfortunate set of failures and circumstances related above. Personally, I’ve never had any issues in 13 years as those described – and I would be upset if I had that experience.

I assume along the way that the OP has opened incidents with Support to get to the root cause of the problems and repair them?

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I did contact support after the upgrade when DT wouldn’t open my databases. That’s when I uninstalled, re-installed, did something strange with my license number and got my information back.

After I thought I had lost 100s of documents that I can’t reproduce, and that I needed access to immediately, and then DT didn’t acknowledge they existed and told me to move my database back – to where it’s always been, I just got tired. I need a database to occasionally do work in and more frequently consult stored information.

I didn’t see a point in contacting support because I decided I’m done. It is about reliability. I want to be able to forget about my database when I don’t need it, and be completely confident I can quickly get what I need when I do need it.

2 breakdowns in Microsoft and I’ll complain. But I don’t rely on Microsoft to store ten years of work. 2 breakdowns in that ten years is the equivalent to five out of seven days worth of problems with Microsoft (and then of course, I still have Pages and Open Office and Google Docs). I have about 5 days of work due in two - my fault not DT’s - but I simply don’t have time to worry about this.

Sync not working might be the clue. I don’t want to get addicted to a cloud provider so I sync to a USB SSD device.

It’s been completely reliable, here.

For a while I kept two sync stores, and synced all my database to both. That seemed to work fine, too.

I hope you are able to recover your data.

Please may I suggest that irrespective of where you end up going with your data, you might re-think your backup strategy? It should never be a matter of luck (the folder left on your desktop in your case) that you have access to files that have become lost from their primary storage site (DT in this case). Like you, I cannot risk losing the data in DT - which is actually one reason why I use DT. The files in DT databases are readily accessible, and not stored in a proprietary format. I have a minimum of 2 active backups, and 4 backups stored off-site. I perform a monthly backup to WORM media. That’s in addition to synchronising to 3 devices (which is of very limited use in terms of data security when it comes to database corruption).

So, I’m not trying to convince you to stay - but do make sure that wherever you go, you don’t fall into the proprietary-format trap, and do check whether your backup strategy provides you with sufficient safety for your data. Whilst I would be less than pleased if I had to make use of it, mine should limit any data loss to a maximum of 1 month - and for things to be that bad would require multiple failures. As it is, DT has been rock-solid for me (good for me; not much help to you).

If I have understood you correctly, you have not actually lost any data (because you had it stored in that folder…) - if I have misunderstood that, and you require help trying to recover, please let the forum know (and maybe in that case do submit a ticket).


That is the case with DT databases, too - unless they have been actively removed, the files are still there. Finding them may be more difficult than is the case with a Lightroom catalog (or not, if my memory of those catalogs is anything to go by). But you can open them, because they are not in a proprietary format. What you have lost (assuming you can’t fix the database with a verify & repair) is the information which helps DT find the files and serve them to you.

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