After using DTPO 1 week, I want to understand import/export

Can i import ALL the files/folders/subfolders (“A”), on an external hard drive into my DTPO DB (“B”), and use DTPO as an alternate Finder? Then can I open, edit and save files (lets say a Word file or excel file or a visio file) directly from the DTPO? If so, does that mean that i can “100% safely delete” all the files in the original folders on “A”?

I’ve just used DTPO a few days, and I’m wondering if I can import all my files in all my Drives/disks into DTPO, use that for search/research, to de-dupe, and to reorg the folders (um… Groups). Should i be worried about losing data/files — can my files, groupings, data disappear if i hand DTPO everything I have???

I exported a 4GB DTPO DB back to the pc folder/subdirectory structure (“C”). It’s looking better because i cleaned up the folder hierarchy in DTPO first and got rid of some dupes. And it looks complete, plus a few new files that DTPO added. I think that now “C” is my new “backup” and that i should keep using the DTPO version “B” as my masterfile.

But, lets say that i now want to import from the exported files in “C” back into DTPO DB “B” again. Will this sync, overwrite, or duplicate what’s already there? What happens to your temp files that DTPO added to the export?

This SW is amazing. It is a bit hard to understand and learn how it all works, but that’;s because this is extremely powerful, complex software.

Hi! Thanks for your post :slight_smile:

That’s largely what I do. Since DTPO supports multiple databases, I’ve “cut up” my life into several sections (software development, cooking, writing, legal documents, and notes related to my duties on this forum, to name but a few) and I keep all the relevant documents in each section. I don’t use the Finder for any of that stuff. If something comes up that I think will have more than a couple documents (for instance, if I decide to take up hang-gliding), that’ll probably get a database too.

There are some file formats that DEVONthink is not ideal for handling. For instance, it’s not a great idea to have everything you download get thrown into DEVONthink automatically – there’s no real benefit to keeping disk images of DEVONthink inside of a DEVONthink database :slight_smile: The functionality remains intact – you can still open the disk image, etc – but there’s just no real point to keeping it inside of DT.

But since DEVONthink keeps an internal, filesystem-stored copy of the file inside the database (Show Info… on a file and look at the “Path” to see where it’s kept), your original file is safe and accessible (and usable) by external applications.

DEVONthink is, in my experience, a remarkably stable and safe application. That being said, always keep backups of your data, and keep multiple backups of your important data :slight_smile:

The DEVONtech_storage files exist to store certain database data that is not and can not be stored in the actual documents themselves. For instance, if you tag a document and export it, the tag cannot be stored in the document itself. It will be kept in a DEVONtech_storage file. But then you can select the folder(s) and/or file(s) and the DEVONtech_storage files and drag them back into DEVONthink and have all of that information. This is used, for instance, when DEVONthink rebuilds its database.

So you can export the files and folders from your database, delete the database completely, and use the exported items to create a database that contains all of the information as it existed. Or you can do something similar to create a copy of a database.

But this is not recommended – it’s simpler and easier just to create copies of the database itself (when it is closed – copying an open database is not necessarily wise) or use the existing functionality in DT to accomplish the same end.

It’ll create duplicates of the imported files, and use the DEVONtech_storage files to reconstitute the database’s internal information about those files (tags, etc).

To conclude, if you enjoy using DT as the primary interface to these files, by all means, do so :slight_smile: Another option, if you haven’t already investigated it, is DT’s “Index” functionality, where DT reads the content of the file and stores it for internal reference but uses the external file for most functions, rather than keeping an internal copy in the database.

Let me know if you have any further questions, or if I’ve failed to answer any you’ve already asked. Thanks!


Thanks for explaining that. It sounds very straightforward. I’ll need to use a few different strategies for different projects/purposes/uses/etc. And that’s a good thing: I mean DTPO gives you flexibility to organize your way, to use features you only dreamed about for years, or to ignore those same features if you don’t need them or if they don;t work the way you do.

It’s good to know that the original files are stored behind the scenes in plain ole OS directories/subdirectories.

What would happen in the scenario above if I

  1. import to DTPO
  2. export from DTPO (which adds the DEVONtech_storage files with the tag data) back to regular OS files.
  3. In the OS/Finder, reorganize the directory/subdirectory folder hierarchy, rename files, edit/revise files, add, delete files, etc.
  4. import from the export into a NEW DTPO database (eliminating the duplicates you said would occur if I import back to the SAME DTPO database).

Q1. Any gotchas, warnings or suggestions in this use case?
Q2. Would the DEVONtech_storage magic file still work if the associated files were moved to different directories?

At this point, I’m just scratching the surface I understand the basics but I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ve been playing around with import/export and index and copy/pasting files from one DTPO database to another. Most of the time it works. Then occasionally it just doesn’t do what i expected. Index seems to work, but import sometimes I end up with empty folders.

I feel like there’s something basic that I just don’t understand. Simple simple stuff. Like just copying files from one DTP DB to another, and it wouldn’t do it. I think this may have been due to one DB being on one hard disk, and the other DB (that I was coping) to being on a different disk.

Once I exported files, then imported them. Then i tried to import them again to a new DTPO DB, but that time it was blank, all i got was empty folders.

I’m pretty sure these are just user errors, learning curve stuff, but once you’re in there working with the files, doing analysis, tagging, smart grouping, and especially smartgroup-ing, that all works awesomely well.

The AI search functions alone makes this a no-brainer.

Getting stuff into and out of is easy for beginners. Deciding whether to index or import seems like a simple decision, but when you have 20-30 years of files/documents, and lots of usage scenarios/needs, it’s not as easy as it seems.

Thanks again!


There shouldn’t be any hazards in terms of data loss, etc, if that’s what you mean.

I figure that moving the DEVONtech_storage files, or moving the files to which they refer, would break the connections between them. This isn’t a sure thing, but that’s what a casual test performed just now would indicate (I’m not a DEVONthink developer, so I can’t comment authoritatively).

Essentially, when you export the files into the filesystem, DEVONthink sends the exported files a DEVONtech_storage file as a sort of letter: “Hey :frowning: If you come back, I’ll be here… waiting :frowning:

And when you add files to DEVONthink, it’ll look for a DEVONtech_storage file, and try to match the imported files with one of the descriptions in the DEVONtech_storage file from that folder (if one even exists). If you alter the file too heavily, it may not be recognized.

That’s basically the sum and limit of my knowledge on the subject :slight_smile:

Whoa whoa whoa. I don’t believe you should be having any of those problems, unless there are quirks to DT’s behavior that I don’t know about. Importing shouldn’t end up with empty folders. Copying files from one DB to another should Just Work™.

Can you be more specific about these situations? Can you give me any test databases or whatever that show these behaviors?

Thanks in advance.