Can I use DEVONthink to go without a Mac install and...

Hi there,

I have replaced my Mac with a iPad Pro 256gb a year ago and would now like to use DEVONthink to go as my main source. I might want to sync with my iPhone.
Is this possible or should I have a Mac with DEVONthink installed?
If it is possible, could you tell me something about the data. If I understood correctly, docs are imported into the database. This will be on my iPad I suppose. Since a single version of a file is the only possible way to be sure it is the correct one, I would like to delete the original files. That implicates that I need a backup. Can I make backups of the database to f.i. Box or Dropbox?
Can I export the docs in their original format? (Doc, pages etc…)
When I edit a doc/file from within DEVONthink to go, is there a versioning system?

Lots of questions, but I would like to know what I would buy…

You don’t need a Mac to sync between mobile devices. However, DEVONthink on the Mac is more versatile and powerful (just as macOS is more powerful and versatile than iOS), so it’s definitely great to have.

Yes files are imported into a database. However, there are no “original files” if you are syncing between devices. Each device - Mac or mobile - will have it’s own copy of the database. You are not going to be accessing the files from each other or some common location.

Here’s the sticky point: Sync affords some functionality like a backup but it is not intended as a backup. It is neither advertised nor advocated as such. Backing up your data to iCloud is certainly available, but Apple doesn’t intend for this mechanism to be used for individual file restoration. It’s meant for device restoration.
This is another instance where having a Mac involved is a good thing. Syncing to a Mac, running proper primary backups to Time Machine (or similar) and external drives, would safeguard your data and allow for more individual restoration in emergencies.

Documents are stored in their original format. Exporting doesn’t change that. Also, exporting isn’t as simple on iOS, so it would depend on the apps involved.

No. There is no built-in versioning in DEVONthink or DEVONthink To Go.

Thanks for the quick and comprehensive answer.

The whole idea (for me) is to live without a Mac :wink:

For all data I gather now I work like this:

  • every file is stored in the cloud
  • my cloud spaces are synced to my home server for backup

I am looking for a way to backup the dttg database. If I understood correctly there is no option to backup (maybe copy) the database to another location. Or could it be placed on a cloud location?

Hope I explained this clear enough…

This will not work well with DTTG. DTTG is a self-contained system. It is not for browsing other cloud services. Could you add Bookmarks to files in the cloud? Sure, but it would not index the linked data nor be searchable.

As mentioned, sync affords a small measure of this functionality, but it is not intended as a backup.
No, you cannot relocate a DTTG database. And if you could, you would never put it in a cloud-synced location as it’s not data-safe.

Thanks again. I am really impressed by the quick replies.

Sorry for being a nuisance but I really like the concept of DT but are concerned that I could loose my data. I have read the manual about syncing and think this might be good enough for me.
If i import all my files in DTTG and sync them all to a sync store, I think there are two fault scenarios

  1. My iPad gets lost or broken; I could sync a new iPad and would have all my data back, is that correct?
  2. The syncstore could get corrupt; I could create it again from my iPad.

If the sync data is intact, yes. However, as I said, sync shouldn’t be treated like a backup.

Yes, you could create a new sync location.

I use DEVONThink to go exclusively from my iphone and ipad without any problems. I’ve never owned the desktop version so I don’t know what I’m missing :wink:

However, one of the options is backup data to iCloud. In the manual this is described:

“Backup data to iCloud: Enable or disable the iOS backup of your databases.”

So at any given time my data is:

  • on my phone
  • on my ipad
  • synced (and encrypted) to icloud/dropbox or wherever I sync
  • backed up to icloud

I’m not suggesting this is a perfect backup strategy but if I dropped my phone into a volcano it wouldn’t be the end of the world…

Just as a side note: The “Backup to iCloud” option en- or disables iOS’ own back up app data to iCloud. So we don’t backup anything ourselves but mark the data store for backing up as part of the regular iOS device backup.

Forgive me if I expand on this topic, as I am interested in using DTTG on my iPad, and only there:

There’s obviously no demo for the app like there is for the desktop versions, and I found the manual and website perhaps a little short on detailing export options.

One one the most important aspects for me is to avoid lock-in. In other words, should the need arise, I want to be able to get my data out, and as much of the work I put in as possible.

What facilities does DTTG offer, and is there anything I should keep in mind before diving in?


Every file in DTtoGO is stored in original file format and accessible using the standard Files app. So if you have access to the DTtoGo database it is quite easy to copy the files and use them in other apps. I am more concerned in what will happen if the database gets corrupted, there is no build-in option to backup the database. (only the icloud backup)

That sound quite promising. Securing backups is something I task myself with anyway, so that’s ok. Does this mean I could even utilize a desktop version of DT to access the very same database (stored outside the iPad, of course), for further export options?

Yes, of course. In fact, DTTG is a very good companion to the more powerful desktop app. DEVONthink on the Mac, would allow for easier exporting of data in the database.

Thanks Jim, that’s comforting to know.

My experimenting with the iPad (Pro) as my primary device for certain tasks is a bit of a challenge, but much more realistic than only a few years ago, and in many ways quite rewarding. Making sure I can jump ship is crucial for any platform and software I employ.

I look forward to taking DTTG for a spin.

Hello all,

Thanks for the interesting discussion. Am strongly considering moving to DTTG myself, iOS only. Any updates or new ideas from anybody how you would backup your data without the macOS version?


Nothing new on this front. iOS’s backup is the only built-in method of iOS backup, but it’s still intended for device restoration, not file restoration. This may be changing with iOS 13, but that is still in beta.

Due to this limitation, sync in DEVONthink To Go may be able to be used as an ad hoc backup but it is not advertised nor advocated as a backup.

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