Clarifying the new sync method via Dropbox

There are a few points I’d like to raise, and a few questions I’d like to ask about the new DEVONthink syncing method (particularly the Dropbox method), to clarify matters.

Firstly, I think the instructions on how to set up the Dropbox sync should be changed. The instructions tell you to set the Dropbox preferences (Preferences > Advanced > Selective Sync) to exclude the “Apps” folder. This is very misleading and could lead to data loss! Many people like myself have other apps (such as Day One) also syncing, and unchecking the “Apps” folder would probably result in the loss of those apps’ data. The instructions should clearly state that in the Dropbox preferences, you should continue to the advanced view and uncheck only the DEVONthink folder. (Some people might only have that DEVONthink folder in the “Apps” folder, but others may have other folders that they still want to sync.)

Which, secondly, brings me on to the syncing method itself (at least, the Dropbox method). If DEVONthink is in fact unselected, then HOW does DEVONthink in fact do its syncing via Dropbox? (I wasn’t in on the beta use of this, so please excuse my ignorance here, but obviously there are going to be many others who are as mystified as I am as to how all this works.) The databases are not being synced by simple “Dropbox syncing” (this can’t be the case, since in the Dropbox preferences, the DEVONthink folder in the selective sync “Apps” folder is deselected, and thus the database isn’t in the Dropbox folder); apparently only a “sync store” file is being synced, invisibly in the background.

I set all this up and synced a modestly-sized “test” database of 391.6MB. It all worked! But - how? My Dropbox space quota didn’t decrease by 391.6MB, so presumably I’m right in thinking that only this “sync store” file is synced, and - somehow - this instructs Dropbox to sync the “real” contents of the databases, silently, in the background - and without increasing the space used by Dropbox.

Have I got this right? Because, if I have, then this syncing is revolutionary: very large amounts of data should be able to be synced via Dropbox without impinging much on one’s Dropbox quota. If I am right, then for me at least, this is going to kill the likes of Evernote and iCloud Documents stone dead. It would be the most sophisticated sync method for the Mac that I’ve ever seen.

But maybe I’m hugely wrong and someone will point out my embarrassing mistake? :blush:

The third thing I’d like to know: am I right in thinking that two people can work on the same synced database - at the same time? Surely collisions are going to occur? (I guess if it’s just one person, moving from one Mac to another, then everything’s going to be OK.)

Fourthly and finally, I think the instructions could also be a little clearer about, once you’ve set up Dropbox syncing on one Mac, how to “receive” that database on another Mac. I worked out, that in DEVONthink, you have to go to Preferences > Sync and click on the “Import Database…” button and go from there.

Like I say, I wasn’t in on the beta use, so perhaps many people will already know about all these things, but coming straight to it on the release version, none of all this was exactly clear to me, and it would be great if these above points could be confirmed, clarified or corrected by those in the know.


Another puzzle (for me, at least): the synced database on the second machine is half the size of the one on the other machine. Yet everything seems to be there. How?

oops :blush:

My Dropbox quota is indeed increasing - I misread the size. Looks like I will be increasing my Dropbox space allowance!

Still, it all seems to be working very well so far.

A quick note on

The second machine hasn’t had any internal backups done on the database. If you check Preferences > Backup you will see how many metadata backups and how often they’re done. As the backups are done, internal to the database itself, the size will incease.

This confused me as well. I assumed that DT would put sync files in my local Dropbox folder and let the local Dropbox app sync them from there. The instructions to exclude the local Apps/DEVONthink folder from Dropbox sync was a puzzler.

What I think is happening is that DT is syncing directly to Dropbox via their API rather than via local folders. Excluding it from the local sync would make sense then, as you would not need to have another local copy of the sync store, so this would save space.

I’m of course just guessing. So far I’m finding the new Sync features to be a fascinating combination of awesome and confusion.

jbaty - Yes, it had begun to sink in that it was this Dropbox API rather than “straight” Dropbox syncing.

BLUEFROG - that explains the disparity in sizes, thank you.

It’s useful that one can set up both a direct connection sync and a Dropbox sync for a database.

It’s all looking pretty good from here. :smiley:

Yes, Sync is using the DropBox API (Application Programming Interface), not the DropBox folder. This is why you don’t need DropBox to actually be open to do a Sync!

But you also don’t want DropBox to Sync unnecessarily when it is running, which is the reason to exclude the DEVONthink folder in the Apps folder.

And yes, you can have multiple Sync locations per database, though remember that your network quality and the size being Synced does matter. Cheers!

I notice that the activity log on the sync I’m doing right now is continuing to show activity, even though the Dropbox indicator shows “All files up to date”.

I have a vague memory of seeing this before - some activity having obviously finished but the activity monitor never ending its progress bar. Is this possible? What happens if click the “X” in the circle?

I’m getting “Verification of Database Failed” in my Log. What am I doing wrong?

There is some inconsistency in your database that disallows the Sync (as you wouldn’t want to Sync an incoherent database).

For more detailed instructions on database troubles like this check out the Troubleshooting section of the manual (pp.115-118 in the DEVONthink Pro Office manual).

Panic over - it finished :laughing:

@avatar Do not use the DropBox menbar item as a gauge of Sync progress. The Sync is going on behind the scenes.

Thanks! That was fast and precise support. Really appreciate the help. Truly awesome.

It’s syncing now. Looks like it will take nearly an hour. My db is 1GB.

A few other questions, if you have a moment:

  1. Is is OK to store my .dtBASE2 file on DropBox? (I’ve been doing that for the last year.)

  2. Or: should I delete it, since it’s now duplicated by the sync copy?

  3. If I check “Sync on Open Database” and “Sync on Close Database” in the Sync preferences, does that mean that whenever I open DEVONthink Pro Office on any of my Macs with syncing set up that the sync will automatically be initiated? (I will be careful and make sure the program is never open on two or more machines at the same time.) In other words, does DT interpret the opening of the program (launching of the App) as ALSO the program event “Database Opening”?


DT has its own (awesome) progress bar for syncing. I am loving it.


  1. We do not advise storing your .dtBase2 files in DropBox. Technically you could if it was just an unused copy but temptation may lead you to use it while it’s in the DropBox folder, which is not a good idea. I would only delete it if it’s a copy.

The best option would be to take the live database out of the DropBox folder if it’s there, then setup and initiate the Sync.

  1. The Sync on open/close is when you open your local copy, not any other machines.

(PS: Nice to see you here. I remember chatting with you on the Ironic forums.) :smiley:

Thanks, Bluefrog. And thanks for helping me with Yep! and other Ironic programs. It’s now a very dependable app for me that I use every day.

OK, I will move my .dtBase2 file to the HD of my main Mac, I guess, and then rely on sync to “refresh” my DT data whenever I open DT on my MBA. I got around the “tempting” problem you mentioned by always ensuring I closed the database on each separate Mac, waiting until Dropbox finished syncing it, and then closing DT. But obviously if I can rely on the Sync architecture DT now has, that would be preferable; especially if it’s a “smart” update and doesn’t take an hour to sync every time.

One last question: after I move the .dtBase2 file from Dropbox to the HD of my main Mac, do I really need to “[re]setup and initiate the Sync” (again)? Hate to lose another hour syncing today.

At risk of making this thread a mixture of different topics … I decided to use a direct connection sync instead of a Dropbox sync, since it’s quicker and suits my purposes better.

So I deleted the Dropbox sync location for my database, and set up a new direct one. It worked OK and synced much faster.

But 2 questions:

  1. Can I initiate the sync using the other Mac? If so, how?

  2. How do I delete the (now unwanted) stuff from my Dropbox account? Is it simply a matter of deleting the “DEVONthink” folder that’s listed in “Apps” at the Dropbox website?

Many thanks for your support!

You shouldn’t need to reSync after moving the database (as long as you are not renaming it, you should be fine).

With a Direct Connection, one machine acts as the host, the other as a client.
Machine A allows incoming connections.
Machine B Syncs by connecting to Machine A and copying the database locally to B.
Machine A makes changes to the database. B is unaware of these changes until it Syncs.
Machine B makes changes to its copy of the database. A is unaware of these changes until it Syncs.

And remember this is for MIRRORING the database, so changes to one will change the other. This is an important concept to keep in mind.

Does that make more sense?

Never mind. I already did it. Took all of 2 mins.

Is that logic the same for syncing via Dropbox?