Close to buying DT, have data sustainability (ie lock-in) concerns , appreciate community thoughts :)

Hi all

I have been playing around with several apps lately (eagle filer, keep it etc). All have their own cons and pros and decided that DT fits me best.

I have been a linux user for close to 15 years and only recently converted to Mac. One of my main issue always (been burned before…:)) is data sustainability (ie lock-in) concerns.

I have been using mostly plain text files for my data notes and links (emacs/orgmode, markdown etc) in recent years. The last issue I have before fully committing to DT is the proprietary DB. apps like eagle filer seem to use a simple file system approach which looks great.

My question (sorry for the long/boring intro :slight_smile: ) is then what does the community think about this issue? can you open the .dtBase2 file with external open apps and extract the files? Are there other apps that can read/open the .dtBase2 files?
Any other approaches people have too make sure the DT data is sustainable?

appreciate any thoughts on this

best regards and thanks in advance


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DT3 has an option to export an entire database to folders/files (and other options such as export as a website).

You own your data; you cannot get locked in. There may be some issues exporting some metadata, but even there the ability to use Applescript woudl likely give you an out if necessary.

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Yes, you can, with any file manager

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that’s amazing thx so much!

@Silverstone: sounds great, can you give an example of how finder/other file manager can look inside a .dtBase2 file?

thx both for making me much more confidant going forward with this :smiley:


can you give an example of how finder/other file manager can look inside a .dtBase2 file?

Note: We do not advocate messing about in the internals of our databases. One wrong move and you can create inconsistencies that would cause issues with the database.

You should do exports via drag and drop or File > Export > Files and Folders with selected items.

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understood, thx @BLUEFROG!


You’re welcome :slight_smile:

Just choose command “Show in Finder”. You may place the appropriate icon on you DT toolbar for quick access.

In Path Finder e.g. you can choose command “Open packet” to enter inside .dtBase2 file.

But as @BLUEFROG said, don’t do it without a reason. I use it, for example, when I need to drag&drop a file to a web browser dialog. Often you cannot do it directly from DT

I don’t know if this exists in Linux, but the MacOs has what is termed a “package” which looks like a single file, but is actually a disguised collection of folders. Various programs (such as Scrivener) use the package format for projects or databases (even applications themselves use it). You can control-click on an icon in the Finder, and one of the options it will give you is “Show package contents”. If you select that, you can browse the package like you would a normal set of folders. But heed the warnings about messing around with the contents. Look, but don’t touch. It can be an interesting voyage of discovery, though.

I’ve looked at how applications such as Eagle Filer, Keep It, and also apps such as nvAlt, Evernote, Bear, Apple Notes, etc store the files. In general I regard the options presented by DEVONthink much better than Evernote for instance in this regard, though it of course depends on how you use it.

For instance, if you create Markdown files, pdfs, images, rich text, formatted notes, rich text, etc in DEVONthink, you can find the actual files on the file system if you navigate inside the .dtBase2 database (which is actually a directory). So this means that you can can for instance modify the files directly with external applications; that is, you can modify a Markdown files with a text editor or a PDF file with Apple Preview just like if they were on the file filesystem. You can’t for instance do this with Evernote, Bear or Apple Notes notes. In the case you didn’t have any access to DEVONthink after some years, but had the .dtBase2 package/directory, it would still be quite easy to get the files out from there without specific tools.

Getting the folder structure, tags and metadata out might require more work, though at least if you have access to DEVONthink, it plays quite well with MacOS concepts when exporting, etc. For instance there’s a more complex option to “index” a regular directory with DEVONthink, which option seems to sync for instance DEVONthink tags and Finder comments with the MacOS tags and comments. Also, for instance the encrypted databases are actually the same encrypted disk images that MacOS uses, so you can quite easily open them with Disk Utility or Finder if you just maybe rename the extension of the database.

If you collect a lot of DEVONthink specific custom metadata, annotations and things like that and they’re very important, then you may want to look at also how to export them to another system. However, this is also the kind of data that Eagle Filer or Keep It don’t support as such. However, I think if you have just something like a regular file system folder with maybe Eagle Filer or nvAlt (or upcoming nvUltra), it may be much easier to for instance apply different backup solutions, sync and access with different apps with something like Dropbox or iCloud Drive, restore earlier versions with Dropbox, etc. The encrypted sync stores in DEVONthink is a good thing, but besides that the perfomance and reliability issues with DEVONthink’s sync solution is one reason I’m still using or looking for other alternatives for some things.

To add to what @Silverstone says; DT does organize your files in a “database” but it does not contort it into some other format. I.e., your PDFs, text, JPG, “what not else” formatted files stay that way, DT organizes them in a folder structure called “database”. As @BLUEFROG points out; don’t mess with that structure etc, but if you ever decided to move to another platform - DT will not hold you back; all your files are there in their former glory.

You should be careful: support is really poor and I was forced to upgrade (for a fee) in order to have a few bugs corrected (the fixes were not backported to the release were the problem was first noticed). If I would not have a lot of stuff in already, I would not use this product.

I have had different experiences, both with the software and the support.

My first brush with this sort of product was Personal Brain. I used it for document libraries for several years, then lost some data. A new version came out about that time, and I lost data again. I suspect The Brain (as it’s now called) is better since it is no longer written in Java.

LIke Devonthink, The Brain keeps files in conventional folders.

In my experience, DT has never given warning signals. My largest database is about 8500 documents with about 400 tags. I think there are about a thousand groups in the database, but I’d have to check.

From my view, DT is indispensable.


@rparvu, which software are you referring to when criticising support?


What do you mean saying “support is really poor”? Can you ground you words? It seems not fair to me, since I’ve rarely seen a better product support…


I agree, I had assumed @rparvu was referring to another product.



Since DEVONtech hasn’t charged an upgrade fee for longer than most users have been around (until v3), this seems unlikely. Also, I don’t know of any developer who “backports” bug fixes to earlier releases of a product. Bug fixes come in new releases. The support community crew here can be counted on one hand with some fingers left over, but they do far more hands-on, individual support than many larger companies.


If a bug is reproduced in a supported version, the fix should be delivered for that version. Period and no further comment from me.

Support does not take time to actually understand the problem. As well, they actively try to dismiss the Customer problem as ‘working as designed’. If you like to advertise the product to others, please feel free to do so as I should be free to convey my experience with this product of inferior quality.

In my experience, support for this program is exemplary and quite transparent. The developers are constantly in conversation on this forum.