DevonTHINK for sharing documents, what is the right setup?

I am trying to set up DevonThink Office Pro for a very simple use case:

  1. Scan and OCR documents
  2. Sort from inbox into groups
  3. Search and retrieve docs occasionally
  4. Share documents in those groups with family members (different groups for different members) and external parties (e.g. our Tax adviser)

I used to do this with Evernote and it was fairly straightforward, but I am struggling to do this with Evenote.

My first thought was sharing with Devonthink mobile. This doesn’t seem to work as:

  1. I can’t sync specific folders but only entire databases
  2. Setup of this sharing is too difficult for external parties

Next I looked at Web Sharing, bat that only seems to work on the local network. This doesn’t work as we need access on mobile devices to these documents. In fact, this being 2018 mobile access is more frequent than local access.

So the best solution I found is to use DEVONthink only for document management and a cloud file store (e.g. Dropbox/Box/Google) for sharing. To do this:

  1. I keep documents in a directory hierarchy that’s indexed by Devonthink on Dropbox/Box/Google
  2. Now I can use the cloud file store to set up sharing (i.e. which family member or external party has access to which directory)
  3. If they add a file to that folder, it shows up in my system as well next time I access the folder (good!)

This sort of works, but has a host of annoying issues:

  1. I need to remember to “Move to external folder” after each change, or others can’t see it
  2. I can’t move files between groups in DevonTHINK (or if I do, the users I am sharing with can’t see that change). I need to do the move in finder or move them out of the database first.
  3. I can’t use the database’s inbox for this reason. If I do, files that I move into a group don’t move on disk. Instead I use the global inbox where this works.
  4. However with the global inbox, the search bar doesn’t work

What am I doing wrong here? It seems my use case is pretty much 100% what the marketing pitch for DevonTHINK office pro claims the software can do (scan your data, sync with all your devices, share with anyone). But setting this up is extremely hard, and in the end it’s not exactly a good user experience.

Is there a better way to do this?

The setup you’ve discussed, using Dropbox and indexed folders sounds like the reasonable approach in your case.

Correct. This behavior may change in future releases but that is the current requirement.

Correct, and that is by design. There are many use case where the structure in the database wouldn’t match the structure in the Finder. If you need to reorganize, do it in the Finder.

:question: Not sure what you mean here.

:question: Not sure what you’re referring to here. The searchField at the upper left works in the current database, including the Global Inbox.

Where are you seeing “Share with anyone” in our marketing copy, please?

Thanks for the prompt reply again. The issue with the inbox (3) was that I was using a folder labeled “MyInbox” (not the standard inbox) on disk that was sync’d. If I move a document from this “MyInbox” group to another group and do a “Move to external folder” this is not reflected on disk (as moves between groups are not propagated to disk). But as I just discovered myself if I use the DevonTHINK default inbox, move the document to a group and use “Move to external folder” it works fine. The difference in behavior here is sometimes a bit unintuitive.

The search field in my Mac client (DevonTHINK Pro Office" is at the top right (not left). If I:

  1. Select a database, e.g. “MyDocuments”
  2. Do a search for “2014”
    No documents from the global inbox appear in the search. Only documents from the database “MyDocuments”.
    This is not an issue anymore though as everything works fine if I use the DevonTHINK inbox of the database MyDocuments.

The DevonThink Office Pro marketing page states “Share your data with anyone, whether they use Mac or PC”. URL is here:

[ ... ffice.html](

I don’t quite see how “sharing with anyone” is enabled by DevonTHINK alone. To reach “Anyone” I can’t count on them being on the same LAN (and I only have a laptop so port forwarding wouldn’t work either). To me it looks like sharing needs to be done via a separate service like Dropbox/Box/Google Drive.

But coming back to my use case, is there a better way to do it?

That is correct. The searchField only searches the current database. To search all open databases, you need to use the Full Search via Tools > Search.

That is technically true, but relates to WebSharing.
In your situation, WebSharing sounds like it’s not an option, so yes, you’d use a cloud service for sharing.

Given what you’ve described, I’d say this is a reasonable way to approach it.

Hello – I am just getting started with DevonThink Pro and have a related question.

I need to share mostly pdfs. I had thought of moving the docs off my Mac and using Google Drive as my document repository, where my colleagues can utilize the same documents, while I put my own study notes in DevonThink. (I will share relevant notes with my colleagues in Google Group discussions linked to the docs.)

I also want to add keywords to the pdfs that my colleagues can use, too.

I’m not considering syncing across platforms, I expect my colleagues will be working with Google Drive and my laptop is a Chromebook, so it will be pointed to the document repository Google Drive as well.

Is this doable in DevonThink Pro?

PS This Web forum software does not appear to be completely compatible with Firefox on the Mac, I hope this posts in an intelligible way.

I store a lot of PDFs and other file types on Dropbox. DTPO indexes all these (but my DTPO database is on my Mac, as it should be). I don’t share with others, but if your cloud allows others to access your files (with the understanding that they have no relation with DEVONthink) then your plan should work. But there is a danger if they can move, delete, rename files or change textual data in the files, since your DT would not know of these changes and hence it’s internal links and indexed metadata would be compromised.

In other words, things should work as long as they only view or copy files.

Question, how would you add keywords to your PDFs?

Thanks for the info. I will make the sharing permissions on Google Drive read-only.

Yes, I’d keep the DTP database on my Mac.

I want to use Google Drive as my document repository for the sharing and so I don’t have to maintain a duplicate repository on my Mac. You know how that leads to problems.

According to Jim Neumann: You cannot do this in a batch, but Tools > Show Properties allows editing standard PDF metadata.

I am looking for a tool that will run on Mac OSX to do batch metadata editing in PDFs, before adding them to DevonThink Pro.

You will (and should) still have a local repository on your Mac. You should not try and index files that are located only on the cloud. This is a normal procedure, even with other cloud services. Changes in the local repository propagate to the server, then out to the local repository on other linked machines.

Right, Jim, I so often forget that my Dropbox files are also on my Mac, the ones indexed by DTPO and other files, although I do have files only in Dropbox, but that’s another situation.

pvonk, do you manually update both repositories to keep them matched or is than not important to you?

If you were running the Dropbox app (as most Dropbox Users are), there is no manual updating of the local repositories.


This use case is actually why I index instead of import, but it’s super frustrating.

I know the argument’s been had – DEVONthink isn’t a finder replacement, there’s benefit to being able to organize files differently in DEVONthink vs. finder, replicants, etc. etc. – but I think there’s a strong case for a “Mirror” functionality that operates like Indexing except that it does reflect changes in the indexed filesystem.

I work with other people on virtually every file I have. The easiest way to do this is to use a variety of cloud storage solutions. Yet I also want to have DEVONthink’s stellar concordance and search abilities available to these files. Right now, the number of scripts and Hazel automation tasks I have to keep the rickety setup stable is absurd and took like 36 hours to stitch together. It works, but I know that something will eventually break and I’ll have to spend another eight hours experimenting to get “Mirroring” working again.

Point being: I understand and agree with the notion that (in many use cases) DEVONthink indexing shouldn’t completely follow the file system structure. However, I think that the mainstreaming of cloud storage use has created a real and increasingly common use case where a Mirroring functionality is key.

So, count this post as yet another whining user asking for such a feature. :wink:

EDIT: I realize that some features won’t map one-to-one with such an approach to getting files into DEVONthink databases – replicants being one. A preferences for Mirroring would allow the user some control about how to handle these feature conflicts – “Create a new copy of the file when Replicating a file in a Mirrored Group” vs. “Create a shortcut to the source file when Replicating a file in a Mirrored Group” vs. “Do not allow Replicating in a Mirrored group”, for instance. At the most basic, though, I’d be thrilled with a limited feature set in a Mirrored group that eliminates these conflicts, if only to prevent me from having to maintain all of these hacky scripts…

1 Like