DevonThink Pro slow...

I have a a 17 million word database, all linked files. And DT is so slow. a search takes 30 seconds, whereas Spotlight is near instant.

My machine is not the problem. Core2 duo 3 Gigs.

Is Devonthink not able to deal with large databases?

My main database is considerably larger, with 29,245,651 total words at the moment, and more than 24,000 documents.

I’m running it on a ModBook (a Mac tablet based on a MacBook) with 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and 4 GB RAM.

I just did a single-term search for SPARC (scholarly publishing and academic research coalition). Found 31 items in 0.068 seconds. A search for “methylmercury toxicity” yielded 16 results in 1.560 seconds. Adding “fish” to that query resulted in 13 results in 2.326 seconds. Those were All, All Words, ignore case searches.

At the moment, I’ve got 1,534.2 MB free RAM, plus 204.5 MB inactive RAM. Open applications include DT Pro Office, Safari, DEVONagent, Mail, iCal, ScanSnap Manager and System Preferences. Since I restarted yesterday I’ve also done some photo editing in Aperture, which was opened on top of the apps listed above, but is presently quit. But I haven’t had a single pageout, and only the default 64 MB swap file, with 0 bytes used. Note: I’ve added a number of downloads from the Web since I last ran Backup & Optimize yesterday. If I had run Backup & Optimize before running those searches, I would have seen a slight speedup. (I always run Tools > Verify & Repair before Backup & Optimize, or run Scripts > Export > Backup Archive instead). Generally, I expect a single term Exact query to take 50 milliseconds or less.

My guess is that you are getting slower performance from DEVONthink because Virtual Memory is being used. That means that some of the data being processed has to move back and forth between swap files on the hard drive and RAM, which slows things down. Virtual Memory is wonderful, because it allows procedures to be completed after free RAM has been exhausted – but at a price in elapsed time. Another possibility is a stuck process that’s using up the CPU, or a boatload of Widgets that tie up RAM and CPU (and sometimes network) resources. Remember, too, that if you’ve added a lot of new files to your drive, Spotlight can slow things down while it’s indexing the new material.

If you’ve been running DEVONthink pretty hard, RAM can be freed up simply by quitting and relaunching the application. Although my main database takes more than 30 seconds to load the first time (it’s default), after Quit and relaunch the application and database open in less than 8 seconds. If you’ve got other applications open that are memory-hungry, such as a photo editor or video editor, try freeing up RAM for DEVONthink by quitting them. If you are running a lot of Widgets, you might be surprised by how much of your computer’s resources they can capture. And of course a restart once in a while will clear any cobwebs and give your RAM chips a fresh start.

Although I often caution against installing hacks, I use a little utility called MenuMeters that lets me see at a glance RAM and CPU usage in my menu bar. I’ve never had any problem with MenuMeters. It can come in handy if an errant process gets stuck and gobbles up CPU cycles, for example. I can see what’s happened, so that I can open Activity Monitor and identify and quit the process.

Don’t forget OS X maintenance. A utility such as C*cktail or OnyX can be used to run maintenance such as cron scripts, log rotation and clearing, cache cleaning and so forth. That helps keep OS X happy.