DEVONthink slowing down system

I’m sorry, but I’m finding DEVONthink just glacial, and to make things worse, my entire system seems to bog horribly not only when it’s running, but even after I quit it. Way too many spinning beachballs, especially with Safari and Mail when (and after) running DEVONthink.

I have two main directories in the database, each with a good number of subfolders. One of the directories has 26,275 files, the other has 3,240.

I’m running Tiger 10.4.2 (it just took me something like 10 seconds to get the “About this Mac” window open to confirm that), and DEVONthink personal 1.9.6 on a G4 867 with a gig of RAM.

I’ve followed all the relevant advice I can find in this forum: repaired permissions, run “Verify and Repair” and “Backup and Optimize” on the database, quit the database and restarted, restarted the computer. I suppose there’s been some minor improvement, but I’m still surprised at the sluggishness of everything. I work in graphics, and even having big graphics files open in Photoshop and Illustrator at the same time doesn’t make my system this “sticky” and unresponsive.

I’ve owned DEVONthink for a long time, but only in the last few days have finally taken the leap to put these files into a DEVONthink database to make them searchable. I had high hopes, and while I’ve been able to use the database to benefit, I’m so far very disappointed in the responsiveness. I hope someone can offer some suggestions for improving it.


Sounds like a pretty big database. How do you intend to use it?

What kind of file types are in your database? Text, Word, PDF, graphic files? How did you set your preferences for the imports, by file type? Did you include unsupported file types? E.g., dumping your User folder into DT would include a great many files that don’t add to the value of the database, as DT can’t capture their text content.

The sluggishness sounds like lots of use of Virtual Memory swap files during and after loading your database.

Do you have sufficient free hard disk space? Apple engineers recommend at least 10 to 15% of the drive capacity should be available for swap and temporary files required by the operating system.

Got the same problem-glacial!!! (Devonthink Pro 1.02 test drive) with a 1.5 gb database that works perfectly in Devonthink PE. back to PE is the only option for me I’m afraid. Hope the problem is fixable. Maybe it’s OSX 4.2 that is the problem.

I too am having this problem (DTPro slows down my whole system, beachballs, etc.), but only since I installed the latest update (1.0.2). It was fine with the previous versions. I’m running OS 10.3.9 on a 12-inch PowerBook G4. My primary database is about 230 MB, mostly RTF files (including graphics) imported from Safari and some web archives from DevonAgent. Since installing 1.0.2 DTPro is very slow to open. I usually use the services menu to add pages from Safari to my database (or I use the command-) keyboard shortcut. This has also become very slow and sometimes results in an endless beachball and my having to force quit Safari and DTPro.

I’ve been considering going back to 1.0.1.

Edited to add: About half of my 60GB hard drive is free.

Back to Devonthink 1.9.6 with OSX4.2 - working well again with same computer (1.5 gHz G4 PB with 1Gb memory and half the HD free)

Is the Personal database as huge as the Pro one? Because I guess you’re running out of memory by adding more and more data and therefore virtual memory is necessary and the volume cache of OS X has no room to operate.

To improve things, you could…

  • reduce the number of applications at the same time
  • use no or only quite important Dashboard widgets (as widgets use a lot of RAM but provide little functionality)
  • split the database
  • add more RAM

Anyway, I’ll check if there’s a memory leak and if there should be one, the next release will of course fix it.

Like Clara, I’m also experiencing some significant glacialness with DTPro 1.0.2. As I didn’t use 1.0.1 very long (I’m new to DT), I can’t say if the problem increased with DTP 1.0.2. However, I can give you the following information:

  • DT Pro 1.0.2
  • Mac OS X 10.4.2
  • 1-GHz 17" PowerBook with 768 MB of RAM (I have a 1-GB stick on order)
  • DT Pro DB is about 52.5 MB in size. That’s 164 groups, 2195 HTML pages, 101 plain texts, 1 sheet, 240 rich texts (16 replicants), 1 web archive (1 replicant), and 747 images (55 replicants). 60, 729 unique words and 1,277,055 words total.
  • System lives on a separate partition. That partition (with 1 GB, according to vm_stat, already in use for swapping) has 3.3 GB free.

The symptoms of sluggishness are:

  • More than 30s to start up and open the database.
  • When switching between notes, even in the same group, a wait from anywhere between 5s to 25s before the note is displayed. That’s with small Rich Text notes.
  • When typing, I’m typing faster than the application is displaying often.

I’m not sure if memory is the problem, though. According to Activity Monitor, Devon Think Pro is using 46.84 MB of real memory and 275.55 MB of virtual memory across 10 threads. That doesn’t sound too outlandish to me. Performance did seem to pick up, though, when I wasn’t running practically anything else, but that’s not especially practical. Hmmm.

That’s definitely way too slow and memory shouldn’t be the issue in your case. Does “Backup & Optimize” improve things? Or do you use things like smart quotes or automatic links? If that’s the case - does disabling them improve the performance? And finally - are there any third party extensions (especially haxies and input managers) installed on your system or do you use any special fonts?

Me too have a similiar problem: Devonthink Pro needs rather long time for starting up, meanwhile I’m not able to use other applications. I have this problem since the first version of Devonthink Pro public Beta, hoping that the final version would solve the problem.

My database is 1,19GB, including the 3 Backup-folders (each about 270 MB). I’m working with an iBook G4 1,2 GHz, 768 MB RAM. At the moment 4,5 GB from my 20GB Harddisk is available. OSX 10.4.2 and 10.4.3 since today.

ActivityMonitor says: Devonthink Pro 1.0.2 uses 217,83 MB of Physical RAM and 335,61 MB Virtual Memory, 6 Threads. It seems, that Devonthink takes all available space. There is only 18,65 free space of Memory.

Like contigoni I did ‘Verify and Repair’ and ‘Backup and Optimize’ with no results, my system still seems to behave like Clara’s.

There are 4 applications running: Safari, Mail, Devonthink Pro and ActivityMonitor.

Any hints how to solve this problem?


P.S.: I don’t have third party extensions installed, I don’t use special fonts.

Sluggish operation usually indicates that the operating system is using Virtual Memory swap files instead of physical RAM. Which is to say that the computer is having to access information from the hard drive instead of from RAM – that’s a lot slower “memory”.

When I’m running a big DT Pro database on my old TiBook (500 MHz, 1 GB RAM), I monitor the number and total size of my VM swap files. My rule of thumb is that when VM swap files approach or exceed my physical RAM, I’m going to expect to see slowdowns. Another problem with my TiBook is that I’ve only got a few GB space left on the hard drive. That leaves minimal space for the OS swap and temporary files, which is not good.

When a slowdown happens, quitting and relaunching DT Pro will often speed things up again. A reboot can work wonders, especially if I’ve been doing lots of searches and comparisons with a number of other applications open at the same time. Running routine OS and drive maintenance also helps keep a computer up to speed, including the cron scripts, permissions repair and Disk Repair. I make it a practice to clean out old, rotated logs and cache files periodically.

My G5 iMac with a 500 GB HD and 2 GB RAM rarely suffers slowdowns, unless I’m also working with other applications that use a lot of memory, such as photo and video processing. I’ve got some databases that are larger than those mentioned in this thread.

There’s still another factor to think about. If one imports everything into the main DT Pro database, that monolithic file will be large and will require access every time searches, See Also and other operations are performed. So I import PDF and image files into the database Files folder, as that results in a smaller main database.

When DT Pro 2.0 is released, the database structure will be changed and DT Pro will require less memory to load, and less memory for many operations, so that the ‘load’ on a computer’s RAM will be reduced. That will allow for concurrent open databases, so that users can run lots of databases at the same time – and run into memory problems for that reason. :slight_smile: So it goes.

But I’m still pleased by the fact that I find DT Pro useful on my old 500 MHz TiBook. I can do a lot of work even with my largest database.


in your case the performance is probably “only” limited by available RAM and the speed of the harddisc. Although the next release will fix some memory leaks (after closing/switching databases), this will only improve things for users frequently switching databases without quitting DT Pro. However, V2.0 will reduce the memory usage but this will require a new database format.

Thank you, Christian and Bill, for your answers.

In fact, for the moment I’m nearly not switching between databases (I’m wondering, because I have been waiting impatiently for the Pro version with the announced possibility to have more than one database…).

And I can say, that I follow any of Bill DeVilles hints. Maybe I will have a different situation with a bigger harddisk for my iBook? I will tell you next week.

I forgot to mention, that sometimes, when I’m finishing my work, I’m not able to shut down the computer, because of a time-out for Devonthink (Zeitüberschreitung beim Abmelden). So I started to finish Devonthink first and then shut down the computer.

Maybe it’s only a ‘available RAM’ problem as Christian says. But what can I do? My database is not yet enormous, I’m not really working with Devonthink, I’m collecting and collecting and collecting a lot of things (importing PDF and image files into the database Files folder!). I’m a little bit anxious for the moment I REALLY start to work with all these bits of information.

Anyway, I think, Devonthink is a very fine and useful application. I regret, that I’m not (yet) able to use all it’s possibilities.
I’m waiting impatiently V2.0

Actually collecting information does increase the memory usage while working with your data shouldn’t be an issue. And V1.1. might already improve things a little bit.

Smart quotes is disabled and automatic links was originally when I reported the problem. I had already tried “Backup & Optimize” without noticing any improvement.

I do have some third-party “extensions” installed, all running versions intended for “Tiger”, if not the latest versions. They include: FruitMenu, Labels X, WindowShade X, and Default Folder.

I don’t think I have any special fonts. I happen to have gone through them the other day. With the exception of a few either Pages/Office X installed, I mostly have the default Tiger fonts. Specalized fonts are managed/activated by Suitcase X and I only run Suitcase on an as-needed basis. It’s not running most of the time and those fonts aren’t anywhere near where FontBook/Tiger can see them on its own.

My 1-GB memory stick has arrived. I now have 1.5 GB of memory in my PowerBook. Instead of Activity Monitor reporting me as having only 5-10 MB of real memory available (or less!), I have hundreds of MB of real memory free. The system seems more responsive and I’m seeing less of the spinning rainbow of death.

While I think 768 MB should have been enough, I had noticed that, since upgrading to Tiger from Panther at the end of July, things seemed much generally slower and sluggish. Whether that’s because some applications or haxies have memory leaks under Tiger (but not under Panther?), I don’t know – or maybe the OS itself leaks.

Anyway, I can’t be sure it’s specifically DT Pro. I’ll keep an eye on it.

I still have to switch back to 10.3.9 sometimes and everytime I do my impression is that Panther (compared to 10.4-10.4.3) seems to be MUCH more responsive (although Spotlight indexing is disabled over here and I don’t use Dashboard).

I guess I still would use 10.3.9 if I could - unfortunately as a developer I can’t :wink:

Is it true that a bigger database will use more memory, and slow down DTPro? (I have noticed a slow down on passing from Personal edition to pro. But my DTPro Database is much bigger than my former DTpersonal database. I was running Tiger with both.)
Also, DTPro has more features than Personal. Can this be in part responsible of the slow down?



Yes, a larger database is usually slower and needs more memory but the slowdown depends heavily on the number and nature of the contents. But the performance of the latest releases of DT Pro and Personal should be identical (assuming the database is identical).

Anyway, v2 will reduce the memory usage and increase the performance (as fast as “index databases” or faster).

Thanks Christian,

I’m looking forward to the next DTPro.


Has anyone tried:

Disabling Spotlight


Disabling Dashboard

to speed things up in general? Does doing so make Tiger go as fast as Panther? Does it GREATLy help DT Pro? I rarely use the above and have a 400 mhz machine with 1 GB RAM. Thanks for any comments.

P.S. I too am experiencing DT Pro slow down however I am a newcomer and perhaps have a very slow machine. No difference in speed however when I upgraded from 700 MB to 1023 MB. Eric.

Widgets kept opened use a lot of memory. This, at least, can be checked with activity monitor. If widgets are not really useful, it’s better to keep the memory for DevonThink. (I’ve disabled dashboard, and have the impression that things go slightly faster.)