DevonThink without iOS?

I’m trying to decide whether to bite the bullet and go wholesale for DevonThink. I used it a little a few years ago and liked it a lot, but switched to EverNote because of the cross platform capabilities. I got frustrated with the difficulty of managing and browsing large collections of documents in Evernote and the poor access to underlying data, so ended up moving back to the filing system and Google Drive.

I’ve now gone completely paperless and would love to have the organizational, clipping, AI and classification features of DevonThink to help. The big issue is mobile and remote access. All my mobile devices are Android, and I’m not going to change - it’s just much better IMO. (I also occasionally need remote access to my data from other computers. Google Drive gives me great, secure access, from virtually any online device.)

I have my DevonThink database on GoogleDrive, so I can actually see the documents from anywhere, but obviously behind DevonThink’s weird file structure. I only need remote read access and the ability to search, browse, and add to an inbox. (So actually if the on disk file structure reflected groups, there would be no issue at all)

A possibility would be to run the web server and access over the internet, but I am very concerned about security. Google drive has https, two-factor authentication, and who knows what other hacking measures - I’m not a cyber security expert, but am pretty sure my data is would be more vulnerable with my mac exposed. (I’d also prefer not to have my mac permanently on, but that is a secondary issue).

Any helpful thoughts, ideas, or experiences?

Thanks in advance.


Storing databases inside cloud folders like the one of Google Drive is discouraged, this might cause data loss. But indexing files/folders located in Google Drive might be an alternative instead of importing the files/folders.

Thanks for the reply…under what circumstances might I see data loss? I understand changing or moving files from outside DevonThink could cause issues, but otherwise?

I considered indexing, but I don’t think it’s viable. I think it seems to me that I’d have to try to keep two independent filing systems in sync. Every time I added a file, I’d have to move it to the right folder in the filesystem and the devonthink group. And if I reorganized groups, I’d have to do that in the filing system, and in DevonThink. Time-consuming and error prone.

E.g. if the database is used concurrently on multiple computers or if the cloud app doesn’t synchronzie the contents of the database reliably/completely.

A future release will definitely simplify this.

If you are concerned about the possibility of errors, I’ll emphasize that the practice of storing DEVONthink databases on a cloud host such as Dropbox is a ticking time bomb. We strongly recommend against doing that. Our tests, as well as evaluations of user experience, show significant risks to database integrity, some of which may not be detectable by and which cannot be corrected by DEVONthink’s procedures for detection of or correction of database errors.

Most cloud hosts do a good job of maintaining the integrity of individual files. But that doesn’t translate to doing a good job with a complex database file. Cloud hosts (including iCloud) are not running under OS X and using all of Apple’s file system conventions.

It is true, as you observed, that keeping an external file system and Index-captured DEVONthink databases in sync could cause problems if not properly done. This can require planning and some user intervention.

There have been numerous discussion of this issue on our User Forum. I recommend forum searches on this issue by Greg_Jones in particular, as he uses Indexed databases. His procedures to keep the external file system and his databases in sy;nc with no errors require relatively little user action. As Criss noted, a future release will simplify this issue.

As for me, I prefer Imported (self-contained) DEVONtlhink databases for three reasons: 1) I rarely have need to share files with another app, 2) I’m free to rename or move my document files without need to retain sync with external files in the Finder (with rare exceptions) and 3) I can move my databases to another Mac or to run on an external device with little or no need to also move dangling external files along with the database files. If I need to share an Imported document with an external app or make it publicly available, I can export it to my Dropbox folder.

Of course, whatever your choice, you should have a comprehensive backup system in use. I use Time Machine backups to a mounted external USB disk, set for auto backup every 60 minutes. But remember that external backup routines such as Time Machine will happily backup a database that contains errors. To minimize that issue, I periodically - at lease every few days - run DEVONthink’s Tools > Verify & Repair procedure, and use a correction procedure such as Tools > Rebuild Databaase if errors are found (I haven’t seen an error report in a long time). After making significant changes to a database and confirming that it’s error-free, I may trigger a manual backup by Time Machine. That’s cheap and easy insurance of data integrity, and will payoff big time when needed!

Don’t forget computer housekeeping! I Restart the computer at least every week (or immediately if any flaky behavior is detected), to minimize accumulation of errors in memory. Every few weeks I run an OS X maintenance utility (I use C0cktail, but OnyX will work) to clean cache files, etc. About once a month I run Apple’s Disk Utility procedure to Verify Disk. Over the 3 years I’ve owned my MacBook Pro, disk errors have been found and corrected 9 times. If I hadn’t corrected those errors and allowed them to accumulate, I would likely have had problems with corrupted or missing files.