Digital Assets Manager (DAM)

I’ve been looking for a decent DAM for all my photos; some 100GB of stuff. Nothing makes the grade. Many photos are in RAW format and once I load them into all the modern DAM managers, they become so slow as to become unusable. I also don’t like Photos in macos as there appears to be no selective sync and I don’t want to purchase 100GB of icloud storage, so I wondered at DTPO.

Is anyone using DTPO as a DAM?

If so, is there a way to get EXIF data in, or at least set the creation date of the photo to the date it was taken? I dragged in a number of RAW files and was surprised by how easily DTPO handled them and displayed them. It would be nice to have all my photos in a DTPO database.

If you think this is a lousy idea, I’d love to hear why and better solutions (that don’t cost 100’s £)

Yes, this is a lousy idea :mrgreen:

And this is a perfect example of why it’s not a great idea. There is only a minimal amount of image metadata indexed by DTPO. EXIF is extensive and there are apps made specifically for this purpose (and yes, they may cost something). Last I knew Adobe Bridge is now free, if you’re wanting to not spend any money. Beyond that, Extensis Portfolio (not free) has been a de facto app for this kind of thing. (I have 30+ years in graphic arts / printing / photography, so this is kinda my territory. :smiley: )

There is no advantage to using DTPO for large masses of media assets like this. DEVONthink is made for words, and just supports importing images. But its forte is not handling media files metadata. If your metadata needs are very minimal, yes it can be used, but it certainly is not built for anything more than that.


Stumbled upon this topic :smiley:

I think now that DT3 is out and supports lots more meta data (and is also faster) it may become viable as some sort of DAM solution.

I started using it at least with one photos database with 70000+ images - experiment is ongoing…

I would still not advocate it, as this is not DEVONthink’s focus nor its forte.

DAM is a very specific thing, and while you can do all manner of things with DEVONthink you’ll have to assume the heavy lifting for yourself. If you’re game, go for it. However, a real DAM application would do it better and faster… and with a more focused approach.

PS: Even though DT3 is more powerful and extensible, it is still not trying to be ”all things to all people”. The focus is still the same, text-based data and information - organizing and connection.


Have you looked at TapForms? It’s not a dedicated photo database, but there is extensive info on the forum about doing what you are talking about. It’s $40.00 and has a robust iOS version. It’s probably worth looking at. The Dev and the community are extremely helpful.

Thanks for the help on this.
I need a suggestion for the following:
Thousands of my photos are of handwritten notes.
Some are individual pieces of paper and some are of multiple sheets arranged in a specific way to indicate relationships, sequences, etc.
Some papers are of handwritten notes on hardcopy versions of manuscripts. In this case, I often have many photos of the same page, but with different editors’ comments. Some images are of magnetic whiteboards or corkboards that have combinations of index cards, hardcopies of notes, manuscripts pages, etc. Still other images are of screenshots of a layout in Scrivener window (or other software) next to a Calendar Event/Work log that describes what the image is, why it matters, What’s next.

If I am working on a certain chapter, or an article, I need to see and track those items. In mental practice, they are the equivalent of physical items spread on a table and hung on the wall while sitting with one fresh paper refining the next version of the consolidation of the surrounding data.

Despite the lack of 3PV, the fact that I can add my own custom metadata columns and view the items, offers me something NO Other document manager does. “Comments” in Finder is not enough and once you use DTP3 for this kind of thing, no other database (TapForms, FileMaker…) can help clarify and track the way DTP3 can. So, the impulse is to dump it all in.

So, you’ve stopped my impulse, what now?

Additional Info:
I do have a few hundred in PDF form and the screen shots are .png. The photos are .jpg because I read that handwriting recognition only works on jpg, so I didn’t convert my photos to pdfs.

I also have Adobe Bridge CS6
Running on a MBP mid-2013, Sierra.

Thank you for any assistance,


So, you’ve stopped my impulse, what now?

I’m not sure what “what now” ?

You are more than welcome to use (and abuse) your databases as you see fit. Does that make everything a good idea, because you can? Definitely not. But if you have thousands of photos that correlate with each other, you can certainly import them. Just don’t expect it to do what Bridge, or Portfolio, or Cumulus, etc. would do. Those apps are specific to digital asset management, so they have features specific to that niche.

Can you flex some extra functionality with custom metadata? Sure, and that’s part of the beauty of DEVONthink - the flexibility it provides to custom tailor your experience. But that is very different than including features like EXIF/IPTC reading and writing, XMP data, etc. Though these kind of things are noted, they are not core to what DEVONthink excels at.

My usual admonition is more about indiscriminate importing.

I use an app called Lyn for photo management outside of Photos. I like it, but I also admit that I don’t do a lot of “high level” stuff in it.

I only post it here as a possible alternative.

I am someone who has for years taken a reasonable number of digital photographs (photography is a hobby). I have also recently started using DEVONThink (just about at the time the first beta of DT3 was released).

For what it’s worth, I regard DT as a document management system (albeit using the widest definition of “document”). I would not use it to catalogue my photos. What I’m currently trialling for that (having waited for years for something decent to replace Lighroom—which I stopped using when it moved to the subscription model) is Photo Mechanic Plus. You won’t find much about it currently because it’s in beta and is available only to licensed users of Photo Mechanic. However, you will be able to glean details from the Camera Bits’ forums.

Sorry if this is wandering a little off-topic but, to my mind, there is a big difference between a DAM and a document management system and I hoped a few brief comments might usefully point to a source that would throw a little more light on the differences.


As Jim, I have many years of experience with DAM, and used everything from Kodak Shoebox to Expression Media to Canto Cumulus, to Lightroom (but no Extensis). And I 100% agree with him.

I would NOT use DT3 as a DAM. I do store jpegs, gifs, iPhone screen captures as png, when needed, try to capture stuff as pdf as much as I can (text or not), or as html, or as rtf(d).

For my 150k photos, about 1TB, I use Lightroom. I pay a few $ a month for it and Photoshop (the Photographer’s Bundle), and I couldn’t be happier. I get to view specific collections I want on LR for the iPhone, and it also does a brilliant job of editing photos captured by iPhone’s own photo app, or Halide, which I use a lot.

A word of caution - it is a very good idea to convert any RAW images you have (a duplicate if you prefer) to dng. Put the RAW files in a HD, or cloud, wherever, but keep much smaller and compatible dng in your DAM (LR). I did and do this.

Finally, I rely very much on LR exports (and it keeps getting better and better) to upload stuff to sites, create all kinds of export alternatives, including to DT on occasion (but I try to avoid doing too much of this)


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no, not a good idea. as it stands.
for one, it doesn´t serve the internal functions of any dedicated DAM
for two, it doesn´t allow for real/robust integration and roundtripping with other photo- and DAM-tools
– but try Photo Supreme, if you still want to buggle up your photo management w/ DT… in ‘some way’

… some additional thoughts:

I myself belong to the group tempted to loop-in DT into my photo/image/visual media workflow when it comes to creative forms of information and knowledge handling (sorting, finding, retrieving, associating etc.).

One thing is that one feels DT offers a kind of friendly invitation, as

  • its media display is rather advanced (just think of annotating sub-parts of videos…)
  • DT effectively does read (and makes searchable) some of the EXIF/IPTC-metadata (even though in the end this is all not very transparent in actual use, as the UI is not showing all of it)
  • the whole power of aliases, finding related content/folders, and (now) automation

… so there is a real ‘seduction scenario’ here :slight_smile:

add to that on the more ‘meta-level’ that

  • some people (like me) do think that information is semiotic and not textual in nature. for people like that/me the separation of text vs. image/graphic/schematic/etc. just doesn´t make sense in the 21st century. (even more information is one kind of beast; meaning-making resources another…)
  • for some people probably there is a ‘natural urge’ to find one privileged (if not exclusive) place to channel all one´s knowledge assets + sense-making resources to and manage them together – and DT is just one of the best candidates…

then I would agree with Bluefrog, after many attempts to bend DT that it´s not really a ‘good idea’ (inspite of some of the ‘invitation signs’).

some of the larger stumbling blocks are:

  • no display of nested files on higher folder levels (if you look at it all serious DAMs allow for that; and with visual material that is 'for a
  • the bridge btw. EXIF/IPTC/XML metadata and DT-metadata handling is only partial and not (easily) obvious/transparent, probably fragmentary. (some IPTC metadata are read, findable; it seems of them are diplayed in DT-panels some not; then others are not read…etc.); also there is no way to ‘write back’ most of these image metadata even though they can be read; in another take: there just is a break – semantic/ontological as well as practical – btw. photo-metadata and DT-/finder-tags (or other metadata options of DT)
  • one of the huge ‘forte’-factors of DT really is its textual-pattern-intelligence; and – because of the fragmentary metadata use – it´s not clear (to me) to what extent this translates to visual material (augmented by textual metadata), or whether it does at all…

so, in the end: there are some invitation signs (media-display; partial transfer of some media-specific metadata etc.) and there are some urges (extended notions of information and knowledge resources; looking for centralized knowledge management; etc.) – but it remains a bad idea for those serious about photo/image-management.

… musing about it, in the end I am not sure about the extent to which this is because of the 'nature of DT’ (software architecture eas final barrier etc.), or to what extend this is ‘only’ because the DT-team often made explicit to its firm subscription to the (contestable) idea of ‘information = text’.

in the end it´s probably inbetween, like everything – as media and knowledge culture is in the 21st century. this, I think, is also indicated by the fact that DT, while subscribing to a text-paradigm still allows-in all these ‘other’ media (images, graphics, video) , … add to that that there are paratextual elements (textual aspects) to visual media to some extent, not least because more and more they are augmented by text (metadata) as we are living in the world of trans- and hypermedia. (and I am not even getting into the whole AI-thing and labeling here…). and to some extent DT really is itself caught up in the ambiguity of the new media realities and the fact that everyone now strongly considers images as information, and there is no way to limit a knowledge database to text these days (see e.g.)

but practically: no, not a good idea. as it stands.
for one, it doesn´t serve the internal functions of any dedicated DAM
for two, it doesn´t allow for real/robust integration and roundtripping with other photo- and DAM-tools

PS: for my submission to the seductive urge of integrating DT with my photo archive, I use Photo Supreme. not only does it have the most advanced photo and metadata management for a household price (unlike Extensis Portfolio), but it also allows to write some IPTC data (keywords) into the OSX finder tags – effectively supplying them to the DT-tagging system (if only one-way). also – in principal – Photo Supreme also reads the tags from the finder, and thus from DT