Experiences from using Excel documents from within

Warning long background before actual question.

I’ve been using DT to keep track of documents/notes/whatever at work, and it have worked very well. With one exception, I had problems with Excel documents (this was 1-2 years ago so I don’t remember the details), they wouldn’t save/became corrupt if they were stored within a DT database. So instead I stored these Excel document outside DT, which resulted in two hierarchies of documents which resulted in an extra mental effort for me - something that I try to avoid the best I can. I should perhaps add that almost all of my files are markdown files or PDFs.

So late last year I decided to switch to store the documents in a folder hierarchy, exactly the same hierarchy as in my DT database but with the added Excel documents. An important thing for me is to be able to have the documents available on my different Macs and I’ve used git to handle that. And HoudaSpot for searching, BBEdit for editing. This has works exactly as it should, so no problems there. Another benefit for me is easy use of command line tools and easier scripting (I’m much more a Python person than an Applescript person).

But I miss DT, especially the easy syncing and easy access on mobile devices. Since my main reason (only important reason) for not using DT is the Excel document, I decided to once again do some experiments with storing Excel documents in a DT database, and now everything seem to work just fine.

However, these Excel documents are very important to not just me, but also to about 150-200 other people (most important) and perhaps a couple of thousand people in other cases (important but not super important), so I do not want these files to become corrupt. And yes, I’ve heard about the word “backup” and have a couple of different ways implemented.

That was a lot of background, my question is simply what are your experiences of storing Excel (and Word and Numbers) within a DT database? Are there any problems with this or does it work without any problems?

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Wouldn’t rsync be simpler in this case, or do you need Git’s versioning capabilities?

Well, I store only Numbers and Pages documents in DT, and I’ve never experienced corruption in this context. As opposed to storing them in the file system and having Numbers/Pages not being able to open those files again. But that happened admittedly several years ago. Having said that – I don’t know if it “works without any problems”. What does ever “work without any problems” in IT?

In my case rsync would of course work, but git adds the extra security of being able to go back to an earlier version (it also makes it easier to access files on iPhone/iPad).

What does ever “work without any problems” in IT?


I have lots of all of these and never have issues. Can view, edit, save, search.


@jem me as well. Have never had any problems with any of these documents. And I have been using DT since (I think) it basically came out.


There are no known issues with Excel files that would cause them to not save in Microsoft Excel and it’s unclear what you mean by “corrupt”. Corrupt in what way specifically?

What happened about two years ago, my excuse for not remembering any details, is that I had this Excel file stored in a DT database, double-clicked it and opened it in Excel, and modified the content. Then when I tried to save the file, I got an error messages and I couldn’t save it back to the database. Instead I had to save a copy outside the database.

This is as I remember it now, at the time I was quite busy and I never tried to track down what was wrong, instead I just started to save all Office files outside the database.

Sorry for not being able give you more details.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit keeping them in DEVONthink :wink:

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6h ahead of you :smiley:. As of this morning, everything is in a DT database and so far so good.

One small note: .xls is an older fomat and less in use, but there’s still something odd with them. When you open and close an .xls file in Excel, without doing anything else, it will report a checksum error in DEVONthink. There is no logical reason we can see this should happen. However, if you do make a change, no matter how small, the checksum will be valid.

This does not occur with .xlsx files though.

Thanks for the info. Perhaps, this was the problem I had … I “inherited” a number of files that was first created in the late -90s (I’m told) and I have moved them from .xls to .xlsx. It kind of make sense, I perhaps just opened/closed them … I honestly don’t remember.

I also use Excel files in DT. However, only very recent files, I avoid the old format. Some of these are also very complete, i.e. with graphics, automatic calculations and scripts.
I open the files directly from DT, edit them in Excel and save/close them again. I then access the files again later from another computer (via sync via a cloud).
No problems so far.

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I use the Excel macro enabled format “.xlsm” every week.
Open it in excel, trigger the macro (adds two weeks to the dates in a timesheet) rename and save-as to xlsx format in an indexed folder, print a PDF to the same indexed folder, smart rules import into database, file everything and a Smart Folder lets me email the two new files easily.

Never had a problem with Excel in this way. Devonthink is great for keeping organized despite this one weird request by a client to submit both Excel timesheets and PDFs for every pay period. It’s all in the same place, auto tagged and grouped. Even the password locked PDF paystubs they send are in the same parent group along with an annotation explaining the easily guessable password formula.

Now, if you want to talk about the web version of excel and how it “works” with Sharepoint and all the other 365 Microsoft shenanigans, pull up a chair and get a large cup of your favourite beverage, book off some time because I have OPINIONS!