how do I sync two computers with DevonTHINK?

Do i need the enterprise edition?


Just copy the complete folder “~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink” (DEVONthink must not run while copying!) from one machine to the other. Or replace the above folder on one machine with an alias pointing to the database on the other machine (but you won’t be able to use the database concurrently on both machines of course).

It might be obvious but you must be on the "same network" with both machines running to use the alias trick…

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I use a desktop and a laptop, sometimes both during a weekend.  If I add different data to DevonThink on the two machines, then is it possible to "synch" the two data bases in the sense of having the result have all of the data previously added to either?  

Welcome to the forum, laup!

Currently you’d have to figure out a strategy for doing it manually since (AFAIK) there’s currently no way to do it automatically.

I’ve already started thinking about the synchronization issue since I’ll soon be getting a desktop system and will need a strategy for using DT (non-concurrently) on it and my iBook. My current idea is to have one database, used primarily on the desktop system, and on my iBook over the network (performance permitting) when it’s connected to the LAN. When disconnected I’ll copy the database when I’m intended to use it. Somewhat tedious, but necessary, until I know a better way… yet “synchronizing” individual entries between databases seems trickier and more error-prone.


It would seem that synching can be done, even if the two data bases in question, A and B, both have some new entries.  For example, here’s a procedure:

Open A.  Use Window/History.  Order by date.  Note which files are recent.  Export those that might be only in A onto the desktop.

Copy the whole of Library/Application Support/DevonThink for B iinto A.

Reimport from A’s desktop the files that were lost by the previous step.

Right?  If so, this doesn’t sound too bad and would seem to be something that could be automated, or at least semi-automated with possible scrub for redundancy.

This said, in the meantime, your idea of working from only one copy of the DB–if the network is fast enough–might be the smart way to go.  I’m leary of the warning that Devon Think needs not to be open when doing any kind of synching.

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Yep, it’s possible to manual sync databases by exporting/importing/copying but for more than a few entries, and depending on how often you’re using DT on different systems, it seems easier and “cleaner” to copy a single database (automated around rsync, for example), which also ensures they’re identical.

Something possibly important is that content meta-information (e.g. URLs, comments) in the database isn’t retained when exporting so it’s lost when importing. I’m not aware of a way to do a completely “lossless” export/import, which is something I’ve been meaning to post about…

Comments are already imported/exported (using Finder comments but their size is limited). All meta information will probably be retained in v1.8.

This seems to be still a live issue.  Is there any updated information since these posts from 2003?

From what I can tell, the answer remains:  No, there is no way automatically to do this.  If you are using DT on two computers, then you’ve got two databases.  You can of course export/import data in the normal way.  But it’s a somewhat cumbersome process, and subject, as always, to human fumbling.

My own (provisional) solution is to use only DEVONthink on my desktop computer and only DEVONnote on my iBook.  Then I drag the entire database to  the other computer for backup purposes, and also to allow for easy pooling of information.

This is not a perfect solution.  The differences between them are subtle, but I really prefer the look and feel of DT over DN for drafting of manuscripts.  Unfortunately I also prefer the look and feel of the iBook for this purpose.  But I really need DT on the desktop computer, which  I use for net browsing and heavy-duty research.  Hence, a sort of impasse.

The weird thing about this is, how little it bothers me.  I’ve been trying all kinds of software lately, since upgrading to Panther.  Every app seems to have at least one grave shortcoming.  My usual reaction is: Oh dear, this will never do, this is fatally flawed for my purposes.  But with DEVON[whatever], my reaction is:  I wonder if they have thought about this yet?  Because it does seem that these guys are not locked into a narrow paradigm (as with, say, Circus Ponies and AquaMind), but  are willing to be flexible and adaptable.


any synchronization software should be able to sync the files of the two databases but it’s highly recommended to quit DEVONthink on both machines before using such a software (e.g. you could write a simple AppleScript to quit DEVONthink and afterwards launch the synchronization software or perform a simple shell copy script copying from A to B or B to A).

The only limitation is that you can’t and shouldn’t modify the databases concurrently on both machines - you have to synchronize before switching  to and using the other machine.

I’m sorry if I am slow, but let me make sure I follow this correctly.

Let’s say, I am using DEVONthink on two different machines: a desktop and a laptop.  

On Monday, I "synchronize" the databases in the simplest way, by replacing the entire contents of ~/ Application Support / DEVONthink on the laptop with the contents from the desktop.

During the week I make new entries in BOTH computers (with no further synchronization meantime).

Now on Friday, I’ve got two different databases, BOTH of which contain new data since Monday, and I want to bring them into concordance.  In the discussion above, sjk said, “Currently you’d have to figure out a strategy for doing it manually since (AFAIK) there’s currently no way to do it automatically.”

Is file sync software really sophisticated enough to peek inside DEVONthink-1.database (etc) on both computers, detect what is new since Monday, and sync these files without losing data from either?

Thanks for helping with this.

No. File synchronization software is only working if you don’t change the databases on both machines concurrently (otherwise synchronizing could even cause troubles)!

Therefore it’s recommended to synchronize the machines before you’re going to use the other machine.

When I export on the desktop and bring to the laptop, the .doc, .txt, .rtf come over fine. The .pdf files graphic quality is so bad as to be unreadable. Is there a way of exporting and not having the quality of the pdf go to not usable?

This is important to notice, synchronizing software is no solution for this matter. I expect DT to create a synchronizing mechanism from their history panel, just as Gustav suggested to do manually.

My own solution for the time being is that I use my desktop to gather information (web search, scans, sorting, writing, working on meta data etc.). From time to time I copy the newest version of the Db to my ibook, where I use it only for searching and checking information which I need in order to prepare lessons or to write on an article. On the ibook I produce text in text editors/word processors and outliners, never in DT. Texts that I will need later I import into the database on my desktop as RTF.

It works astonishingly well for me, and as someone mentioned as well, with the DT people I feel it is worth waiting for another solution.


well, the new version claims to support sync. anyone know HOW?

DEVONthink 1.9 syncs one or more groups to folders in the file system.



Eric, What does that mean? Does it address this laptop / desktop issue? I think not.

As I stated in another thread (in the requests sections), copying the whole database over a broadband connection is simply not viable for me if I want to use DT regularly. Not being able to do so–ie having to bring my work laptop home so I can sync it over AppleShare/LAN/Ethernet has practically meant that I don’t use DT as much as I would like.

What is really needed is for DT to have some internal way of synching only changes over a network.


(By the way – I currently use Synchronize Pro to sync the ~/Application Support/DevonThink/ folder… which works fine except that a) I have to remember to synch before and after each use, and b) 80 + meg just takes forever via a cable modem.)


What you are asking for will probably come in a future version.

For the time being, when I move to another computer, I simply close DEVONthink on the computer I’m working on (after running Verify & Repair and Backup & Optimize), then copy the database file to my little FireFly hard drive. (An advantage of this procedure is that I’ve then got a recent backup on the FireFly drive.) That’s VERY much faster than trying to sync remotely, especially for my 1.5 GB database.

Moving to my desktop computer, then copy the database to its HD and open DT. Do some work, close DT, copy the database file to the FireFly – and so on.

Note, however, that for complete satisfaction all files should either be within the database or within the database Files folder. I have lots of linked files in my db, with all those files referenced to my PowerBook HD, so working on 2 computers isn’t all that great for me.

I have a .Mac account and was wondering if I could use the iDisk as the sharing point for a DT database? In other words, I set the DT database location to a folder on the iDisk for both my Desktop and PowerBook. I would avoid running DT simultaneously, but nonetheless is this setup feasible or unwise?

Thanks for any help.

This would be feasible only for fairly small DT databases, as even with my 4 mbps broadband connection iDisk synchronization can be irritatingly slow, and database operations would also be slow. Also, you would have to observe these constraints:

[1] Always finish synchronizing your computer’s iDisk copy with the .Mac iDisk prior to opening DEVONthink; and

[2] PDF and image files, for example, would have to be contained in the DT database (I would recommend the database’s Files folder), because external links would be valid only for the computer on which they were created.

My own database has swollen to 1.92 GB at the moment – and all my PDFs are external to the database. So this isn’t an option for me. :slight_smile:

However, DEVONthink Pro allows for multiple databases, and I’ve got a couple that I could consider running via my .Mac account, such as a contacts database which is small enough to operate as you propose.