How to share a database between home and office computer?


I would like to be able to use me DT database (currently on my office computer) at both home and office. I have DT Office Pro on both computers. This seems different than local “Web Sharing” via server, or via accessing on the internet, as both seem to require a limited access and only when the main computer is on. My office computer is on a router that is connected to a huge system at work, it’s not my own router. I don’t mind setting up a private server somehow to feed both machines and keep the data there, but I’m not sure how to - or is there a simpler way to do this?


The most common solutions right now are either a portable drive (or USB stick) or DropBox. See viewtopic.php?f=3&t=6418.

But we’re also working on synchronization and an upcoming release will provide the possibility to synchronize databases via (W)LAN or WebDAV (e.g. MobileMe).

Great to hear about database synching via MobileMe. Frankly, it can’t get here soon enough.

I have been using DropBox for the past 7 months or so, and while it works out fine most of the time, I have had instances (two so far) of my database getting corrupted in the transfer process. In those cases, I had to revert to a backup, which is annoying.

Bottom line: DropBox syncing works, but it isn’t perfect.

Came across an alternative to Dropbox. Microsoft (horrors :exclamation: ) Windows Live Sync. Free. 25 GB capacity (allegedly); up to 4 GB file size. Sign up at Works for Mac and W.

Supposedly one can navigate to folders on the remote machine that are not explicitly configured for automatic s yncing. Haven’t tried this feature. In limited testing I found it is very slow. Took 30 seconds to transfer a 20KB text file.

The set up is not intuitive (why would it be :neutral_face: ) David Pogue’s column yesterday (here at explains it well.

korm’s note about the speed of data transfer should always be remembered when using synchronization via the cloud. It applies not only to Live Synch but to all online storage/synch systems. Some synch systems are faster than others, but they take longer than copying a file to a FireWire drive connected to your computer, much, much longer.

If you act as though synchronization is instantaneous, and if the synch system isn’t smart enough to keep you from shooting yourself in the foot, you will end up with database problems. Be prudent and realize that cloud synchronization TAKES TIME to complete, especially if you’ve just dumped a pile of new files into the database on your desktop computer. In such a case, if you grab your laptop and run to the conference room expecting that you can immediately work with that database, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Cloud synchronization is exciting and can work. But remember that a database is more complex than a single file.

When you synch a database that contains an email to your Aunt Mary, the database contains that email file. But it also contains other data files related to the email, including its text index, its group location, its Item Link information, tags, Label color, etc. If any of those associated data elements get lost or scrambled, the database has errors. A database is more complex than an email file. My main database contains about 30,000 document files. But there are hundreds of thousands (potentially millions) of pieces of information about those 30,000 files that are what make a DEVONthink database so useful to me. If cloud synchronization introduces an error so that one of my 30,000 document files gets corrupted, I’ve still got 29,999 good document files, “good enough for government work” as the saying goes. But if one of the ‘data about data’ files gets corrupted, lost or isn’t updated, my database may no longer work.

I use MobileMe to synch Address Book and calendar data among my Macs and iPhone (and I ordered an iPad today). Does MobileMe synch always work every time? No. But it usually does so eventually. That’s often just a minor inconvenience, but it illustrates that the present state of the technology isn’t 100% dependable for these little databases that are much less complex than a DEVONthink database. (By the way, I’ll repeat this: DO NOT USE MobileMe to synch a DEVONthink database at this time. But as Christian has noted, a plugin is under development that will make MobileMe safer to use for database synchronization.)

Local backups under your control are highly recommended.

Although the ‘sneakernet’ option noted by Christian isn’t as sexy as cloud synchronization, use of a portable hard drive or USB flash drive is a practical way to copy databases among computers on which DT Pro or DT Pro Office is installed. The error rates for these devices are very low and the user has complete control. Running databases directly on a fast portable Firewire drive gives good performance and completely solves the issues of synchronization if one uses self-contained (Imported rather than Indexed) databases. (As always, a backup strategy should consider such possibilities as drive failure or a lost or stolen drive.)

Could someone please tell me if the syncing issue has an update? If so, how does it work? If not, which files need to be copied onto a memory stick so that plugging into each machine is seamless?

The forthcoming Sync procedure for DEVONthink that was noted by Christian is planned for later in 2011. No schedule will be promised before it is ready for release.

Catherine asked which files need to be transferred by a portable drive or memory stick for the DEVONthink data to be seamlessly moved to a different computer.

The answer is simple if you are using DT Pro or Office, and your databases are self-contained (Import-captured), the files to transfer are your database package files with the “.dtBase2” filename suffix. If you use DT Personal and your database is Import-captured, the database to be moved is the folder named “DEVONthink 2” at ~/Library/Application Support/, and should be placed in the same location on a different computer. IMPORTANT: NEVER MAKE DATABASE COPIES WHILE THEY ARE OPEN! The copy may be incomplete or damaged.

If you have Index-captured data, transferring your databases can be more complex, as the external folders and files must also be transferred in such a way that the Paths to the external files are not broken. Else, information will be lost to the database on the other computer. Again, observe the admonition against copying an open database.

Which also includes the Global Inbox database at its fixed location:

~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink Pro 2/Inbox.dtBase2

For example, my approach to transferring index-captured data between machines is to put the data and the databases in subfolders that have the same parent folder. With the databases closed, I then sync the parent folder between machines (desktop <–> laptop). The data are mainly documents captured from client SharePoint repositories, and are required by the client to be stored independent of the databases, thus the reason for this approach. The transferred folder resides in Documents on both machines, and so the path ~/Documents/Project Files is valid on both machines (and thus for the paths of the indexed files).

Keeping paths consistent is the most difficult task when synchronizing databases containing indexed files.

Hi Bill, I am one who is really looking forward to the sync features. I am looking to be part of the alpha testing team, if there is such a thing. I’ve been a *nix sysadmin for 14 years and believe I could contribute to bug quashing.

and yeah I really want the sync feature.


The tip about the Global Inbox strikes me as very helpful - thanks. (actually, the vast majority of information throughout these threads is very helpful!)

Is there any reason to not sync the entire Application Support/DEVONthink Pro 2 folder between the two computers? How about the DEVONthink Sorter and DEVONagent (if used) folder(s)? Thanks again.