iPhone as Bonjour server? Files only on iPhone not in Finder on Mac?

Here’s what I’m trying to do:

  • Have all files sync without dropbox or icloud, on Mac, ipad, iphone.
  • Keep all files in DT, none in a different location as backup. I frequently annotate these files.
  • Have my files accessible when I’m away from home without my Mac.

Is the best solution to keep all databases on my phone, syncing via Bonjour whenever I’m home?
Or is there a better way?

Danger in making the switch:

  • My Mac has been syncing 8 databases to 2 devices: some files via dropbox, others via Bonjour
  • Two databases have some indexed folders.

Are the steps below the best way to do this?

  • Change the iphone databases to Always Download and wait for the sync to complete – so all files are on the phone.
  • Do something about the Mac’s INDEXED FILES??? (I want them completely in DT.)
  • Turn off the Mac’s Bonjour server.
  • Turn on the iPhone’s Bonjour server.
  • Make sure my automatic cloud backup service is backing up my databases daily.

Is all of this a good idea?

It sure is daunting! Thanks!

What problem are you trying to fix? When “fixed”, how do you expect things to be different or have a different outcome?

Feels like you have sync working now, but want to change, and yes, the proposed change (in you “steps”) feels complicated and probably indicates a misunderstanding. It’s really not that complicated.

If I understand you correctly, what you want to do ist to make sure all your files are synced via an online-mechanism rather than only some (with the rest currently synced via Bonjour). If that is right then:

  • it may no longer be helpful to use Bonjour at all; if all your databases sync via an online-mechanism, then using a second, additional sync-method may not be very useful (the main use in my mind would be if you have a slow internet connection and regularly want to make sure the records on your Mac are available on your mobile device as you leave through the door)

All in all, however, this is all quite simple:

  • in the sync settings on your Mac, include the databases which have previously only been synced via Bonjour in your Dropbox sync (Preferences > Sync > Dropbox > select the databases)
  • once those databases have uploaded, select them in the sync settings on the mobile devices (again, you will find them in the same list as the databases already being synced)

Now all databases are being synced via Dropbox. You can leave Bonjour on or turn it off as you please. The only reason to turn your iPhone into the Bonjour server would be if you wanted to sync your iPad with the iPhone via a local network whilst on the road in a location where the internet connectivity is such that the sync cannot be performed via Dropbox. If that is your requirement, then you are right to suggest that you should turn off the Bonjour server on Mac and turn it on on the iPhone. Otherwise there is no reason to do so.

Regarding the indexed files: they will be available on your mobile devices; if despite that you want to integrate them into your database, simply select the appropriate records (or group(s)) and select Data > Move into Database (see Page 143 of the DEVONthink handbook [that reference is to the 3.8.2 handbook, the page number may be different in the current edition; the section is headed “Move into Database”]).

Regarding backup: please note that you cannot extract individual files (records) from a backup of the iOS databases. iOS itself comes with numerous limitations which makes backing up and restoring a pain, too. As such, I would recommend that in addition to the daily backups of the databases on your iOS device, you do also make regular backups of the databases on your Mac.


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The heart of my question is this: I want to avoid buying a huge dropbox or icloud plan. What’s the best way to make sure all my files are on my phone if I am only syncing via Bonjour?

Right now my Mac is the server so of course that doesn’t work well when I leave the house without opening dropbox on ipad & iphone. So…iphone as server? If so, what’s the best way to make the change?


I’m sorry, I think one of us is confusing an issue here:

  • if you are looking to be sure that all your files are on your iPhone, then you need to sync your iPhone to your Mac before leaving your house. It is irrelevant whether the iPhone or Mac is the Bonjour server - Bonjour is local network sync only; the sync will only occur when both the Mac and iPhone are awake, in the same network and have DT and DTTG open. Switching the iPhone to be the Bonjour server will only be useful if you want to sync between the iPhone and the iPad via a local network, whilst on the road and thus without using the Mac. This will only work if the local network in question actually permits Bonjour traffic.

  • if you do not want to rely solely on a local network sync, then you need to use a cloud solution. You can use a different cloud for each database, but should not sync the same database via several cloud solutions. If you want to avoid getting more cloud space, then syncing one database via cloud 1, another via cloud 2, another via cloud 3 etc. is an option. Bear in mind, though, that cloud solutions are not always reliable.

Blanc, it looks like the person confusing the issue here is me!

I imagined that one device as server would hold the original files, so my phone would be the best choice. You’re saying that if I’m working on all three devices at home, I’d still have to do a sync before leaving home so it doesn’t matter which device is the server. You’re also suggesting that dropbox or icloud is a far better solution and it’d be best to expand that storage if I can. Does one of those work better than another?

Thanks for your help.

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DEVONthink uses a decentralised model - every device has its own local copy of the database and the records contained within. iOS devices can limit that behaviour by only containing a pointer to a record held in the sync store (when set to not always download). The sync store also contains a complete copy of the database (assuming current sync status), although the format here differs significantly from the database held on the iOS and macOS devices.

I’m actually not; Bonjour for me is a reliable, fast, secure, trustworthy solution for syncing databases. Its downside is that it is only available in the local network. If you reliably sync your databases before leaving the house, and DTTG is set to always download the records, then you’re set. If that is not an option for you, then you will need a cloud storage provider and to sync that way. There are numerous posts from ppl on the forum asking for assistance with both Dropbox and iCloud, although iCloud is the current contender for for the most problematic in my view. However, your milage may vary, depending on location.

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  • Change the iphone databases to Always Download and wait for the sync to complete – so all files are on the phone.

Yes, that’s feasible.

  • Do something about the Mac’s INDEXED FILES??? (I want them completely in DT.)

You can select indexed files in the item list or a filtered view or a smart group, Control-click them and choose Move into Database. This will import the files, removing them from the Finder folder(s).

  • Turn off the Mac’s Bonjour server.

Yes, but why?

  • Turn on the iPhone’s Bonjour server.

Yes, but why?

  • Make sure my automatic cloud backup service is backing up my databases daily.

What service and having more than one backup method is suggested. If you already have an online backup, I’d suggest a local backup too. Not only will it be faster to backup, but it’s also more quickly accessible and requires not Internet connection to get to.

Using Bonjour is a fast, generally very reliable, and very private method of syncing. See…

And yes, you would need to sync the devices - client with server - before leaving the house.

You’re too late to the party, my friend :smiley: The answer to why? is because of a misunderstanding!

A WebDAV sync to a local NAS would be another possibility.

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I - somewhat arrogantly - assumed that the OP might find that rather more daunting. I should have mentioned it as an option all the same.

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And here’s my shameless plug for you :wink:



Ah, your arrogance is well-placed – but it’s not courage I lack, it’s knowledge. For example, in the NAS post there’s no mention of external drives, so when the first step of Jim’s is to install software it makes me wonder if there’s a software replacement to set up a WEBDAV. Also, when I attached an external drive to my Orbi router, the app for it from Netgear wasn’t Mac-friendly at all. Grr…

An NAS isn’t merely a drive on your network. It’s functionally a server.

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I may be drifting off to a larger topic, but I’ve gone ahead and gotten more iCloud storage and have a follow-up question. I’m trying to decide whether or not to index files that are linked to other devices via iCloud.

If a file is on the Mac hard drive and indexed in DT, then that file is synced to iCloud, then that file is synced to my iphone & ipad, then:

  • Because the Mac only has metadata etc. but not the actual file, what’s on icloud? Only metadata? My guess is that the actual indexed file in Finder is uploaded to icloud. True?
  • When I’m on the ipad and try to download the file, what happens then? If my guess above is right, then the file is simply downloaded. That’s my second guess. True? If not, then what’s the process for the file going from Finder to Mac to iCloud to devices? When is it only metadata, when does it include the actual file?

Use Case: I’m trying to decide whether to keep 10,000 files on both the Mac and in DT, or moved into DT, or indexed on the Mac. I need all these files accessible at all times on all 3 devices. I most often do annotations on my devices and need them updated on all other devices, but not always. I’m working away from home half of the time, sometimes returning repeatedly throughout the day, but still need the most goof-proof syncing. Thoughts?

Thank you.

  • Because the Mac only has metadata etc. but not the actual file, what’s on icloud? Only metadata? My guess is that the actual indexed file in Finder is uploaded to icloud. True?

The Mac shouldn’t have only the metadata. You should only be indexing locally available files.

  • When I’m on the ipad and try to download the file, what happens then? If my guess above is right, then the file is simply downloaded. That’s my second guess. True?

No. DEVONthink isn’t connecting to your cloud accounts. It is connecting to the sync location. That location either has the content or it doesn’t. (It does by default.).

If you’re indexing files on the Mac, you should (1) read the Help > Documentation > In & Out > Importing & Indexing… and then read the In & Out > Sync > Indexing & Sync subsection.

I’m going to provide an alternative answer to Jim’s. I think you and he may be talking at cross purposes. As far as I understand you, your assumption is correct: when you index files on your Mac, the file which is available locally on your Mac but not contained within your database, will be uploaded to your sync a store. When you sync your iPad with that sync store, the file will be downloaded from the sync store to your iPad. As such, you will have access to indexed files on your iPad.

It is my opinion that indexing is only really useful when you need to be able to access the indexed files from other software; even then, indexing is only useful for specific scenarios. So whilst it isn’t useful for me to index spreadsheets, because I can open those in the appropriate app from within DT, an app which requires a certain file structure or support files may not work if those files are contained within the database. I see numerous advantages in keeping the files within the database whenever that is possible. There are numerous discussions on this general topic throughout the forum, and my opinion is exactly that: mine. Others have voiced other opinions.

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Thank you all for the helpful information. I’ll look at the forum & help documentation to see what I’ve missed, especially about the pros & cons of indexing. And yes, Blanc, I was trying to ask: is the actual file uploaded to the sync store if it’s only indexed in DT on the Mac? I’m glad that it is.

Also, although I guess it’s the best choice, it makes me nervous to have files completely moved into DT, since I make many important changes to documents during the day that I can’t lose due to corruption of a file, but maybe that’s not a bigger problem in DT than it is on the hard drive.

You’re welcome.

DEVONthink (Mac) stores records within a database without altering the original file format; it does not use a proprietary format to store your files. If you delve into the database file (don’t), you will find all your records in there (note though: no changes should ever be made to the internal structure of the database). DEVONthink offers a simple export function for exporting your files from DT to Finder in a folder structure based on the structure you used within DT.

As far as data corruption is concerned: I have no objective reason to believe that a file in DT is more at risk than a file not contained within DT. As far as using your Mac is concerned: if you are working with files which have any value to you, you should have an appropriate backup strategy which reflects that value. That backup strategy should also reflect the amount of time you are prepared to lose in the case of data loss; so a backup performed once weekly risks you losing one week’s work, a backup performed every 10 minutes only risks you losing 10 minutes of work (that is oversimplified, of course; it assumes you notice the loss immediately and that restoring the file requires no time). The backup frequency needs to be balanced against the need to keep a longterm backup (to mitigate agains corruption which is not immediately noticed).

When you are working with DEVONthink To Go the records with which you are working are contained in DTTG whatever you do; DTTG does not (directly) support indexing (because the iOS filesystem doesn’t lend itself to indexing), and keeps files which are indexed on the Mac in the DTTG database.

The forum is jotted with posts on data loss - be it PDF annotations disappearing, or even whole files. Barring one single incident (which I will call the Ghost File Incident) I can’t remember any incidents which affected a significant number of ppl; most are reports from one single user and often end up being unconfirmed. I use DT for all my documents and have found it to be safe, predictable and stable. Nowadays I only index files to be able provide support to other users; otherwise all my files are contained within my databases. In the end, however, it comes down to what suits you best. DEVONthink is highly versatile.

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