Keep Devonthink database mirrored in the ordinary filesystem

I use Devonthink to store large numbers of documents - mostly PDFs, but also text files and various other types. Other than OCR, there’s not really any feature of Devonthink I use that couldn’t be accomplished with a bunch of folders in the Finder. However, I vastly prefer Devonthink’s interface, so I would love to keep using it.

The one advantage the Finder has, however, is that the folder structure is guaranteed to remain accessible. I’m always afraid that I’ll need a file from my Devonthink database, but won’t be able to find it in the mess that is the database bundle (I understand that it is a highly organized mess and is like that for a reason, but it still isn’t ideal in this case). This could be something as simple as needing to access the file remotely (if I don’t happen to have it synced to my iPad). The case I’m really scared of, though, is that my Mac will die and I will be locked out of my files until I can scavenge up another one. In all these cases, just storing the files in Finder would make this a non-issue.

I’m hoping there’s a way to get the best of both words: store the files in Devonthink, but also keep a copy mirrored in the filesystem. The Export to Files and Folders option does exactly what I want - once. After the first time, you either have to reexport everything (which can take a very long time with a lot of files) or manually figure out what changed and export it to the right location. Is there some solution that will only export what’s changed, preferably automatically? In the ideal world, it would work both ways, so I could change things in the filesystem copy and have them automatically changed in Devonthink, but I’ll settle for a one-way street.

I think I remember the company mentioning a revamped sync solution in the blog. Is there any chance of that including the local filesystem as one of the things you can sync to?

The answer to this problem is having good backups of your machine. If the machine is dead, it wouldn’t matter if you keep your data in a DT database or in Finder. If you have a backup of the machine and/or your data files (including DT databases) then you have improved your chances of recovering from the machine’s untimely death.

Regarding your other concerns - have you considered indexing your folders?

I have lots of backups, so I’m not concerned about actually losing the actual files. However, my concern is about being able to access the files even if I can’t get Devonthink running again (for whatever reason…).

I was not aware of the indexing feature (well, it was there in the corner of my brain, but the rest of my brain was ignoring that corner). I’ll have to play around with it a bit to make sure I can still accomplish everything I need accomplished, but it definitely looks like that may work.


Indexing works and is preferred by many users.

I prefer Import-captured databases myself, for several reasons:

  1. I’ve got much more flexibility (and artificial intelligence assistants) when I want to reorganize content in an Imported database, as Indexed databases are significantly tied to the folder/file organization in the Finder.

  2. I prefer self-contained databases for ease of migrating them among my Macs, as I don’t need to worry about moving along externally-linked files.

  3. I’m constantly bringing in new content captured from the Web. That content isn’t reflected outside the database, and would turn an Index-captured database into a mixed Indexed/Imported database.

But if I were sharing some Finder content with another database, it would make sense to Index rather than Import that specific content.

I’ve been using DEVONthink for more than 8 years (more than 3 years before becoming associated with DEVONtechnologies) so don’t have worries about DEVONthink suddenly disappearing. Even were that unlikely event to happen, an Imported database can always be completely exported to the Finder and will retain the organizational structure of the groups and documents in the database. For full protection, keep a zipped copy of your DEVONthink application, your license code email message and find a Mac on which you can export the databases to the Finder. :wink:

If you start out with an Indexed database and later decide that you would prefer an Imported database, Christian has provided a script that will let you change an Indexed to an Imported database (assuming that all the externally-linked files are available). Conversely, if you start out with an Imported database and decide that you would like to switch it to an Indexed database, just export everything to a new Finder folder, then Index the contents of that Finder folder into a new database.

BTW, if you have turned on Spotlight indexing of your databases, you can do Spotlight searches for any content in your databases, closed or open. Select the option to view all the results. Hit the Space bar to see a Quick Look display (if available for the filetype) or open a search result under its native application. I keep all my databases stored in a folder in Documents. So I can restrict the search to that folder and search for content whether the databases are open or closed.

I would LOVE if Devonthink did this! Even if you are using an imported method, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep it nicely organized in Finder (maybe mirror folders in Devonthink with folders in Finder). For example, Papers or Sente (reference programs for scientific articles) does this (and even gives you options for how you want to organize everything). Even iTunes does it too.

One huge advantage for doing it this is way is that you can easily back up Devonthink’s database to a program like Dropbox, Mozy, Crashplan, etc. and then access that data easily from anywhere you have Internet connection from any computer, and many mobile devices like the iPad or iPhone.

This would probably be close to my number one request at the moment.

I have searched for this function a while now and i would really love to be able to export and sync my simple imported based devon think file structure to an ordinary folder to keep this one synced with dropbox. When I think about it, it doesn’t seem to be that complicated, or is it? It would help SO much. Isn’t there any script or so???

I’d love to see this too. I’d like to be able to use the Devonthink interface and tools, but have folders and files assembled to my own taste in the Finder, and move between the two as it suited.

But of course, I know nothing about databases and how they work. And I presume this wouldn’t.