I’m just evaluating DevonThink Pro… looks like it requires a fair commitment versus some of the simpler tools I’ve been using (i.e. Yojimbo) and I don’t want to get too far along and find out I’ve got portability issues.

I know this question has been dealt with in many ways… but I’ve not been able to find a very basic answer within all the details re syncing etc.

So… I want to use DT on my laptop and my desktop but not at the same time.

Is it possible to work with DT by simply moving a copy of the database back and forth between the two machines? I’m not worried about simultaneous use, remembering to turn d-base off or anything else. Assuming I can manage those issues… is there a single database file that, if managed properly, can be copied from machine A to B and back to A and so on?

My concern is around multiple support files or any management issues related to anything from matching system settings to ensuring certain fonts are available on both machines.

What i’m hoping is… yes, you can… just don’t bugger up by forgetting which machine has the current version…

Thanks for any insight.


There is no mystery to this. Databases are packages. You close DT on the machine you are copying from, copy the database package to the other machine, use the database there, and reverse the process when you’re ready to go back to the first machine.

I’ve done this everyday for years with all my client databases.

And, as you wrote:

Put a big warning post-it on the machine you are NOT using. 8)

I do this as well. I’ve used Unison before for this and Mac OS X Server Portable Home Directory sync now to do this. Both tools will keep track of which machine the database has changed on, and will copy it the correct direction.

In both cases, you need to make sure that you only modify the DB on one computer between syncs. It’s helpful to have an explicit sync process that you can invoke, rather than have something that happens automatically in the background. That way you know when it’s safe to copy one way or another.

Both Unison and PHDs offer some level of conflict detection. PHDs will notice that the package changed, and will let you pick one or the other (losing the updates made in one of the files.) Unison doesn’t understand Mac packages, so it treats them as directories: you need to be more careful that you don’t pick some files from one computer and some from another. That can leave your database in an inconsistent and broken state.

Just to put it on the record, Portable Home Directories only work (in my experience) if you turn off the feature on the server “Server Side Tracking for Mobile Home Sync”. If it’s off, it’s slow but it works. If the feature is on, the sync gets confused by DT databases and will often delete files from your database on the client (though they usually stay on the server). I’ve reported this to Apple but haven’t seen a fix yet.