Need DTP for Travel

I have been keeping my research notes, pdfs, jpgs, etc. in Devonthink on my iMac desktop. In a few weeks I will be traveling to a week-long workshop and would like to have access to my DT database on my MacBook Air.

Thus far, I have held off from using Dropbox for my Devonthink files, although I use it for my genealogy (Reunion) database and much of my other work. I planned to wait for the new Devonthink sync feature before trying to access my files via laptop and desktop.

Any advice on how I can easily and safely access my files for this upcoming trip? I wouldn’t even mind using a flash drive or SD card as my total database file is probably smaller than most at this point, 2.7 GB. Or, I can upload to Dropbox and sync before I leave home. Also, is there a tutorial on what files I will need to include so I don’t miss something? Thanks for ideas and suggestions.

It may be simplistic, but I do this all the time by simply copying an entire DEVONthink database to my laptop before heading out on a trip. You will want to close the original database on your desktop system before copying it to your laptop. You could keep it on a USB thumbdrive as well, but the performance may be disappointing.

If I update the database while on the road, then I copy if from the laptop back to my desktop system when I return, making sure to close the database first on both systems.

While the promised database syncing capability sounds like it will be nice, I’ve found this simplistic technique works quite well for a single user, and it’s not a lot of trouble. Besides, it means you have a backup of your database on another system that you can get to easily.

The method Chuck describes is one I’ve followed twice daily for years, though over here I’m using ChronoSync to do the copying for me, because it has excellent features including data validation. I’d add one important note to Chuck’s suggestion: before copying a database always close it. Avoids unpleasant consequences.

Thank you Chuck and Korm, this is just the simple solution I need. I assume I only need to copy the one DTBase2 file? Is this the suggested routine?

  1. Close DevonThink on desktop and laptop
  2. Copy DTBase2 file to laptop
  3. Open and use DevonThink on laptop; make changes; Close DTP on laptop.
  4. On returning to desktop: Before opening DT application, copy DTBase2 file back to desktop replacing original version.
  5. Open DevonThink on desktop and resume work.

Yes, as long as you have all documents in the database (no indexed files), that’s all that needs copied.

To be on the safe side, you will want to be closing the database, rather than just closing DEVONthink. This will allow DEVONthink to perform any/all database cleanup.

Yes, that set of procedures works well – especially, of course, for self-contained rather than for Indexed databases.

Try to avoid independently modifying the database on two machines, though, as that complicates things. You would then need to either select and export for import to the other computer’s database copy new items, or use the beta Sync plugin procedures.

Now that I’ve got two Macs that have Thunderbolt, it’s amazingly quick to transfer large databases back and forth between computers.

Greg and/or Bill DeVille, what does DT / DTPO not do when simply quitting the app with databases still open? Does some sort of damage occur or cruft accumulate if databases are left open when DTPO is quit? Is this specific to this use case of copying a database or is closing all databases before quitting DT / DTPO a requirement or a recommended “best practice” that should be followed in normal day-to-day practice? How is such damage or cruft accumulation discovered and remedied?

My files are imported into DTP rather than indexed, so the file should be self-contained. However, I don’t understand why it isn’t a good idea to work with the files on two computers. I want to rearrange the folders, work on tagging, etc. Why would it be a problem to do this?

I’m confused by this:

If I am working on the database and not attempting to sync, but copy and recopy back and forth, why is it any different if I work on one machine or two (or more)?

I believe the intent was to caution not to have DEVONthink on two (or more) machines opening and modifying the same database at the same time.

It is certainly fine to close a database, close DEVONthink, copy the database to another machine, open it in DEVONthink on the second machine, modify the database on the second machine, and then reverse the process. Over here, I do this every day.

Well, I believe closing the database(s) is a good practice when preparing to copy a database and then open that database on another machine. DEVONthink tracks when a database has been closed properly, as you know if you have ever had the app crash and then give you a warning at the next launch that the database(s) are already in use. It may not make any difference at all to do this, but I want to be on the safe side. I have DEVONthink databases that are 10 years old now and I’m extra protective of my data. I never close databases just because I am quitting DEVONthink.

Thank you for clarifying. I see now. The caution is to take care to close the database.

I am copying the files now and will give everything a test run before I leave town.

Thanks so much for your help.

This is is an important precaution. Thanks for the clarification.

I have not found any damage to occur to databases if I quit DT instead of closing databases before closing it. And I do sync between computers (with OS X Server’s portable home directories).

However… It is very important to make sure the databases are closed before you sync. If you make it part of your routine when syncing to close the databases separately, you will be sure to close them, and less likely to make a mistake (thinking “oh, I’m sure I quit everything”). So it’s less a technical reason and more an aid to make sure you complete the important steps beforehand.

Here are some additional observations on the simplistic approach of duplicating a DEVONthink database from one computer to another.

As noted by others, this approach works best with databases that are self-contained, in that they do not “index” content that resides in other directories outside the database. When the database is copied to another computer, the indexed content will no longer be accessible. Depending on your usage, this may or may not be an issue. A workaround is to also copy any external directories, and re-index them once the database has been moved to another system. However, be forewarned that this can get messy, and is not recommended, though I do this on a regular basis with one of my databases, but only when there is a constrained use of indexing for external content. I would not recommend this as a normal usage case.

Another potential issue is with file permissions. Depending on how you have your accounts set up, it is possible to have some files in a copied database have different permissions than in the original database. This can result in some files not being writable, or in some cases, not even readable.

The easiest way to avoid the permissions problem is to perform the copy using the account that will “own” the database on the destination. For example, if you want to move a database from a desktop system to a laptop, perform the copy operation from the laptop user account instead of mounting the laptop’s drive on a desktop system and performing the move with the desktop’s account. This may be obvious to most, but I thought it was worth pointing this out to future readers of this posting.

A variation on the ideas proposed so far might be to create a second partition on your Mac’s drive that would hold the indexed files and DT databases that use them. On your second Mac, create an identically-named partition. When you need to access your files and DT databases on the other Mac, use something like Chronosync to synchronize the files. A side benefit is that the other Mac can act as a backup of these files and databases. I think (please correct me if I’m wrong) this scheme would prevent any issues with permissions, since I think (again, please correct me if I’m wrong) that permissions are stripped when files are kept on external drives or non-boot partitions.

(Also, it seems to me that one could keep indexed files, and the DT databases that reference them, all on an external drive, as normal procedure, and use that drive with any Mac. Performance might be a consideration for very large databases, especially when using the most convenient external drive option, a flash drive. A drawback to this approach is that you will need another drive to keep backups on.)

I have not tried these approaches (though I do keep all of my user data on a second partition on the one Mac that I own). Are these viable ideas?

Re possible confusion about how to close databases:

Quitting the DEVONthink application should properly close all open databases.

I normally have a set of 5 open databases, and in Preferences > General - Startup I checked the option to Open windows that were open on quit.

If I quit the DEVONthink application, the open databases are closed, and when next launched, those databases will automatically by opened.

But if I had closed each of the 5 databases before quitting the DEVONthink app, I would then have to open each of them manually, to restore my working set. That’s why I recommend quitting the app to close the databases.

What is the reason people are not using dropbox for this? I haven’t tried it, but it should work just as well as copying databases manually?

I keep all my indexed files in dropbox, which makes the directory path the same from all my macs. This should also solve the problem of not being able to access indexed files from a second computer?

I just checked back here and saw the continued discussion. I am looking for the easiest, simplest solution, so the USB drive or Dropbox sound perfect. I would rather remember to exit the program than try to partition my hard drive for the first time.

Now I am stuck trying to update an edited file.

Security. I won’t put my data out on dropbox so need a manual sync method or at least one I control myself.

Several of my databases have a mixture of imported and indexed items. Is there a tool to analyze a database and report locations of indexed items? That information would be useful in scripting a narrowly-targeted backup (plus verify) workflow to shift editing control between a desktop and a laptop.