Newbie Advice: Indexing vs Database

Hi, I’ve used DevonThink so far to index things like my images and files. My current project is to organize multiple files for creating several books. Files include Word documents that I’ll be working on, PDFs, images, primarily. I’d love ideas about why a Database might be better than indexing for PDFs or images (or not). One specific question, is if I put the Word documents in a database, then my understanding is they live in DevonThink so will I still be able to acess and edit and change them? I’ve watched a number of videos and still am not clear about benefits of indexing or databasing. I’m wanting to see all the material I have in one place visually (rather than sort through the hundreds of file folders on my computer); to be able to asses what I have, and to organize it, and of course, read/analyze it and have acess to it for writing my material. insights welcome for those more experienced. thanks so much.

Just speaking from my experience of indexing versus database inserts in photo apps such as Aperture. I prefer indexing with outside applications for most files as then I have either Finder (iCloud) access to them. Now, my hierarchies are pretty much set in stone (folder names). If you prefer a more open-ended file system with dynamic hierarchies and especially self-contained database files with all files in one location for backups and so on, then use databases.

One advantage of indexing outside files is that the DT database remains relatively small.

One disadvantage is that you give up portability. If you always work on one computer, this is not a problem. But if you work on two or three, using DT on each, having the files contained in the database means that they will always be available.

thanks for sharing your insights.

thanks, this is helpful.

The databases may be smaller, but a database with all documents contained in the database will always use less total disk space than a database plus the same documents that have been indexed into the database. In other words, don’t index documents with the goal that overall disk space on your Mac will be reduced, as the opposite will be the result.


et al:
@Greg_Jones is absolutely correct on this (and he indexes exclusively, so his is real-world knowledge).

Look at it this way:

  • If you have a bookshelf full of books, there is a known amount of space being used by those books.
  • Now say you decided to started copying information about those books into it: author, title, number of pages, etc., including ALL the text in the books. You’d need more than one notebook and it would definitely take more space than the books alone!

That’s essentially what happens when indexing into DEVONthink.

I’m not concerned about the space issue… My thinking proces is this, correct me if I’m mistaken.

  1. when I index my image and photo files - it allows me to see them displayed easily all at once, so I can see what I have and then choose what I want for a given project. (graphics is not my primary task)
  2. more to the point, when I index my research files, I can view them similarly
    and 3. when I index my project file folders, filled with maybe hundreds of MS Word documents, I can see what I have, pull them up to read. It’s so much easier then using Finder Window on Mac.
    That’s as far as I’ve gotten with my skill level with DevonThink; it’s helpful but I’m sure it does more and I’m still on a learning curve. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to import my MS Word documents in to the database because I need to continue to edit & move them about on the computer itself.

I haven’t used the new version 3 yet, but isn’t the indexing behaviour changing with that version? I thought there was going to be some sort of option to move indexed files in the Finder when they’re moved in the application. Maybe I have that totally wrong.

Filesystem integration is tighter so changes in the Finder are updated more quickly, and files created in indexed groups in DEVONthink are automatically moved (deconsolidated) to the indexed Finder folders.

1 Like

Files created in indexed are auto moved … well that’s great, but then I guess I’m wrong in thinking that indexed files that are moved around in DTPO also get moved in the Finder (DTPO groups matching Finder folders) ?

I’ve just tested this to confirm what I thought.

Moving a file within the indexed folder in DT moves it in the Finder (the indexed folders structure and the Finder folder structure are kept in sync)

Moving a file from out of the indexed folder in DT (to another Group) does not move the file in the Finder

I assume this is design behaviour.

Not sure I understand this: how can you move a file “within a folder” (unless to a subfolder)? I’m not sure I understand the restrictions on moving a file.

Is it: if I index a folder with a ton of files and subfolders in it, I can move a file/folder anywhere within that indexed folder (including to subfolder), and DTPO/Finder locations will stay in sync, but I can’t move it to any place outside that indexed folder (and keep that sync) ?

Yes. Sorry I wasn’t clear. My indexed folder structure has multiple subfolders in it.

As I said, I’m unsure whether this is how it’s intended to work. I expect so. I’ve noted in another thread that some feedback to the user on the consequences would be helpful

The line between choosing index vs import is becoming blurred given the new features of DT3. IMHO, there are still some good reasons to choose index over import - at least for me:
(1) Users may have different projects that may need to use the same repertoire of folders/files. If users need to setup different DT databases for different projects to have different sets of tags or rating/flag system, for import method users will need to select and duplicate those common files from one to other database/s. This could be a cumbersome and confusing process.
(2) You may need to share the same folders to other users on some common drive.
(3) DT3 is an info management and not a replacement for finder. However, I find the scope of spotlight search in macOS folder is too broad and general. Therefore, I index my most important folders in DT2/3 so that I can do more specific search easily. Disclaimer: the search power for pdf and text files in DT3 is very powerful but I can’t comment for those files with proprietary format (Microsoft .docx, .xls, etc)

I think this is the most exciting feature to me. Currently I use Forklift to move files around, wondering how might my workflow change.

I can move a file/folder anywhere within that indexed folder (including to subfolder), and DTPO/Finder locations will stay in sync, but I can’t move it to any place outside that indexed folder (and keep that sync) ?

Simply put: correct. DEVONthink is not monitoring the entire filesystem and DO NOT try to be clever and index your boot drive or Home directory. :slight_smile:

If you move files outside an indexed group, DEVONthink isn’t following that file around your filesystem. It only follows moves relative to the indexed parent.

PS: Please be clear with language. You don’t sync indexed folders into DEVONthink. They can be updated. This isn’t to be pedantic, but because sync has a specific meaning in DEVONthink completely unrelated to this indexing discussion. thanks!

I meant “keep in sync”, which I guess from your reply is what we all mean here (I was reiterating ThatGuy’s wording).

But… what of (“true”) sync and indexing here. Can we index our folders in Dropbox, so they sync (with a capital “S”)? Would that be any worse/better/comparable than using the Dropbox component of the app’s own Dropbox sync mechanisms?

(I realise that Dropbox’s “selective sync” couldn’t be used in this scenario).

  • Yes, you can index your local Dropbox folders.
  • Yes, you can still use our sync engine. However… Your Dropbox folder should be in the same relative location to ensure it’s trouble-free. Dropbox defaults to ~/Dropbox.
  • It’s not doing the same things as Dropbox technically, so I wouldn’t compare them as an either/or.

So, hang on … say I set up a database with DT3 on Mac A to index a folder (not a Dropbox folder) and use a ‘syncstore’ (Dropbox-based or whatever) to sync it with a corresponding database on Mac B.

Then, using DT3, I move an item to a new location (and so move it to a new location inside that Finder folder) on Mac A, does this mean that a successful sync will result with the item being similarly moved to the new Finder location on Mac B?