Newbie: Feeling quite lost...

After some time exploring the net and investigating various products, I purchased DTPO to work with my Mac and Fujitsu ScanSnap. I installed all the requisite software, and decided to use DropBox as the data storage location since my workflow requires multiple locations, but just one user (me!). I had two machines open, and got the warning message about the database being in use (but did not understand the significance of it), and dragged a number of documents into the Inbox. I did nothing more, and shut down as it was late at night, and when I arrived the next morning and rebooted, everything had disappeared from the inbox. Gone. I suspect that this means that placing documents in to the inbox does not incorporate them in to the database until they are processed. I also believe that you cannot have two machines using the same DTPO database simultaneously. But I am hesitant to do much more for fear that my ignorance will lose more data.

The program is quite complex, and I am very sympathetic with the difficulty of providing adequate instruction, having worked in the IT field. I downloaded the manual, and the first 20 pages are version documentation and license legalize. It seems to be more of a reference document than a tutorial. I went to the web site looking for a helpful tutorial, and have found promotional tutorials that tout the benefits of the application and many detailed tutorials on specific features, but none that seem directed to provide help in getting started. I would love to see a step 1, step 2, step 3 to get going, and then focus on the more detailed tutorials as skills mature. Crawl before I walk before I run.

So some very early specific questions:

  1. Is there a possibility of recovering my documents which are no longer present in the Dock Icon

  2. If I have not initiated the DTPO application on a Mac, and place documents in to the Dock Icon on a machine, what happens to them?

  3. How long do documents last in the dock? Just until the machine is rebooted? If documents are placed in to the dock and originals (emails?) are erased, do they remain in the dock prior to import in to the database?

  4. Am I correct that only one machine can be active at at time with a specific database which is centrally stored on NAS storage or on dropbox?

  5. Any suggestions on a specific approach to become comfortable with the application? A sequence for a new user to engage the tutorials? The first screen when going to the tutorial page is “Style RTF text with keyboard shortcuts”, perhaps ultimately important, but scarcely a starting point. Likewise, “Working in Teams” sounds like a good tutorial, but I need to start with one individual using the application: me. Any help on getting a newbie started without losing data would be appreciated.

I am anxious to use this application, and have great need in scanning and organizing a great deal of personal information. But I would be grateful if someone could suggest a more explicit and cohesive starting point to learn the application.


Do not store the database file in Dropbox, and do not open it in Dropbox, as damage is likely.

If you wish to use the database on more than one Mac, that can be done using a Sync routine.

See the tutorial on Synchronizing in Help > Tutorials, or at … rials.html You will also find information about Sync in the PDF user manual.

After clicking “All tutorials” in the Tutorials window scroll to the end and maybe start with these text ones:

  • Database set-up
  • Importing data
  • Searching
  • Clipping data
  • Database care

Also see related video versions for some of those. After that just cherry pick whatever looks interesting.

I like the idea of prioritizing them all into a sequence that’s easier for newcomers to follow, but that’s someone else’s task. :slight_smile:

“present in the Dock icon” – that’s an unfamiliar term. Dock icons do not usually display file lists. Could you expand on this? Are you referring to the Global Inbox? Have you attempted to find copies of your documents with Spotlight – or something heavier duty like Find Any File?

If you drag document to the Inbox (or onto the Dock, which puts them into the Inbox) then they are stored in ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink Pro 2/Inbox until the next time you launch DEVONthink. When you launch the program, the items are imported into the Global Inbox database.

See the answer to #2. Files will stay in ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink Pro 2/Inbox forever until you launch DEVONthink. The effect of dragging a document into the DEVONthink Dock icon is to import a copy of the file into DEVONthink – the original remains where it was. Dragging a document into the Inbox folder that I mentioned is to move the document from its former location to the Inbox, and from there it is imported into DEVONthink. HOWEVER – emails are different. Dragging an email from Mail to the Dock or to the Inbox only makes a copy. Emails are never removed from your mail file until you delete them in Mail and empty the trash in Mail.

Absolutely. DEVONthink databases are single-user. Accessing the same instance of a database from two machines will eventually destroy the database. Hard to say when or how that will happen. But, in my experience, destruction will always happen.

Maybe just use it? :confused: I don’t mean that flippantly – but everyone here started the same way you are. The only way to learn software is to use software.

Though not up to date with some of the latest features like the new synk (which are covered in the tutorials mentioned above anyway), this is a good read, especially for beginners:

You can also buy it from DEVONtechnlogies’ shop

Thank you to all for taking the time to respond.

I will avoid using DropBox as the data repository (although it is clearly stated as one of the features), and avoid having more than one item access the database at a time (makes complete sense, feel like a dumba** for presuming otherwise). I believe that the sync process (have not mastered the documentation yet) presumes multiple machine databases which are synced). I was anxious to use a single database accessed via NAS server. Seems cleaner and more economical of space.

I don’t know what to call the DEVONthink thingy on the side of my Mac screen where I had assumed I was to drage documents etc. I was surprised when they all disappeared, and did not show up on reboot. Just disappeared. Suspect it was the DropBox issue.

I will try to begin the process of the tutorials, but would hope the company takes some of us Newbies to heart and makes it a bit easier with less trial and error, and a more defined process to begin to effectively use their excellent software.

Thanks again to all who replied, I will continue to monitor the forum…


Hi Bill,

From one newbie to another - hang in there! :smiley:

FWIW - DTP has changed everything for me - and I am still only scratching the surface. I constantly have moments in my daily workflow, where I think to myself: “DTP could handle this - what has taken me so long”… It’s obviously not for everyone, and I’m making no assumptions on whether it will work for you in the end - but why I felt compelled to pop this up, was because I can still clearly recall my very first impressions of DTP - and they were not, shall we say, very positive… :confused:

I imported a few things - and then sat there looking at what didn’t really appear to be anything impressive. In fact - I actually felt silly for purchasing it in the 1st place - and promptly never touched it again for a few weeks…

And then - I actually read the manual - and watched all the youtube tutorials, and bought the “Take Control of Getting Started with DTP” ebook - and took the plunge and imported a few thousand files (my entire research library) in one go - and that was that. Hook, line and sinker! :laughing:

Good luck with everything!

Crawl before I walk before I run.<

I like that and it’s very apt. It’s best to start with DEVONthink this way rather than taking a broad brush approach to it as it will overwhelm you. It’s a very complicated program to learn however, once you break through the learning curve it will be worthwhile.

It’s best to start gradually with a very focused approach maybe on something in particular. In terms of learning the program I too would recommend starting with:

  1. Joe Kissell’s Take Control book on DEVONthink. He writes very well and it will give you a great framework in which to approach the program.

  2. The DEVONthink manual is much superior over the online help. However, this is very complicated also. I would use this in conjunction with the Take Control Book. So where it leaves off, as it is not so much a specific how to but rather a this can be done with DEVONthink, the manual can then come into play to specifically spell out the how to.

  3. There are two tutorials at, Don McAllister’s site, on DEVONthink. Don personally doesn’t like DEVONthink at all however his members were requesting tutorials. He had Peter Olthoff do these who is quite adroit at DEVONthink. I don’t think these shows are free (the odd ones are) however you could take out a 3 month membership to see what you think about the tutorials. They’re excellent and he has a huge database of tutorials covering a broad range of Mac product. Don is quite well known in the Mac community and I can assure you that you can’t go wrong with his recommendations. He has done extensive tutorials on Evernote including the most recent release plus extensive tutorials on the IOS products. I would not concern yourself with DEVONthink To Go as its dreadful and although you can use it, it’s really a view only product that uses WIFI sync. There’s nothing to learn except when it creates a mess how to get out of it.

  4. There are some good articles on using DEVONthink on the web. Looked for articles that are focused and approach one angle to simplify things. Mastering one thing will allow you to easily then start stepping into other areas.

  5. Understand the overall architecture of DEVONthink. You’ll get a good birds eye view of this from Joe Kissell’s book. I always find if I can conceptually understand at a broad level what a program is trying to do then it’s easier to move to the specifics. At it’s highest level DEVONthink is a knowledge management or information management system capable of storing anything kind of data you throw at it (DEVONthink and not DEVONthink To Go).

  6. In terms of sync it occurs differently between OSX machines and IOS devices. IOS devices use WIFI at this point in time via your network. OSX machines utilize other approaches. My preferred approach is to use Dropbox and sync to a Dropbox store that it creates on my Dropbox. This is pretty standard for all programs that sync. They use Dropbox, iCloud, give you a choice between the two or possibly use their own cloud service like Omnipresence for the Omnigroup’s range of products.

So back to where we started. I like your “Crawl before I walk before I run”. Don’t be discouraged if you feel it’s taking you a bit of time to grasp the system. It takes everyone time. Once grasped, you’ll probably find you use certain core aspects of the system where other parts of it don’t matter to you. That’s what I find for myself. I initially used it to go paperless and achieved that quite quickly. From there, I branched out. However, I don’t use it to index my files on my system. I do use it to capture important emails or web articles for my research.

I tend to employ a variety of tools each suited to their own strengths. So just because DEVONthink can do something I don’t necessarily use it for that. As an example, it can be an RSS reader. However, it’s dreadful at that compared to Newsbar, Reedit or Mr. Reader. I’d never use DEVONthink as a newsreader. Really, use it just for what feels right for you and ignore all the other stuff as it’ll drive you crazy - literally.

Thank you for your kind and helpful replies.

Kerryd, thank you in particular. I have printed your reply, and will keep it handy for encouragement as I set out.

Interesting that you said you put it down in discouragement for a few weeks.

Me too.

I will read the eBook, and subscribe to the tutorials. I still find the manual off putting, and more of a reference tool (still needed, but not helpful for workflow) than a how-to manual. I printed it for use.

I really do believe that DevonThink needs to embrace a step wise tutorial strategy. Maybe even engage some professional educators to enhance the learning curve in a more deliberate manner. I continue to believe from reading reviews that this is the best program of its type.

But there needs to be a better process to begin the use of the program. And I say this as an IT professional with a doctorate.

So thanks again for the help as I get back in to the trenches.