Science Teacher Using DEVONThink Pro

Good Morning,
I’m a physics teacher at a public high school teaching 16-18 year-olds. For years now I’ve been using Evernote to hold all my worksheets, lab guides, exams, solutions, etc., but I’m seriously considering a switch to DEVONthink Pro (have been considering this for years, but the recent Mac Power Users show got me back on the bandwagon again). I’m concerned about the ability to get materials back out of Evernote, whereas DEVONthink appears to be a great tool for getting things both in and out.
Along those lines, I have two questions I was hoping you might be able to assist me with to make sure I get started on the right path.
1) I use an iMac at home and a MacBook Pro which I carry to and from school with me. I’d like to have access to my DEVONThink information on both computers. Is placing my DEVONThink database on my Transporter drive (which syncs between the two systems) a good idea? I tried searching on Sync solutions and found so much conflicting information I thought it might be wise to ask the experts to try and get a clear solution.
2) Any recommendations as to whether making this switch is a good idea, or recommendations to keep in mind as I get started on this migration?

Thank you in advance for your time and any assistance you can provide.

Make it a great day! :smiley:


  1. Any system that Syncs automatically can be damaging to a database package like ours. Though I have no first-hand experience with the Transporter, I would certainly be cautious about it. (Note: The warning would also apply to the use of a local syncStore on the Transporter as that is similar type of package.)

  2. As far as it being a good choice (and yes I will exclude my personal view on Evernote), it really depends on what your needs are. Evernote works for many people who want a simple, cloud-synced data gathering app. But the deeper your data management and research needs become, the quicker the gap between DEVONthink and the competition becomes: from flexibility in organization, to its internal AI (for classification and making connections between documents you may not have made), to a robust automation architecture,…

I would download a fully functional trial version and just play around with it. It can be a bit daunting at first but that what we and the tutorials are all here for.

Thank you! Is there some other system you might recommend in order to use DevonTHINK on both a desktop and laptop (realizing it would never be in use on both at the same time?)

I only have one Mac. I use DTPO on it and sync with my iPad, which I use in class.

One great thing about DT is that it is quite secure. If you sync through Dropbox (I’ve heard good reports from folks who do this – note that you should NOT put your database into Dropbox, but follow the instructions for sync instead) you can encrypt everything. Or, if you sync with the iPad, you can use your own wifi network and avoid the cloud.

With Evernote, you are using an unencrypted cloud service, which potentially exposes the data to Evernote employees and hackers (state and non-state varieties). This does a disservice to your students (putting their data at risk for your convenience) and raises some thorny legal issues in the US. I’m a university professor, and because of the sensitive third party information I handle (grades, addresses, my evaluations, health data, etc.), I put very little unencrypted onto the cloud.

Evernote is an amazing service that I highly recommend, but not for every use case, because it lacks the security needed for many situations. I’ve found DTPO to be quite convenient, once you learn the ropes, and much, miuch more powerful overall, in part because it has been designed and refined over many years to work with one operating system. Also, the developers have built in an amazing amount of customizability and flexibility, so it can be molded to fit just about any use case.

As was mentioned above, give DTPO a spin and see what you think.

Thanks so much for the help and advice!

Five main reasons:

  1. Security - my data stays with me, not in a cloud somewhere just a password away.

  2. Ease of sync - I travel a lot and don´t always have fast internet. WiFi is superior to cell data for syncing between my Mac, iPad and iPhone.

  3. The interface - the way DevonThink works with scanning and my eco-system meaning Apple. I bought a ScanSnap and the interface just works perfect and DT is MADE FOR MAC and works good with iOS. Almost forgot - the AI and search functions off course!

  4. The cost - I know how much it will cost me. I hate monthly costs that I can not oversee. So not a big fan of Evernote, Adobe, Microsoft or other companies charging per kB or per time unit.

  5. The support - by far the best support I have encountered.

Thanks for the great responses!

Just saw this, did´t know that it actually happened! … t-details/

Hopefully you will never see that using DevonThink for the one single reason that you keep all info on your own physical unit.

Go for the Office Pro version. You can always upgrade later but I am happy I started out with no limits in functions.

Compares to pay $5-10/month with a lot of restrictions to let Evernote store your info DevonThink is still “cheap” considering it is a once cost. ( I am NOT related to DT in any way, just a happy user.)

Good luck!

Note that Jim Neumann’s comments referred to placing the database file within the Transporter (which is definitely not recommended), and raises caution about placing a Sync store file in the Transporter (may or may not work, cautious assumption should be that it won’t work properly).

However, the Sync procedure would work for your Macs in different location if s portable drive were used to hold the Sync store. Mount it to the Mac after a session that changes the database on a Mac and Sync the changes to it. When moving to the other Mac, mount the portable drive and Sync changes to the database(s) on that Mac. After a session in which changes were made to the database(s) on that machine, Sync them to the store on the portable drive, etc.

Dropbox and WebDAV are two other options for using Sync to synchronize databases on two or more Macs that are remote from each other.

A lot of details about the Evernote hacking incident have not been released, and we will probably never know the full extent, so it is difficult to get too specific. From the perspective of an outside observer, there seem to have been several things they could have done to prevent or mitigate the damage, but overall, they handled the situation pretty well after it occurred. To their credit, they were pretty transparent and quick to implement two-factor security. I would say Evernote is a lot more secure now than it was back then. And, it is more reliable than many of its competitors.

BUT, any cloud service is a risky proposition, because you are entrusting your data to a third party. The best of them (in my opinion) employ zero-knowledge encryption handled by folks who prioritize security and neither expect nor want to have access to your data. Evernote can encrypt snippets of text in a note, or you can encrypt data yourself before you upload it, but without encrypted notebooks, the process is rather cumbersome (in my opinion). Personally, if we are talking about putting stuff in the cloud, I prefer SpiderOak (Snowden famously recommended it as well). Fortunately, the folks at DT also prioritize security, and they have designed a few ways (as mentioned above) to effectively balance security and convenience with it (the Dropbox method is especially nice, because DT circumvents the weaknesses in Dropbox’s security). If I had another Mac and was syncing with it, I’d probably use the Dropbox method.

A feature of DEVONthink Pro you might find useful is the Server. In a copy of DEVONthink Pro Office please view the tutorial (Help > Support Assistant) “Share via a web browser”. The other Tutorials are also worth viewing to explain key features.

There are also numerous excellent (and generous) academic bloggers / DEVONthink experts on the net with a great deal of insight into using DEVONthink in the classroom, research, writing, etc. (Christopher Mayo is in that pantheon :slight_smile: )

Great advice, except for that one about Mayo, who hasn’t posted anything new in ages on his blog. He promised to say something about how he uses DT, but nothing so far – just pictures from his bike rides. Maybe at the end of this month he’ll finally make good on his promise :slight_smile:

When using DT vs Evernote, DT is able to find connections in my data that I did not think about. Evernote is just storage. As for syncing and privacy, I have been trying bit torrent sync to sync a local sync store. Both machines have to be on but there is no data in the cloud. So far it seems to be working.

So I made the plunge and went with DevonThink Pro Office, and am working through how best to perform my sync (really hate the idea of carrying a physical drive back and forth with me, especially given how often my commute includes an hour or two of leaving the car in the sun in the winter or the frigidness of February while I attend to some other commitment).

The Dropbox Sync looks promising, though I am concerned at the number of folks who have posted about having issues with it, and also the limits of the size of my Dropbox database (I have about 10 GB of Dropbox space available, and really don’t want to increase my plan). I also have a Transporter for cloud storage, but understand that using it for a local SyncStore is not recommended. The Direct Connection route is possible, but again, that requires me to bring my laptop computer home from work every night, which could entail the laptop sitting in a hot or freezing car for a few hours (not optimal).

I do have a Synology Diskstation on my local network at home with tons of available space and always connected to the network, so I think my path forward will likely involve trying to set up a WebDAV server on it for my sync process. Thanks everyone for the great feedback and advice – will keep updating this post as I learn more about what works and what doesn’t.