Syncing DT Documents to iOS/GoodReader via iCloud

Lion/iCloud has a hidden feature where a ‘Mobile Documents’ folder is created in the user’s Library folder, and iOS apps that support iCloud create document sub-folders inside this folder. Detailed info on how this all works started appearing yesterday, and one good article on this is available on MacStories.

One way that DEVONthink users can utilize this is to index a Mobile Documents sub-folder or folders into the DEVONthink database to sync with the iCloud account on iOS, or on another Mac sharing an iCloud account. I’m currently testing this with GoodReader’s iCloud Documents folder and it is working well. You can rename the indexed folder in DEVONthink to give it a unique name, and the source folder inside the Mobile Documents folder will keep its original name. You’ll want to attach DEVONthink’s Synchronize script (in the disk image’s Extras folder) to the database folder to auto-sync on selection, and use the Move to External Folder command in DEVONthink to sync documents contained in the database to iCloud.

It has always been possible to do something similar with DropBox folders indexed to DEVONthink and GoodReader, but the iCloud functionality in GoodReader appears to work better. You do not have to navigate to a DropBox folder and download the document into GoodReader-the iCloud documents are already ‘downloaded’ and available. iCloud also does conflict checking on the documents to keep the most current edits in sync. DropBox does have some advantages, such as accessing documents via a browser (currently only possible with iWork documents in iCloud) and DropBox is also available on more platforms (PC, Android, etc.).

I also do not think that iCloud, or DropBox, syncing would replace DEVONthink To Go (which gets better with each release). I do expect that iCloud will be a better option for PDF documents that I want to edit/annotate on the go. Previously I would have used the ‘Open In…’ function from DEVONthink To Go to open PDFs in GoodReader, and now I will be syncing these documents with indexed folders to iCloud. I’ll be able to view/edit these documents on both my iPhone and iPad, and still have the most current version of my edits available when I am back on my Mac.

As a note of caution, there is some speculation that the appearance of the Mobile Documents folder in the Finder is an oversight on Apple’s part, and may eventually get ‘fixed’ with an update to Lion. If that is the case, the documents will still be in GoodReader’s iCloud folder, but may or may not still appear in the DEVONthink database.


Thanks for this. I agree with the caution on whether the Mobile Documents folder is an error or a feature.

Over here, I’ve transitioned to using GoodReader/Dropbox for everything that needs editing or annotation, and indexing those documents into DEVONthink. This has pretty much replaced DTTG in my workflow since I don’t move documents to the iPad unless I intend to do something to them. If the GoodReader/Dropbox sync could occur over WiFi, I would not need DTTG.

I still use DEVONthink To Go extensively with project-based documents to support meetings off-site. I’ll have DEVONthink groups for projects with sub-groups containing archived emails, spreadsheets, notes, graphics, etc. that I sync, or unsync, as needed or not needed. I find it very useful-I just returned from a week of traveling and I only took my iPhone, iPad, and a wireless keyboard. The iPad, especially when combined with a keyboard, can make a very powerful mobile platform. During the week, I never once wanted for anything back on my Mac.

Macstories has just posted an article very specific to the usage I described above, in case anyone wants to see in-depth coverage with pictures. DEVONthink is not mentioned specifically, but GoodReader is. link

By the way, Macstories mentioned that documents do not get downloaded fully when they are initially pushed to iCloud. I mentioned above that there is no wait time to download synced documents. I believe both statements are accurate, based on the size of the documents. I made my observation when testing with smaller (1-2 page) documents and when I later tried some larger documents, I saw the same behavior that Macstories mentions. It would appear that smaller documents are pushed immediately in their entirety, while larger documents will require a complete download before they are readable.