Tips or suggestions on moving from Evernote

I have been an Evernote user for many years, using Evernote as a repository for a paperless office. I scan most documents as PDFs into Evernote and then shred or recycle the originals.

I am looking for a solution that has the following:

  1. The entire document database lives in the cloud without having to also be replicated on a Mac locally, (but potentially with the option to do so.)

  2. Can access the document database from multiple Macs, multiple iOS and iPadOS devices.

  3. Easy import from a FUJITSU IX500 Scansnap Document Scanner.

From the reading I have been doing, it seems like this would be possible using CloudKit syncing as the sync mechanism.

I have found the blog post on the Devon site about migrating from Evernote.

My questions are:

  • Is my understanding about CloudKit syncing not requiring the full database locally correct?

  • For people using CloudKit syncing, how has your experience been in terms of reliability?

  • Any tips or suggestions or pitfalls to avoid in migrating from Evernote and moving to this setup?

Thank you.

Welcome @jamesdempsey

it seems like this would be possible using CloudKit syncing as the sync mechanism.

CloudKit has recently not been a reliable performer for many people. Also, we do not suggest using a remote sync option unless you actually need one.

1. The entire document database lives in the cloud without having to also be replicated on a Mac locally, (but potentially with the option to do so.)

  • Is my understanding about CloudKit syncing not requiring the full database locally correct?

No. You cannot put a DEVONthink database in any cloud-synced location or you could irreparably damage it. You will always have a local database in DEVONthink as well as DEVONthink To Go.

Read this blog post on decentralization and why we support it…

See this blog post regarding Evernote migration…

Also, check out Help > Tutorials, especially the sync-related ones and the Scan with a ScanSnap.

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My entire sync datastore lives in the cloud (iCloud)

>without having to also be replicated on a Mac locally,

To access data, I use Devonthink apps on my Mac and iPad
The specific databases must be stored locally

>For people using CloudKit syncing, how has your experience been in terms of reliability?

The iCloud (Cloudkit) syncing is working well for me

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Thank you. It sounds like DEVONthink doesn’t support the use case I am looking for.

These documents are essentially an archive where I need to access any particular document very rarely, but when I need access I need it from a variety of locations.

So having a large amount of storage space dedicated on every device doesn’t make a lot of sense for me.

I now see where I misread the section on syncing in Take Charge of DEVONThink. There is no additional space required on the Mac to sync.

Thanks again for clarifying.

You’re welcome.
Have you downloaded the trial version to see how it works?

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I have in the past.

The sticking point is, for instance, wanting access the occasional document I need on my iPhone or iPad, without having to store the all the documents there always.

I do understand the benefit of decentralization, and find the model that Apple Photos uses to be a decent trade-off. One of my Macs has a lot of storage and keeps a copy of all the full resolution images, and then a copy is also stored in iCloud. Then the rest of devices just pull down the full version of photos as needed.

Otherwise every time I buy an iPhone or iPad, it’s an extra $200 - $400 per device for extra storage to hold all the documents.

And in my case, the documents are typically PDF scans of paper documents. I don’t need all those PDFs on every device at all times.

You should read on our blog about using a shallow sync in DEVONthink To Go.

As @Bluefrog mentions, “shallow sync” is what you are looking for. Alternatively or in addition to shallow sync, you can create a couple or more databases on the Mac. Stuff that you might want while out and about can be in one (or more) of the databases and only sync that/those. In your case, keep the PDF scans in a database that is not sync’ed (or shallow sync’ed).

I recommend you use the demo version for a while, and for sure get the “Take Control of DEVONthink” and the “DEVONthink Manual” at DEVONtechnologies | Handbooks and Extras. Read the former and at least scan the latter so you know what’s there for future need.

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Thank you very much - and thank you for the blog posts you have written.

I think shallow sync would be what I am looking for on iOS and iPadOS. The “Take Control” book doesn’t use the term ‘shallow sync’, it calls it ‘On-Demand Syncing’.

And just to confirm, it seems you cannot set up shallow syncing on a Mac. Is that correct?

I have a MacBook Air in a similar situation as my iPhone - it has much less storage than my main Mac, so I probably wouldn’t want to store all the files in my database there.

Thank you again for all of the clarifications. I think I have a much better understanding now.

You’re welcome and thank you for the kind words!

And just to confirm, it seems you cannot set up shallow syncing on a Mac. Is that correct?

Correct. Shallow sync is a mobile mechanism, made to address the limited space and extensibility of mobile devices. (And no, not everyone can afford terabyte iPads :wink: )

With Macs, you can house databases on a connected portable external hard drive. This is commonly discussed on the forums.

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My use case is, I’m sitting on my couch using my MacBook Air (with 256 GB storage, not everyone can afford terabyte MBAs either. :wink: ). An email comes in asking about something and I need to look up in a document.

So, then I have to go find the portable external hard drive, plug it in, retrieve the document from there.

Or else always have an external hard drive hanging off of the MacBook Air, or at least remember to bring it with me everywhere I take the MBA, both of which kind of defeat the purpose of having a light, small laptop in the first place.

Essentially my MBA is a mobile device.

So, my three choices with DEVONThink would be:

  1. Cart around a separate external hard drive with the MacBook Air.
    (which makes the MacBook Air much less convenient as a small, light device)

  2. Not have access to the documents at all from the MacBook Air.
    (which is worse than the situation I currently have with Evernote)

  3. Trade-in this MacBook Air and buy one that costs at least $400 more for storage
    (which has the same storage cost issues as iPhone and iPad)

Of those three choices, the only one that would be practical for me would be #2 and not have access to the documents from the MacBook Air. (Because knowing myself, even if I did have an external drive, I’d forget to bring it with me a certain percentage of the time and I wouldn’t have access to the documents on the MBA anyway)

It is definitely disappointing because it seems DEVONThink and DEVONThink To Go would otherwise give me what I am looking for, and overall be a better solution.

From my understanding now, everything is there except that I can’t have a Mac use shallow sync even though I am essentially using that Mac as a mobile device with limited storage and a desire for easy portability (pick up and go without carrying around an extra external drive).

It’s especially disappointing knowing the ability to shallow sync exists - it’s just not supported for Macs.

Is there any chance shallow sync would ever be added for Macs to support use cases like this?

Cart around a separate external hard drive with the MacBook Air.
(which makes the MacBook Air much less convenient as a small, light device)

I’d say it’s no more inconvenient than carrying a wallet so you have your identification.


There are no concrete plans to implement shallow sync on Macs.

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Except when I’m sitting on my couch with the MacBook Air in my lap, my wallet isn’t dangling off the side of the MBA and I don’t need to be careful when moving around that I am going to accidentally disconnect it from the MBA and potentially corrupt the contents.

Or if the MBA is sitting closed on the desk or coffee table and I am going somewhere, with the external drive I need to open the MBA, login, eject the external drive, close the MBA before putting the MBA and the external drive in my bag.

Everybody has different levels of what they find inconvenient, different use cases, etc. For me an external drive makes the MBA itself significantly less convenient as a portable - especially for content where any individual item is accessed very infrequently, but being able to search for and access any item with a minimal amount of friction or fuss is important.

But the use case of treating a Mac as a mobile device in terms of syncing isn’t supported and there aren’t plans for it to be.

So, I’ll think through the tradeoffs in terms of the product’s capabilities as well as my own preferences and use case and figure out what I’ll do.

Whether I end up using DEVONThink or not, I greatly appreciate your time and patience in helping me understand what is and isn’t possible and in helping me make an informed choice.