trying so hard to sync!.... why is this sooo difficult

Hi all,

I have tried to read as much as I can, I’m certainly no techie, but I do know a fair bit about computers/software etc. and for the life of me I cannot get DTP to sync properly. And I’ve poured way too many hours (and tears) into trying to have a seemless two way syncing. We have a 500mb database of pdf docs, and there are two of us trying to share this database remotely (i.e. not same local network), and using two seperate MacBooks and users to share this database, via dropbox. I have even tried recreating the database and drag/dropping all the contents into it, ran a verify/repair, and then did a sync from the first machine, which took something like 7hrs, but seemed like it worked. then I tried from the second computer, connected to the dropbox account within the sync settings and selected to sync that database. it seems to have then imported that database and all its contents into the 2nd’s DTP, but then when I added items to the latter and tried doing a sync, its now taken 3 hours and the activity window seemed like it was just hanging. then it finished without actually syncing, and the log says ‘the operation was cancelled’, and every attempt thereafter to sync starts and then finishes without actually syncing, and doesn’t show/say anything in the log. what gives??? this is soooo frustrating, why can’t syncing be as easy and seemless as dropbox usually is or iCloud, dummy proof. I can’t use this app if I can’t trust it is seemless for syncing.

Second issue I’m having, which again, for the life of me I can’t figure out: when I scan items they don’t go into the global inbox, they are out there floating somewhere. if I go to global inbox and then select the smartbox titled “all pdfs” i can see the item, but if I click on the inbox itself it doesn’t show up. how do I fix this. this got changes at some point, whereas in the past they all would just simply show up in the global inbox when you selected ‘inbox’.

Sync with DEVONthink is finicky at best so don’t feel bad.

Can I ask are these machines local to each other across a WIFI network. If not do you use any sync server such a Cubby, Sugarsync, Copy.

We’re now going to start from scratch.

To get your db with Dropbox back into working order do this and we’ll assume you have local WIFI but if you don’t you can use a sync server:

  1. In DEVONthink prefs stop all sync with Dropbox by unticking
  2. Delete your Dropbox account on the right
  3. Do the same on the remote
  4. Go into finder; Dropbox; apps; DEVONthink and delete DEVONthink from Dropbox.
  5. Back to DEVONthink; prefs; sync; establish sync on the db’s and inbox that you’d like by first establishing a connection with dropbox
    5.a In prefs add a new Dropbox account
    5.b Dropbox will ask you to authorize DEVONthink to use Dropbox - choose allow
    5.c On the left of the sync dialogue box click, with dropbox highlighted on the right, the items you want sync’d e.g inbox, your db
    5.d bottom right of dialogue box click sync for the items highlighted you want sync’d
    - I’d sync first the inbox as that will be fast
    - then choose your primary db and click sync
    - since this is 1.2 gigs in size this will take a while but not 7 hours - maybe an hour as long as there are no db problems as if there are Dropbox will stop sync, identify what the problem is, then you need to correct it and sync will continue on
  6. With your db successfully sync’d to dropbox you now want to sync this db to your remote
  7. The fastest way to do this is to put you primary db on your remote then sync with dropbox
    7a. There are different ways you can do this
    - put the db on say a USB drive and just physically copy the primary db over to the exact same location on the remote (finder folder structure)
    - if your on the same WIFI/ethernet network you can use WIFI/ethernet and OSX sharing just to copy the file from one machine to another
    - I use Chronosync personally as this is far faster
    - if the remote is very remote use a sync server such as Cubby to move the primary db as is and in tact to the remote
  8. Now that the remote has exactly the same DB as the primary, establish Dropbox sync with the remote exactly in the same way I indicated above
    • sync will be quick as the two DB’s are identical and there is nothing really to sync except to tell the dropbox store that the remote is now also connecting
      - oh and you’ll have to authorize the remote with Dropbox also
  9. Test sync with a new note. You should find sync now works perfectly

The above I’ve found through extensive testing works the best to establish a sound and robust sync session with DEVONthink via Dropbox. It’s also the fastest way of establish a new sync session and since this is sync from scratch it is clean. The method you’re trying is prone to all sort of difficulties.

Now in terms of your inbox problem I have frequently seen this behaviour. This is not as easy to cleanup as what I described above. It basically relates to a record being attached to the wrong parent. I’m now presenting based on the assumption we’re talking about the global inbox and not the local inbox. You have to one move the record out of the global inbox to the local. Once out of the global inbox try to find the parent that was containing the record. Not always easily found. Once found delete it. In fact, delete anything that should not be in the global inbox. I really try to make sure I have nothing but records in my global inbox. Sometimes i’ll tag something in the global inbox and now of course I have a tag field. I delete all these. You don’t want a record attaching to any parent. When you click the global inbox you should be seeing your record immediately. If not, it’s attach to a parent and that has to be removed.

Hope this helps. The outline for the re-establishment of sync isn’t as painful as it looks and you will have a well functioning sync system and it will happen a lot faster than any other method.

hi kerryd, thanks for the detailed explanation.

  1. global inbox: can you clarify what you mean by finding the parent. I have no idea what you mean by this? SHould I just simply move everything out of the global inbox, and then start scanning items and see if it working? and then one by one try moving things back into the global inbox?

  2. syncing: yes both computers are NOT on same local network/wifi. And I had previously been doing that sort of syncing using dropbox. Is sugar sync any different than dropbox in this regard? Can the latter not be used as a ‘sync store’ (im not sure what an actual sync store is).

In terms of your first question you really shouldn’t have anything in the global inbox. It is a repository for your various databases. Say you had 5 databases open. You send something from your scanner to DEVONthink. It goes into the global inbox and from there you decide which database it belongs in. When you drop the item on the database now it goes into your local inbox. From that databases’s local inbox you then move the item to a folder of your choosing. You may want to tag the item at this point and then move it. That’s my happen. Tagging is just another technique for finding or viewing your info in different ways.

So the global inbox is not meant to be a place to permanently store your info. It’s a place to capture the info and then move it to the proper location.

On your second point, I only mentioned SugarSync as a method of sync’g your entire DB from one computer to the other so that they are equal. Then you establish sync with Dropbox although there are other methods provided. I can explain those methods but let’s keep this simple and just use Dropbox. You’ll find that a lot of Developers use Dropbox if they’re not using iciCloud. Sometimes you have the option. If you have the option with any software choose iCloud. It’s faster and less prone toproblems.

You don’t use DEVONthink and can’t to sync in the manner in which DEVONthink is designee to sync. It is just sync’ records that change not the entire DB. This is mre efficient. However, DEVONthink is new to web sync’g and you will inevitably have problems. The technique I outlined above is a sure fire way to get out of those problems.

When I refer to the sync store all that means is sync needs a storage repository to compare records to know what to sync. That’s the sync store. That’s why you are able to sync remotely. It’s not comparing DB to DB direltly. This is very advanced technology and it’s good technology properly implemented.

If you have any other questions, shoot them off and make them as specific as possible as it’s easier to address stuff that way or general if you want and I’ll try to answer the question.

Hope this helps.

(deleted; a reader does not like the answer)

I don’t know how any of what you said helps this fellow with his question.

I disagree with you totally about the global inbox. It gets constantly messed up by DTTG. It’s not meant to be a permanent database store. The name speaks for itself. And since DEVONthink searches all open databases there’s simply no reason to have anything in the Global Inbox for any longer than necessary.

Finally, DEVONthink is designed with GTD in mind. In David Allens model you deal with your inbox as soon and as fast as possible. At least daily at a minimum.

I found your sync answer extremely helpful! Thanks for that!

I think this is personal taste, I use my global inbox in probably the wrong way but much closer to what Korm mentioned, I keep stuff in there for a long time. I’ve used devon for years for school stuff and find it incredibly useful and very much have zero interest in Getting Things Done apps. So far as I know you can certainly use devonthink in any way you want, including a GTD system, but it’s really not designed with that particular cult in mind, the promos, manual, none of that even mention GTD and the actionable inbox :wink:

Sorry, don’t mean to dis what works for you, anything that works is great, GTD has done nothing for me and I’ve found it about as useful as the materials Jehovah’s witnesses pass out while devonthink has saved me more problems and helped me out more times then I can even count as document management system for mostly school stuff.

I’m glad to hear you find it so useful.

I don’t know how we went from talking though about sync and the fellows difficulties and the inbox which probably really deserves it’s own thread.

Putting aside GTD which certainly an awful don’t and many mail products are being built with it in mind plus tons of other stuff (again I would say a whole other thread) I know what the intent by DEVON of the global inbox is and isn’t meant to be your database. However, if it works for great. I can guarantee though if you start sync’g a lot of stuff via DTTG you’ll probably be cursing the stuff in the global inbox. It’s not a problem of the global inbox but of DTTG. I specifically though answered the fellows question around his problem with an item. It has gotten attached to a parent item which shouldn’t happen but does. Get rid of the parent and the global inbox will work alright. As long as the parent is there and something attaches to it you have to activate the parent to see the child or the attachment to the parent. I was answering specifically his problem and just saying that it is best to move your info once in the global inbox to the place it’s meant to be and that would be some folder in some DB.

thanks as always for all of you sharing your opinions. I think the syncing is sorted out, but the global inbox thing still isn’t. Great points about how to use the global inbox, but i happen to use it the way kerryd advocates, its a stopover where things first scan to then get sorted, i get that.

My problem however, is that I’ve removed all items/docs out of the global inbox, closed the app and relaunched, and when i go to scan, the item still doesn’t show up in ‘global inbox’. it only is visible if i click on “All PDF Documents” smartbox below, which is a bit annoying to have to fish through there to find something I scan. Am I missing something? I still don’t understand the whole parent thing. What is it, where do I find it, how do I fix it?? Having removed all items out of the global inbox db, whats left??

btw, I also tried creating a new database, and then going into the finder and deleting the old global inbox database and renaming the new one, still empty with no records in it, and that did nothing to fix the problem. I also tried changing the setting in prefs so that scanning goes to the inbox of whichever db Im currently in, and doing so the scan goes to the INBOX of that db as it is supposed to, but again, when I change that setting in prefs back it still doesn’t solve the issue.

Sorry - in terms of a parent a folder (group) is a parent and the items that reside within it are its children. A subfolder of a folder are child folders.

A tag in DEVONthink can also be hierarchical and is thus parent/child if you’ve set it up that way. However, an imported or scanned note can attach to one of these or phantom folders that somehow get generated. To see the item clicking on the global inbox does no go. You have to click on the item that the scanned image or imported note has attached to.

So if there’s nothing in your global inbox I don’t get it. In prefs import for destination what do you have selected.

Do you also have Tools/Show sorter turned on.

Check those two things first plus make sure there are no phantom folders in the inbox. In the global inbox just do a command - a for select all then delete. If you have a master tags folder that won’t delete so just highlight it. I want to make sure everything is for sure deleted in the global inbox and if you can tell me those settings above.

I mean in the global folder after you do a command-A uncheck the master tags folder then do a delete. I’m taking you have a scanner. Do you DTTG. Try sending something from either of those to DEVONthink and see what happens but I would like to know what those prefs settings are.


Just wondering how you’re making out. Were you able to make any progress.

If not, you might just want to uninstall and re-install the DEVONthink. I’d use something like Cleanapp for that.

hi there, thanks for the help. Yeah no success at all with the global inbox issue, as mentioned I completely recreated the global inbox db so it is completely empty. I also checked the prefs and they are correct. so perhaps the only other option is as you suggested to uninstall and reinstall which ill try and report back.

A clean uninstall might be the best thing and just start over.

If you go to your home user library/app support you’ll see DEVONthink and the global inbox and your local inbox. You might check under the library first to see if there’s anything in that global inbox.

When you do a full re-install make sure that library/app support/devonthink stuff is gone. The re-install will put it all back in place. It won’t affect your databases in anyway other than you just need to reconfigure how you want them to open and stuff.


I am soooooooo pissed off!!! I have tried so many times to reset and resync. I’ve followed the detailed instructions shared by a few members and all to no avail. I’ve uninstalled the app, deleted prefs, user settings, fresh installed, repair and rebuild database, and still when I try syncing from parent db, 7 hrs later I have a dialog saying ‘commiting remote resources’ and it just hangs there. A few times I’ve gone through this whole process and had things working smoothly in the past month, and then given my assistant her laptop back (she works remotely), only to find out a few weeks later that even though our dbs both say they’ve synced that we’re actually not working with the same copies, and lost thousands of dollars worth of data/docs as a result. and the worst of all is when each of us then does a verify and repair the stupid log doesn’t say anything good or bad of the verify, unlike say "disk utility’ on a mac when you ‘verify a disk’ you get a readout of whether its good or bad.

And so now we’re back to square one where I take her laptop back, spend all night trying to uninstall everything, reinstall, start fresh with the db copied to each machine’s respective local drive, then go to one machine and try syncing with dropbox and either it gets several hours in and then reports in the log there was some error with some random file, thus restarting the whole darn sync again, OR even if Ive weeded out any potential problem files, I restart the sync and then come home from work 8hrs later and its still trying to ‘commit remote resources’.

why is this so buggy and finicky for syncing??? is there no better option that ‘just works’ the way evernote, dropbox, icloud and almost any other decent software with syncing does?? I’m sooo tempted to give up on dtp (despite my $300 investment) and jump over to evernote. I love EVERYTHING else about dtp, but the syncing is destroying my business’ entire paperless office and risking huge liability with its dodgy attempt at syncing. Can anyone either rescue me with a real, fool-proof way to get syncing working flawlessly and consistently over time (and not entirely thrown off by a random stray file), OR suggest a better application all-together that has such a rigour???

your help please!

Hmmm. To say the least, this isn’t good when you’re losing critical data. The one thing that jumped out at me immediately is you’re using sync to work in a multi-user fashion. Possibly someone else can jump in with their thoughts here but I don’t really think sync was designed to make your system multi-user. The way Evernote does it is through what is referred to as shared notebooks an entirely different thing. So with Evernote, you use sync to keep “your” devices in sync. You use shared notebooks to collaborate.

In DEVONthink Pro Office sync is designed to keep your devices in sync. I’ve never done this though with DEVONthink as I use it solely but work in a collaborative environment. I’m sure it can be done but I’m not sure this would be the best approach. Sync is very delicate. If you sync and the person you’re collaborating with happens to sync at the same time there is going to be a conflict and I don’t know that the end result is always going to be pretty. I saw this in my own environment when I had both computers set to sync hourly. This did not work at all. They both sync’d at exactly the same time and the end result wasn’t good. So the answer was you have only one computer set to sync hourly. Secondly, I always was of the habit if I was going to change computers or not but just leave the one computer to sync in case I sat down at the other. If you don’t do this the end result isn’t pretty.

Let me think about the collaborative computing scenario you‘re doing or possibly you could search the info and I’ll think about this as I just don’t do that. However, I would use sync be it mobile (WIFI) or computer to computer for the sole purpose of keeping devices in sync. You’ll reduce any potential for damage as a result of sync dramatically as you will get damage.

There is a lot of good information on these forums on how to use DEVONthink. Hopefully, I shared some of my knowledge over the years that others have found useful. However, when it comes to sync issues that you are experiencing, I’d suggest that you go directly to the source. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to open a support ticket. Might as well get your advice from the people that get paid to support sync on DEVONthink.

Good advice. Sync is not meant to provide multi-user or collaborative functionality. Since i don’t use DEVONthink Pro Office this way I’ve never thought about collaborative computing. I’ve got lots of experience though with sync and it is delicate so if you use it the wrong way you will end up with problems; conflicts, data loss etc.

I took a quick scan and collaborative or multi-user computing didn’t jump out at all. So…

If you’re having issues, please open a support ticket.

Yes, it is. Not in the sense of something like Etherpad that allows realtime collaboration, but yes, it is intended to allow users to share their databases with other users.