Unreasonably slow with PDFs

I’m just trying out DevonTHINK at the moment to try and decide whether I want to use it going forward. However, it seems unreasonably slow with PDF documents.

Right now I only have 2 files in my database. One image file, and one 2.8MB PDF. If I add any annotation / highlight to the PDF everything seems fine. But the moment I navigate away from it, I get a spinning wheel for a few seconds. This seem unreasonable considering the speed at which I can save a .pdf file in other programs.

Is this just something that I would have to live with or is there a fix?

I’m running on a 2013 Mac Air in case that matters.

Sounds like your computer has run out of free RAM. When that happens, data is being moved back and forth between RAM and Virtual Memory swap files on disk. As disk read/write access is much slower than in RAM, the spinning ball appears.

Close some other applications, or restart the computer to free up memory.

PDF editing, etc. runs at full speed on my Macs.

Agree with Bill. In databases with hundreds of pdfs and other files, reaction time is comparable with Finder and other applications. Devonthink has always been a very responsive application for me. Most likely a case of exhausted memory. But you also might want to run the OS X maintenance routines. If have not paid attention to this recently, but in the olden days, on laptops, you could easily miss the scheduled times for the maintenance scripts, especially the weekly one, and things slowed down. Using a tool such as the free Onyx, you can execute those scripts on your terms, and perform all sorts of other cleaning actions. Typically, this makes my MBP run significantly smoother.

The placebo effect lingers on. At one time, such things were true, but they haven’t been since Snow Leopard. Especially on Mavericks with an SSD, tools like Onyx and Cocktail only serve to screw things up.

Are you using a first generation MBA? If you have a recent MBA with 2GB RAM, or have other applications running, it’s conceivable that there’s a slowdown, but the SSD is quick enough that I can’t believe paging is perceptible unless your disk is nearly full.

It’s unfortunate that folks, though they mean well, will still ask you to reset the PRAM, clear the caches and rebuild the desktop on Mavericks-era, SSD-based machines where such actions and utilities are harmful.

Well, there are definitely some things that are good. Although I can’t think of any that would slow down PDFs.

Launch Services often messes itself up, so resetting the launch services DB is often needed to remove extra references to old versions of the app from lists.

Caches, especially font caches, can go wonky and cause problems, though not as frequently. I’ve also had problems with the help cache in the past.

I disagree that perceptible slowdowns don’t happen on Mac with SSD. On my MacBook Pro Retina with 16 GB RAM and a 500 GB SSD (over 200 GB free), I can easily create scenario in which pageouts start, soon to be followed by the dreaded spinning ball. If, for example, I keep open my normal suite of DEVONthink Pro Office databases and other apps, then start doing photo editing with Aperture and Intensify Pro, I can quickly use all available free RAM.

Indeed, just with my normal suite of apps and databases (leaving over 8 GB free RAM after a restart), available free RAM declines over time to the point that pageouts start, unless I take preventative action. That may take several days or several weeks of computer use, depending on what I’ve been doing. Why? Apple’s memory management approaches, which try to keep frequently used data available as inactive RAM space but free up inactive data when no longer needed, isn’t perfect. Over time, the result is that free physical RAM declines. At some point, Virtual Memory swap files become active, with data being frequently swapped back and forth between RAM and disk swap files in order to allow procedures to go to completion. Yes, even with an SSD that can slow down the computer very appreciably.

For example, I subscribe to several journals and use Safari to peruse them each week. In going through the table of contents I’ll quickly open articles of possible interest in new tabs for further inspection as to their value for download to a database. After skimming each article I’ll either delete it as not sufficiently interesting, or capture it to a database and then delete the tab. Over time, Safari becomes a major memory hog when used this way, as it doesn’t free up all inactive memory. Quitting and relaunching Safari can release gigabytes of free RAM! Likewise, when I’ve been hammering away working my DEVONthink Pro Office databases, DEVONthink requires more and more memory space, some of which can be recovered by a quit and relaunch. At some point, to maintain an acceptable headroom of free RAM I’ll decide that the best approach is a computer restart.

I also disagree that preventive maintenance of OS X is merely an unnecessary placebo.

Every few weeks I run Apple’s Disk Utility routines to repair permissions and to check the disk. I just ran it and it repaired two minor permissions issues and found that the disk was OK. But since I bought this MacBook Pro it has found and repaired disk errors on 4 occasions. If I had never checked, I suspect disk directory errors could have accumulated to the point of data loss! I’ve never had a hard drive crash (except on my old TiBook when it was dropped). I want to avoid such a problem, and checking for possible disk errors gives early warning of problems and can avoid serious problems.

I use C0cktail every few weeks to clear caches, etc. as preventive maintenance. I’ve never had to do a reinstall of OS X (except on one occasion when I checked a user problem by downloading a hack utility that destroyed my operating system, too). Most of the maintenance routines run by C0cktail are routines that are built into the Terminal app, but more user-friendly in C0cktail’s environment. Cache files, as the name implies, are a shortcut support to frequently called actions. They can save time. But if a bit gets twiddled in a cache file, strange things can happen. My attitude is that any time my computer does something that seems flaky, I’m going to run preventative maintenance on the operating system. CAUTION: Never use a maintenance utility that hasn’t been upgraded to the currently installed version of OS X!

I try to keep OS X basically stock. I avoid installing hack utilities that change the appearance or functions of OS X, on the grounds that, if not well designed and tested they can cause errors, and almost certainly will do so after the next update of OS X if not properly updated. Perhaps I lose the conveniences promised by such utilities; but as payback I avoid a lot of grief when they go wonky.

Some people pride themselves on how long their computer has been running without a restart. I don’t think that’s a good approach to keeping the computer reliable. Put it this way: I wouldn’t be able to afford a current Mac if it were designed to be totally error-tolerant. Memory errors can and do happen, and if they accumulate enough will cause problems, including possible data damage or loss. A restart guarantees a fresh load of the operating system to memory. I do that at least every few weeks.

Perhaps I’m a bit of a fanatic about keeping my Macs clean and efficient, but my approaches take little time. I ascribe the fact that I don’t encounter database errors and don’t lose data to those actions, and I don’t see spinning balls. I’m also a bit fanatical about keeping backups, even though I haven’t had to resort to one for years. I use Time Machine because it is so convenient and is automatic when I’m using my MacBook Pro on my desk. I also store backups on a portable drive offsite, in a safety deposit box at my bank, in case of loss of all my computer equipment at home by burglary, fire or whatever.

I hope that by now everything is fine and JohnGB is up and running.

I am not entirely sure about driverdude’s confidence. You could be someone with deep OS X system insights into why the “weekly maintenance script” is completely irrelevant these days (and I’d be happy to learn about that), or just someone re-broadcasting “in the age of Mavericks and SSDs, this is not only useless, but harmful” propaganda. Do you have actual information about the ineffectiveness of these procedures, or are you simply saying “SSDs are so fast, that all this optimization is irrelevant”? For one, I don’t have an SSD.

Despite my DT newbie status, I’m a heavy duty computer user at work and home. From Amiga and VAX in the 80s, to NetBSD and Linux starting in 93 to OS X these days. As an experimentalist working in relativity and subatomic physics, I measure things down to 10 digits, and rely on careful observations and their interpretation. I think I can say that periodic maintenance of OS X seems to be as valuable today as in the days of OS X.2-.5. But admittedly I do not pay too much attention.

Alan’s and Bill’s views seem to be similar.

In my response to JohnGB, I did indeed ignore the fact that his MBA obviously has an SSD. I cannot comment on SSD performance. I have a 2010 17" MBP with 8 GB and a traditional 500 GB disk. Such a system, I feel, still benefits from the maintenance routines. In fact, I do not feel that OS X has become better in terms of memory management and keeping the system smooth since the earlier versions. In many ways, I feel that 10.4-10.5 was the heyday of OS X. Later versions have introduced a lot of new things, some of debatable usefulness (this is obviously subjective), and quite a few things have outright regressed. I held out for a long time at 10.6, finally upgraded to 10.8 last fall, and then relatively swiftly to 10.9. Especially the 10.8 to 10.9 upgrade was, at least on my system, underwhelming.

As Bill describes, after long uptimes and heavy use, it is very apparent that the system becomes less responsive, and sometimes outright faulty. A reboot helps, but not always. Once a month I carry out most of the automated cleaning actions in Onyx, and while driverdude might consider it placebo, I seem to notice improvements. And in ten years of using Yasu and then Onyx, I have never encountered an instance where the maintenance routines in any way created an obviously harmful effect.

If things were true at one time, the placebo effect couldn’t linger. :smiling_imp:

So far the posts have been interesting, but haven’t solved my issue. I can edit a PDF on many other programs without having to wait for the spinner. In Devon Think I regularly have the spinner.

So either Devon Think is somewhat bloated, or there is a setting somewhere that I’m missing.

For the record, I’m running a new MB Air with 8GB RAM and a SSD drive. The most straining applications that I’m running are: a Chrome browser, MS Word, and Evernote. I’ve never had a problem with any other application showing me a spinner - so much so that I didn’t know what it was at first.

I suspect the PDF, not DEVONthink. PDFs can have all manner of technology embedded in them, as well as being a bit notorious for having corruptions in them. Try it with a different PDF and/or get a new copy of the current PDF.

If the problem is with the pdf, then surely I would have the same issue when using one of a number of other pdf editing programs?

@JohnGB: in addition to Jim’s suggestion, I suggest logging out of OSX and back in as another user. (Create a new non-adminsistrative user if needed.) If DEVONthink is slow in that environment, then it’s possible that there is a DB problem, if not, then it’s likely that there is a computer problem. If the latter, you might have to do the usual step by-step process to reboot in Safe Mode and one-by-one add back Login Items, menu bar utilities, etc., until you find the one that’s interfering.

Nope. While a logical guess, it’s not factually true. There would be a higher chance of the same issue with Preview (since it uses PDFKit) but Acrobat has it’s own under-the-hood tech. Other apps can also have tech they’ve written to support or work around these things.

Also, bear in mind that PDFs have many flavors and support embedded technologies that many other apps many not support.

It’s a fairly easy test to make or grab another PDF to confirm or deny this.