Tuesday Tip: Importing vs. Indexing

The question whether one should import or index files and folders in DEVONthink is often asked. The answer is easy: It simply depends on if you want your database to be portable, or not.

Indexing items only creates references in the database that point to the original file. So when you move the file in the file system, the reference breaks and you can still find the document in DEVONthink (because its content is indexed) but when you select it, nothing will be displayed. When you index, make sure not to move or trash the original file. Also, when you copy the database to another computer or USB thumbdrive, the links will break and you will not be able to work with your files.

Importing is technically similar, but first copies the file to a location inside the database package. So, the reference can never break, but the file is not any longer accessible in the file system so easily. Databases with imported documents are portable, you can even safely send them by email to other users that can then use all files stored in them.

Note: The only specialities are text files and Microsoft Word files. They are directly stored in the database structure, Word files are even first converted to RTF. So if you want to keep Word files as they are, index is a good workaround until we introduce a new database structure that does not make this differentiation.

9 Responses to “Tuesday Tip: Importing vs. Indexing”

  1. Alex says:

    “So if you want to keep Word files as they are, index is a good workaround until we introduce a new database structure that does not make this differentiation.”

    Thats really good news. This behavior of DT prevents me from using it at work. Is there some idea of a release date?


  2. Well, an idea, yes, but nothing to publish yet I am afraid.

  3. peter says:

    I am in the process of moving to a new Mac. I use an indexed folder for my 3 GB pdf library that lives my reference manager (currently Zotero but it might be Papers, Sente, Bookends, ReadCube, etc).

    My question is what’s the best way to make the DT database and indexed library portable for migration? I’m looking for a method short of cloning the system, which is not an option because I want to start with a fresh install.

    In addition would like to move the indexed folder back out of the database in the new setup since I my library changes over time.

    Another point is that Zotero renames the library folder on a fresh install, so the index link breaks in the process.

    This tip offers some advice about how to backup up the database, but does not discuss unpacking to a new computer:

  4. jneumann says:

    @Peter: Could you open a Support Ticket at http://helpdesk.devontechnologies.com ? Thanks.

  5. Ian says:

    Is is possible to import the files that were once indexed to the same location in the database?

  6. eboehnisch says:

    @ Ian: Yes, select the items in DEVONthink. Right-click and choose Move into Database.

  7. Scott says:

    Would it be possible to make indexing a background process? I mistakenly tried to index 95,000 documents and it’s only at 13,000 after about two hours. That means I’m going to have to leave it running and not use DevonThink until at least tomorrow. If it could Index in the background that would be fantastic!

  8. @ Scott: On the Mac or on iOS? On the Mac that’s not available at the moment, we’re afraid; on iOS we do this already. But there’s always room for improvement and our version numbers on the Mac have almost reached the top of the 2s.