Update: DEVONthink sync technology

Many people are asking us what happened to our sync technology that we announced a while ago — and rightfully. It’s time for a FAQ about the state-of-the-sync.

  1. What will it sync?
    It will sync databases directly between Macs or using sync stores on file servers, Dropbox, or WebDAV. Using sync stores  it can keep many copies of the databases in sync. A sync store can hold multiple databases.
  2. Why does it take you so long?
    Synchronizing is a complex process as there are many, many corner cases that need to be taken care of (imported files, indexed files, databases moved to other volumes, etc.). In addition, we’re syncing tens of gigabytes in hundreds of thousands of files. The requirements here are way higher than for syncing just a list of tasks or a handful of pictures. We’re playing in a totally different league, complexity-wise.
  3. Why did you announce it so early then?
    We announced it already last year because we thought that it would be ready soon. Unfortunately it wasn’t. When implementing the Dropbox and WebDAV support (the last major thing to be done at that time) we found out that their programming interface does not even allow to transfer files larger than 10 megabytes — maybe no problem for the casual Dropbox user but a dealbreaker for DEVONthink users. Unexpectedly, we ended up writing our completely own Dropbox and WebDAV frameworks.
  4. So, now, when will it come?
    All features are implemented and the user interface is done. Dropbox support, WebDAV, and direct connections between Macs are working reliably except for a few corner cases. What is left, then? Just some more testing, testing, testing. We’re not the company that plays Russian Roulette with your data.
  5. How will I know it’s available?
    Simply continue following this blog. We will post a public beta of the sync technology as soon as we feel that we can give it to you without feeling guilty when it does something not anticipated.

So please apologize the long delay since our last public announcement. We’re working hard on getting the sync technology to work fast and reliable. It’s just nothing you write in a few weeks, not even months. It needs time when you want to do it right. And that’s what we always want to do when we’re writing software. We’re nearly there, we’re on the finishing line, and everything is ready, but we want to fix all bugs and solve all problems we have found before we finally uncage it.

50 Responses to “Update: DEVONthink sync technology”

  1. hansi says:

    Thank you for this post.

    But… why not publishing a public beta now? A beta can be unstable and i think that someone who decides to use beta-software knows that. It sounds as if most problems solved. I would be happy to test sync with testdata. And if somethink get lost… so what… its beta software with testdata.

  2. Eric says:

    @hansi: Many people don’t really know what a “public beta” means and would use it like a production-level release. We just want to iron out all issues we are aware of.

  3. Selwyn says:

    I appreciate and commend your attitude and your committment to excellence. DevonThink produces serious and sophisticated applications for discerning Users. We rely on you to do the development and to publish a reliable product. Your Users commit their valuable data to your products and we have come to rely upon you to protect the integrity of that data. I, and I suspect, many more Users will wait patiently for the finished sync technology – that does not, of course mean that we aren’t hoping that our patience will very soon be rewarded. Keep up the excellent work.

  4. Rjm3u says:

    Will this at all solve the issues of not being able to edit files in DT Onthe Go?will I now be able to annotate PDFs on my iPad?

  5. Eric says:

    Unfortunately not. Editing files in DEVONthink To Go depends on the ability of iOS or ourselves to provide editors for the various file types. You can already edit plain text files (provided by iOS) and rich text files (provided by us). Annotating PDFs is not a standard function of iOS (it is on Mac OS X) but we plan to add something as soon as the sync is done and we find a good framework with this functionality.

  6. Marc says:

    I know it’s not the topic of the day, but could you please improve iOS sync. As it is now it’s not useful at all.

  7. Eric says:

    The iOS sync will be replaced by this, too, in a second step. What is it that makes the current sync for DEVONthink To Go “not useful at all”?

  8. OogieM says:

    Please consider fixing the problems withteh synch group mess and getting at least multiple machines sharing a database working across wifi as a first step. Adding DropBox and WebDAV later makes more sense. We need a robust sync option sooner not waiting until it works in all modes! Current sync is a royal PITA. You have to set sync for individual items, no selection for an entire database, hard to update, can’t leave DT open on the Mac and expect Time Machine to handle backing up easily which means that sync has to be planned. I want sync set up so that I can choose to sync all the time, within my own wifi network and since that will require DT to be up on the mac all the time it had better handle being backed up by TM without any problems. Look at how OmniFocus does sync, implement that now!

  9. Eric says:

    Most of what you are asking for is working exactly so. You can sync on your local network all the time (for iOS devices the app must be running, of course). For DEVONthink To Go using Dropbox or WebDAV will be very likely the more comfortable way. That is how I am using OmniFocus.

  10. Andy says:

    Thanks for the update – I’m glad the radio silence is over. I do hope this happens soon though. I know Things/Cultured Codes slowness in implementing sync pushed me and others to omnifocus. I suppose there is really no competition for you guys though 😉

  11. Jonathon says:

    I don’t mind so much as long as it happens eventually and when it does it works reliably. I am grateful for the update, this sort of transparency is not common with software companies, but is certainly appreciated; its hard to complain when you’re given a logical reason why something has/hasn’t happened,


  12. timsydney says:

    Wow this is one peeved off set off set of customers. I suspect offering advice on whether releasing a beat is appropriate or foolhardy is beyond the knowledge of us forum posters. And yes it is much more complex than any Omni program, so the comparison is unfair. Sente however does offer a reasonable parallel, thousands of files and attachments, 100mbs of data in a base etc, and that’s been operating in full sync mode for 2 years now with 20mb attachments flowing back n forth. No great mystery, no great drama.
    I do sense the developers here aren’t quite getting what people are looking for, as the responses to the criticisms about the iPad version reveal, ‘what’s the problem? What more do you want?’ Is the general response.. well not some hugely paired down version of one folder, read only, manual sync…. People now want to have workflows that enable them to have all data at hand wherever they are, the office is now well and truly mobile. And its only software that can offer this, that will thrive as we go forward. never listen to a canadian friend, who suggests you use this great software, as i did, but lets see if the promised resolution can provide some salvation for our poor hapless, devonian souls…

  13. Peter says:


    Does iCloud play a role in your sync solution? Or is your sync service all DevonTechnologies-developed, like the Dropbox & WebDav portions?

    Either way, this is good news! I’m looking forward to the public beta.


  14. Marc says:

    “Current sync is a royal PITA. You have to set sync for individual items, no selection for an entire database, hard to update, ”

    -Fully agree

  15. Hayssam says:

    You should probably alaso have a look at AeroFS as a Dropbox Alternative, I’m currently trying it for my DT database, so in case you want me to try a DTalpha drop me a line.

  16. Eric says:

    Dropbox is the most widely adopted service for sharing files, so we will support it first before thinking about adding other services. As long as you can reach them via WebDAV you can use any other service, though.

  17. Hayssam says:

    Agreed, but Dropbox can get pretty expensive once I would put my DT document on it (70GB = 200US$)

  18. Eric says:

    @Hayssam: What about some other WebDAV-based service? We had MobileMe in mind when we started adding WebDAV but right in that moment Apple abandoned the iDisk in favor of the iCloud.

  19. Eric says:

    @Eric: I appreciate all the feedback. I know (or don’t) the many intricacies of implementing a viable sync solution in a software as diverse as DevonThink. I do appreciate you opting for WebDav support, as I prefer my files kept own server. It bothers me to see people ranting about not have a viable since solution yet. However, I will admit that I have been following the forum threads for sometime now, did a trial period on the software, and have yet to commit to purchasing (the Pro Office version) because this solution has not been implemented. It is indeed a per-requisite of mine for a software of this type and before I made the jump into a “paperless” office, I knew that sync capabilities would be essential before I made any investment in software. So, I’m looking forward to the sync solution you have proposed, and I will wait to purchase the software until it is implemented (at least in public beta form).

  20. Richard says:

    While I will certainly try the sync when it is released, l long ago implemented a different solution to this problem of accessing databases on different computers. I keep my DTPO databases on a fast external (small) drive. I transport this drive with me where ever I go…this way I am always using the same version of the databases. A seamless sync would be nice, but I am not holding my breath…and DevonThink Pro Office (DTPO) is just TOO USEFUL to live without. I use it to maintain my email history (hundreds of thousands of emails sent and received) and most importantly to search this vast sea of email messages using very complex boolean operators to find veritable needles in a massive hay stack…easily. I also use DTPO to hold all my pdf and other research files (including web captures and snippets from any number of other apps). To for go this and wait for sync is unthinkable to me. I have recommended DTPO to colleagues who still thank me on a regular basis for this wonderful tool. Don’t wait, get it now…the sync issue is not that important.

  21. Bob says:

    Maybe it would be a better way to create a centralized database and allow access for several clients.
    There are many advantages like a centralized backup, high availability (if installed on a raid system) etc.
    Offline databases for laptops can be a second step.
    Again, I find you created a enterprise dms considering your professional features but leaving teamwork unregarded you will miss a lot of customers especially the companies.
    And as we can see more and more companies consider the mac as an alternative.
    We use daylite as CRM and like the way how they handle their database (centralized, backup routine, offline, iPad, IPhone).
    People find it automatically during the install process etc.
    If you aim to companies as customers we think you should go this way.
    Thanks and best wishes for the future.

  22. Michael says:

    I would also like to ask about iCloud… it seems like the logical choice, why does it seem to not be in the cards at the moment?

  23. eboehnisch says:

    @Michael: The problem with iCloud is that is basically a mirror for local files. If we’d put the database as-is into iCloud it would be impossible to update the database from more than one location. The database itself is one neural network packaged into a single file. For correctly merging the changes from multiple locations iCloud requires that every information entity is one file. We would need to split our database in, literally, thousands to hundred thousand single files that iCloud could then try to handle and keep in sync. But that would render our technology unusable.

    We will, however, investigate the possibility to create a syncable copy of the database in the file system that iCloud could then grab and store. We will pursue that path after v1.0 of the sync plugin is out.

  24. […] wird dann auch die lange erwartete Synchronisations-Funktion verfügbar sein. Das ist allerdings pure Spekulation – oder vielmehr wishful […]

  25. Rob says:

    Does this synching allow for a local copy, or everything in the cloud? I’m in favor of cloud synching, but need a local copy, on both Mac and iPad, in case no Internet connection is available.

  26. eboehnisch says:

    @ Rob: Both locally between devices, via a local file server, or via servers on the Internet like Dropbox or your own WebDAV drive.

  27. Jan says:

    Hi Eric,

    you mentioned PDF support on iOS. Do you know this framework: http://pspdfkit.com/
    I have used it with a project I worked on. It’s very, very good and flexible (no need to reinvent the wheel).

    Cheers & thank’s for you wonderful software…

  28. eboehnisch says:

    That’s what DEVONthink To Go already uses 🙂

  29. […] a new Activity panel listing currently running background processes such as updating news feeds or synchronizing databases. Use the apps’ built-in upgrade function or download the new versions from our […]

  30. Yuhann Liu says:

    Any further news on this? Very, very, very keen to sync the DBs across my “desktop” mac and the “server” mac. The server mac’s on all the time allowing the family to dig into the data store, whilst everything gets uploaded on the desktop end.

  31. Michael says:

    I too am very eager to hear when this is going to be available. I’ve had to stop using DT completely because I need docs synched between iPad laptop and desktop. I’ve switched to just using Dropbox and good old fashioned folders.

  32. Wispa says:

    Please, give us a date!!! I really like this app and I planing filing organization for my office now. But without sync it’s senseless.
    We are really wait guys. Thank you.

  33. Guy P says:

    Updates? it seems that this has again gone stale. It’s functionality I’m crying out for.

    Please can we have an ETA?

  34. […] Jun 11 If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!After my update on March 20, here’s another update on our sync plugin. We spent the last few weeks testing and fixing all […]

  35. I’ve been trying to find any info on how DTTG will fit into this new sync technology?

  36. As soon as our sync technology is out for the Mac we’ll also integrate it into DEVONthink To Go. Actually, these works have already begun.

  37. Pierre says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I use DevonThink Pro intensively for all sorts of tasks now. However, I am really missing a sync features, as I am using two Macs (at least). It would also allow to convince other colleagues to use DTP and work on common files.

    June 11th is now passed. Is there a public beta version of this new version of DTP with sync features? If so, I am ready to test.

    Keep on the good work.

  38. Kai says:

    will it be possible with the new sync to search from an iOS device the database on a WebDAV server for specific documents? In a way that i can see the folder structure in the same way like on a Mac?
    I would prefer this instead syncing the whole database all the time!

  39. eboehnisch says:

    At least in the first version you will need to sync the database to your device to search it. We have plans to extend this, though.

  40. Kai says:

    Thank you, i am really looking forward to this!

  41. Jochen says:

    Any news here?
    DT is such a wonderful tool I can not imagine to live without it and many of my partners are also using it after my suggestion.

    But we are all working with multiple Macs and iPads, so a cloud based database is urgently needed.
    The actual sync tool is a big mess which does not allow to get a reliably copy of the data to the iPad.

    We are waiting now for a very long time, please come around with a solution soon !


  42. Ron says:

    I agree with you completely!

  43. Guillermo says:

    After updating to Pro Office, Sync Panel does not work. No matter how many times I add and remove plugins, Sync tab appears but clicking does not show preferences.

  44. eboehnisch says:

    Public beta 1 is still not 64-bit compatible. Switch DEVONthink to 32 bit mode (via the Finder’s Info panel) and all should work. Public beta 2 will be 64 bit.

  45. Guillermo says:

    Thank you very much, it works. Although, with large databases it always shuts down the app

  46. michael says:


    we really really need a date for the new version of DTTG 2 with cloud sync… at the moment DTTG is pretty much useless because you have to know in advance you want ot sync something. Sente bibliographic software and Evernote both show how it should/could be done. I really keen to switch back from Evernote to DTPro, but can’t until I know that I can grab stuff anywhere and access it on my ipad for reading without having to go back to base to sync. I’m in the process of undertaking some pretty big projects with a deadline in October – I’d love to commit to doing them in DTPro but can’t unless I KNOW that the DTTG version with cloud sync is coming out really soon

  47. eboehnisch says:

    @ michael: We will have DEVONthink To Go 2 with new sync but please understand that I cannot give you a concrete release date. We are working hard on it but it’s still software development and takes time.