App Hunt: A Database/Palette?

I’m looking for recommendations, leads, suggestions for something that will not only serve as a database for anything writing-wise (text primarily and if that’s all, I can live with just that… but other capabilities wouldn’t be bad, such as audio, video, photo, URL).

I do know there are plenty of apps that fit that, but here’s my wrinkle on that.
I’d like something that will display keyword/title, or something along those lines, that I can use as sort of at-a-glance palette. Something I can look at and get a quick reminder of what’s available. By that, I mean that as I write I like to be able to think of different colors I can dip my brush into.

Thanks for any thoughts you may have.


EagleFiler with the tag cloud feature. I do not know how it deals with videos, however.

If you find another one than EagleFiler that can all that you describe, please let me know, I tested them all and most are very lacking/buggy/dead.

Actually, there is also Circus Ponies Notebook which has a thing they call Multiplex(er?), that can be browsed for content, but the interface is scary.

I’ll second Notebook, and also throw Together (by Reinvented Software) and DevonThink Pro into the ring.

Personally, I’m not a fan of EagleFiler, but maybe it has improved since I last checked it out.

My answer: Scrivener

At risk of stating the obvious, Scrivener does everything you describe here. If you are talking about monster amounts of non-textual stuff that keeping track of requires the special features of a database app, well maybe you need that. But if you are just talking about collecting the stuff of a given writing project together, your Scrivener project for that project might be just the place for that. (Your media files would have to go in the Research folder, and you should be good to go.)

A few of the database apps have this feature, but they do not match DevonThink Pro for variety of files accepted and power-searching. You may now create tags in DTP, but not get a listing of the tags. You may create smart groups that have particular phrases or titles, and there’s a Take Note feature that might serve your purpose. Much depends on the size of your DB and the extent to which you plan to use it in multiple projects. I recommend downloading DTP and trying it for a while.

If you aren’t afraid of learning curves, another program good for storing little ideas then viewing and arranging them topically is Tinderbox. It’s not so good for storing bulk text. There is nothing to prevent it, the note windows can be enlarged and hold entire documents, but I’ve found the single XML file format gets a bit bulky once you put about 100,000 words into it. It’s great for storing lots of ideas though, as the map view lets you visualise data in a subjective way, and there are a lot of tools for making the representational “cards” look different: think more along the lines of OmniGraffle with a much better data back-end.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I now have a list from which I’ll be singling out each one and going through opinions/reviews and hopefully some visual examples/screenshots of each in action.

Towards that end, I would be mighty appreciative if you could point me to any you’re aware of.

(Amber, I have toyed with Tinderbox… it was several years ago… but never really felt like I knew what I was doing with it. My version is 2.4.1, btw. Would you happen to have a screenshot of Tinderbox doing the palette thing you could send me… if you don’t want to put in this thread, maybe via PM?)

That, btw, (Tinderbox) is the only one I’ve used that’s been recommended so far in this thread. Well, that and Scrivener.

I have used Journler a little bit and was initially poised to use it, but long-time users are steering me away from it, due to non-support/single-developer issues.

Thanks again, everyone.


I meant that somewhat metaphorically. It doesn’t have a literal topical palette feature or anything. :slight_smile: That said it does have a “similar notes” palette which can do something along the lines of what DevonThink does. It analyses a note and then attempts to find similar notes via word frequencies. It also has a word frequency palette which displays itself like a “tag cloud” feature with word size and boldness indicating strength. This can be utilised in a Note, Section, or entire Document level of scope, and when a word is clicked on it will perform a quick search for that word. Combine these with a manually arranged map view and you can jump around between ideas pretty swiftly, all without any kind of configuration or agent “programming”.

What you’ve heard is true of Journler, and that aside I’m not sure it would be good for what you want anyway. It is much better as a calendar centric application. The developer lost interest in developing it further, and has stated a willingness to sell it to another developer or company, but that was ages ago and nobody has snapped it up.

Both Together and EagleFiler would be good cheap ways of approaching your problem. They both have a dual representation mode where items can be viewed in a categorical tree, or via keyword frequencies. The thing I don’t like about that method is that it requires explicate keywording, but that doesn’t bother some people. I prefer applications that gather that information automatically and provide ways of cutting through data without a lot of meta-wrangling. Boswell, Tinderbox, NoteBook (weird and “heavy” interface aside) and DEVONthink, are all great at that. Out of those, I’d put Boswell and Tinderbox on the more “intentional” side of the spectrum. It is easier to influence the application to behave in a certain fashion when it comes to these automatic associations. DEVONthink has a degree of control, but primarily relies upon automation and requires a lot of data and some good filing practices for that to be useful. NoteBook is probably the extreme in automation with its indexing and cross-referencing feature, and there is little you can do to influence it.

I did use EagleFiler rather extensively for a while (though never really used its tag feature heavily), but then went back to Boswell for heavy document archival. While I very much liked its “file system” approach, there was too much aforementioned meta-wrangling for my taste. I prefer to just dump data into an application and have it handle the associations and filing automatically.