I know that a lot of people on this forum have experience with a variety of different info managers, and I would like to request some guidance. I know exactly what I want to do, but I’m not sure if there’s a program that actually does it.
I know there are oodles of programs. I’ve searched this forum and read many threads in which people discuss the different options. Some programs I already own: Notebook (although I use this strictly for note taking in classes and want it to remain that way), Yojimbo (which I don’t use anymore), and Journler/Voodoopad (which are both perfect in some ways, but neither are quite what I want them to be). Most of the other programs I have heard of (at least, I think I have at least heard of them all: off the top of my head: Eaglefiler, Tinderbox, Devonthink, Together, Bento, Filemaker) but it’s difficult to see whether they’re what I need without downloading and trying all of them. I’m not sure I really grasp the extent of what they all do. I am hoping if I describe what I want, someone here can point me in the right direction.
Here is what I want:
A program that will allow me to organise and integrate all my “stuff.” There are many different types of things: personal journal entries, academic papers written by me or others, ebooks, notes and lists I make to keep organised, my writing on many topics, articles from the web on countless random things, snippets of half formed thoughts I want to file for later, recipes, letters and emails, pictures, etc.
I want connections between my stuff. I like writing a journal entry in which I mention tigers and then seeing the word highlight as a keyword because I clipped an article on tigers two months ago and forgot about it. I like those connections building and growing as I add more data. I have tried doing this in a personal wiki in Voodoopad. It works, kind of, except for two huge problems: 1) it’s great for text or the odd picture, but you can’t really put files into it because it’s at base a document, not a database; and 2) capture of info is too cumbersome.
I would vastly prefer that things remain in their native format because if I am going to trust all my data to something it’s essential that it not be lost or locked in.
Tagging/keywording is important and effective tag handling is essential. I like tags because they give me a way to see, for example, everything associated with politics, whether it be my own writing on the subject, articles I clipped, or emails I received. I have tried Journler and liked it in many ways, but found its lack of a proper tag manager very limiting, which prevented me from continuing with it.
I don’t want to spend more time setting everything up than I do actually inputting and accessing data! As much as possible, the structure and organisation should maintain itself once established: tagging and other ways of creating links between things should be easy enough that they become second nature.
I like the ability to customise and tweak things. I don’t mind a steep learning curve if a program has the power and the tools to make the climb worthwhile.
A pricier piece of software is fine but only if it will actually do what it says on the tin. I am very wary of dropping $150 on something unless I am positive I’m going to actually be able to use it and have it do what I want.
So, does anyone have any recommendations? Does this sort of thing exist? Am I missing some obvious solution?
I would suggest having a look at DevonThink. It doesn’t have tagging, but IMO the AI is powerful enough that you don’t actually need it. (And it does have comments, which will work in a pinch.) Not only will it find everything related to tigers, but it’s capable of realizing that lions and cougars are also cats, and giving you those items as well. It supports wiki-style linking, and is extremely scriptable, however I haven’t used those features enough to comment on them.
Where it really shines, though, is scalability. It’s quite comfortable with databases running to hundreds of items and millions of words. In my experience, most of the programs you list become unmanageable before they get even close to that volume of information.
Though I can’t speak for Tinderbox (never had the patience to try it), I doubt you’re going to find a program that fits all of your requirements. Specifically, I don’t know of any general-usage file managers that offer this:
Currently, software either offers contextual linking within a document (VoodooPad) or external to documents (EagleFiler, Leap, etc.). I, too, would love to see a program that worked for both.
EagleFiler, as you mentioned, might work. It has better tagging than Together or Yojimbo (although it doesn’t permit smart folders, which is a major limitation), and its storage format is Finder-friendly (so is Together’s, I believe, but it’s less open about where it stores its info). However, you’ll have to set up all contextual links using tags and searching. And scalability is of course an issue, as referenced by Katherine. I use EagleFiler for archiving documents and email; I would be leery of using it as my primary file browser.
Leap might also work for you for rolling your own solution. Leap works best as a supplemental file browser, but if you use Default Folder X you can tag things as you save them initially, which makes the workflow a lot simpler (any software that requires you to go back over your files after you’ve created them in order to tag and organize them is going to be a workflow that will be easy to forget or abandon).
I am new to the Mac (well, really returning, as I had a Mac II 18 years ago), so my experience isn’t very extensive at this point, but I would have to agree that the all around best information manager is DevonThink. In fact, DevonThink can create wiki-style links automatically if you set that option. I believe it will automatically create links to any other document in the current database which has the same name as the linked word or phrase. The word or phrase has to match perfectly, including letter case.
I appreciate the feedback. I have decided to give DevonThink a closer look and just downloaded the trial. I have a feeling I won’t be able to find a program that does exactly what I want, so I may just have to settle for the closest possible approximation either in one program or a combination of several.
If I were industrious, like Keith, I would run out and learn how to program and develop the app that I wish existed. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, though.
Collate all my articles, where published, when. rights etc
Keep track of all my Web sites
Manage my ebooks’ information
Manage proposals and article queries
Keep publisher lists
Track royalty-free images I buy online
… and much more.
Bento creates “libraries” - separate databases. You can link your data together in libraries, but it’s not a fully relational database - it’s still very new, so doubtless it will become more “relational” over time.
For a very cheap little program it’s very handy, when you want some structure in what you’re managing/ tracking.
I tend to buy every new info manager that comes out, and all are useful - DevonThink, Together and YoJimbo are my current favorites, but I use Bento every day too.
I think you can try Bento for a month, so give it a trial.
I use DTPro and Together, together. Promising is DTPro 2, which the developers promise will be out in 2008. It promises tags and several other improvements along the lines you’ve stated, along with an updated UI.
I’ve just downloaded Together for a trial, to see if it suits me better than Yojimbo. What I want is something that will act like a librarian cataloguing and linking files stored separately in folders and so also directly accessible through the finder, i.e. not stored in some proprietary database format. I believe Together is like that, but Yojimbo is not.
The other thing that I want, and I’m not at all clear that this is the case with Together, and that is that it can also catalogue files held on external disks.
Sadly, I don’t think two weeks trial is going to be long enough for me to really see if it works for me.