Solving Mac Information Management: Yojimbo, Journler, Together, VoodooPad, EagleFiler, WikityWidget, Punakea, Leap

Files are fine for storing data, especially with the magic of Spotlight and Tags (once those get sorted out), but isn’t there a better way? Spoiled by blogs and wikis I decided that my recent move to a Mac is a perfect excuse to figure it out once and for all.

My key requirements are simple (granted, I am sure there are more, we’ll find out as we go through the process:

  • a general “bucket” for facts and data, preferably with some arbitrary structure imposed by me on demand;
  • easy to put things in
  • leave my files where they are instead of sucking them in
  • handle various funky media, not just text
  • store my data where I can extract it if (when!) things go horribly wrong

Ok, what’s out there?

Note: these are my personal opinions for my private perusal. I am not a professional reviewer. Your needs are different, so this is just a data point, at best.

WikityWidget – I already wrote about it once here. This is a real wiki turned into a Dashboard widget. This is the app that started my mind going about having some sort of a “data bucket” on my computer. For many people this will be an excellent tool for storing amiriad of facts and snippets picked while surfing the web. Personally, I want more features (like attaching files and such), but many thinks still go to WikityWidget for getting me going.

VoodooPad is a full-blown editor and a local wiki by the creator of the excellent (and unfairly underappreciated) Acorn image editor. It is fast, it is intuitive. My main gripe was that I wanted a bit more structure…

And this got me thinking… Maybe what I really needed was not one solution but two: a text snipet/fact bucket, and a tagging system for my files (ideally the tags will cross over to the text bucket and allow for some comprehencive searches).

Turns out, the state of tagging on Mac is… confusing, to say the least. Spotlight supports something known as “keywords” (it extracts them from PDFs, for example), but most tagginng appplications ignore (cannot use?) this feature and innstead stick their tags into Spotlight coment field. Diffferent apps use different tag prefixes and delimeters, leading to further lack of compatibility.

Punakea is a nice little tagginng app that does nto try to be all things to all people. It just adds the basic tagging features so common on the web in a clean and simple UI. Unfortunately, it uses a proprietary tag format making it incompatible with everything else. The development slowed down lately, so check out the forums for news before committing to it.

I am aware that there is a Tagging Plugin for Quicksilver, but I have not had courage to embark on the grand adventure of taming the Qucksilver beast (it’s too powerful for me not to want to learn it inside out and I do not have time right now). So no comments there.

At the high end of the tag management/search there is Leap. It is probably extremely powerful, but personally I found it a bit too confusing and a bit under-compelling for my needs. Leap is great if you have lots and lots of data and not a clue. A sort of “clean slate” search. I tend to be slightly more organized than that. I was probably just afraid to admit to myself that I might actually need such a tool. Oh well. My problem.

Ok, so text Wikis are not enough, and file tagging is not it. Now what?A friend pointed me at Yojimbo and the whole PIM/GTD category category.

I do refuse to have one application run my life, so while some GTD apps may be both a calendar and a data store, such an approach is out of the question for me. I have already completed my task manager search. That leaves the Personal Information Managers – there are literally dozens of them! Oops.

Yojimbo is probably the best known member of the category. It is simple and straightforward and has a really cool icon. It has a global hotkey for instant data entry, prefills fields nicely, supports applescript and bookmarklets. Generally, it makes it increadibly easy to put the data in. However, all the data goes into a database (I really like my files stand-alone), and there are not nested folders. A look at the forums shows that the development has slown down lately and this once flagship app begins to fall behind. Still, check it out! It takes minutes to learn, and causes no trouble. Definitely worth your attention.

Together is “Yojimbo on steroids”. Everything youhimbo does and more (which could be a bit too much for some). It got hierarchical folders, highly flexible user interface, a nice sidebar “shelf”, tags and views, smart folders… Everything. Oh, and it leaves your files in place. I almost stopped right there, but decided to check out a couple of other highly recomended apps.

DEVONthink is highly regarded by information management professionals, but felt like a bit of an overkill, especially taking into account its proclaimed desire to stick everything into its vast database. Probably a great solution for the office. Me, I am just happy the guys have found a minute to write something sas elegant as PhotoStickies, as I blogged here.

EagleFiler turned out to be a strange disapointment. I just cannot put my finger on it: all the features are there, and yet I did not like it. It felt sort of like Together that has not been fed for a while. Weird. Maybe I had eaten something wrong before looking at it?

Journler – I am glad I kept looking because this is the winner for me. Hierarchical folders, tagging, attaching files to data notes while leaving them in place, smart drag and drop, everything (Ok, almost everything) I wanted. There is no iCal integratin (although there are user-created applescripts), but it is coming bythe end of the year. The two things that really attracted me:

  • It is preconfigured with three buttons on the toolbar for you to take a snapshot, add an audio comment, or even a video using yur built-in webcam. Usually these are horribly inefficient ways of entering data, but… it is sooooo futuristic!
  • The latest version of Journler has actually dropped some features. The author was ruthless enough to stop the bloating, and cut out the pieces that could be accomplished fine by some other specialized software. And so Journler is no longer a blog editor, but it would work with Ecto and others to post to a blog. It takes an unusual clarity of thought to focus on the core features – this is a piece of software that will go places!

Bottom line: if you  want a personal wiki – get WikityWidget or VoodooPad, if you want a simple app – get Yojimbo, if you want a data silo – DEVONthink is your best friend. For sophisticated personal use check out Journler (my choice) and Together.

Sorry if I misssed something – my search is over. But you can add a comment for the benefit of others. Good karma awaits!.

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