Mac tagging

In search of a scratchpad, part two

As I discussed in the first part of this series, I often come across information while at work that I want to save or act on later while on my own time (or vice versa). In an attempt to address this need, I set up a personal scratchpad using Together. Sadly, though Together offered some fantastic advantages, its incredibly spotty synchronization with MobileMe eventually convinced me to abandon it in favor of something a bit more involved.

VoodooPadThe second solution I turned to, and the one that I have been using and fine-tuning for the last eight months, was VoodooPad. Despite some unique drawbacks of its own, VoodooPad offers near-perfect synchronization, a daily log that far surpasses Together’s in usefulness, and the ability to append text to practically anything. The only downside is that VoodooPad is less flexible about what it can store (and how you can retrieve that info later) because everything is text-based whereas in Together you can toss whatever you want into your scratchpad, be it a PDF, image, bookmark, etc. [read more...]

Using OpenMeta with eyes open

When Tags and OpenMeta were released within a day of one another a few weeks ago, I was ecstatic. Using Tags felt like magic (assign a tag, and it’s instantly shows up in Spotlight! Wow!), and OpenMeta’s open source release promised to lower the threshold for other developers to implement this fantastic tagging solution in their own apps. I wondered what the catch was, but Ironic Software advertises that OpenMeta uses no secret APIs, and Gravity Apps when I asked merely said that they were using extended attributes.

This turns out to be only half the story, however, and should you be a developer or user considering OpenMeta (or Tags) as a solution for your tagging needs you need to use it with eyes open. Although the technology OpenMeta uses is completely on the level, the way in which it achieves instant Spotlight availability is based on exploiting Spotlight’s preferential treatment of metadata that is identified as coming from Apple. This doesn’t mean that you should swear off OpenMeta and Tags (I’m still using them), but before you go tag-crazy you definitely need to consider the risks. [read more...]

In search of a scratchpad, part one

One of the key problems I face every day is that I have two computers, one brain, and a tendency to forget things. Perhaps while at work I’ll see a link on Twitter that I’d like to read on my lunch break but which skips my mind once lunch rolls around. Or maybe I forget to fill out my timesheet details and the next day have trouble remembering what exactly I did all day. Sometimes I’ll be off work and see a program that I definitely want to remember to install on my work computer only to start work the next day oblivious. How do I track such minor details without wasting time or brain space? The answer, I’ve decided, is that I need a scratchpad: somewhere that I can quickly toss ideas, URLs, and thoughts that will be synchronized between my computers and contains some simple organizational scheme to allow me to easily identify what needs attention.

TogetherFor the past few weeks I have been investigating software that might serve me as a scratchpad. Although I have not yet developed the perfect solution, I would like to share my first, somewhat flawed solution using Together from Reinvented Software. Together gets almost everything exactly right, but falls short for me thanks to the buggy and error-prone synchronization of MobileMe. Despite the shortcomings of its synchronization, however, setting up a scratchpad in Together is extremely easy and for people who don’t rely on synchronization (or perhaps just have better luck with MobileMe sync services than I) Together is an excellent choice for a scratchpad. [read more...]

A second look at Leap 1.0

LeapI sometimes make mistakes. When I first used Leap, it was in the early public beta, and when Ironic Software released Leap 1.0 with no release notes (they never publish release notes outside of the download, which is annoying) and tiny, skewed screenshots I had no idea that Leap had changed drastically between the initial public betas and the final version. Thankfully a reader called me on my error, and so I’ve taken a second look at Leap.

Although I still think it’s priced a bit high, I was completely in error about Leap’s existence in limbo between file system taggers and file libraries. Leap is a full-fledged file system tagging solution that is unlike any of the other solutions currently on the market. It certainly isn’t perfect, but Leap provides a number of different ways to access your tagged files and introduces a unique way of working with files in your current folder hierarchy that no other tagging software provides. [read more...]

iGTD 2 alpha coming soon

iGTDAs if you didn’t have enough to do this holiday season, the alpha version of iGTD 2 is slated to be released sometime near the end of December. As of this writing, the alpha is about 95% done and presumably ready for public consumption.

I’m honestly a little perplexed by the number of independent Mac developers releasing alpha software these days, complete with bugs and lacking promised features. I’m sure that the pending release of OmniFocus is the reason GTD developers are pushing their software out the door as soon as possible, but it still seems like a fairly dangerous move. Even software that is publicly released in beta form often gets seriously delayed as the developer becomes swamped by feature requests and duplicate bug reports, and I imagine the problem is far worse for hotly anticipated applications like Things and iGTD 2. I’m sure releasing alpha software results in an initial burst of interest, but I wonder about the long-term benefits.

Screencast preview of Default Folder X 4

Default Folder XMacWorld’s Dan Frakes has posted an excellent screencast previewing the upcoming Default Folder X 4.0. Version 4′s main changes are a new HUD-style look to the interface, and QuickLook attached to Open dialogs (a feature that, interestingly enough, will have limited support for OS 10.4, as well). Tag-happy individuals, however, will likely be most interested in Default Folder X’s ability to apply Spotlight comments to files when you save them. If you’re rolling your own tagging solution, Default Folder X can be an indispensable tool.

But don’t wait until version 4! If you want access to some of Default Folder X’s sweet capabilities now, you’re in luck. St. Clair Software has an upgrade policy that will allow you a free upgrade to version 4 if you buy version 3.0.6 now. Version 3 is fully Leopard compatible (as long as you aren’t running any 64-bit apps); it just lacks the translucency. For more information, and to download Default Folder X 3.0.6, see the Default Folder X website.

Comparing GTD task managers

Which Getting Things Done application to use has been on my mind lately, thanks in large part to the public release of OmniFocus which was closely followed by the iGTD 2 previews and my own Things screencast. With so many good-looking options either available or soon to be available, I’m sure that more people than I have been wondering which app will be right for them. Since I’ve had a chance to use almost all of them, I figured it would be nice to offer a quick general comparison of the available (and pending) options.

There are some similar aspects to all GTD task managers, but I think one of the primary deciding factors whether or not a particular piece of software will work for you is how much structure you need or desire. With that in mind, here’s the GTD software for Mac OS X, ordered from most structured to least: Midnight Inbox, OmniFocus, iGTD, TaskPaper, iGTD 2 (early development), and Things (approaching public preview). If you’re like me and agonize over task managers, then this is a pretty daunting list (and if you count some of the less polished options, it’s nowhere near complete). However, with an eye to structure, I don’t think it is all that difficult to narrow the list down to a couple of applications that you should try. [read more...]

Things screencast: an alpha preview

Update Jan. 7, 2009: This screencast is many months out of date; to see a great overview of Things, check out Cultured Code’s official screencast. As if the public beta of OmniFocus and a sneak peak of iGTD 2 weren’t enough, I am pleased to reveal the first Tagamac screencast: a preview of an alpha version of Things, the upcoming Getting Things Done application from Cultured Code that uses a tagging system to allow you to get things done your way. Click below to view the screencast in all its glory. I hope you will enjoy it, and I apologize for any bad sound quality. It was an interesting challenge to produce. Please note that although both versions are relatively large, the small one is optimized for viewing on an iPhone (or so says QuickTime). The screencast runs a little over 11 minutes long.


Small version (28 MB) 100% full size (42 MB)

[read more...]

iGTD 2 preview and screencasts

iGTDIn what is turning into the Weekend of GTD, iGTD‘s developer, Bartek Bargiel, has published a first look at the upcoming features in iGTD 2, including a number of short screencasts. Along with a much more stream-lined and understandable interface (at last), iGTD 2 promises tabs for quickly switching between specific task views, a Things-like departure from contexts that uses focuses and tags for sorting tasks, and vastly improved hierarchical project relationships.

This is definitely an exciting teaser for the future of what is currently the top GTD contender (in my opinion; your mileage may vary). iGTD is not without flaws, as I have remarked myself, but iGTD 2 looks like it will be a solid competitor for more polished newcomers to the field like OmniFocus and Things.

Leopard’s Spotlight: actually useful

Matt Neuburg has posted an excellent article called Spotlight Strikes Back about the primary differences in Spotlight from 10.4 to 10.5, including some tips and tricks on using the new boolean operators and so forth under 10.5. Although I’m not a particular fan of Matt’s NotLight (preferring FileSpot), his observations and advice are right on target.

Definitely a useful article to read if you use Spotlight much (for finding tagged files, for instance), although it doesn’t have anything to do with tagging specifically. (Thanks to Daring Fireball for the link.)

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