I’m not being coy with the use of “a” solution. The definitive article “the” would assume, probably somewhat arrogantly, that “my” file organization solution would be best for you. Maybe.
I don’t mind saying that OmniWeb is the best browser on the planet. My solution for file organization is a bit more personal. After all, your mileage may vary.
First, let me reiterate. Files are a mess on the Mac (they’re worse on Windows but still a mess; just bigger… and worse). Why?
Because we don’t know where everything is, where it goes, where it should go, and there’s just too many kinds of files to deal with. Music files (MP3s and whatever) go into the Music folder. Digital photos go into the Pictures folder. Movies are supposed to go into the Movies folder.
Documents (which really means “everything else”) go into the Documents folder. And that’s the problem.
There’s no organization of the Documents folder on Mac OS X. It’s like a huge shoebox sitting on your desk. EVERYTHING goes in there and organization is left up to the whims, experience, expertise, and ability of the user.
I need a little help. A big digital shoebox just doesn’t cut it. I’ve got Word documents, Excel documents, PowerPoint and Keynote documents, AppleWorks documents (some from back when AppleWorks was ClarisWorks), and a few dozen other documents that need to be sorted, organized, stored.
How about email attachments? Hmmm. Most of those I keep (stored) in various folders in Mail. See the problem?
To be fair, Apple’s done a decent job getting the big numbers of files out of the way. Music. Pictures. Movies. Everything else, though, goes into Documents.
Solution? Apple’s bringing us Spotlight search technology in the next version of Mac OS X, called Tiger. That’s due in the first half of 2005.
What’s Spotlight going to do? Help us search for files. Of course, if every file is stored in the shoe box of the Documents folder, there’s not much organization going on.
What’s Tera’s solution?
Organization. And something to keep it organized. So I looked around MacUpdate and VersionTracker. There’s plenty of utility applications to choose.
NoteBook is great for storing notes, like a spiral binder. But not files. FootTrack and iDive are superb at organizing and storing video clips. But not everthing else in the digital shoe box.
iViewMedia Pro comes close but is waaaaaay too much money (it costs more than Mac OS X itself).
I settled on DEVONthink from Devon Technologies.
My basic criteria for a file organizer seems simple to me. Affordable. Organizable (everyone will do it differently). Able to handle ANY kind of file. Integrates with Mac OS X. Super fast. Allows for visual browsing (this is what sold me on DEVON).
First, DEVONthink is the second step in file organization. The first step is figuring out how you want to organize (assumes you don’t want to just “dump” all your files into the Documents folder) all your files.
Frankly, that didn’t take as long and wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be (much like the pain we get from dreading to organize the junk in the shoebox—actual pain is much less). I set up about a dozen folders in the Documents folders, grabbed all the files and dropped them into the appropriate folders.
Of course, finding them once the get stored is the challenge, and that’s where DEVONthink is surprising. It’s fast. Very fast. The interface is like the Finder but with more tools.
Keywords (I love those) can be assigned to make sorting even easier. Some files can be set up to auto-classify so you don’t have to remember where they go. Just drop ‘em in.
DEVONthink does something else that’s very important. It shows me, visually, where things are. Since it uses Apple’s Safari Engine it’s like a browser for the Documents folder. At version 1.9 it’s mature and has a healthy feature set.
Remember, it took two steps to get the digital shoebox called Documents in order. One painful, the other took a little time. The first is figuring out how you want to organize the Documents folder. My effort took about an hour.
The second, important, is to devote a little time to using DEVONthink (or utility of your choice). There’s enormous power there but it comes to you gently, in steps.
Now, I don’t have to scurry through the Documents folder to find something or save something. One click to DEVONthink and I don’t have to think about the file, what it’s named, where it is, how it’s organized.
DEVONthink behaves the way my Mac behaves. My way.
Granted, your mileage may vary. Click Here to view the DEVONthink features page. There’s a fully functional demo version available and it runs great on Mac OS X Panther.
Got something better for file organization and handling? Share it with other readers. Click on the Comments link below.