How do you figure out which applications and utilities are best for you and your Mac?
We all go through a process to identify needs, check out features, and much of it is trial and error, path of least resistance, to get our Macs to do what we want.
I’ve just gone through an arduous process to select a personal information manager for my Mac. It was not a fun process. It took time and effort. My final selection seems decent and works well.
The rule of thumb for selecting Mac software is to know what you want. That doesn’t always work. How will you know about some mucho super feature until you find it in a utility and try it out?
The idea, when searching for Mac software, is to start with what your basic needs will be, do some research and testing, then determine what fits your needs now and for the foreseeable future.
For software suites like Apple’s iLife ‘08, the process is easy. $79 isn’t much money. You either need one or two of the suite’s applications or you don’t. If you do, then the purchase is a no brainer.
So it is with other software, such as word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software. Those are the staples of the business world, and the choices are slim. If ultra compatibility with Microsoft Office is a requirement, then Office for Mac is an easy choice.
If full compatibility is not a major issue, but cost is, then Apple’s own iWork ‘08 suite is a good value at $79. Lots of productivity. Low price.
Alright, I’ve looked at a dozen Mac information management utilities in the past year or two. I want something to manage the crap files I create and come across every day. Files as in documents, images, bookmarks, web pages, notes, and so on. I used to just dump them all into the Documents folder but that process has organizational issues. Can you say ‘clutter?’
Some utilities are superb, but close to overkill for my needs. That includes BareBones’ Yojimbo, arguably the slickest of the slickest, feature-laden information manager for the Mac.
There’s not much to learn. It’s priced right, has a wonderful sidebar dock-like shelf to drag things into. Once I used that feature, I knew that whatever I selected needed that.
Yojimbo also handles serial numbers and passwords for login. That’s handy, but I’ve been using Steel for a few years, and have just under a gazillion serial numbers and login ID’s already stored there. I frequent many different web sites each week and the auto login feature in 1Password is a must.
Therein is the rub. I don’t want the pain of dumping Steel and 1Password and rebuilding similar functionality into Yojimbo. See the problem? Pain vs. convenience. It’s more convenient to use what is already working, even though I might squeeze some of those functions into one utility.
The other issue with Yojimbo had to do with how it stores files for me. Yojimbo uses a database in OS X. Moving that database from one Mac to another, and I used multiple Macs each day, is painful. Remember, I’m not trying to attract pain, but to reduce it.
Alexis recommended Listz. She’s the queen of notes and to-do lists at Mac360. Listz crashed twice on my Mac and I found the interface to be more like a Franklin Planner than software to make me happy.
You know what looked really good? SOHO Organizer. We’ve written about it before so I tried it out for a couple of days. Again, too complex. I want to save and organize files, not organize my whole life in a digital day planner.
Based on another review, I tried Reinvented Software’s Together (which used to be called K.I.T.—keep it together, which I tried a year or so ago). At first, I didn’t think it had all the features I wanted because I’d tried Yojimbo and it was loaded with features and the price is the same.
Together has the little sidebar, Dock-like shelf which makes drag and drop wonderfully sensual, simple, and solitary. Just grab what you want, drag it to the Together shelf and it gets stored in the Library.
The Together Library works pretty much like music in iTunes and photos in iPhoto. Everything goes there. But you can have multiple libraries, and like playlists and albums, Together creates folders as you need, depending on your organizational requirements.
So, the process is simple: select what you want—image, bookmark, web page, document, text clipping, whatever—drag to the shelf and it’s stored in the library. Then, organize what’s in the library into folders. Easy. That’s how I usually work, bells and whistles no withstanding.
OK, so Mori does an even better job of organizing folders and saves the same kinds of files and costs the same and does a better job with formatted text. Back to my needs. I love that drag and drop shelf. It
reduces clutter. Not having a drag and drop shelf became the deal breaker.
Ultimately, I used and then settled on Together because it did NOT do more of what I needed, as was the case with Organizer, Yojimbo, Mori and half a dozen other tools of similar ilk.
That’s my process for just one of the many utilities on my Mac. It’s not fun. It isn’t even a pretty process. It takes too long to figure out what is best for my needs, but I don’t know of a better way than trial and error, analyze and compare.
How about you? What agony do you go through when selecting new software for your Mac? Talk Back to Mac360 and share your experiences with our readers in the Comments section below.