Mac OS X, though a complex beast, marries capability with simplicity, hides the complicated behind the elegant. In other words, today’s Mac apps can do ever more complex tasks yet they’re actually easier to use.
For example, my pet peeve this week is home inventory. It’s an arduous, tedious, cumbersome effort where the upside is only worthy when the task is done. How can you make home inventory easier?
Everything In Its Compartmentalized Place
Yesterday I had the pleasure of reviewing a Mac app which inventoried books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, games, and gadgets. Worthy? Yes, but Librarian Pro is decidedly old school because the inventory in our lives has so much more, well, stuff.
Today it’s all about a complete home inventory using Compartments.
Home inventory? Complete? As in everything? I can hear the collective sighs from Mac users everywhere who cringe at the thought, the tedium, the effort. Making a list of everything in your home cannot possibly be fun, right?
Well, yes and no. Insurance is not fun. But we buy it because insurance is what we need and use when disaster strikes. And, Murphy’s Law being what it is, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (mixing universal laws and ancient metaphors notwithstanding).
Thus, a home inventory is like insurance. When disaster strikes it is good to have a detailed record of all our details—everything from photos to jewelry to papers to furniture and appliances—not to mention books, clothing, and our DVD collection of Firefly (Nathan and I are SciFi aficionados).
Compartments is the Mac only app for home inventory that claims—somewhat rightly—that such effort should be intuitive, fast, and fun. In the age of advertising hype, Compartments is easy to use, faster than expected, and fun—for awhile. First, the easy part. Take a look at this:
How hard can that be? Set up Living Room as a category. List all the items in the living room, including a photo. If you have more details, fine, if not, at least you have the basics. Value. Photo. Repeat for everything in the living room, then move to another room.
Isn’t there an easier way? Yes, Compartments comes with Quick Add and Quick Apply features to make the process of gathering and storing home inventory information faster, and easier.
You see where this is going, right? Instead of a week long project, each room may take minutes. Create Smart Collections. Create tags for easier search. Inventory by room. Sort by room or value or description or keyword.
Images are drag and drop, so grab your digital camera, take a few hundred pictures, one room at a time, then drag and drop them into Compartments as you add room and inventory details. Each item in a room can take seconds to identify and enter.
Compartments is only as good as what you put into it and can get out of it.
Putting in is actually easy, and Nathan and I found it’s fun—after a couple of glasses of wine. We may need to go back and check the value amounts on some items.
Compartments also syncs between Macs using MobileMe (which makes for a good remote location back up) or DropBox. One license for all the Macs in your home.
If you know how to use iTunes or iPhoto then you know Compartments already. Except Compartments does printed reports of your inventory (stored as a PDF or printed). The basics are what you want. Easy to put in information. Easy to sort and view. Easy to drop in photos and update inventory. Easy to get reports. Easy to have an off location back up.
There must be a dozen home inventory apps for Mac users, all of which do mostly the same thing. Store home inventory items in a database. Not all are easy to use. Not all manage photos of every item (drag and drop). Not all print reports. Not all have an off-location back up. Compartments may come closest to the all as any.
What I’d like to see in future versions is the ability to store movies and audio descriptions, as well as scanned receipts or documentation for more expensive items. That may slow down the input process, but some items (jewelry, for example) are worth the extra effort. Otherwise, there’s a need for yet another Mac app to handle those details.