Do I really want to do this?

An initial foray into blogging.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

PIM Review

I need a new life-organizer that plays nicely on Intel Macs.

I like storing random ideas and snippets so they don't get lost. I don't remember how many pages were in my original OS 7 NotePad document, but it was a lot. (And it made such a satisfying *thunk* when you turned the page...)

Then, NotePad wasn't enough. I tried a bunch, and came up with iOrganize around the OS 8 days. I paid for it. But. It didn't make the transition to OS 9, I think it was, very well. It got reorganized, but I liked the interface less and less. So I went hunting again. I came up with MacJournal, free at the time, and very useful for a long while. I've still got a lot of stuff in it, especially encrypted stuff, like shareware numbers and birthday gift lists, etc.

I got distracted by VoodooPad in the middle of it, but I have discovered that I don't quite have enough self-discipline to keep my whole life organized in VoodooPad. Mostly because it's too hard to clean up after myself. I make a new note for everything, and suddenly I have sixteen billion notes. Which would be OK, but it takes a long time for a 15MB file to load. I know the developer is planning fixes, but I really want to streamline my document instead of growing it forever.

What I wanted to do with VoodooPad was take a sort of tree of documents, ie, give it a page name and export all the pages recursively linked to on that document and its "children", and start fresh from there. That doesn't exist. Again, the developer has a "split" functionality coming up, but in order to use it, you have to click a checkbox for every single page you want transferred. Did I mention I have sixteen billion pages? Not all of which are easily identified by their name, either. If I actually have to make a decision on every page individually, this is the way I'd want to do it: on the "Pages" drawer or panel or whatever, highlight the first page. It will show up in the main pane, serving as a preview for me. If I want to delete it, I press command-D. If I want to keep it, I press the down arrow to go to the next document. It would be pretty speedy but it doesn't work, because pressing the down arrow moves the focus to the main content window.

More complaints: The text in the new Pages panel in the beta VoodooPad is tiny. I'm transitioning from a 15" 1152x768 screen to a 13.3" 1280x800 screen, so all text is tiny anyway, but that panel is seriously pushing it. And if you only have one tab, there should be no tabbar. Wasted space in these sorts of apps really bugs me for some reason. Also, encryption doesn't quite seem to work as I expect in VoodooPad, so I stopped even trying with it, and just kept my encrypted stuff back in MacJournal 2.6. (It's much nicer to have encrypted hierarchies of documents rather than encrypted single pages.)

So, time to move on from VoodooPad, and I am not enthusiastic about going back to MacJournal 2.6. I'm feeling the drain of the non-native apps, and a few key features are missing from the old version. I need to migrate to a universal binary that will meet my needs. I downloaded Mariner's new MacJournal, which does not feel very different from the old free version but has nested journals -- yay! It crashed for me once after I exited from full-screen mode (note: this bug is fixed as of version 4.0.4), and it lost the encryption on one of my existing encrypted journals as it was updating them from version 2.6 to version 4. Nested journals and drag-and-drop reordering of notes are great improvements, but I've always felt you should be able to click on the note title in the drawer and be able to change the name of the note in place. Alas, still no. Even with a few minor annoyances though, this is a big contender. Price is slightly higher than (some) others -- $35, and upgrades won't be free, though I'm not sure how often you have to pay.

I decided to hunt for a list of similar applications. There are a surprising number of them, but none of them are perfect. Here're the ones I downloaded:

DEVONnote ($20): Not as intuitive as others, although all the functionality I want seems to be there. Command-N doesn't do anything. Why couldn't those "classify" and "see also" buttons at the bottom have been part of the toolbar? You can't undo things like the "Group" command.

Dossier ($19): The concept of folders is not pulled off as well as the others. You can get a list of folders, but you can't expand them to see what's inside; you need the third pane for that. I'm not a fan of third panes, unless we're talking widescreen view, which seems overkill for everyday note taking. This doesn't have widescreen view anyway. No nested folders.

Formation ($30): Too busy. Looks ported from a less beautiful OS. Might not be universal binary, anyway, given how long it bounced in the dock. The columns are nice, but this isn't really what I'm looking for.

MacJournal ($35): see above. Excellent, but some inexplicable behavior and not quite perfect interface.

Mori ($28): Cool interface. Of the programs I tested, this one most made me want to start typing in it. I think I'd be sold, but no encryption. It behaves the way I expect it to, and the sample document presented (inbox/project list/filing cabinet) is not only apropos to how I would use it, it's much better designed than my current scheme. So it's a possibility, but where am I going to store those shareware numbers? I thought about using Keychain Access, which would sort of work, except I have a lot of stuff encrypted in MacJournal now. I don't want to have to hunt for all that stuff in Keychain Access. Still, Mori's tempting.

Yojimbo ($39): This application doesn't really seem designed for writing text. It seems designed for saving smallish bits of information, which yes, I will do, but I will also want to sit down and be able to dedicate the majority of the app's screen space to a word processing frame I can just type into.

So from the looks of it, though I'm tempted by the beauty of Mori, I think I'm going with MacJournal.

ETA: After another week of using MacJournal -- Yep, I'll definitely be buying this one. Actually, I have already done so. I haven't had any more unseemly crashes with it, and it's suiting my needs just fine. Being able to upload to blogs so easily is icing on the cake.


At 7/12/2006 7:18 PM, Blogger Don said...

Great rundown on the options available. I'm looking for a notes repository myself and found a couple alternatives I hadn't considered before.

A couple notes (pun intended) on the review:

- It's "Yojimbo," not "Yokimbo"

- Links to the developer/product pages, or links would be helpful.

Thanks for the review!

At 7/12/2006 8:26 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for the tips, Don! I added the prices, too.

At 7/29/2006 4:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also try giving Journler a hurl -- It has a few bugs, but it's donation software


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