Three Organizer Programs For Writers
Review - Three Organizer Programs For Writers
by , 9:00 AM EST, November 6th, 2008
Writers are obsessive about tidbits of data that they might be able to use someday. Keeping a useful archive of collected data helps if one can both document the provenance of the information and successfully search for items saved. This mini-review looks at three scrapbook or organizer programs, Caboodle, EagleFiler and Yojimbo, with a focus on the writer's needs.
Before I even downloaded the three programs, I wrote down the key features that I thought would be important for such an organizing program. I knew that the programs would have lots of features, and I knew that I could get distracted or overwhelmed by those unless I defined an underlying theme. Here they are:
Next, I created a directory of items that reflected the kinds of data that I might be archiving and created a table so I could take notes on how each program handled that kinds of data. I looked at these kinds files:
In a very specific sense, I reviewed these programs for how well they accomplished the desired tasks with these data sources with a mind towards meeting the needs of a writer. Because of that, this is a mini-review, not a full fledged review of each product.
Caboodle 1.2 from dejal takes a very visual approach to storing and displaying data. It has the look and feel of a scrapbook into which the user drags data. Currently, data is saved as XML property lists and a hierarchy of custom objects, but a future version will convert to Core Data and a SQLite store.
Here are the results of the various tests:
I noted that while the program is good at storing the data in its original form, in a visual way, it is weak on documenting the source of the data, either automatically or manually. Because data items aren't tagged, Find is limited to what's on the screen and a successful find doesn't auto-scroll to the found item.
Caboodle offers a feature not available with Yojimbo. In-line lists and tables can be created right on the screen. On the other hand, the way the data is preserved can use up a lot of screen real estate, and that may not appeal to some users.
EagleFiler 1.4.2 from C-Command Software takes a different approach in that it creates a drag area that reflects text descriptors of the items and a preview pane underneath with text or thumbnails. This approach allows a lot of flexibility and manages the screen real estate better. While the actual data is stored in Mac OS X folders, SQLite, via Core Data, is used to keep track of the files and metadata.
Clicking on a data entry in the container or drag area shows the full details of the item. The program attempts to track the origin of the data, and does a good job if the source is from a browser. Here are the test results:
EaglerFiler attempts, when possible, to document the source of the data, and an activity window reveals what it's doing for visual feedback. The Find function narrows the data list in a fashion similar to iTunes, and the search term is highlighted in yellow. Like Caboodle, EagleFiler also includes the ability to insert lists and tables and also has something called bookmarklets. A bookmarklet is a special kind of Web browser bookmark that performs an action instead of taking you to a Web page. For example, you can click on the bookmarklet (there are several to choose from), and archive an entire Web page in PDF format directly into EagleFiler.
EaglerFiler makes a distinction between the preview pane, where it tries to render a file, and double-clicking the data entry, which then launches the app that created the original data. The program also has a function that approximates direct cut-and-paste: one can auto create a database entry with the "Import Clipboard" function found in the popup of the app's entry in the Dock.
Yojimbo 1.5.1 from Bare Bones Software is very similar to EagleFiler in its on screen appearance. A drag area contains a list of items, and below it is a preview pane. However, there are a few minor differences. Yojimbo creates a special Quick Input Panel on the side of the screen where items can be dragged. The program focuses more on the types of data stored rather than a collection of items, however, one can still create a Collection and drag things directly into it. In my testing, I found that dragging items to the Quick Input Panel didn't put the item directly in the current, working Collection. I asked Bare Bones about that, but haven't heard back.
When I selected and dragged and dropped text from a Web page, the URL was not automatically saved as metadata. Also, I wasn't able to use the Find function to do a global search of all items. Rather it only worked on items currently displayed, say, some text. Yojimbo uses its own viewer to display simple text and pics rather than the creator app. Even of the doc is, say, Microsoft Word (.doc), the built-in viewer uses an RTF engine. This is probably faster at seeing the data, but some users may not appreciate that approach, compared to EagleFiler.
I believe one can create smart collections to gather all the data properly, and some experience is required to properly manage specific Collections. I did not have time to explore that functionality.
I believe that, with in the specific criteria I've set up, writers would find EagleFiler or Yojimbo preferable to Caboodle.
Even though these programs are designed to be narrow in scope and very friendly, with a focus on getting data into the archive, there are many more features that I chose not to explore. For writers who need to maintain an extensive database on everything they've seen for future reference, either Yojimbo or EagleFiler should be satisfactory. At this point, however, it seems that EagleFiler is a little further ahead on documenting the provenance of Web derived material and its global search ability.
Dejal Caboodle Requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later Single license: US$14.95 C-Command EagleFiler Requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later Single license: US$40.00 Bare Bones Software Yojimbo Requires Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later. 10.5.4 recommended Single license: $39.00 All the programs have a free trial period.