Organize those Documents, Notes & Thoughts - Nine Applications Compared | Macintosh Software, Review, Software Comparisons

Organize those Documents, Notes & Thoughts - Nine Applications Compared

Let me state right at the start that I’m not putting together this review to declare an outright winner. I needed to compare software for my own purposes, which led to the thought that perhaps others might find this beneficial as well. It’s a bit time consuming for sure and I’m positive I’ve overlooked things that other users are aware of in their favorite application. This is by no means a static review and I welcome feedback regarding things I may have missed or gotten wrong. I'm certain I'll be updating the information based on feedback and input I'm planning to solicit from the developers.
My goal is to outline the similarities and differences to enable an easier choice between these applications, once you determine what specific needs or methods you want to focus on. I thought when I started this first stab at comparison reviewing that I’d be looking at 5-6 applications. Imagine my surprise when I found it was more likely I’d be comparing 12 or more.

For lack of a more precise category type I’ll call this a comparison review of file organizers. That’s actually a horrible catch-all name for these apps. They provide a number of similar features used for note taking and organizing your files & thoughts. One of them also allows you to work from your database to produce mind maps, an interesting organizational method that can be useful to some folk.

The problem choosing what to compare stems somewhat from how applications are categorized as well as the ability of developers to put together various elements that cross over those categories. There is a good deal of overlap between programs that are for writing or note taking and those that take it many steps further to enable project management or data/file/document organization. I’ve pared the comparison down to 9 applications out of the 14 or so that I downloaded and tested. I’ve provided a summary of the reasons I didn’t include some applications you might have expected to see in my comparison table.

At the moment I have two licensed apps duking it out, with a couple more potentially entering the fray due to this review — I’m personally hoping to settle on no more than two eventually (wish me luck, this is a tough choice!). I’ve been using Chronos’ SOHO Notes since upgrading from StickyBrain, which I had upgraded from a free version provided to .Mac subscribers quite a while ago. Until I got my hands on a copy of DevonThink Personal and started to test that out I didn’t realize just how much SOHO Notes was capable of handling. Making use of DevonThink has opened up the myriad possibilities these types of apps hold for the user.

I like the price and the interface of NoteMind by Synium Software. At $20 it’s one of the more affordable applications in this category with a good deal to offer. Like the others, NoteMind provides the ability to have folders with an assortment of files and subfolders. This is the app that allows the creation of mind maps. It also has the feature of being able to be docked to the left, right, top or bottom of your screen — the entire app can be docked this way, not just a drop box tab. One feature it’s missing for me is the ability to sync with .Mac. NotemMind looks promising but you may find that it doesn’t do all that you ultimately would like an organizer app to do for you. However, if you don’t need all the “features” the other apps provide this might serve quite well.

The most affordable, for personal use, is Journler. I’m starting to make use of it on a more regular basis and I’m seriously considering paying for the right to a license. The minimum requested by the developer to obtain a license is a $10 donation for personal use only. The only issue I have at the moment is the complicated method of getting it set up to post to a blog. I don’t want to start a new blog and it’s a little more convoluted to set up than MacJournal for blog posting. Of course, MacJournal has other issues as I’ve not found one solid solution that can handle the differences in the various blog site software.

Bare Bones Software’s Yojimbo, like SOHO Notes, is capable of synchronizing your files via .Mac. It’s a nice feature that most of the others either don’t have yet or require you to buy a more expensive version to gain the function. Something that sets Yojimbo apart from the others are the specific capabilities for storing software serial/registraton numbers and passwords. It has a nicely formatted entry screen covering the basics you need for each of these. I’m currently using a separate app, albeit a free one, to keep my ever growing list of serial/activation/registration codes for my software but it’s a logical addition to a database application. I also tend to gravitate toward developers who offer educational discounts or family pack discounts, both of which are available at Bare Bones.

EagleFiler is intriguing to me for its e-mail archiving capability and it’s MailTags aware, to boot. That’s a nice feature indeed if you are heavy MailTags user. I haven’t quite gotten used to the interface so it’s on my short list but I’m not 100% convinced it’s worth the $40 to replace existing software I’m using. Midnight Inbox and NoteBook both have appealing user interfaces. Midnight Inbox took a bit of getting used to for me, as the developer has approached the organization methods a bit differently than any of the other apps I tried. It provides a lot of input for organizing your data. NoteBook, on the other hand, really looks like a spiral bound notebook. While it handles much of the same tasks as the other apps, it does so via a very different user interface than the other programs in this comparison. NoteBook’s interface might prove very appealing to folks who find this type of organizational software a bit daunting.

Last, but definitely not least, I tried out KIT (Keep It Together). I really like the fact that I can set the import function to link to all the files in a folder rather than creating a new or separate database. The other thing that tickled my fancy with this one was, when I imported my test folder with multiple file type containing some image files, KIT automatically sorted out the image files and placed links to them in the image folder available by default within the program. Quick, efficient and a very nice use of organizational automation.

I’ve tried to track a good number of differences and the similarities on my comparison table. Most handle PDFs beautifully as well as providing the ability to link to Office documents or other “unknown” formats that cannot be displayed natively within the organizer. I tested each of the 9 apps by importing a test import folder, which has nested folders and various file types (.doc, .txt, .rtf, .xls, .jpg, .qif, and so forth). Hopefully some of you will find this useful in paring down the list to the one (or two) that will do the job most efficiently for your work style. The table is nearly too wide, it was all about trade-offs in formatting it. The information loaded in a browser just fits within my 17" MacBook Pro screen. Just in case you're working on a smaller monitor screen I've made sure to put the column and row labels on both sides and top and bottom, hoping that it's helpful and not just cluttered or confusing.