Like a lot of people, I’ve been coming to the slow realization that I need a way to organize my digital life. Gone are the days when the sum total of the “data” on our computers was a 5 1/4 floppy of WordPerfect files. We now store documents, pictures, sound files, video. My bills arrive in my email box and I’m constantly bombarded with snippets of digital information I need to record or lose. Quickly it becomes overwhelming.
I tackled this in phases. It started out with a series of nested folders and has graduated to Yojimbo and Yep databases. This week I took a look at a newer entry in the data management game, EagleFiler.
EagleFiler is by the same guy that did Spam Seive and that, in my book, gives the program instant credibility. EagleFiler has several features which distinguish it from other information managers. It loads up with the familiar three pane window. Folders on the left, file lists on the top, and images on the bottom. If you can navigate iTunes, you can navigate EagleFiler. I like the User Interface. It is clean and doesn’t get in my way.
Unlike some of the other data management programs, EagleFiler seeks to organize all of your data. You can drop just about anything into it including mail, Web pages, PDF files, word processing documents, and images. Importing is accomplished by dragging or using the import hot key which defaults at F1. The NetNewsWire support is nice and Safari pages also come in really clean with images, links and the works. When you hit F1, it makes a satisfying “click” and you know the document is captured. It also has Growl support.
Once they are in you can do a variety of things with them. For those of you who like folders you can make a slew of them. Smart folders, nested folders, you name it. For the “searchers” among us it has full support for tagging and you can search the database with a variety of fields or even a wide open “Spotlight” style search that even pulls words out of the source documents. It also does Boolean searches which I find very helpful in my larger work databases. Another thing about EagleFiler is the search is really fast. It is much faster than Spotlight but also churning through a much smaller database.
If you like to use OS X’s comment field you will love the “note” feature in EagleFiler. It allows you to use rich text and several other formatting options not available in the native comments. If your email box is getting out of control, EagleFiler will pull and index your email. I played with this feature but have to admit I like MailSteward better as an archival tool. The ability to include select emails with specific libraries should not, however, be discounted. It is quite useful. It also imports your MailTags metadata. Unfortunately, there is no .Mac sync. I’m not even sure that is practical in light of the multiple libararies.
One thing I like about EagleFiler is the data is kept in its native format. It is not sucked into some proprietary database but instead dumped in an EagleFiler created set of nested folders. This means that if you stopped using EagleFiler, you would still have your data. This is important. I have a feeeling our information managers in five years will be very different from what we are using now and I want to make sure I can carry my data forward.
Another nice feature is the ability to use multiple libraries. This feature distinguishes EagleFiler from some of the other information managers and can be both a blessing and a curse. If you don’t give it some thought when setting up multiple libraries you can find yourself searching for data in the wrong database. That being said, I think multiple libraries are great. It allows me to set up separate databases for separate projects.
I’ve been using Yojimbo now for some time and while these programs are similar, they have several differences. Yojimbo only supports one database and puts its data into a single database. This is not really so much of a problem since it is so easy to export from Yojimbo. Yojimbo also has some data specific fields, such as serial numbers and the like while EagleFiler seems more flexible in organization with nested folders. Which of these two programs work for you really depends on your needs and how you work. Frankly, I’m using them both quite effectively. Using EagleFiler’s custom libraries, I have created several databases for some of my more complex work projects. These databases have hundreds of pdfs, emails, notes, and documents all easily searchable with EagleFiler’s powerful tools. I have a program on my PC box at the office that is supposed to do the same thing. The only difference is it cost a lot more money and crashes both randomly and often.
You can download a trial copy or buy EagleFiler for $40 at c-command.com.