Now I know us old guys frequently like to ramble on about how much things have changed since we first started computing with cassette tape backups and old televisions for monitors. However, there are a few things that haven’t changed at all. Remarkably, one of those is the way we organize files. The step from MS-DOS to the original Mac graphical user interface was revolutionary. Well that was a long time ago and things really haven’t changed much since then. If I could go back in time to 1987 and stick my MacBook in front of an original Mac user, he or she would probably be right at home finding my various applications, folders, and documents.
So the question becomes whether we have not really changed much because the system is perfect, or because we are not really trying. Well Ironic Software’s “Leap” is a finder replacement that looks to cause that type of paradigm shift.
When you fist open the Leap window, it looks more like iTunes than a finder. Gone are the hierarchical directories and in its place are a series of filters based on tags and file types.
For instance I can tell Leap I want to see document files tagged with “form” and “contract” and Leap will go and fetch. It will search through my thousands of document files and returning the few that match that criteria. You can then use the loupe tool to scan over the documents or invoke quicklook to find exactly the file you are looking for. You can then copy, move, delete or open the selected files. You can even save the searches to Leap’s toolbar for future access
It doesn’t matter that those forms may be spread out over 15 different folders. Leap doesn’t care where you keep files, it is more interested in what the files are and what reference you’ve given them. In other words, Leap embraces the anarchy of your cluttered drive.
Leap doesn’t just let you search tags, it also lets you create them. Rather than using its own proprietary tagging system, Leap just applies them as spotlight comments. This way the tags are good in any self-respecting OS X engine. Specifically, it works hand-in-glove with Default Folders X. Why doesn’t everybody do this?
In addition to acting as a potential finder replacement, it also can give you a better method of doing spotlight searches.
I’ve been using Leap for a month now and while sometimes I find it very useful, I still find myself going to Quicksilver or the Finder. The problem with tagging is that you must create the tags. Ironic Software is doing a good job of simplifying this process but it still takes work and you can’t get all of the benefits of tagging until it is in place. So at some point you have to excercise some discipline. I will be very interested to see how the folks at Ironic help us to get our tags set up quickly and easily so we can better take advantage of Leap. I think if you are a “tagger” or contemplating becoming a “tagger”, Leap may be just the tool you need. You can get it at IronicSoftware.com and a license will cost $59. If you decide to buy it, I also recommend Ironic’s very useful PDF organizer, “Yep” which costs only $10 when packaged with Leap.