At first I thought it was just a Mac thing – organizing content into libraries. iTunes builds a library for your music and iPhoto does the same for your photos. I’m finding more and more content management apps are following that trend and the more I work with these applications, them more I appreciate the concept. Yes, I still have the remnants of the multi-level filing system I brought with me in my transition from Windows to Mac, but I have found these apps better support my organizational style (or lack thereof).
In addition to the music and photo libraries already mentioned, I have a document library to manage personal, household and research documents and a library of electronic books and publications. Yes, there’s still a lot of other stuff filling up my storage system, but most of them are project-related – works in progress and their associated files. I manage my documents with Ironic Software’s Yep [$19.99 - Mac]. It works with my scanner so that whenever I scan a new document, receipt or other bit of ephemera, it automatically opens and I can quickly index that item properly within my library. It provides fields to input the metadata I want to include with the document then stores the document in the library with the metadata firmly embedded. Once that is done, I will be able to easily find that item again either with Yep or with my Mac’s built-in Spotlight search feature.
Here’s a look at some of my research docs as they appear in Yep. Although I do have the ability to manually place each item into a specific folder, I generally let Yep stash them in its document library. If you look at the status bar at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see that the selected document is buried within my own filing system. It’s one of the migratory files left over from my Windows days and I’m happy to leave it right where it is. Yep knows where it is and can find it for me in an instant.
Yep isn’t the only document manager out there. Mariner Software offers a very nice app called Paperless [$49.95 - Win and Mac] and the folks at Nuance have been managing documents for years with PaperPort [$40.53 - Win]. They all do the same thing so it’s just a matter of style – does the application’s interface and workflow fit with the way you work.
My last library is the growing number of electronic publications – ebooks, magazines, journals, user guides and more – that reside on my network storage. I use calibre [open source - Win, Mac and Linux] to not only organize and manage these publications but to send them to my reading device of choice when I want to take something with me. It can convert a Kindle-formatted file to ePub so I can read it on my NOOK and it can convert HTML, rich text or plain text files to either Kindle or ePub format so I can package research files onto my e-reader for easy reference while on a research trip. I’ve found it especially useful for managing my collection of public domain books related to local and family history topics. I can use tags and notes to document what topics are contained in the book and where that information is located within the publication.
These four apps are always nearby. When I plug in my camera, iPhoto opens to accept and manage my latest photos. Scan a document and Yep is there to quickly tag and index it properly. Both iTunes and iPhoto provide media support in my other Mac apps – like the iWork suite – when I want to include an image in a document or add a soundtrack to a slideshow. These tools give me more time to concentrate on my research as they reduce the time spent maintaining my collected files.
My family calls them my tech toys, but I call them digital delights.