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Mars Report:

Formation: An Information Management Contender That’s Too Self-Contained

Published June 22nd, 2006

Formation: Ultimate personal information organizer?

Formation SoftwareDownloaded 2/5/06. I’m adding this to the growing list of tools in this area for the Mac. The company, RadicalBreeze, has many other interesting shareware apps.

Update 6/22/06: Although this looked quite promising at first, it’s missing too many critical features, mostly having to do with how you get content into Formation. Formation isn’t a Cocoa app, so it’s missing a lot of for-free features that would have helped–Applescript support, Services menu support, and Automator support, for example. I’m not a Cocoa programmer, but from what I’ve read it’s a lot easier to set up those functionalities in Cocoa than in Carbon apps. In any case, Formation started out strong by providing a sample document filled with all the great possible content you could use it for. Only thing is, as I got down to the nitty gritty on it, all of that content must be typed into Formation. This is a software package that frustratingly lets you find external content, but doesn’t let you bring it into your Formation management world. About the only thing you can do is cut and paste, because even drag-and-drop isn’t supported for external content. And guess what? The only thing you can paste is plain text–no styling, no images, no HTML, etc.

Here are some other specific “can’t do” items:

  • Using the built-in media browser, you can browse your file system and view certain kinds of content, but once you find a file, you can’t do anything with it! You can’t import it, can’t link to it… nada
  • You can mail items from Formation, but can’t mail items to Formation
  • Web integration is limited to adding hyperlinks, which you have to type

I need something that lets me get content in no matter where I am, using a wide variety of techniques to suit the moment. Formation has a nice interface, but that’s about all. The concept seems to be that you’re going to type everything in manually, which might be OK if you’re a really fast typist with time on your hands. :-)

Update 11/7/06. These notes on Formation are included in my November 2006 article, “An Ongoing Review of Personal Information Management Tools for Mac OS X: No Perfect Solution (Yet)“.

Version as tested: 1.1.4.

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