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For Software Addicts: Yes!MaybeNah!
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March 17th, 2007

An Ongoing Review of Personal Information Management Tools for Mac OS X: No Perfect Solution (Yet)

There are definitely Many Choices: Proliferating Titles in Mac OS X PIM Softwaresome life decisions that you should think twice before revisiting. I’m talking things like your marriage, your decision to have kids, your choice of college, your upcoming vacation plans… maybe your car and house. But honestly, don’t politicians make too much of clinging to decisions they made that turn out to be wrong? And don’t some of them place way too high a value on consistency over a long period of time in one’s personal values and beliefs? Is that “fortitude” or “stupidity”? Heck, as Joni Mitchell once pointed out, “Life is for learning.” If you acknowledge that learning changes you by adding new ideas and insights, then individuals who never change their mind about things aren’t particularly good role models for an advanced society… are they?  

Astute readers of this page are probably starting to wonder where the hell I’m going with this topic. “Is this an article about PIM software, or not?” Well, it’s actually highly relevant, because one type of decision we make quite often nowadays should be easily reversed. If it isn’t, we’ve made the wrong choice and should change our minds immediately. I’m talking about one’s choice of software applications.

It’s ironic that so many “technology experts” think of Apple as the company that locks users in with proprietary hooks, when Apple has never been the source of such danger at all. Yes, Apple’s hardware is proprietary, but think about it: If you want to extract your data from a computer, what form does the data take? Hardware? Of course not… it’s the software, stupid!

The danger of lock-in isn’t from hardware, it’s from software. Since Mac OS X hit the scene 5 1/2 years ago, Apple has been delivering a platform built on open source, standards-based software. Even when they come up with a proprietary file format, they will shortly reveal easy ways of getting your data into and out of that format. I’m not saying Apple has never been stupid about this, but their stupidity about formats is the exception rather than the rule. As a pure software company, Microsoft’s business model is built on secret, proprietary formats that hook in to secret code in Windows, closing the Windows environment and locking users into an apparently velvet prison.

I didn’t mean to digress onto Microsoft (yet again), but my point is that one of the main reasons I use Mac OS X drives a lot of my software decisions: I don’t want to get stuck. I want to be able to migrate freely to a new software application if the features and benefits are compelling enough, and I don’t want worries about how I’ll migrate my data to be a show-stopper.

With this in mind, I’ve been eyeing the market for personal information management (PIM) software on Mac OS X for a couple of years now. I’ve felt a little like a honey bee, alighting briefly on this software package, then moving on to another, and another, all the while sampling a dozen more. The tool I’m currently using has been my “flower” for the longest period so far: DevonThink Pro.

Though far from perfect, it’s the best tool I’ve yet found, with the most flexibility for getting data into and out of its data store. DevonThink Pro covers the widest range of data types, and encompasses a large universe of possible uses and usage scenarios. However, it took me quite awhile to get comfortable with DevonThink, and even now I continue to discover better ways of working with it. And because of a few glaring limitations, as well as my general Software Addict’s mindset, I continue to sample the competition.

This article is not about DevonThink Pro, although I’ll share a few thoughts along the way. Rather, it’s intended to be an ongoing repository of my observations about software products that overlap with DevonThink as I try them out. Given time constraints, these are not complete reviews of the various products, but rather they simply document my quickly written notes on pros and cons during the course of my evaluations. Because new versions of software often overcome limitations in earlier versions (but, as self-evident as this may be, it’s not always true), it wouldn’t be fair to set these notes in stone forever. For any products that have enough “pros” to make me want to return and sample new releases down the road, I intend to revise the entries as the products evolve.


One of these days, I’ll hopefully find the “perfect” product and can close the door on this category of software for awhile. But in the meantime, I’m keeping the door wide open and welcome any newcomers that look interesting and aren’t outrageously expensive.

Full article

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Macworld UK - OpenOffice Aqua Port Coming Next Month

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August 3rd, 2006

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Brad Neuberg and Dojo Release Dojo.Storage and Demo Editor Moxie

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