A Kindred Spirit on 'Interesting' Software

By James Fallows
JackBaty.jpg

I don't know anything about Jack Baty, listed as "Director of Unspecified Services" at his eponymous site. Mascot photo from his site at right; I have no idea whether that's actually him. But I think we have some things in common, based on his recent post about the main problem has had with software for organizing info, tasks, and other digital junk. As Baty puts it, emphasis added:

Keeping track of All the Things(™) isn't that difficult. Or at least it shouldn't be, but I find it nearly impossible.

The problem for me isn't a lack of software, it's the abundance of great software. Here is a list of software I've used to keep track of all the digital detritus in my life:

... and he goes on to list nearly a dozen programs, most of which I've used -- along with many others! He doesn't even get into such timeless classics as Lotus Agenda, the still-evolving Zoot, TheBrain, MindManager, OmniFocus, Scapple, Thinking Rock, and .... Wisest not to get me started.

In practical terms, what Baty says is where I've also ended up:

While I love them all, I've whittled it down to 3 apps: Tinderbox, Evernote, and DEVONthink.

Tinderbox is my notebook. Evernote is my junk drawer. DEVONthink is my filing cabinet.

He goes on to explain what those analogies mean. For the record, Tinderbox and DEVONthink are Mac-only; Evernote is trans-platform; plucky Zoot is Window-only; and Lotus Agenda runs on DOS! Of course, stay on the lookout for whatever David Allen and Intentional Software are cooking up.

For decades now it's been a careful balance, between the time I "save" through new "productive" software, and the time I "waste" trying out each new release. I am somehow relieved to know that I'm not the only one contemplating this balance.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/02/a-kindred-spirit-on-interesting-software/273031/