My Anything Bucket
**using this blog exclusively to post this article. Coeurs is dead.
What do i want from an Anything Bucket?
I’m a methodical guy. I keep looking for the thing i want, the way i want and i’m never satisfied until my desire is pledged. I’ve been chasing in the past few months for the perfect setup of application to my workflow. I got stuck when choosing my Anything Bucket.
When i started, i’ve used it for articles i wanted to read later, but i use Pocket for that now. My bookmarked blogs became RSSs i follow through Reeder. So i’d use an Anything Bucket right now as a Bookmark Manager (as honestly none in the actual market please me) and a Files Organizer. I’ve only tested two applications so far: Yojimbo and Evernote. I’ve heard they are the top of the market.
What is a bookmark to me? It’s something i don’t want to follow as RSS neither an situational article i’ll read only once. Bookmark is a forum or a tutorial. Something i’ll certainly use later and often. Something i want to have whenever i feel its need.
Here lies my first issue with both Anything Buckets i’ve listed: none of them are actually good for these bookmarks. Yojimbo is all or nothing, or it saves as a poor URL or a Web Archive. So if i want to bookmark a forum i’m obliged to use the URL save. And boy how poor does it look. I could save tutorials as web archives, copies of the website straight into my database, but can you imagine how heavy would it become almost instantly? My other issue with Yojimbo and bookmarks is how the application displays them. Yojimbo has a single view mode, which is completely pathetic for the way bookmarks are stored as URLs. It creates a huge void in the lower part of your screen. This visualization is my biggest critic to Yojimbo, because for my workflow almost ANY OTHER VIEW MODE would work better.
Evernote almost nails my demands to bookmarking as it has the expanded card view. The point about having an Anything Bucket is to save your files differently, not by folder hierarchy, but by tagging & searching. Tags are the first method of localization and both applications do it well (but not perfectly as i’ll review later). But VISUAL is the second one. Not text. And none of these applications make it easier to attach thumbnails to the clippings. Evernote does a great job with its FILES thumbnails. All images, PDFs have a tiny preview with the filename into it if you decide to view it as a card. This is worth mentioning: Evernote has FOUR modes of visualization. But Evernote doesn’t nail the thumbnail (ah!), saving a bookmark is not as satisfying as it could be. Using Evernote Web Clipper you may choose to save the article, a selection, URL or the full page. If you’re bookmarking an article, just use the Evernote Clearly (more into that later) to clean up the page and send it to Evernote. This is lovely if it didn’t require the use of two extensions. But what if you want to bookmark a forum? You may save the URL, but then you won’t have a thumbnail or you may be required to save the full page, which is useless as you only want a thumbnail to keep things organized visually. So we meet a variation of the Yojimbo’s problem: in Evernote you have too much or too little.
Then someone says “That’s because none of these applications are supposed to be bookmark managers!”, however that’s the whole point of owning an Anything Bucket, it has to be an application with the flexibility to be whatever you need, as if on its range. Storage, organize, accept and make your files available doesn’t require tons of functions. I remember an article concerning these applications complaining that “it’s better to have an app that is good in what it does then an app that does lots of things and is good at none”. An Anything Bucket must be good at being that. What we do with it is our problem. These applications are there to fill the gap.
Now i’ll brainstorm on the functions for the perfect Anything Bucket:
1. Sub-Tags: You may think i’m overreacting here, but my life would be MUCH easier with tags inside tags. Wait, what? Yes, that’s what you’ve read. Yojimbo organizes the files into folders and tags, Evernote follows the same structure. Folders are no different from the usual folders we have on our computers, they have names and save files inside them. The magic happens when you get to the tags. If you’re like me, you don’t want to set your entire organization through folders, as they would make everything clunky. But you use tons of tags then. But what if you can’t remember a tag because there will be a moment in which you’ll clutter that place too and will be a hard time looking for your file. Let’s pretend i have a folder named RESEARCH. I’ll put there all the files i use for research in my several projects: scripts, blog posts, whatever i’m working on. I could have anything there. PDFs, images, videos. I’d save there all my research from the past, present and for the future. In the tags field i could include a more overall description of the file or even the name of the project. As a project sometimes requires different assets, in the sub-tags field i’d input more specific information about the file. Sub-tags would be attached to specific tags, whenever you include a sub-tag it must be a child of a tag. This means that whenever you send a file to the Anything Bucket and pick a tag, you’ll also have a selection of sub-tags to organize your files even further. Actually, i know how sub-tags would work, i know how superb would be searching through them, but including them in the system using a charming method still requires some thought.
2. Readability: I’ve listed two other applications in this article: Reeder and Pocket. Both have a very similar interface. Actually, that’s how i expect an OSX application to look like. But most important. That’s how i expect to READ in an application. This is Yojimbo’s failure, as if i’m not willing to save an URL as a heavyweight Web Archive i may select the content of the article and turn it into a note. In the end it looks like something i wrote on Notational Velocity and pasting a long article there doesn’t seem comfortable to me at all. Evernote ALMOST nails it again if you integrate it with Evernote Clearly. It converts the page into something more friendly and allows you to clip it in that format directly to Evernote with the Web Clipper (save article). That’s almost perfect, my only problem is the need of TWO browser extensions in order to achieve this. Honestly, there should be the need of none.
3. Labels: This is something Yojimbo offers and that lacks on Evernote. I’m a Mac user, i love to color my things! Let me do it! Beyond making everything more personal and visual, it is also another method of organization. Actually, the only way to use LIST as a VIEW MODE is due to that.
4. Send your files from anywhere: Evernote has the Web Clipper. And that’s it. It is marvelous for your browser, but whenever you want to store a PDF you must drag the file to Evernote in your Dock, which will open the application in the first window. You may also create a new note with a hotkey and drag the PDF into it. Both are wrong. I think that an Anything Bucket must be a ninja, it is a sidekick, not the superhero. And should be used as less invasive and more intuitive as possible. Yojimbo, in the other hand, offers the Quick Input and the Drop Dock. Don’t use the latter, as it doesn’t allow you to insert tags right way unless you place it on a very specific Tag Collection. The pro of the Drop Dock is that it is the less invasive way to send files among these applications. The best way to use is the Quick Input. You hit a hotkey and a window uses the information of your Clipboard, applies a suitable format (Image, Text, Web Archive, Bookmark, etc) and allows you to place tags, labels, comments, flag it and change its kind of storage. Later i’ll come up with my idea of my ideal clipper, but the conclusion i take so far is that Evernote is the best to use in our browser, but that’s it, meanwhile Yojimbo’s Quick Input almost heists it to the perfect clipper.
I CALL IT FOXHOLE
How to import files into Foxhole? One thing i believe all Anything Buckets i’ve tested do wrong is that they obligate you to either use a hotkey or a sliding window to import the files. All sliding windows are a bad way to send the files as no application has a way to input tags outside of the application. There are certainly bundles and tag collections, but whenever you’re dealing with 100+ tags they become limited. Yojimbo’s Quick Input, as aforementioned, almost does everything right as it allows you to tag your files as you import them. Yet, both import tools the application owes have its disadvantages specially when considering interaction. My idea of a perfect import tool is using a single place, the only thing Shovebox did right in the entire app: use a menubar icon. You would only need to drag the file, text, url, whatever into the menubar icon. Then it would identify and classify your input, mostly like Yojimbo’s Quick Input. After doing it, then a window would pop up from the menubar and ask you to verify for tags, sub-tags, name and kind. What if you don’t want to tag the file right at that moment? Then a hotkey comes along to send the file straight to “The Foxhole”.
“The Foxhole” would be the main stage of the application UI, it wouldn’t start up with the Library as all other applications, but in the Foxhole, which is a fancy name for a smart folders for untagged imported files. Tagging is the most important resource in an Anything Bucket and it should incentive the user into it. Unless the user tags the files as they flow, he’ll have a really hard time later on when searching for anything or if he decides to tag. If i may dream, The Foxhole would also be the place for RULES, you know, those things like “name contains pokemon” then “tag with pokemon, nerd, virgin”. Automating the tagging, labeling and archiving process would be one hell of a tool.
Talking about tagging, i can’t push it enough how important it is for the tagging system to be as intricate yet accessible. Then came along the sub-tags. Sub-tags are tags within tags, the only way to place a sub-tag into a tab is also embedding its enclosing tag. So let’s pretend i have this huge folder called Research, all the research for my projects go inside. I’m writing a project named Buckets of Hatred, a damn cool western about Anything Buckets. Instead of creating a new folder and cluttering my folder system for my western research, i use generic tags, which may go along with projects of this kind. Western. Screenplay. See, not so many, so i won’t clutter my tag list as well. But within the tag Western i may apply a sub-tag named “Buckets” and dedicate it exclusively for this project. I always have the option to include the tag without a sub-tag. It’s a resource for large libraries to stay extremely organized.
There should be tagging from anywhere as well. It must be as dynamic as importing files into Foxtrot. Every application has a Tag Explorer of some sort, but they’re mostly for navigation purposes. Foxtrot’s Tag Explorer would be used to edit sub-tags but they could also be dragged to the active file on the list. The Tag Explorer would be a tool for searching, editing and tagging. That’s improvement.
It’s also important the way to display these tags and sub-tags. Remember Yojimbo which has a single view mode, with the list divided from the content by a bar with the file kind, name, tags and encrypt button? That’s a smart move. I’d certainly keep that just as it is in Yojimbo (well, almost). Whenever you click on a attached tag it would display in a bar right below this same bar a list of the sub-tags attached to that file from the selected tag. You should be able to interact this list of tags with the Tag Explorer, meaning you could edit it by drag and drop.
Reading and Handling with Web Content would be the main goal of Foxtrot, honestly, i’ve started to hate Evernote, yet it is the only one which handles web content successfully. Yojimbo fails it all the way as i must declare one thing: WEB ARCHIVES ARE USELESS. Any page you could want to save as an web archive is because of its content, an article, which Evernote Web Clipper handles well. I’d ban all Web Archives from Fox Trot. But how would it deal with web articles? Bookmarks? Certainly not. The main reason why i switched from Yojimbo to Together is that Yojimbo is all or nothing: Bookmark or Web Archive, so if only want to save the content of an article, oh boy, copy and paste in an ugly non-formatted note. Together has the option to save Web Text as HTML text, so with the add of Evernote Clearly (best thing ever created from Evernote) i may import a HTML formatted text without all the ads and craps. I may save it as a Web Article. Foxtrot would allow you, whenever you send a URL to the menubar icon (i like to call it Blitzkrieg Panel) to choose if you want to save it as a Bookmark or a Web Article. Obviously, you may pick a default method through Preferences and you may certainly convert one to the other later, through Foxtrot, if necessary. Saving as a Web Article would do this whole thing i do. Call the Evernote Clearly, find the text and send to Foxtrot, but without all the extensions and without selecting the text. I drop an URL into the Blitzkrieg Panel and if i choose to save as a Web Article it would save just as the content the Evernote Clearly would show up. This would make reading through Foxtrot easier, the files would also be much smaller than Web Archives. However, using Together i’ve faced a problem when saving Bookmarks. Their names would be the URL, instead of the page title, which would be more appropriated. Foxtrot would do that. Something else i’ve noticed while using Together is that whenever i import an image url (ending with .jpg, .gif, .png, whatever) it saves it as a bookmark, however it should identify as an image import and save it as so. Also, bookmarks demand thumbnails and there’s another thing Evernote does right which is the Extended Card View, allowing you to check the files from a notebook as thumbnails. Perfect for Bookmarks. We can’t deny that bookmarks are blend in Yojimbo and Together.
Talking about reading an Anything Bucket doesn’t need to do everything, but it must not be only a portal. That’s how i felt when using Yojimbo. See that PDF you imported? I stored it, but you must open it in Preview to read it properly. A layout based in columns is much better to read the files, however a layout based in lists is better to browse the files. Foxtrot would solve that with the Yojimbo’s divisor i’ve mentioned earlier (which i’ll name as INFO BAR from now on). Remember that Encrypt button? Delete it. Foxtrot won’t encrypt anything, purchase 1Password for that, honestly. Replace that button for 3 options: List View, Mid View, Reader View. The first would send the info bar to the bottom and fill the screen with the list of your files so you may have a large view in your navigation. Mid View is the default view you’re used from Yojimbo. Reader View sends the Info bar to the top and uses the remaining space to display the selected file. Larger space to read when needed, Larger space to browse when required. Malleable as an Anything Bucket must be.
Those are all my points concerning my perfect Anything Bucket. They may be taken as suggestions or critics for developers from the listed applications. If someone decides to develop Foxtrot, gimme a free copy (: