First Look: Doo document manager

Most of us have evolved our own way of managing files. Some are obsessive about folders and folder hierarchies. Others are more free-form, relying on search to find the files we need. There’s a new free document-management tool for the Mac, called Doo, that could help both the filers and the searchers keep track of and find their files.

The basic premise is simple: You first tell Doo where your files are. Those locations can include your Documents folder, obviously, but also any folder on your hard drive or attached storage. Doo can also organize files stored on Google Drive and Dropbox, as well as email attachments in Gmail and other IMAP services (so if someone sends you an invoice as an attachment, it’ll show up in the app). You can also add files to Doo's database manually or via scanner or camera.

Once Doo knows where your files are, it then indexes them. By “index,” I mean it not only gathers the basic metadata (name, extension, date modified, and so on), but—if a file is in one of the file formats Doo supports—it can also index the contents. Those formats include the usual suspects (plain text, PDFs, Office and iWork docs, and HTML for example), but also some unexpected ones: Thanks to built-in OCR, it can index the text in image files, too. Indexing is done automatically and painlessly; when you add new docs, they get indexed without you doing a thing.

Doo lets you filter and sort files in all kinds of ways.

After it has indexed your files, Doo lets you view them in a variety of ways. You can filter files by any of the data the app tracks, including the contents—meaning you can find, say, every Word and PDF file that mentions Apple, or every invoice you’ve received by email. Those views are sortable by extrinsic attributes—document name, extension, and so on—as well as indexed contents. The app has built-in views in which files are sorted by the companies, people, and places mentioned within.

Additionally, Doo supports the OpenMeta tagging system, so you can tag (as well as flag) files however you want. (OpenMeta tags are separate from the Spotlight tags that OS X uses by default, but there’s an option to write those OpenMeta tags to each file's Spotlight comments field.)

There are a bunch of other features here: A timeline view letting you pick a month and see all documents that were last modified within those dates. An inspector for selected files shows their attributes, tags, and contents (company, people, and places mentioned). There are Hazel-like rules for processing files that meet certain criteria—if file format is Word and file name includes Author Agreement, flag it red, for example. It also has a dupe finder that’s pretty good at identifying duplicates, though it doesn’t make de-duping them especially easy.

Doo can sync your hard drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and IMAP accounts; it also has its own file-syncing service.

Finally, in addition to its compatibility with Dropbox and Google Drive, Doo offers its own file-syncing service. If you create an optional Doo account, the app will synchronize documents to its cloud service, where they’ll be available from other devices. (For now, that means Macs only; the company says its iOS apps are still in early beta, but will be an option sometime in the future.) You can sync everything or selectively, folder by folder. The free Doo account gets you 1GB; for $5 a month you get 10GB, $10 gets you 25GB, and $25 buys 100GB. (Compare that to the 2GB you get for free from Dropbox, or the $10 a month you’ll pay for 100GB.) If you run over your allotment, the service will suspend syncing until you upgrade.

In sum, Doo is a surprisingly powerful utility for wrangling your files, wherever they may be, and helping you find the ones you want. It isn’t for everybody. But if you find yourself drowning in documents, it could be just the tool you need.

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