Joe KissellSenior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series, including the just-published Take Control of Apple Mail.

Backup storage options

When you don’t back up your data, you choose to live life on the edge. But what sort of media should you use for storing your backups? You have numerous options, depending on your needs, preferences, and budget.

Stem e-mail overload

For most of us, e-mail has become a primary means of communication—which means that we have an ever-expanding list of messages to read and process. As with organizing your files, choosing strategies to implement will depend on whether you prefer to find a place for each message or to rely primarily on searches to sift through your mail.

Clear away the clutter

Clutter not only slows you down by making it harder to find the files you need. If left unchecked, clutter can also bog down your Mac’s performance. The good news is that it’s never too late to get organized.

Wrangle your snippets

There are a number of snippet keepers available for the Mac. But as with any organization effort, you'll have greater success if you choose a program that mirrors the way you prefer to work -- here are some options.

Finesse your files

The first step in reducing clutter is to devise a system for managing the files you create and download. How extensive this system needs to be will depend on your organizational strategy. Some people prefer to set aside specific places for everything in an elaborate system of nested folders, while others create broader filing systems and rely instead on search tools to locate what they want. Whichever approach you take, consider the following tips.

Reclaim hard-drive space

Hard drives have a way of filling up—especially laptop drives. Although desktop Macs come with up to 750GB of hard-drive space, some Mac laptops still ship with hard drives as small as 60GB and the biggest laptop drive money can buy holds only 200GB.

Backing it up

It’s sad, but true. Few Mac users create backups of any sort, and fewer still have thorough, automated backups. There is no complete and final answer to everyone’s backup needs, but that fact shouldn’t become a reason to put off implementing a backup strategy. The key to making it happen is identifying your needs.

Easy Mac backups

If your computer is stolen, damaged, or incapacitated, you can always repair or replace the hardware and software. But what about your data? Without good backups, you could lose your hard work and precious records forever.

Tri-BACKUP 4.0.4

I found Tri-BACKUP made many activities that should have been simple unduly confusing. Unfortunate choices of interface and wording make this otherwise versatile program less attractive than others.

Personal Backup X4 10.4.5

Personal Backup X4 10.4.5 certainly contains some flashes of brilliance, such as extensive network server support and direct recording to optical discs, and for basic backup operations, it works well. But bugs and a poor restoration feature mar an otherwise attractive package.

Retrospect Desktop 6.1

If measured purely in terms of the number and depth of features, no other Mac backup program can hold a candle to Retrospect 6.1. If you want to back up a small network, it’s the best choice, by far.

Data Backup 2.1

Other than the weak support for optical discs and a below-average synchronization feature—neither of which is crucial for backing up your data to hard drives—there’s little not to like about Data Backup 2.1.

Backup 3.1

If you’re a .Mac member, you have access to Apple’s Backup 3.1. Among numerous changes since version 2, Backup now backs up new or changed files on each run, without erasing older copies.

BounceBack Pro 7.1

BounceBack Pro 7.1's focus is clear: making a bootable duplicate of your startup volume onto an external hard drive, and updating it every time the drive is plugged in.

Your apps in your pocket

Imagine carrying the applications you use all the time in your pocket, ready to run on any Mac,, with all your preferences and plug-ins just the way you want them. Welcome to the world of portable applications.