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Yojimbo 1.1

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With the need to store so many bits of data that don’t easily make up individual files, a number of applications are designed manage such disparate forms of data. Bare Bones Software has released Yojimbo 1.1, an innovative program that lets you store and manage snippets, notes, and much more.

Yojimbo is all about simplicity, and its interface has a view that will be familiar to users of OS X’s built-in Mail application. A left-hand column shows “collections”, or groupings of “items.” To the right, the top pane displays a list of items in the selected collection and the bottom pane shows the content of a selected item. (You can also double-click items to view them in separate windows.)

Yojimbo exports notes, passwords and serial numbers as RTF files, and Web archives and PDFs as those types of files. However, it doesn’t export bookmarks as .webloc files—double-clickable URLs that open automatically in your browser.

You can add items to Yojimbo’s database in many ways. Besides creating items from within the program or dragging selected text or files to Yojimbo’s window, you can drag data to the “drop dock,” a translucent tab that peeks out from the edge of your screen. You can also copy text or a URL to the clipboard, then press a keyboard shortcut to show a quick input panel at the top right of your screen, though that location may be less than convenient for some users. Select a type of item, add comments, type a title, then press Return to add it to Yojimbo’s database. Finally, you can add a PDF to Yojimbo from any application’s Print dialog: click the PDF button and select Save PDF in Yojimbo.

Items automatically display in the default collections (the five types of items, plus Library, Flagged Items and Recent Items). You can create custom collections, adding items to them by dragging; items can appear in multiple collections. You can flag items, and you can set colored labels to further sort them. Searching for items and their content in Yojimbo is easy, either from its search bar, or using Spotlight. However, I’d like to see user-defined smart collections, analogous to OS X’s Smart Folders.

If you work on a desktop and laptop, Yojimbo’s .Mac syncing is a welcome feature. The program syncs intelligently, copying only the items that have changed since the last sync. So even a large database will sync quickly, if you haven’t made many changes.

Yojimbo enters a market full of competition, with programs such as Chronos’ StickyBrain (   ), DEVONtechnologies’ Devonthink (   ), Circus Ponies’ Notebook (   ), and others. Each of these programs appeals to a certain approach to storing information—StickyBrain appeals to those who want to store everything, Devonthink targets users who want to tweak their repositories in many ways, while Notebook offers a page-based storage and outlining system. With Yojimbo, Bare Bones puts the emphasis on simplicity as opposed to feature bloat. Yojimbo may not do as much as some of its competitors, but at times, simplicity is more powerful than a wider range of features.

Macworld’s buying advice

Yojimbo 1.1 is one of the most innovative new programs I have seen in years. But, it has room for improvement. For example, it cries out for smart collections, similar to the Finder’s smart folders. The quick input panel is useful, but would be more practical if it could be moved, or if it appeared in the center of the screen. But Yojimbo’s approach is so unique and simple that, if it fits your mindset, you’ll be hooked immediately, and you’ll quickly wonder how you lived without it.

[ Kirk McElhearn is the author of many books, including How to Do Everything with Mac OS X Tiger (Osborne; 2005). His blog, Kirkville, talks about Macs, iPods, and more. ]

Yojimbo’s collections (left) and a note viewed in its own window.
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