For many of us, the old way of managing files—in rigidly hierarchical file folders, with rigorously logical filenames—just doesn’t work anymore. We’ve got too many files of too many kinds from too many sources stored in too many places on our hard drives to keep them all straight using folders and filenames alone.
That’s why many Mac users are opting instead to manage their files using tags. By assigning keyword metadata to files, then using Spotlight, smart folders, and other similar tools to filter and search that metadata, you can find files on the fly, just when you need them.
In theory, the advantage is that you then spend less time creating and maintaining a strict filing system and more time getting things done. But to make a tag-based file-system work, you need an easy way to apply and use those tags. That’s what Ironic Software’s Leap 1.0
( ; $59; $69 for a bundle of Leap and Yep) attempts to do—and it largely succeeds.
Like Ironic’s Yep ( ), Leap lets you apply tags to files and then search for and filter files by tag. But Yep only worked on PDFs; Leap will work on any file on your Mac.
Leap starts with a polished, Finder-like interface. But, instead of a list of volumes and folders in the left-hand pane, there’s a “filter panel” listing file types and tags. Next to that there’s a hierarchical view of your folders (called the “locations panel”), and next to that a list of files. Just using those tools, you could quickly find, say, all the .doc files in your work folder. You can then do all sorts of standard file-management things to the filtered files—copy, move, drag them to applications on the Dock, and so on.
But the real juice comes when you start applying and using tags. To start you off, Leap automatically applies date and folder tags. Of course, you can also add tags of your own. You could, for example, tag all your files with the names of their authors, their topics, their due dates—whatever. You could then use those tags to find just the PDF files for that Web development project that you received from Bob during March. It’s easy to save such searches to Leap’s toolbar, so you can go back and find just those files again. The point being: if you can do all that, would you still need to organize your files into a bunch of nested folders?
Once you’ve found the files you want, Leap gives you two ways to view them: You can use Quick Look from within Leap to preview files, or you can use Leap’s own Loupe tool. The Loupe is like a dynamic Quick Look: It previews files as you pass your mouse over them; you can specify the degree of magnification and the size of the Loupe preview window.
What’s nice about Leap is that it applies its tags as Spotlight comments. That means that any app that uses Spotlight tags—including OS X’s own Finder—can use tags you’ve applied in Leap. So if you don’t want to use Leap as your default file viewer, you could still use it as your tag manager.
Of course, Leap isn’t perfect. There’s no Help file, just a user guide that wasn’t quite finished in the version I tested. You can’t filter by exclusion—meaning you can’t see all files that don’t have a particular tag. (You can, however, apply a special “hidden” tag to files or exclude entire folders by adding them to Spotlight’s Privacy list.) And $59 may be more than you want to spend on a file manager; there are plenty of tagging utilities that cost less (see Tagamac for a list), and you could do a lot of this on your own for free.
But other than that, Leap is a great introduction to the world of tag-centric file management. If you’re tired of endlessly organizing your files and folders and want a different way, Leap could be it.
Leap 1.0 requires Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) or later.