The quest for the perfect information store is unending. Many of us long for a single place where we can put everything so that it’s easy to find and work with. Of course you could use various folders in a complex directory structure – I did that for years, nesting folders for months within folders for years within folders for particular areas of interest.
Needless to say, this soon became unworkable! So then I broke down my intricate folders and dumped everything into a single big ‘Archive’ folder, trying to rely on Spotlight to find what I needed. That worked better, but I sometimes found it difficult to track down what I was after.
My system’s gone through a few more transformations since then, and I have tried several different apps along the way. Together is one of the best I’ve used, and it has some features that might make it the ideal solution for many people.
Getting Information In
Together is really easy to work with: just drag and drop files into the application window, onto the Dock icon, or to the Shelf tab at the edge of your screen, and your files will be imported. Alternatively you can click ‘Add’ on the toolbar and select ‘Import Files…’ or ‘Import Folders…’
What actually happens when you import files can be changed in the application’s Preferences: it can make copies of the files in its store directory (by default a series of folders within /Documents/Together), move the originals there, or leave them where they are and add links to the files.
Choosing between these options really is down to personal preference – if you don’t mind handing over control of how your files are stored, you can simply let Together move things into its logically structured nest of folders. If you prefer more control, you can decide exactly how and where your files are held.
Once you’ve got your files into Together, you can start working with them. You’ll see that the main interface is divided into three sections – you can decide in View Options whether to use a portrait or landscape view.
Portrait mode is a ‘widescreen’ view, where item previews appear to the right of the list; landscape is more like the traditional Mail.app view, where previews appear under the list.
So, in portrait mode, the first panel on the left shows your Library and any Groups that you’ve created. To the right of that is a list of the items in your Library, and on the far-right a preview of the currently selected item.
You can quickly switch between portrait and landscape using the buttons at the bottom-right corner of the main window. The third button in that set displays an information panel:
Over on the bottom-left corner, besides the + button that lets you make new Groups, Smart Groups, and Folders is another pair of important buttons:
Tags & Folders
This is where you switch between Tag and Folder views. In Folder view, all your material is distinguished by file type – that’s useful, but I find Tags much more useful, since they cross all types of file. So, whether they are text files or images, videos or MP3 recordings, when items share a tag, you will find them together under that tag.
This allows for easy and powerful grouping of related materials, and the ‘free-formness’ of it suits my way of thinking far better than the conceptual distinctions implicit in a folder-based system.
You will see in the screenshot below how I’ve used a ‘poetry’ tag to bring together various kinds of documents in one place – including Pages documents, poetry readings, and a Flash video interview with the US Poet Laureate, Charles Simic.
You can use Labels similarly to separate out or bring together different kinds of information, or information relating to different projects that you might be working on. You can see now that when I attach a ‘Poetry reviews’ label, the item changes colour in the list, so you can quickly separate things out visually.
The Encrypt button on the toolbar does exactly what you would expect: just select any items you want protected and click the button and you will be prompted to enter a password. Once a file is encrypted, it will show up as a lock icon in the file list, and when you select it, you will see a message in the right pane that prompts whether you want to view or decrypt the file.
Together uses AES-256 encryption, which should be pretty secure, but note that the default action when setting a password is for the password to be stored to the Keychain – be sure to deselect the checkbox for this option if you want increased security.
The only other button on the toolbar is ‘New Note’, which, again, does just what you would expect: makes a new Rich Text document.
Open up the application’s Preferences, and you will find on the Import tab a link to some clever Bookmarklets that you can drag into the Bookmarks Bar (or its equivalent) in your favourite web browser, so that you can add webpages to your library as you browse – these are really nice additions to the Together workflow, and the Web Archive works particularly well.
Together’s Shelf is, by default, set to hang around usefully at your screen’s edge whenever the application is open.
You can drag and drop files onto the shelf to add them to your Library: you can specify which folder they appear in, and add tags directly from the Shelf, which makes this a super-convenient way to import new material without needing to open the main app window.
You can even use the Shelf to browse your Library from anywhere: just click on the Together tab at screen-edge and then navigate through your Library.
You can set items as favourites so that they’re always within easy reach on the Shelf, and you can also use the Shelf as an ever-present Quick Notepad – just type your notes, click Save, and they’re added to your Library.
Getting Your Information Out
One of the most attractive features of Together is the fact that it keeps your data in its original form, so it’s really easy to get it out again.
You can either navigate to the Library folders and copy items from there within Finder, or you can select them in the main application window and select ‘Export Files…’ from the File menu, and then just select your destination.
There’s a lot to like about Together – from its powerful and stylish HUD-style Shelf to support to tagging and its ability to display a wide range of file-types. A simple layout makes the app somehow transparent, so you can focus on what’s important – all the information and files you’ve chucked into it. It’s friendly and easy to get your information in, and just as easy to get it out again.
So why then, after having this app on my Mac for most of the last two years, am I not using it? Well, as much as I like Together, I have also found that it simply doesn’t fit my way of working anymore.
I’ve gone for a huge “Archive” folder in my Documents, and I just throw everything in there and use Ironic Apps’s Leap when I want to find something, combining its search features with its support for Open-Meta tagging.
This seems to better suit me, and my way of thinking about how to organise information. Your mileage may vary, so do check out Together: it’s a very good application, and it may suit you much better than it does me.
Together is really easy to work with, offering an all-in-one utility for storing and archiving your files and documents. It has powerful sorting and tagging facilities, and numerous ways to import data into the app (and, just importantly, get it out again).7