Together: Store, Search and Organize Your Digital Stuff

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…’

The Together Interface

The Together Interface

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.

Organising

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.

I’ve always preferred widescreen views wherever I can get them (including installing plugins to make Mail.app more usable for me – Letterbox or WideMail).

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.

Layout Options

Layout Options

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:

The Information Panel

The 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:

Adding Groups and Smart Groups

Adding Groups and Smart Groups

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.

Organising with Tags

Organising with Tags

Labels

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.

Using Labels

Using Labels

Other Features

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.

Bookmarklets

Bookmarklets

The Shelf

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.

The Shelf

The Shelf

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.

In Closing

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.


Summary

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
  • http://marcelocx.com Marcelo Campiglia

    Hello,

    I have tried Together many times, but I always stop using it. There are two things that I really do not like about it. First I do not like to copy (I do not like duplicated files) or move (I do not like that an app manage my files) my files to Togethers library, and in the case of linking the files any move of files create broken links and I think that when linking the tags are not written to the actual file. Second in the tags view there is not a way to refine a search (or at least I did not find it) so browsing by tags is pointless in Together.

    I would like to find an application that can let me tag my files (and that the tags are written to the actual files) and that Spotlight can read those tags with out the need of that app. Last week I tried Tags 2 from Gravity Software, I think that it is a great app but their tags can not be readed by Spotlight if you do not have Tags 2 installed in that Mac. So if you send some files to a friend or coworker he could not read the tags. And as far as I know the way that OpenMeta store the information is not supported by Apple, so that makes me a little nervous because I do not want to tag all my files and that one day those tags do not work any more or are not accesible. I think what I want is Finder with tags :)

    Thanks,

  • http://waldemarschott.com/ Waldemar

    You should try Yojimbo from Bare Bones Software.
    http://barebones.com/products/yojimbo/

    • http://www.pixelime.net Simone

      I think that Together is better than Yojimbo. Yeah, a better Yojimbo copy :-)
      But…what about Evernote?

  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    Try Devonthink Office Pro from Devon technologies. It’s like Together (which I used since it was KIT) on steroids. Think OCR 99.9% accurate. Think paperless home or office. Think indexing rather than storing documents in a separate database. The list goes on.

  • S Ray Constantine

    I had been using DEVONthink Pro Office but switched to Together for reasons I can no longer remember. Then, the new version of DEVONthink came out and completely leapfrogged Together. It’ll archive your emails, store PDFs of your bank transactions, allow you to collect the news from online newspapers and remove the ads. The list goes on and on. A HUD comes up when printing to DEVONthink, and that allows you to alter the name, add tags, and drop it into whichever group you’d like. They’ve done an excellent job.

  • Simon

    It’s crazy, this apps is a perfect “clone” of Yojimbo!
    I would love to know the point of view of Bare Bones Software about this!!

    • http://apple-gadgets.de Jan

      I think the first version of Together – known as KIT – is older than Yojimbo!

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  • Michael

    This app is AMAZING!!! Especially useful as a student, it is my perfect organizational tool! I HIGHLY recomend this program to any student. Used with iProcrastinate, a planner application, and writeroom or its many clones, You can be the perfect digital student.

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  • Gamba

    I’m using Together since the time it turned from KIT to Together.
    I decided to go with this app after testing many demos and dozen of reviews and comparisons mainly because it makes me decide where to put + tag my files and still leave them raw and visible – not hidden inside some database like with DevonThink for example.
    Also, I simply enjoy not having to open other apps for basic work and do that simply in Together.
    I was very unhappy because of lack of some decent iTogether app but eventually I’ve placed my library in Drobbox folder and set PlainText.app on my iPhone to write directly in Together’s library and it works okay.
    Lately I’ve started checking other apps again (and I must say that I’m impressed how Evernote matured), mainly because now I miss PDF/rtf/txt annotation and any simple way to get my flagged RSS items into Together.
    DevonThink and Evernote both have much better ways to handle RSS and most of my browsing today is through RSS readers and not browsers it may be a breaking point.
    Sorry for too much text, I was looking into this most of the day when I found this article. ;)

  • http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com Steve Zeoli

    One big advantage (in my view) that Together has over Yojimbo is that in Together you can nest your folders.

  • macnoid

    Or you could just use the mac finder and all the built in apple software the way it was intended for. Mac needs no other software, it’s simplicity incarnate.

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