Find the Perfect Bucket App for Your Files

Information managers, or Bucket apps, are applications that store and organize the notes and text snippets (and more) that we’d like to keep up with. They’re versatile apps that can work to organize pretty much any type of data you want to store in them. There are plenty of them to choose from, however, in this article we’ll narrow this list into five contestants: DEVONthink, Eaglefiler, Evernote, Together and Yojimbo.

Each one is packed with exclusive features and some missing when compared to the other options. In this review I’ll highlight the pros and cons of the Buckets keeping in mind a criterion that could bring them all together: how they add, organize and search through your files. Then, we’ll try to help you find the best one for your needs.

DEVONthink

DEVONthink is mostly known as a powerhouse in paperless workflows. However, there’s lighter versions of the application that should please all kinds of users. DEVONthink is also known for its Devonian design. Even with several viewing options, the screen is always cluttered with information and some resources are only available in specific views.

DEVONthink

DEVONthink has many ways to visualize your library.

If you forget about its unfriendly interface, you’ll find that DEVONthink is filled with great features. You can drag files into the Sorter even if the application is closed (and it won’t open when you do so). The Browser Extension is possibly the only one close enough to compete with Evernote, as it imports in several formats and allows the inclusion of metadata right on the spot. You can also choose to import text as in Instapaper.

DEVONthink comes with several templates, like task lists or web browsers, for a more specific approach into the files you’ve created in the application.

DEVONthink considers tags and groups as the same thing displayed differently, so you can convert a Group into a Tag (or vice-versa) and it will preserve all its info. It shines when you use the See AlsoClassify and the Keywords features, which analyze and compare your files for similarities among them. After you include a few items, you may as well let DEVONthink automatically classify your files based on their contents.

Search is fast and uses the built-in features aforementioned to sort your files by relevance. You may also refine your search by selecting a specific criteria, like tags or URL.

Safari Browser Extension for DEVONthink

Quickly add webpages to your database like with Instapaper.

Pros

  • Analyzes your files and relates them with others alike
  • Many ways to visualize and export your library
  • Remove all the clutter from web articles saving like Instapaper

Cons

  • Clumsy interface;
  • Locks your database with a password, but you can still open the files in Finder
  • It’s really tough to learn without checking the Help file

Price

$49.95 from the Mac App Store or as DEVONthink Personal directly from their team. DEVONthink Pro and Pro Office are $79.95 and $149.95, respectively.

Eaglefiler

At first, Eaglefiler looks like it could make fine use of a redesign, since there are barely no options of layout customization and the initial package consists of a few smart folders (you may recognize them inside the ‘Search For’ group), the Trash and Records folders, plus a few tags.

EagleFiler

It’s up to you customizing EagleFiler with your Smart Folders and Tags.

There are many ways to add files into Eaglefiler. The application comes with the Drop Pad, which is a little window that will most of the time stay below your windows. What stands out is the Quick Capture key, a keyboard shortcut to import files, you may also capture with options, which allow you to index your snippet before it moves to Eaglefiler. It only works with some applications, which turns out as an issue: you can’t always apply the same method of importation to your files.

There’s also a “To Import” folder, where you can send files from anywhere to be synced later into Eaglefiler.

You can create several Libraries, so you may keep your work and personal things in different storages. As Eaglefiler keeps your files in their regular format, they’re navigable through the Finder. There are plenty of ways to categorize your files: tags, folders, labels, notes and marking as flagged. Folders and tags can be nested to keep your Library tight. You may also include Actions to Smart Folders, which will be applied as you drop a file into it.

Eaglefiler stores the metadata of your files within a SQLite database and it’ll search your files through it. Turns out Eaglefiler has one of the fastest searches among the applications listed in this article. You may also navigate through the tags, as the more you select, narrower becomes the search results.

EagleFiler

Add files intuitively from many applications available for your Mac.

Pros

  • Great integration with applications like Mail and Contacts
  • An unobtrusive way to add files with a keyboard shortcut
  • Multiple Libraries

Cons

  • Outdated design
  • The Drop Pad is a non-intuitive way to add files
  • The importing methods don’t work for every kind of file

Price

$39.99 from the Mac App Store, with a free trial on their site

Evernote

Evernote stands out in features others don’t have, and as I compare these applications, it stands out that Evernote seems to serve a completely different purpose instead of being a contender. The newest version has a clean design, though complete with the last skeuomorphic tendencies, and it has four different ways to visualize your files, notes, and more that you’ll have stored in Evernote.

Evernote

Evernote’s recent update brought a gorgeous and clean design.

Everything you import to Evernote is wrapped on a HTML structure as a Note. You can send files by creating a Note and dropping items inside. You can also send files from clipboard, take screenshots or record an audio file. The most common way to use Evernote is with its Web Clipper, which gives you control of the web content you want to add to your Notebooks.

Most of these applications attempted, but Evernote is the only one to nail syncing your files between devices.

Evernote stores your files online, but it keeps a SQLite alias in your hard drive for Spotlight indexing. Your files can only be categorized by tags and organized within Notebooks. You may nest your Notebooks, creating a Stack. It also recognizes text within images and PDFs (this one only for Premium), meaning that you can search for words inside photos.

Searching within Evernote may not be the most effective among them all, yet it is very intuitive. Evernote suggests notes as you type and offers several options to refine your search.

Evernote

Select parts of articles you find online and sync them between your devices.

Pros

  • Access your data from a large number of devices
  • Share your notes and notebooks with others
  • Find the words merged into your images or PDFs

Cons

  • Doesn’t support Smart Folders
  • Doesn’t export your data naturally
  • You’ll always have an upload limit, regardless of your plan

Price

Free download from the Mac App Store, with free versions for iOS, Windows, Android, and the web. Evernote Premium costs $5/month or $45/year.

Together

Together has a polished layout, and may be the prettiest of the applications evaluated here. It has a Portrait Preview for widescreen monitors and packs several Smart Folders to organize your files by kind.

Together

Together offers Portrait View and opens its extras in the main window.

There are two main methods to import files: an Import hotkey and the Shelf. Unlike in its competitors’ apps, the Shelf is actually a great method not only to import files, but also to navigate your library. You may drop your files in a folder, as usual, but also search your library. There’s also access to files marked as Favorites and a field to write Quick Notes. You may include metadata as you import the files. The Import hotkey is intuitive and will import according to what you’re seeing or selecting.

Together keeps your files in a hierarchy of folders in the Finder, so you may keep track of them when the application is closed. You can catalog them with tags, labels, comments and ratings. There’s also Smart Folder support and tags can be assigned to Folders. You have fast access to your tags in the left sidebar and they can be organized within Tag Bundles. In case you’re not a big fan of tagging, you can enable Automatic Tagging after your library grows a little. Together will compare your imports and tag them accordingly.

Together also supports the creation of multiple Libraries and opens your files in tabs within the application for easy comparison.

Compared to the others, searching is not as fast. It is Spotlight without any fanciness. You can’t reduce your search as you browse your tags: selecting more than one will expand your results.

Together

Use the Shelf to navigate through your Library and add new files.

Pros

  • Encrypt your files individually
  • Search and access through the Shelf
  • Save articles from the web as Rich Text

Cons

  • You can’t refine your search by selecting more tags
  • Search is not as fast as compared to the others
  • You can’t narrow your search per metadata

Price

$39.99 from the Mac App Store, with a free 15 day trial on their site

Yojimbo

Yojimbo has a clean and sharp design, with beautiful icons jumping out of a lean structure. It starts with several “Smart Folders” by default for the kinds of files it supports, however, Yojimbo’s coverage of Smart Folders doesn’t go beyond those and Tag Collections.

Yojimbo

Yojimbo has a minimal layout with most of its features displayed upfront.

You can add files into your Library using the Drop Dock and the Quick Input. The former allows you to drop a file on a Folder or a Tag Collection, doing the latter will assign all its tags to the file. The Quick Input is a keyboard shortcut to add items from your clipboard. Yojimbo identifies the file and classifies it accordingly. You may include tags, labels, comments or flag it before importing.

You can also use a bookmarklet in your favorite browser to send files to Yojimbo. There’s even an option to tag them as you do it.

Yojimbo shares the same single view mode of Eaglefiler and besides the aforementioned organization methods, you may also encrypt your files individually. Due to the absence of smart folder configuration and nested folders, Yojimbo relies heavily on tags, but it has the Tag Explorer, which is the best place to navigate through your tags as it displays your most used ones right on top for easy access.

Search is fast since Yojimbo stores your entire library within a SQLite database, compressing into a smaller size, although this means you won’t be able to access your files directly from the finder (they’re indexed by Spotlight, but will open only in Yojimbo).

Yojimbo Quick Entry

Easily import files from your clipboard to Yojimbo with the Quick Entry.

Pros

  • A compressed library won’t clutter your hard drive
  • Easy to use: just start and go
  • Navigate through your tags smoothly

Cons

  • Doesn’t nest your folders
  • Doesn’t support creating smart folders
  • Only operates over specific file kinds (accepts most within notes)

Price

$38.99 from the Mac App Store, with a free trial on their site

Conclusion

Bucket apps are great to have as a place where you can safely store the little things you stumble upon. Each of these apps has its strong points, and several of the issues considered in this article may be solved with Applescripts or Hazel. If one app seems like the perfect app except for an issue we mentioned, you can often find the info you’ll need the applications’ own support forums.

In the end, it comes to picking the information manager that fits your workflow naturally. If you see yourself needing to access your files from your mobile devices, Evernote might fit you best. If you want a simple solution for your desktop, then Yojimbo might have everything you need. Not enough? Then perhaps you should try Together’s additional features. Looking for a way to store emails and contacts? Eaglefiler is probably your most suitable candidate. But if you’re a writer/researcher, just like me, you might as well be pleased by DEVONthink.

Turns out, there might not be the perfect bucket app for everyone, though Together and DEVONthink might be the closest.


  • Ludo

    How about SOHO Notes? It is pretty amazing even though it is sometimes unstable. I moved from Yojimbo to it because of the integration with ipad and iPhone? You can now carry your notes around, edit them without internet access (unlike Evernote) …

    I suggest you give it a try!
    Cheers

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      You can actually edit Evernote notes without internet access, as long as you’ve synced your account already.

    • Phillip Gruneich

      I considered SOHO Notes at first, but its instability and general bad reviews everywhere i looked for made me exclude it from this comparison. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we won’t review SOHO Notes anytime soon, but I believe an in-depth review is more appropriate.

      I almost considered Journler, just for the nostalgia :D

  • http://www.if.pro.br Igor Freiberger

    I use Together and consider it a mature, well-designed app. It help me to study and manage hundreds of files I am researching for a exam. I like very much the way it organize texts, PDFs, videos and notes in folders, groups, smart groups and tags.

  • Uncle Tod

    @Phillip: Did you actually use Devonthink more than five minutes? It appears as if you simply downloaded the trial, opened it, tried out a few things simply so you could honestly state that you used it.

    Furthermore, your list of “cons” reads like you had to stretch to find anything wrong with DT.

    Clumsy interface: Can you go into detail about how it is clumsy? Did you find the intercase was awkward or poorly laid out or ungainly? You state that the interface was cluttered but certain things were only available in specific views. So you’d rather that everything be available in a single view, perhaps increasing the “clutter?”

    Locks your database with a password, but you can still open the files in Finder: Uh, until you mentioned this, I had no idea that this was a feature as all the many databases I’ve created weren’t locked. A quick check of File > Database Properties shows at the bottom an option to password-protect an individual database. As for being able to open the files in Finder, that’s the great thing about DT – files are always Finder-accessible although browsing the filing structure is not for the faint of heart.

    It’s really tough to learn without checking the Help file: Really? And you had no reason to access the Help file for any of the other apps in this review? Many people have no issues getting started right out of the box. Aside from the Help file, Devon has a number of excellent video tutorials.

    • Phillip Gruneich

      I knew, i just knew, that someone would comment and begin with this exact same phrase, you know? There’s always someone.

      Clumsy interface? Yes, there’s too much going on in my screen, however if a feature is available in one of the views, it should be available in all. They’re two different issues. I want all the necessary information in every display and I want it done well. And this is one of the main reasons why people avoid DevonThink. Beyond this review, one of the first things i’ve done with DevonThink is removing the whole status bar and keeping the thumbnails’ view, checking my files via Quick Look. This is the cleanest view I could find, but i still miss not being able to use the features like See Also with selection.

      If you protect your database in DevonThink, you want those files protected, however, ANYONE can still find them by Finder. That negates the whole concept of protection. Eaglefiler, for example, only allows you to encrypt the database, afterwards, the files become hidden. And that’s an application that does the same kind of hierarchical folder organization DevonThink does. Access through Finder? Great, Together and Eaglefiler also do that, but when I encrypt with a password, I don’t want anything to be found that effortless.

      Actually, i’ve read all Help Files from every application here, after all, I had to absorb everything about these applications in a short amount of time. Many people might be fine starting right out of the box, but further more abandon the application after the first few days. This is another deal breaker for DevonThink, it is non-intuitive as you start using and makes users stay away. A better interface could save a lot of the necessity to check Help files. Yojimbo, for example, barely needs any.

      But calm down, a more in-depth review of DevonThink Personal is coming and then maybe i’ll escalate for the major versions as I go.

      I really enjoy DevonThink, however a few interface changes would be great. For example, there are 31 options to sort my files in the sidebar, still I can’t simply drag them and organize as I want. Do you know how to solve that?

      • Uncle Tod

        @Phillip: thanks for your considered response. Points well taken, especially your point about WRT password-protection and the Finder still having the capability to locate your files.

        I am calmer now. :-)

      • Bill DeVille

        Philip, if you wish to create your own sort order for the contents of a group in DEVONthink, choose View > Sort > Unsorted in the menubar.

        Then drag and drop the items in the desired order.

  • Jose

    If you go with Evernote I recommend downloading from their site rather than the App Store.

    Why? The App Store version does not allow you to take advantage of two important features in OS X, 1) You can’t scan directly to Evernote using Image Capture, 2) You can’t use File>Print>PDF>Save PDF to Evernote.

    These two features are important to me as I like to digitize as much of my stuff as I can. This is a good reason to download Evernote direct.

  • PK

    You wrote: “[DEVONthink] shines when you use … the Keywords features, which analyze and compare your files for similarities among them. ” Please check your facts. DEVONthink can locate (but not “compare”) similar files — called See Also & Classify — however this is not called “keywords”.

    • Phillip Gruneich

      What Keywords do is take a snack of what the Pro feature, Concordance does, it checks the content for most common words. Actually, that little part was edited by accident… it is supposed to contain Keywords first and See Also & Classify afterwards, with the next sentence making reference to the latter.

      I might make this change later, thanks for pointing it out.

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