More about Yojimbo, the OS X information organizer

A while ago, I wrote a review of Yojimbo, the Mac OS X information organizer from Bare Bones Software. Basically, I didn’t feel Yojimbo supported the workflow I wanted.

I sent an email with my feedback to Bare Bones Software (obviously I feel a need to bother others with my opinions, but you already knew that since you are reading this blog).

Some time later (not that much later, I’m a bit behind on posting this), I got a very nice reply from Patrick Woolsey, Director of Technical Services at Bare Bones Software:

Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in Yojimbo, and I’ve attempted to provide comments about some of your remarks below.

Apple + I does not open the inspector. I can inspect items in Yojimbo. In other words, I can look at the fields and edit them. I am used to doing this using the Apple + I shortcut from other programs (Finder, iTunes). This doesn’t work in Yojimbo. I don’t know what Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines have to say about this, but I missed it.

Since unlike the Finder and iTunes, Yojimbo supports editing styled text (meaning that Command-I invokes Format -> Style -> Italic), it uses the de facto standard key equivalent of Command-Shift-I to bring up the Inspector instead.

Am I Moving to Trash or Deleting? The icon says one thing, the drop down menu says the other. Is there a difference? I am confused.

For items, the result is always a Move to Trash; collections (only, never their contents) are deleted directly

Tag Collections only use ‘and’ relationships between tags. You can make tag collections in Yojimbo, kind of like smart playlists in iTunes, only dumber. You can enter a number of tags, but the collection only selects items that have all of these tags (an ‘and’ relationship). You can’t have collections that select items that have any of the tags (an ‘or’ relationship).

That’s correct. We do plan to support user-definable smart collections in a future version, which will allow additional relationships. Tag collections however will remain in their current form, as we may add support for tag-by-dropping in some future version.

Tag entry shortcuts suck. I can’t think of a better way to put it. I had the following tags: ‘to_blog’ and ‘to_read’. When I am tagging an item, I start typing ‘to_’. As soon as I hit the underscore, Yojimbo selects the first tag that start with ‘to_’ even though I had several other tags that start with ‘to_’. This is about as annoying as it gets. I renamed all my tags to (the inferior) ‘blog_it’, ‘read_it’, etc. [...]

Yojimbo is using a standard system facility for tag item creation (as also used for e.g. address entry in Apple Mail).

If you have tags “to_blog” and “to_read”, upon typing “to_”, you will get a popup list of possible matches from which you can either select directly, or you may continue typing to further narrow.

[I followed up on this as there really was an issue with underscores. This was logged as a new bug report.]

Renaming tags is impossible. You just can’t do it in Yojimbo. Or at least I couldn’t find out how to do it in less than 30 seconds, which is the same thing. (Remember: I am not arrogant, I read Donald Norman’s book.)

There is no facility for renaming tags at present (other than via scripting); this will probably change in some future version. :)

Entering tags is counterintuitive. To me at least. Type ‘atag anothertag’ and you get ONE tag called ‘atag anothertag’, instead of two tags. You have to type ‘atag, anothertag’.

The ability to use phrases as tags is intended.

Tags that are not used keep hanging around.

This also is by intent, so that (using the autocompletion) you can reapply the same tags you’ve previously used, even though there may not be any instances at the moment.

There is no purge, you need to delete unusued tags by hand, and you cannot easily see if a tag is in use or not.

If you attempt to delete a tag that’s in use, Yojimbo will warn you. Beyond that, I expect that going forward, there will be additional tag management options though I can’t say at present what exact forms these might take.

Adding items is inconsistent. In Yojimbo, you can add items using several different methods. Sadly, each method works slightly differently:
*
* When you drop a link (a URL) on the drop dock, there is no feedback whatsoever, but the software creates a new item with the correct title and URL. You just have to go in later, find the item, and tag it, which is a) hard (see below) and b) bad workflow.

The intent of the drop dock (and indeed all of Yojimbo’s input mechanisms) is to make entering info as easy as possible, so that you’re more likely to do so. :)

As we haven’t yet been able to identify a sufficiently low-friction way to handle tagging on drop, this doesn’t happen. :)

* When you press F8 with a URL in the clipboard, Yojimbo creates an item with the correct title and URL, but you can’t enter tags (even though a dialog box pops up).

If you open the tag field by clicking the triangular control next to the Name field, you can indeed do so.

* When you drag a link on to the dock icon, Yojimbo creates a new item that does not have the correct title (it uses the URL instead), but you can enter tags.

For bookmarks, this is a limitation resulting from how the Dock handles dragged info; we have more control over actions performed through Yojimbo’s own Drop Dock.

I can’t make an ‘Untagged’ tag collection.

Please see View -> Smart Collections -> Untagged Items.

So, I missed some stuff, I fell on the wrong side of a few design trade-offs, and some features are planned for the future. This was kind of what I expected, but still, I was very pleased by the nice reply I got. Although I still don’t think Yojimbo is quite right for me, you might want to check it out.

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  1. From Yojimbo, and The Case for Anything Buckets – Shawn Blanc on 14 Sep 2009 at 1:28

    [...] Patrick Woolsey of Bare Bones Software said, “The intent of [...] all of Yojimbo’s input mechanisms is to make entering info as easy as [...]