Help me organize my text files!
January 10, 2011 10:26 PM   Subscribe

MacFilter! How do you keep your documents organized? Is there an iTunes-ish program for organizing and working with lots of text files?

I have 22,372 songs in my Mac and iTunes keeps them organized. Yay. I have hundreds of text files and they're filed in various folders. Not so yay.

I am constantly working in Notepad. I never work with rich text or any form of styled text. I'm strictly a plain text guy. I code html in plain text, I write notes in plain text. Notepad serves me well...

...except that it doesn't, because I constantly have a slew of notepad documents open at the same time. Notepad is great for writing, but there's zero organization. It's designed for one file at a time. There has to be a better way for someone who writes a ton of documents.


The software I imagine has a list of documents in a column down one side, sort of like iTunes, iPhoto or Aperture. Does something like this exist?
posted by 2oh1 to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you want Evernote.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 10:47 PM on January 10, 2011

Response by poster: Hmmm. I'll have to try it. It just seems like overkill. Pictures and PDFs and web pages and junk in my menubar and...?

In a perfect world, what I want is iTunes for documents. A column on the left with a list of docs and a huge area on the right with the text I'm currently writing.

Hhhhhhmmmm.... Maybe I should just switch to Scrivener?
posted by 2oh1 at 11:14 PM on January 10, 2011

For txt files, of which like you I use a ton of, I use an old version (2) of a program called EditPlus. It's apparently in v3 now, which I can't speak to, but I looked at this screen cap and it looks pretty much the same. All those side- and bottom- and top-bars are toggleable, at least in the version I have. Also notice the "tabbed browsing" at the top--about 5 different files are open, like in a browser. My old version allows seemingly unlimited concurrently-open files. However, it doesn't sort then for you. I'm not sure how a program would sort text files though--MP3s are sorted by metadata like artist/album/song, but how would text files be sorted? By date created/modified? Author? Size? If there is such a program I'd be curious to know what it is.
posted by skwt at 11:27 PM on January 10, 2011

If that's all you want you can get it with TextMate. Just define all your files as a single project & away you go.
posted by scalefree at 11:37 PM on January 10, 2011

There's other programs better suited to collections of ebooks, like Together, Disk Library, EagleFiler, iDocument, Leap & probably a few others I've missed. They'd all work but none of those're as lightweight as what you're looking for I think. They all have fancy interfaces with tags & thumbnail previews & whatnot which would probably just get in the way of what you're after, which is just jumping from file to file to edit them. I still say TextMate's the best choice for your needs.
posted by scalefree at 11:56 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't like when people glibly announce "you want ____!", but I think in this case you really do want Notational Velocity.

Evernote is certainly useful, but it's complicated and feature-packed. Notational Velocity takes the opposite approach: it's one of those rare programs that's so simple you forget it's even there. I used to write everything in separate files with TextEdit or Vim, and this was exactly what I needed to stop all the clutter.

By the way, there's no Notepad on Mac OS.
posted by Chicken Boolean at 11:59 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: AHAHAAA!!!! You're right! I use TextEdit :)
I've been teaching windows people how to post code for so long that I'm used to talking about notepad!
posted by 2oh1 at 12:19 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

WikidPad would be the Windows answer, NotebookWiki looks similar and is available for other platforms.
posted by anaelith at 1:59 AM on January 11, 2011

Zotero may fit the bill.
posted by singingfish at 3:25 AM on January 11, 2011

If all you need is a list of your files down the side then you could try TextWrangler.
posted by jontyjago at 3:37 AM on January 11, 2011

Came in to suggest Textmate as well. It does exactly this, and is a great and editor. It has a lot of power but it can be hidden away until you need it.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:47 AM on January 11, 2011

You can use Evernote and just use it for text files. You choose what goes in the bucket.
posted by shazzam! at 4:07 AM on January 11, 2011

The one thing that you have not mentioned is whether you want to sweep all of the text files into a program or leave them in place and organize them from without. If the latter, this can be done with DevonThink.
posted by megatherium at 4:17 AM on January 11, 2011

Macjournal is a writing program which works exactly as you describe.
posted by conrad53 at 6:01 AM on January 11, 2011

Seconding Notational Velocity and DevonThink. I have used both to stay organized (I'm a teacher) for quite a while.
posted by vkxmai at 6:37 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: TextWrangler (the free cousin to the venerable BBEdit) is a good start. It's free and has two different ways of viewing a list of files: a "disk browser" on the left side, and a file list on the right. It's great with plain text, and can do syntax highlighting if you're interested.

Plus, it's in the app store, so you can try that out.

Start there and see if it works. I love it.
posted by griseus at 7:13 AM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: Xpad is a simple text editor with a drawer.
I used to love it. Until I read your question.
posted by mimi at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2011

Yeah see DevonThink is another one of those really powerful organizers that probably has more overhead than he's looking for. If all he wants is something simple, he shouldn't be saddled with a lot of features he'll never use.
posted by scalefree at 9:19 AM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: Where's the "disk browser" left side of Text Wrangler? I can't find it. Otherwise, I'm kind of liking this one... at least, so far... I still have to check out some of the others as well.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: Wow. Devonthink is $150!

Xpad looks like it could be a winner here! It's so simple and seems to do most of what I'm looking for. It doesn't work the way I wanted, but the way it DOES work might fit my workflow rather well. I'll probably start with that and return to try others if I'm not happy with it.

TextWrangler looks super, but I'm baffled by the either/or view of disk browser or file list. It doesn't look like I can use both. It seems obvious to put my recent docs on one side and a list of everything on the left, but TextWrangler seems determined to have me commit to one mode or the other. Maybe I'm missing something obvious here? Otherwise, this is an excellent piece of software. I did a bit of coding with it and thought that was outstanding.

Notational Velocity seems like it has potential too. I may try that next.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:13 PM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: scalefree, thanks for the tip on Together and EagleFiler. Both really pique my curiosity.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:43 PM on January 11, 2011

Putting in another vote for Notational Velocity. I started using it a few months ago and it's really become one of my favorite things ever. Especially because it syncs with Simplenote, so I can see all my notes/documents at home, at my work computer, and on my iPhone. Which feels a little like magic still.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:05 PM on January 11, 2011

I use Voodoo Pad Lite.
posted by invisible ink at 5:07 PM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: Notational Velocity really could be a winner for my needs. I STRONGLY prefer the notes list in xPad, with a column on the side that shows a ton of files rather than Notational Velocity showing just a few above. If xPad synced with Simplenote, I'd be 100% sold on it.
posted by 2oh1 at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: You could try the fork of notiational velocity, nvAlt, which has the note titles optionally down the left side.
posted by itsjustanalias at 4:04 AM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That fork is great!
posted by 2oh1 at 11:42 AM on January 12, 2011

Response by poster: I want so badly to love Notational Velocity, but the concept of all files being saved in one folder is incomprehensible. Let's say I have a hundred or so notes I've saved as story ideas. I can't save those in a folder called "Story Ideas"? Instead, they're saved in the same folder with recipes, notes on photography, and whatever other notes I've created. iTunes files my thousands of mp3s in subfolders by artist/album/etc. Notational Velocity just dumps every note in one giant bloated good luck finding anything in there folder.

Sigh. So close...

What I really want is iTunes for notes. Instead, I end up with TextEdit and folders in the finder.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:24 PM on January 13, 2011

I had similar concerns but I found that once I used Notational Velocity and included tags (or just appropriate text within my notes) that I have never needed to go into the notes from any other direction except NV. I haven't used spotlight to search my notes since.

And if you did need a folder full of "story ideas" you could just search by key words and then export as a folder.

But maybe your needs make it a less than perfect fit, in which case, let us know what you find.
posted by itsjustanalias at 2:40 PM on January 13, 2011

Notational Velocity gives you a couple options for keeping projects separate. One is tags, which are hidden by default.

Another is multiple storage folders. Go to the Notes section of Preferences, click "Read notes from folder:", and make a new folder (or database--you get your choice of database, plain text, RTF, or HTML files for storage).

I don't know if those features are included in nvAlt.
posted by Chicken Boolean at 12:49 PM on January 14, 2011

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