Trying to organize my files/text/life, is tagging the answer?
October 1, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a singular tool (or chain of tools?) that will help me keep track of digital files, links, text within both of those and have a tagging system (or something functionally similar) so that my collection of these is searchable.

I've tried to do some serious due diligence on the topic, but I haven't had an AHA yet. I've looked into a number of suggestions and poured over the threads here, but nothing seems to check all the boxes...

(1) Functionalities I'm looking for in this tool
- Uploading, I'd love to have the one-button approach that Instapaper has, but for files and sections of text as well as websites/links. The point is to have something where I can quickly dump things into a central digital locale for later editing/review
- Excerpting, much of what I would store here are online articles, academic papers, etc that have lots of text. I want to be able to highlight information from these sources so that I can distill large articles/papers into key ideas I want to focus on.
Searchable, I want to be able to tag the different files/links/text excerpts by key themes so that they can be retreived later. My memory is terrible and I've found the tagging of Evernote and the system here on Mefi very useful.
- Flexibility across file types, if this could handle websites, office docs, etc that would be ideal
- Cloud>No Cloud, I would much prefer something that has an online interface, but isn't a cloud-based app. Maybe I'm being archaic here, but I'd prefer not to lock into a pay-by-month model with a company who's future is uncertain (Springpad). I'd like something that operates locally so that I can't have my time-intensive curation of material 'turned off' by someone else. I am happy to pay for something that does what I want.
- Transferability, this is probably a pipe-dream, but ideally this would be something that could be ported to other applications/tools in the future.

(2) Compatibility
- phones, I'd like to be able to have this functionality sync with my phone. I'm probably about to get a new phone and I'd be open to suggestions on whether going with a particular OS largely affects what I'll have access to for tools.
- OS, I currently have Ubuntu running on an old laptop. I've it far superior to Windows and I'd like to find something compatible with it.
- Other machines, however, I'm also considering getting a new desktop and would go back to Windows if I had to or if it enabled this tool to work better for me. I'd also consider/would be curious the extent to which people's recommendations would be compatible with tablets, readers, etc
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens to Technology (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You already mentioned Evernote, which I use (in conjunction with its Web Clipper) for pretty much all the things you want (except probably transferability). It has iOS and Android clients. There's no official Linux support, but there are a couple of third-party clients, it can be run under Wine, or there's a web interface. You do have to pay for some of the in-document search functionality, but you say you're willing to pay for a solution. It might help if you could say what about it isn't working for you, because otherwise it seems pretty much on point.
posted by dorque at 3:40 PM on October 1, 2014

Oh good lord, I'm kind of an idiot. I didn't realize Evernote Premium was also required for offline use on mobile. Desktop doesn't have this restriction; not sure if that's enough for your purposes.
posted by dorque at 3:47 PM on October 1, 2014

I am currently retooling my own situation, which is similar to yours in a few ways, and I'm not done yet, but just in case it helps, I'm testing out going back to Tiddlywiki like it's 2008 or something. But that's part of what I like about it: It's just HTML and Javascript, and at the very least, you can link to unsupported formats on devices that support it. (I used to use it to keep track of freelance work I was doing, so I'd pretty much just have links to project pages on my computer.)

It's simple and open source and it's very much modifiable, pretty much cross platform, and there are a ton of different premade plugins you can use to customize it to your needs. And, of course, it's yours, so it's not dependent on someone else's services or whims.

The downsides so far are that it's a little more front end work than an out of the box setup. You kind of have to roll your own a little bit, in terms not just of customizing the wiki itself, but also setting it up to sync the way you want. I'm currently tangling out how and to what extent content needs to be modifiable on mobile.

Also, of course,it is a kind of 2008 thing, so there's not a super active community around anymore to help troubleshoot and tweak things.

So anyway, like I said, I haven't even fully sorted this out myself yet, but your issues and concerns sound enough like mine that I thought I'd throw that out.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:34 PM on October 1, 2014

I'm guessing DEVONthink is out since it's not a cloud-based solution. But it's extremely flexible and can handle a huge amount of information and many types of sources.
posted by barnone at 8:00 PM on October 1, 2014

Try and use non-proprietary file formats such as txt and pdf, so you can migrate the data without restrictions. You may find that tags are OS-specific metadata. Tagging is relatively new to the Mac OS, for example, but at least it is supported on the OS level. But can programs in ubuntu or Windows read those tags?

Grabbing sections of text or urls and saving them with minimal keystrokes should be easy either with macros or automation if not specific applications. Assign the macros to keyboard shortcuts.

As far as cloud compatibility, perhaps using Dropbox answers that question. Plenty of apps on phones and tablets support it.

Don't forget the browsing and searching process. You will probably want lots of flexibility in defining searches and likely the ability to save those searches too.
posted by conrad53 at 10:10 PM on October 1, 2014

IFTTT is a great way to pull everything together into one spot automatically. It works with many different services, you just have to pick the spot you want your data to live and write recipes to have everything go there. IFTTT could stop providing their services, but it would be huge news and you would still have everything you've done so far.

Example: Google Drive for your files and then or for the bookmarks (or both). Then use IFTTT to copy every new bookmark from pinboard/delicious into a spreadsheet in your Google Drive. This should include tags and notes. You can sync your GDrive files to a drive on your computer.

For web clips, you could use Pocket, Instapaper or Evernote and have it copied to GDrive.

I don't think you would have to use Google Drive, other services like Box and Dropbox could work this way. If space became an issue, you could use a different service for each project, or one for "Home", one for "School" and one for "Work".
posted by soelo at 7:32 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a number of issues with Evernote, but it's what I use and I think it's your best choice for an all-in-one solution. You could also try OneNote's web version, though there's no desktop client for Linux.
posted by cnc at 11:38 AM on October 2, 2014

The closest thing you'll find to a Linux alternative to Evernote or OneNote is NixNote, which can sync directly with the web version of Evernote. That does require keeping stuff in Evernote's cloud, though, and I've found it buggy in several ways, but particularly with exporting. I actually ended up cutting and pasting a bunch of my notes and redoing a whole lot of work.

YMMV, of course, but if you do want to try that, do some quick testing with throwaway data first so you don't get in too deep.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:43 PM on October 2, 2014

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