Is there a draft in here?
May 31, 2016 9:34 AM   Subscribe

On my Mac, I keep dozens of windows and documents open so I can come back to them easily. Is there a better way to keep track of all the things I'm working on without just leaving windows open?

I have lots of projects, with lots of subprojects. If I work on six projects in a given day, I might have 3 Finder windows, 8 Firefox tabs in 2 or 3 different windows, and 3-5 TextWrangler windows open FOR EACH PROJECT. Then, I like to keep everything open for tomorrow, and the next day, so I can always easily go back to any given task at a moment's notice.

(Once I'm REALLY done with something, I'm happy to close the window. But it usually takes a couple of weeks to get to that point.)

I know that keeping lots of windows open can slow performance, especially in Firefox and the Finder. I'm also ending up with lots of visual clutter.

What can I do to keep track of all these documents and tasks without keeping all these windows open? I'm looking for the easiest approaches that take the least amount of effort and time on my part - maybe an Applescript that makes aliases of all open windows? Something completely automatic would be ideal.

Note: I am NOT interested in organizer apps (Evernote, Omnifocus) to track this stuff for me. Ideally, I'm looking for built-in tools or features I didn't realize I have already, or hacks and techniques to deal with this better - especially if they're automatic.

posted by kristi to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This won't fix the slowdown problem, but have you tried keeping your projects on separate desktops using Mission Control?
posted by theodolite at 9:37 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Try command-tab. Although it doesn't show the title of the file or document being worked on, it reveals an iconic list of what's open. As for web browsers, look to tab management. Items like 'Tab Mix Plus' and 'ColorfulTabs' have been indespensible to me.
posted by uhom at 10:04 AM on May 31, 2016

I use OSX Finder tags.

1. In the Finder preferences, I labeled the colored tags with priority levels: red = emergency, green = current work, orange = gotta do soon, yellow = hold awaiting response, etc. Anything I'm working on gets a tag. Website I need to keep open? Drag a bookmark to the desktop and give it a colored tag. I find this works better than trying to tag documents by project, which is what most tutorials on OSX tags suggest.

2. Make a Saved Search that finds all tagged items. Put this in the sidebar, so clicking brings up all the files of concern.

3. For that sidebar shortcut to tagged files, have it in list view, ordered by tag. So the Finder folder becomes a list of the relevant files, ordered by priority. They're also links to the actual files. Right clicking on a file allows you to change the priority. Or if it's a bookmark or temporary notes, right clicking can delete it.

This persists across reboots- open the finder window to the tag search, re-open the documents for the project at hand. I haven't figured out a way to have a saved search that brings up both tagged files and flagged email, which would be ideal. But it's close to a one-stop way to manage windows and to-do lists without an extra app.
posted by bendybendy at 10:07 AM on May 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

This only covers the text files part, but I reduced a lot of clutter by switching from TextWrangler+Finder to Atom.
posted by neushoorn at 10:10 AM on May 31, 2016

neushoorn, that sounds intriguing - can you provide any more specifics about how you're using Atom that's working better for you? Thanks!
posted by kristi at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2016

It doesn't fully address your problem (ie. not keeping all windows open) but I use spaces - ie. putting different project windows/apps on different desktops. Easy to switch between them using Cmd+arrow keys and helps immensely with the visual decluttering!
posted by piyushnz at 11:33 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

For the tabs: what about just saving all your open tabs into a bookmarks folder (by project)? If you're going to use them for weeks, makes sense to take three seconds and save them. Here are some instructions. Once you're done with a project, just delete the folder.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:30 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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