Mac desktop alternative to Backpack
June 15, 2008 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Free or low-cost Mac alternative to 37Signals Backpack for storing personal information in?

I’ve been a paying member of 37 Signal’s Backpack for several years now, and while I’m happy with what Backpack does for my needs, I’m thinking about transitioning my data off of the service to something that’s cheaper or free.

What I like about Backpack: I like the UI, and I like that it’s super easy to make a project page about something I’m doing or planning where I can just throw information at it and create lists and notes and link to other pages on the web. I’ll occasionally upload files and images to backpack pages, but for the most part I use it for text data of one sort another.

Why I think I should change systems: While I like it, it’s not free if you want to have more than 5 pages, and a lot of the things that make Backpack appealing to others as a paid service don’t apply to me: I don’t use it as a GTD system (I use OmniFocus), I don’t use the calendar feature (I’m locked into my work’s Exchange system) I don’t share my pages with others, and I don’t think I get a lot of benefit out of having all my data online.

So, I’m thinking I should be able to setup something similar on my (Mac) laptop that accomplishes the same thing and does not require a monthly subscription. I know there are a lot of solutions out there, so I’d love to hear your recommendations. (To be clear I’m not opposed to an online solution, I just don’t want to pay for one)
posted by dyslexictraveler to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should at least consider Google Notebooks. Very simple to use. Very free. Unlimited amount of data.
posted by JPowers at 1:08 PM on June 15, 2008

Project Pier does a lot of what basecamp does. It's a webapp so you'll need to set up a LAMP stack (maybe use MAMP) or host this on an external server. However, as a user of basecamp, it should feel familiar to you.
posted by seanyboy at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2008

I've actually been looking for a self-hosted alternative to Backpack myself (especially one that plays nice with the iPhone). I haven't found anything quite right yet, but I'll be interested in seeing what develops here.
posted by adamrice at 3:42 PM on June 15, 2008

It's gotten a lot of bad raps over the years, but the recently announced changes to .Mac service (now the horribly named "MobileMe") may very well be a good option for you if you're looking for bidirectional sync, accessible via web, Mac or iPhone (and PC). Yes, I know that it's a pay service, but it may be something at least worth exploring when its up and running in the next few weeks. I'm not shilling for Apple, just pointing about available options.

Personally, my current information store is a combination of Levenger Circa notebooks (yes, plain ol' dead trees) and DevonThink Pro for storing web/electronic stuff. It's not the ideal setup because the electronic stuff in DevonThink is only available when I'm in front of my Mac, but it's good enough for now. The searching capabilities of DevonThink are awesome. If someone came up with a Web 2.0 version of what DevonThink does but where it could be accessible from any browser, that would be pretty kewl.
posted by webhund at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2008

If you don't care about web access there's a ton of choices for the mac. Everything from yojimbo to devonthink, though devonthink may be overkill for what you're needing.

If you'd like web access you might want to check out evernote which has an online application that syncs with your desktop version. There's a free version, and a paid version if you need a lot of space.
posted by justgary at 5:01 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you looked at Voodoo Pad? I use it to keep notes on everything. It does come with a free version - Voodoo Pad Lite.

From the website: "Type in notes, highlight important words or phrases and create new pages. Drag and drop folders, images, applications, or URLs into VoodooPad — they're linked up just like on the web. With powerful search, nothing will be lost or out of reach."
posted by mac-way at 5:49 PM on June 15, 2008

Before switching to doing all of this in a Google Apps/Docs setup, I used Yojimbo, and you can even get Webjimbo to go along with it for web access. DEVONthink and the such is nice, but it can be overly complex at times. There are tons of these out there, though. Try and search for "productivity" or "notebook" for examples.
posted by joshrholloway at 5:51 PM on June 15, 2008

Evernote is great. Syncs multiple computers, phone and web.
posted by neustile at 6:08 PM on June 15, 2008

Response by poster: Just to close the loop for anybody who is viewing this thread more than a year later...I choose Voodoo Pad in the end and could not be happier. It took me a while to get the's way more powerful than it seems at first, but overtime I have used the flexibility to my advantage and can't imagine storing my notes/lists/thoughts etc etc in anything else. Thanks!
posted by dyslexictraveler at 10:13 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

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