27.7.06. Scope, Hog Bay Software, and Knowing Your Place

The staggering array of personal shit management (PSM) tools for Mac OS X seems to be growing, constantly. There are Outliners, Notebooks, personal hierarchical databases, and so on.

Many of the tools may look similar on the surface. Besides downloading all of the trials or crawling through the archives of About This Particular Outliner, how can you decide which tool may be right for you? Many companies do nothing but expound on their particular feature set, but when there are many similar features between applications, it’s not always easy to filter out the two or three items that make a particular application different from substantially different from its competitors. Some companies have comparison tables between their product and one or two (usually popular) competitors. But these tables often show the main company’s product as doing more! more! more! for the same or lower price. And while that can be helpful when evaluating your options, it’s not exactly unbiased research that you’re reading.

That’s why I was impressed yesterday when I took a glance at the page for Hog Bay Software’s Mori. The lead-in paragraph and accompanying screen shot didn’t sell me on it. I have too many “digital notebooks” as it is, and the screen shot reminded me of DEVONThink. But I scrolled down the page, skimming the text and looking at screen shots, and at the bottom of the page I found a paragraph with a lead-in Is Mori the best choice for you?

Buying a note manager can be a daunting process with many choices. On one hand you have great outlining programs. If your goal is lists and outlines, try OmniOutliner. On the other hand you have powerful and complex note databases. If your goal is to create reference database of “everything” try DevonThink. But if you need something in-between, give Mori a try. We think it’s the ideal place for your day to day notes, projects, and activities.

Mori Product Information Page, Hog Bay Software, viewed July 26 2006

Wow. I think that’s refreshingly honest. It gives Mori a good scope, and it differentiates itself by saying “if you need more than lists, but less than a database of everything, we’re your app. But if you need those things, by all means, go next door and get them.”

Hog Bay Software now has my attention. Looking at their other offerings I noticed the application Clockwork, a computer timer program. You know, the buzz-me with an alarm, remind of this, etc, kind. Its page also has a “right choice for you?” paragraph. They also are the developers of WriteRoom, a “distraction free full screen writing environment.” WriteRoom is one of those applications like 37Signals’ Writeboard. Simple plain text writing, no formatting toolbars, no wysiwyg (which is still painful in most browsers), just words. 37Signals has a nice post about the difference between word processing and writing. They are different tools with different scopes. For the time in writing when the words matter more than layout and formatting, it’s wonderful to be distraction free.

And it’s refreshing to look at a software page and wonder “but why would I use that if there’s this tool and that tool and that other tool available?” only to find an answer that says “hey, that other tool might work better for you if you’re looking for something that does feature X really well.”