The Set Up, Revisited
I have screamed my last scream of rage at Ulysses. I finally got frustrated enough with the limitations of Ulysses as a tool for my background notes and moved it all somewhere else. And that somewhere else is Yojimbo. After one day of use, I’ve got to say I am pretty pleased.
I got Yojimbo as one of a bundle of apps I bought a while ago. I noodled with is for a few minutes, stored a few things in it from time to time and otherwise ignored it for well over a year. Many people swear by it, though, and it was in the back of my head that it might be a possibility – as I mentioned in my last post, in fact. I can say that it does what I need it to do, and really, what more can one ask of software?
My two needs in a background notes tool were a) good organization and b) ability to view multiple pieces of information simultaneously.
Yojimbo doesn’t have nested folders, but what it does have actually works better. Yojimbo has collections and tag collections. A collection is an actual bucket for stuff. So, I put all my notes (as .txt files) in a collection called ‘Veil War.’ That was step one. Yojimbo wants you to tag everything, and makes it really easy to assign tags. So for each item as I put it in, I assigned a tag, like goblins, US military, dragons, whatever fit. That’s step two. Step three, you can create a tag collection that will show everything with that tag. You can even get fancy and create tag collections that only contain items that have two or more tags.
The main window has three sections. The left sidebar of the Yojimbo window shows collections. The middle area has a file listing, and a view area which shows the contents of the item selected above. And on the right is a tag cloud. Now, I can get right to any item I need in my notes in no more than two clicks. Win. Double win, actually, because Yojimbo is a slickly-designed app that is pleasant to look at.
The real advantage Yojimbo – and now me – have over Ulysses and all the other apps that I’ve tried is one specific option. You can right click on any item and “Open in separate window.” In the main window, I can only view one file at a time, which would suck. But I can pop open anything I want in another window and arrange it however I like. And then I can open another, and another. Since I have a two monitor set-up, I can arrange multiple notes – like a cast of characters, timeline and some relevant background – in the smaller screen, and have the big screen left over for writing.
One window lets me find anything I need quickly and easily. I can rearrange my files simply by changing or adding tags, yet all the files are still located in a big pile where I can’t lose them. Then, I can open whatever specific files I need at a given moment and arrange them with maximum flexibility. I can edit the files in either mode.
I really think this is the best solution I’m likely to ever find, and I think I will start using Yojimbo a lot more for other projects. Sadly for those of you who are not Mac users Yojimbo is not available on Windows or Linux. But if you are a Mac user, I recommend it highly and not just as a writing tool. (In fact, I don’t think that’s really what the developers had in mind at all.)
And now, I’ll have to check out the Yojimbo iPad app…
You sold me on it, and I don’t own a Mac. I’ll see if the wife will put it on her shiny new Ipad for me.
One thing to keep in mind, though – version 1.0 of the iPad app is read only. You need to have a regular desktop version to populate it. I imagine that they have plans to improve the iPad version, but they’re not there yet. For me, it will work fine, because if I’m writing away from my desk, most likely, I’m just going to need to refer to my background, not add to it. And if I really wanted to write a substantial piece of background, I could use the writer app and throw it into Yojimbo later.
On further research, I’d avoid getting the iPad app at all, even if you go ahead and buy a Mac and the desktop version. The reviews for the mobile version are all some version of, “I love the desktop version and want to have its babies but the iPad version is a pile of suck so dense it has an event horizon.” The lack of two-way sync is an obvious problem, but forgivable; however the app is buggy, crashes, and hasn’t been updated since March. I’ll think about getting it if they release a major update.
Kind of surprising, really, seeing as Barebones Software is a well-respected mac developer – BBEdit is highly regarded and widely used by coders, and Yojimbo is a sweet app. I guess they don’t view the mobile app as a real priority.