Tracking the (random) flow

Ok, so I am hereby soliciting a real world/practitioners opinions here, not theories… no ‘i heard this was kinda good…’ or ‘i read this on a blog somewhere as being applicable…’
I want to know what works (or doesnt) for you… ie what software (OSX) do you use to track your ideas? From spurious/random ideas when you are inspired… through to regimented ‘tick off tasks’ type tracking on complex projects….

I’ve tried a few different apps over the last year & so far none satisfy but thus far Voodoo is winning! Maybe only because it is the most recent. Its a self fulfilling prophecy but the desire to find something better stems from a dis-satisfaction with what has been tried before…

So first I tried OSX’s built in ‘Stickies’ which is fine for what it is, but as projects get more complex using multi-multi-multi-stickies ends up in a cluttered mess, no matter how translucent I make them all… So theres a prerequisite from the outset; it needs to be modal eg i’m in sound design (general) mode, but then I am in project-specific sound design mode… but then I am in general music mode, then specific music project mode, but then back out to a web based project etc etc… Ideally I want something that will stash ideas as fast as I can generate them, but I need to be able to tag them to projects & multiple contexts…. But then re-organise them in a fairly painless intuitive way ie I dont want to ever spend time in a Microsoft Project type environment – in fact Microsoft-anything environment…

Before Voodoo I tried xPad – the ‘ultimate’ notepad.. xPad is fine (& free, god bless) but as your document list gets longer & you start wasting time re-ordering it using alphanumeric characters, you realise you have outgrown it….. my xPad virtual document drawer starts to resemble my real document drawer = messy!

then I progressed to Yojimbo which never quite caught on with me…. not sure why but I suspect its got something to do with ideas coming faster than how I (later) need to be able to find/tag/sort them…. (please convince me otherwise – do I need to do some tutorials?)

I also tried adapting a few writing apps, such as Scrivener which is great for what it is, but it IS context oriented ie great for writers, less so for free multi-genre/medium dabblers…

& then I ended up with Voodoo and I do enjoy naming files ‘tims music voodoo’ etc but I’m not sure a wiki is the best model for what I have to manage…. Although havign spent zero time with wikis of any kind (& zero ambition to…) I’m not sure my instincts can be trusted… Film projects involve very well defined (but constantly changing) schedules with multiple deadlines & all the while supervising multiple elements/people…. But then music projects starts off loose as hell, just a collection of random ideas but then slowly becomes more focused…

I suspect I am looking for something that is as loose as a random stack of A4 paper (the ultimate comparison) but meanwhile as focused as a very good calendar/scheduler (eg Now
UpToDate) crossed with the very best meta data tagged multi dimensional documents….

Is meta data the answer to everything? And if so, what program actually manages it ‘properly’ regardless of the media?

What do you use?

Until the great (somewhat boring) 2kX platform wars die out, PC users will just have to speak figuratively… but hey i still value your opinion, even if the ads that ‘helped’ convince you to buy a PC were posted on a Mac, heh heh…. but whatever, sentience is where you find it…

5 thoughts on “Tracking the (random) flow

  1. Evan Williams

    Hi TIm,

    Have you looked at OmniFocus? I find it great for collecting ideas etc, which become projects, which then need to be broken down into specific actions to get them completed. You can add notes to every task, and you can tick things off as done as you go.

    Also, you can assign a context to each task (based on GTD model) so that when you are in a particular mode of working you can work through a list of all the tasks in that same mode.

    It’s not free, but I’ve found it to be worth every cent.

    Here’s the link:

  2. tim

    Thanks Evan, thats a great recomendation I had never heard of! And it syncs to iPhone (which i dont have but I do have an iPod Touch) – will give it a try & report back…

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