About Together

One of the common misconceptions about Together (and probably many apps of its ilk) is its purpose, which in Together’s case is to collect and find information in ways that may not be impossible otherwise, but are often awkward.

The biggest misconception is that Together is some kind of replacement for the Finder. It really isn’t and to use it that way will only lead to disappointment somewhere down the line. Nor is Together intended to be a particularly strong notetaker and its editing capabilities only exist so you can pare the gathered information down to its bare essentials.

I realize I may be to blame here for using the word “everything” in the standard blurb. When I say “Together lets you keep everything in one place”, the “everything” means “any kind of file or data that can be taken from its source”, which is almost, but not quite the same as “anything”, a term that could be misleading. It continues and clarifies: “Text, documents, images, movies, sounds, web pages and bookmarks can all be dragged to Together for safe keeping, tagged, previewed, collected together in different ways and found again instantly.”

I wanted the app for myself, funnily enough, while I was learning to become a Cocoa developer and researching app ideas. I was collecting things like code snippets, tips, bookmarks, tutorial movies and screenshots, but noticed how much of a chore it was to copy and paste, choose filenames and create folders for all these things, let alone find them again. Inspiration came from Apple’s own iApps and two other apps in the Classic Mac OS. As I explained on this blog back in 2005:

I’ve always missed the Scrapbook and Note Pad apps that came with Mac OS 9 and earlier. Fast to load, always available – perfect. At the time, they did exactly what I wanted them to do. You could drag and drop (or cut and paste) text, graphics, QuickTime movies, sounds, or anything really to the Scrapbook and it would store it away for you. The Scrapbook app was always available in the stripy Apple menu and when you needed something from it, you could just drag it back out again.

It was the same with Note Pad, which actually did look like a notepad and was so cool in the way you could turn the pages. It was just so handy for jotting down those little bits of text when you don’t want to create a new document, save it and have to find it again later. I never thought Stickies would be an adequate replacement – it’s just not the same.

Together is really my take on these apps, with a modern twist. I shy away from emphasizing terms such as “research” or “organize” because that’s not exactly what the app is about. Yes, Together can be used for research and it can be used to organize information, but it’s really all about collecting that information effortlessly and finding it again, which includes both searching and previewing the files.

Of course, you could finally search and preview most kinds of files in Leopard, but that raises another important point. When Together (then called Keep It Together, or KIT) 1.0 was first released in 2004, there was no Spotlight or Quick Look, yet the app offered as-you-type content searching, smart groups for files and you didn’t need to open most files to see previews of them.

Also, because Together has always kept the original files and folders on disk there is no fear of lock-in and it works perfectly well with all the technologies Apple has introduced since its launch, such as Spotlight, Quick Look and Time Machine.

While the ability to search and preview files has improved enormously in Mac OS X over the last few years, people still have needs that exceed the capabilities of the system. In particular, the friction in collecting information remains. This is Together’s real strength and purpose today. Drag anything (that can be dragged!) to Together, and it’s saved. You don’t need to choose a file format, name files or even specify a destination; Together creates standard-format files that can be opened directly in any number of other applications. Mac OS X has clippings, but they seem to remain a hangover from the Classic Mac OS and don’t work well with apps or the system.

And that’s it, really. Together fulfills a need to effortlessly collect and find information and should be viewed as complementary to the Finder and your apps, never as a replacement.

4 Responses to “About Together”

  1. jefferson Says:

    over the years since I switched from linux to OSX (summer of ’03), I’ve tried a number of PIM’s — voodoo pad, CP notebook, entourage, mori, yojimbo, journler, omni outliner, soho notebook, and together. in all of this time, I’ve found that I’ve been using together the longest. a lot of the reason for that is that it allowed me to do a few things:

    * stop duplicating my data across multiple applications — the fact that together flattens everything onto the filesystem allows me to treat it as a one stop shop. I don’t duplicate across a database (i.e. mori or yojimbo) and the filesystem. likewise, my data isn’t spread out in multiple places — it’s only in together, which also happens to be completely accessible (and extensible) via the finder. I love this flexibility.

    * I stopped looking for the one uber product that was both a superior organizer and a fantastic note taker at the same time. rather, I wound up just storing CP notebook documents inside together and am quite happy with the result. it’s really being able to use 2 best of breed products in a single, cohesive manner that has allowed me to stabilize on this one method of working/organizing for so long now.

    so, all in all, I’ve been really happy w/ together and continue to use it every day as my central organizing tool. If I were to more fully perfect my workflow, there are a few things I’d love to see:

    * that the shelf was accessible when together isn’t running
    * that the shelf’s quick note could be configured to write to a particular together folder
    * that CP notebook had a quick entry bezel similar to omnifocus or things
    * that either together or cp notebook had an iphone client — this would be particularly useful for managing tasks and a few key files/notes on both my mac and my iphone. this would allow me to stop using a third application like omnifocus.

    thanks so much for all of your efforts in developing and maintaining together!

  2. suavito Says:

    Together might not be intended to be a particularly strong notetaker but it is!

    If I ever drop it as a general information manager—not that I intend to—I am pretty sure that I will still keep it as a note book for my own scribblings.

    It’s the sum of all the tiny functions that make it indispensable for my workflow. There could be some more, yes, but I’ll keep these for just another nagging post in the feedback forum …

    Together is just a great piece of work and I hope you will keep up developing it for a long time!

  3. Garry Says:

    I want to back up what Jefferson said. I too would love to see the Together shelf run as a separate process that doesn’t quit when the application is quit (a little like Evernote’s helper)

  4. Simon Wolf Says:

    Really interesting read, especially because I’m looking at Together today after posting a comment on Twitter yesterday asking for suggestions about an application to allow me to consolidate my development information.

    One thing I’d like to see is that ability to associate items with Address Book entries so that it is then possible to find things relating to individuals as well as see details about the individual who created something. If, for example, I find a really good article via Twitter I’d like to be able to bookmark the article and relate it to the Twitter handle and, if I know it, the person’s real name, web site, etc.

    However, Together plus AppleScript may be exactly what I need.