I'm another mostly happy Yojimbo user who would be even happier with nested folders. Well, that and being able to sync my notes to my iPhone -- hopefully that will come soon enough.

I admit that I have very little experience using tags. I have made a few forays with one program or another, but eventually I always seem to find that I hardly ever end up using the tags that I've made. So maybe I'm just missing something. But I also know that in over five years of using various note-organization programs very heavily, I have wanted to keep a note within two different categories exactly once. So I'm also not feeling much motivation to break out of the hierarchical model for organizing my notes.

Someone recently invited us to describe a problem that needed to be solved rather than the solution we wanted somebody to design. So here's mine.

I too use the GTD method, tailored to my particular needs. And I also take and make lots and lots of notes when I'm working on a project. In a meeting or when I'm planning, I often have six or seven or eight notes open at once and switch back and forth among them -- this is the sort of thing that I find Yojimbo terrific for. The ease of doing that, the .Mac syncking, and the lack of SOHO Notes's bugginess (I really want to love that software, but it has eaten my homework more than once and I feel awkward trusting it with anything really important now) are the reasons I'm using Yojimbo instead of one of the several other note-organizing programs I own (many of which are otherwise perfectly fine).

I have:
-- one folder for all my GTD lists -- active projects, projects I'm committed to but which are on hold, possible projects (what Allen calls the "someday/maybe" list), and my to-do or "next action" lists -- a general "inbox" folder for dropping quick notes to myself into, that I will process later -- several more specific inbox-like folders for things like links to webpages to look at, stuff I need to read, shopping lists: some of the commoner destinations for new notes to myself, basically, to save myself one step in the processing process -- one folder for each active project, plus one folder for "small projects" which are projects that don't need more than one note page each -- a "general reference" folder, which probably contains more than half my total notes; it's the equivalent of my file cabinet and I keep it simple, just an A to Z list (of course I try to title things in way that makes sense to me, but I can generally find what I'm looking for by keyword searching) -- a few more specific reference folders for categories that I refer to often enough that it's useful to have them up on top

It's important and useful to me to be able to bring up all my notes for an active project quickly, so putting each one in a folder seems handiest to me. I could, I suppose, use the project name as a tag on each of my project notes, but then I'd have to search on the name of the tag instead of opening the folder, and that seems like a little more trouble to me. Plus I might slowed down by a mindburp causing me to forget the exact name of the tag I'm searching for. Plus the worry about the possibility of inadvertently using different tags on notes from the same project ("July: Workshops" on one note and "Workshops: July" on another). And, you know, it's just handy to have that list of project folders there to run my eye down.

The problem that nested folders would solve for me is that I want to keep my notes for completed projects handy, too, because I do refer to them now and then. A lot of the projects are annual or quarterly or otherwise regular things, and either I'm doing them again so I will want to review all my notes on what I did the last time or times, or somebody else is doing them and I want to share my old notes with him or her. But I don't want these old project notes to get in the way of my active projects, either; I just want them available.

What I'm currently doing is prefixing the name of each completed project folder with an omega (control-Z), which is the symbol I use in my file naming for something completed or that for whatever reason I want to send to the bottom of the list where it's out of the way. The result, of course, is that I now have a very long list of folders, the bottom three-quarters or so of which are completed projects that I'm not likely to look at very often. It would be nice to be able to drag them all into a superfolder called "Completed projects".

I have tried exporting old project notes as text files, storing them in subfolders in my Documents folder, and deleting them from Yojimbo. But that's an unsatisfying solution -- I just have to reimport them if I find I want to have them handy on a similar project later. And the whole point of this sort of software is to be able to file things away where you can get at them again and browse through them again very quickly, right? So it seems silly and unsatisfying to me not to be keeping all my old notes in Yojimbo too.

I have tried adding tags (using the year, month, and project name) to old project notes, and then organize and search for them that way, but it seems like more trouble to add all those tags and then search on the tag than it is to just keep one project's notes together in a folder and then open that folder. And having all my old project notes in a jumble in one folder seems awkward. I could prefix all my note titles with the name of the project so that they'd sort within the folder, but again that seems like way more work than being able to use nested folders would be.

Heck, I don't even need nested folders, plural. Just one folder I could put the subfolders for completed projects into. Just one!

Is there an easier way of using tags that would duplicate the effect of having all my notes for an old project together in a folder where I could find them again? At this point my list of folders has gotten so long that I'm thinking about going back to the plan of tagging them with the name of the project, but as I said, that seems like a lot of repetitive typing in order to avoid putting one folder in another, so maybe there's an easier way I'm not seeing.

Another idea I'm messing around with is adding the name of the project as a tag to each note and then replacing all my folders with tag collections. Then I could delete the tag collection when the project is complete but still retrieve the set of notes by recreating the tag collection. But again, seems like a lot of typing of tags to accomplish exactly the same result that would be, it seems to me, more simply accomplished by putting all the inactive folders into one super- folder, and that would also let me just open up the folder and run my eyes down a list of all my completed projects for which I have notes. Or is there a way of doing this with tags that I don't know about?

If there's some technical reason why nested folders would interfere with, I don't know, .Mac syncking or something, then I can accept that. But it it's just a design choice, well, it's your software and you get to do what you like with it, but I'm not sure I see the point. It's not like hierarchical organization is unintuitive nor necessarily any more complicated than tags. What I'm talking about seems simpler to me than a system where every note gets a dozen tags. But maybe I just haven't wrapped my mind around tags enough yet and someone can give me a suggestion toward an elegant, intuitive, and hopefully not too typing-heavy method of keeping my sets of notes for completed projects organized and handy.

I like Yojimbo a lot, but I have to say that if an equally good program comes along that also offers both .Mac syncking AND nested folders, I'm gonna be tempted.

Scott Marley

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