Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That’s all, a little place for my stuff. That’s all I want, that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know?
I am a big fan of web apps of all sorts and am always looking for my holy grail solution – the one that will induce the organizational nirvana that I am searching for, the singular "place for my stuff."
Until the day I find that, I’ll be using Backpack
That may sound harsh but please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. What I mean is that Backpack is the best organizational tool available for me and only the elusive and improbable "perfect" organizational tool will replace it.
Backpack is where I keep my stuff.
Stuff of all sorts.
Business Stuff, Client Stuff, Marketing Stuff, Blog Stuff, Research Stuff, Personal Stuff, Music Stuff, Book Stuff, Shopping Stuff etc…
Each type of stuff gets a page.
Pages are at the core of everything that is Backpack. A new page is gloriously blank slate. Deceptively simple in appearance but with tremendous power hidden underneath just waiting to get tapped. A free account gives you 5 while very reasonably priced upgrades give 25, 100, up to 1000 (only paying accounts get calendar usage and file storage).
Add files, notes, lists, embedded google maps, photos and more to your pages. Dividers and textile formatting options let you keep things neat and tidy. Drag and drop to move items on and between pages (great for archiving).
You can create a page about anything, and for any purpose. I use them to track small projects like researching a client solution, an upcoming purchase or an article I am writing. I have lists of books to read, music to buy and stuff to blog about. There is a page of quotes. Some pages are permanent while others are used for planning an event and then discarded. You get the idea.
Pages can also be shared – either publically or by invite. I honestly haven’t used this functionality much other than a single page that my wife and I share so we can give each other blog ideas.
Getting Your Stuff To Your Pages
If a tool is too difficult to use and access, it won’t get used. What makes Backpack so indispensable to me is how easy it is to get the content on to my pages. Most items come from the web so the Firefox add-on Backpack Publish is a key component to my process and is absolutely essential. Highlight text in your browser and click the Backpack Publish button to post your item as a note, list or reminder. No copy and paste required, no need to even have your Backpack page open.
If you are an email junkie, each page has it’s own unique email address so you can send or forward a message to a page to add content. To keep things simple, I have an @unfiled page that I use as an inbox, only one address to add to my contact list. Once there, I can easily drag and drop it to another page.
Jott users can even Jott directly to a backpack page. I just started doing this and it is working flawlessly.
I want to discuss the lists in Backpack briefly. Lists are great and I use them all the time, but Backpack has never been a task management tool for me. It handles simple lists well but for heavy duty to-do management I much prefer and recommend something like Toodledo or Remember The Milk . Your mileage may vary.
Calendar – Any paid account has access to a calendar but I find it extremely limited, almost useless for my needs really. While it does a nice job of parsing natural language (lunch tomorrow 10am) the views are limited. I much prefer the agenda and full daily page view of Google Calendar.
Reminders – Send yourself alerts via email / SMS. Worked reliably when tested but I have no use for them really.
Writeboards – These are really great for document collaboration and versioning. I use them with clients frequently in Basecamp but I have little use for them here.
The problem with trying to describe a service like Backpack is that how I use it might not appeal to you or work for you. It has been an experience building the system that I use – many pages created, deleted and created again. Therein lies the beauty really. The openness of the platform gives each user the flexibility to create pages and a workflow that works best for them.
Give it a shot. Roll with the free version for a couple of weeks and see if there might be a fit for you.
Are you using Backpack for your organizational needs? How is it working for you? If not, what do you recommend?