For years I organized my life with the wonderful, now-orphaned and somewhat antiquated Windows outliner Ecco Pro. For me Ecco was versatile enough to function effectively as both a todo-list manager and a repository for random information, scattered ideas and research. It really could do it all.
I’ve always used both Macs and PCs but this year I’ve migrated my main workspace over to OS X. There were many compelling reasons to do this, but I’ve had to struggle with finding an Ecco replacement. (Yes, I could run it on my Mac in a Windows virtual machine, but it’s a bit kludgy, and it’s time for me to move away from this program that, despite the efforts of many devotees, doesn’t look like it will ever be fully modernized.)
So far, it’s looking to me like there is no one Mac application that can serve in both roles (todo list and information organizer). OmniOutliner is a pretty good all purpose outliner, and it has a companion, “Getting Things Done”-based todo list program called OmniFocus. Though I’ve made my peace with OmniOutliner, I have not fallen in love with OmniFocus. It follows the David Allen GTD approach a little too rigidly for me, it has various features I don’t need and it’s missing some that I do want (as far as I’ve been able to tell, for instance, it lacks the ability to make some item vanish until a certain date when it reappears–what I call the “out of my face” tool).
So I’ve begun exploring various combinations of other tools. Right now, it’s Evernote for research/information and Things for todo management. I’m also going to look into Tinderbox, Yojimbo and some other applications that look promising. I know the Mac ecosystem is full of great products that sometimes have only small followings, so if there’s one you’re especially enamored of, do let me know.
I’ve also been playing around with Thinklinkr, a new Web-based outliner. It has one huge plus: It’s got an absolutely top-notch browser interface (it’s the only browser-based outlining tool I’ve found that is as responsive and fast as Ecco on the desktop — bravo for that!). At the moment, though, it’s a somewhat rudimentary tool; it lacks various features one might want, and it looks like it’s being aimed at the (important but different) market for collaborative outlining rather than personal information management. But it’s definitely worth a look if you’re into outlining.