Vincent Danen recommends the program EagleFiler for keeping your digital life in order on the Mac. See his tips for using it.
Digital pack rats know the value of a good organizing system. On the Mac, I have looked at a number of solutions in the past, but was always turned off by how they handled the data -- usually stuffing it into a proprietary database system or otherwise organizing it in a way that made it impossible to access without that particular application. Your data may not be held hostage with export utilities, but if you want to organize files in a way that is logical in an application and accessible via the Finder or Terminal, there is one program that is tough to beat.
EagleFiler is a great way to file all of your digital "stuff". You can create multiple libraries with it, so you can keep stuff for work in one library, writing stuff in one library, and other random tidbits in another. Or use one giant library for everything. The nice thing with EagleFiler is that how you organize it in the EagleFiler library is how it gets organized on the file system. So what you see in EagleFiler is what you see in the Finder.
So why use EagleFiler in the first place? There are numerous reasons. It features a live search that is faster than Spotlight. When Spotlight is searching every file on the system for your search terms, EagleFiler is just looking for files in the current folder or within the library -- you determine the scope by what you have targeted in the library. It has built-in data integrity and verification so that you can ensure that no files stored in the library go missing or are damaged. EagleFiler allows you to add tags and notes to files; by clicking the Inspect icon on the toolbar or hitting the OPTION+CMD+I key shortcut, you can edit a files tags, notes, and label (EagleFiler uses and retains standard Finder labels).
EagleFiler Inspect view
If EagleFiler understands the type of file, or if there is a QuickLook plugin for it, you can view the contents of the file within the EagleFiler window. If it is a text or RTF file, you can edit it directly within EagleFiler without opening another text editor. Also, you can highlight certain parts of text and RTF files within EagleFiler.
Double-clicking on a file in EagleFiler will open the file in its default application; double-clicking an RTF file will open TextEdit, double-clicking a PDF will open Preview, an MP3 file would be opened in iTunes, and so on.
Another nice feature of EagleFiler is that you can use it to store old emails. You can drag in mbox files from email clients, or use the capture key to import selected mailboxes or email messages into EagleFiler. All emails are stored with full information: headers, attachments, labels, tags, status, and so forth. This is a great way to archive old mails -- get them out of your mail client and out of your face. They're still around if you need them and viewable in a familiar Mail-like interface. And if you double-click on an email message, with Apple Mail at least (and possibly other clients), the message will open in a Mail window, ready for you to reply to.
View archived mail messages in a mail window.
The capture key is useful as well. If I find a web page that I like, I bookmark it, but that's less than helpful if it's just something I want to reference later. I could add a TODO to OmniFocus easily to look at it later, but I could just as easily hit the capture key (F1 by default), and import it into EagleFiler. When importing web pages you can opt to store them as a PDF file or as a web archive; the latter is really useful because you can preview it in EagleFiler at a later date and still click on the links in the page and have them open in Safari.
The capture key works to import any file on your file system; use the hotkey and EagleFiler will copy the file to the library (you decide whether or not you want to delete it after import). Or assign a key combination to "capture with options" in the Preferences and be able to import to a particular folder in a specific library, label it, assign tags, and add notes all at once.
Finally, you can fully encrypt your library by creating an encrypted disk image in Disk Utility or using another application like Espionage. I like using Espionage because I can navigate to the encrypted folder, provide my passphrase, then double-click the .elflibrary file in the resulting encrypted folder to open the library. When you're done with it, close that EagleFiler window and eject the encrypted volume.
I am a complete and total pack rat, and I love how EagleFiler lets me organize all of my digital things, and I also appreciate how it allows me to access that data from anywhere, and from any application. EagleFiler is one of the applications that is constantly open on my desktop, and it's used all day long. I know my hard drive would be an utter disaster without it.
If only they made an EagleFiler for my office.