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Why You Should be Using an Everything Bucket

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An everything bucket is an application that lets you throw a myriad of file formats into it. In there, those files can be catalogued and organized for search and reference. Everything buckets stand out from your built-in file system in their easiness to include new files, integration with other programs, and the perks each different alternative has on its own.

In this article we’ll explore the possibilities from using an everything bucket, how you can integrate it into your projects, take a peek at how the demands from bucket apps changed with the rise of mobile computing, and how Evernote and Microsoft OneNote stand out as the top competitors in the field.

Everything vs. Anything

Circa 2009, there was a lot of controversy regarding bucket apps as alternative file systems after an article by Alex Payne contested their use. Shawn Blanc nailed it, 8 months later, when he advocated these applications as anything buckets instead. Just because a bucket accepts most kind of files, doesn’t mean you should replace your file system and dump all your stuff into it. Its versatility empowers it to fill the gaps in your current work dynamic.

Most things have a place they belong to but what should you do with everything else
Most things have a place they belong to, but what should you do with everything else?

You throw your bookmarks on Delicious or Pinboard, you keep plain text notes on Simplenote, and your passwords and sensitive information on 1Password. Those services are designed to handle that sort of data and that’s why they excel at what they do. But there’s always a lacuna, as you still need a place to stash the Thanksgiving turkey recipe, snippets from your favorite web articles, receipts for your tax return, and more. If you share that kind of need, perhaps it is time to stop chasing specific applications for each purpose and embrace the everything bucket.

Here are a couple of great uses for your everything bucket:

  • Store all the articles you find interesting on the web to create your own, personal database — like your own private mini Google;
  • Clean up your office and your desktop, shove everything into your bucket app, catalog your stuff and instantly become an organized employee;
  • Create multimedia notes on your meetings, embedding audio notes and images to enrich your standard plain text notes;
  • Go paperless, scan all your documents and receipts, file them and you’ll never worry about losing an electricity bill again;
  • Keep a journal with your daily occurrences so, in the future, you can reflect on the moments you’ve been through.

The Web is the Common Ground

If you press CMD+S (or CTRL+S) in your browser window, you’ll be prompted to save a full copy of the displayed page as a web archive. But here’s the trick: both Finder and Explorer are cumbersome handling those files, while everything buckets are perfect to store them as they often have an online back-end to manage the synchronization to multiple platforms.

The Evernote WebClipper is the finest helper to grab content from the web and store in your everything bucket
The Evernote WebClipper is the finest helper to grab content from the web and store in your everything bucket.

The Evernote Web Clipper is the best example on the finesse these applications can offer. It is a browser extension available for all major browsers that allows you to select specific snippets from web pages, catalog them and store on Evernote without ever opening the main program. Things may never disappear on the web, but links do break and keeping content of interest safe guarantees it’ll be at hand when you need it.

We’re overwhelmed by an avalanche of content from the web these days and it increases every time you refresh your Twitter stream. Services such as Instapaper and Pocket are built to manage articles you want to read later, but they’re not designed for storage. Therefore, your everything bucket is the perfect place to keep the web articles you stumble upon that could be useful for one of the many projects you’re involved into. It’s the place you can build your own tiny web.

GTD and the everything bucket

If you love the concept of Getting Things Done, the productivity system coined by David Allen, you must be familiar with references, the non-actionable items with potentially useful information that might be needed for something later. Applications that promote GTD, such as Omnifocus, rarely support reference items related to your projects properly. That’s when your everything bucket shines with its large support of file formats.

But then, couldn’t you create a folder in your file system and stash everything there? Of course, but beyond the visualization of web data mentioned in the previous section, there’s a good reason why everything buckets are often called note-taking applications.

OneNote offers an infinite canvas to fit all keep all your ideas on the same page
OneNote offers an infinite canvas to fit all keep all your ideas on the same page.

When I think of note-taking, a notebook and a pen comes to mind — a linear action constrained by the sheet. But the current times demand interactivity and everything buckets allow the creation for multimedia notes, embedding several formats into a single file. Microsoft One Note takes it to the next level, offering a canvas on which you can create boxes anywhere, transforming note-taking into a process much closer to mind-mapping than its physical counterpart.

Mobile’s the Word

Your mobile device can do a lot, but it still lets you down at file management since your best native option is to send email attachments to yourself. You hear so much about Evernote and OneNote because they help overcome that deficiency. It’s also the reason why any everything bucket application without mobile apps have mostly already become a side note.

The world for everything buckets, with the recent entrance of Microsoft apps into Apple’s realm, became a stand off between OneNote and Evernote as they comply to the needs of the modern user, who wants a platform-agnostic service to synchronize the important bits of life regardless of their device.

What’s Your Bucket?

Looking at how these services thrive in the battlefield for the general user is no reason to limit yourself into picking one of them. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t care about mobile, but that you should care about yourself, not picking an application because of hype or perks you may or may not use.

On Evernote, you must be a fan of the aforementioned Web Clipper, and perhaps the Premium subscription which also scans images and flat PDFs for words (OCR), allowing them as search terms or selections later on. It can also suggest relations between your notes to improve research and has tools to annotate and present your documents, and works with more modern tags.

Evernote OneNote and Together Three great everything buckets and their mobile counterparts
Evernote. OneNote and Together. Three great everything buckets and their mobile counterparts.

The infinite canvas is certainly the most recognizable feature of OneNote, yet it is how each element within a page stands on its own, giving you granular control over your organization, that makes it unique. It then uses more traditional notebooks, sections, pages, and subpages to divide your work, again, as you might on paper. OneNote has tag support up to paragraph level, the best editing environment for note-taking in town and free collaborative options.

In the end, Evernote is closer to a database you can forget about as it remembers everything (pun intended), while OneNote is for those who constantly tweak and interact with the stored content. If you’re an academic on a Mac, there’s little to no reason why you shouldn’t be using the more advanced bucket app Devonthink with its outstanding tools to relate data. Also, if you’re on an Apple environment, Together just released its iOS counterpart and may fit your needs.

Embrace the Bucket

Before picking your favorite everything bucket application, you must plan on how it will fit your current workflow, as if you just dump stuff into it and don’t organize your files, it will soon became a mess where looking for a note becomes a struggle. If you wanted that, you wouldn’t be looking for an everything bucket.

If you give your everything bucket a raison d’être, organize your files within folders and tag them consistently, all your notes will be at your fingertips whenever you need them despite the software you choose.

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