Hook, your captain of file associations on the Mac

In Scrivener, you can cross-reference from one document within a project to another. That’s very useful for all kinds of publications, but those cross-references only exist within the Scrivener document, so you’re stuck at a level that you can’t apply this concept on task management or project workflows. Hook is a background app that enables this kind of cross-referencing for all types of workflow you can imagine.

Hook is a file association system for the Mac. Associating related files across files, folders and soon also different Macs on a network, allows for creating cross-references or notes in the margin of research, etc. Linking on the latest versions of macOS can be done by using the x-callback method, but that isn’t very comfortable and it’s also not system-wide. Hook’s system, however, is simple, efficient and user-friendly and while using it I couldn’t stop wondering why Apple has never integrated it this way across apps and file types.

Hook acts as a go-between, using a pop-up window to allow you link together documents created in different apps. Even if it’s not a document in the strictest sense — it could be an entry in a task manager, an email message or a database record as well — Hook will often be able to link the entry to a file you define.

Hook presents itself as a menu applet but has a global keyboard shortcut as well to launch its control panel. Starting from an existing document, Ulysses sheet, email message, iA writer file, or task entry in Things — or from any other document in the broadest sense of the word — the control panel lets you create a new document and link to it in any of about 15 predefined apps. It also allows you to copy a link — in HTML or Markdown notation — from an existing document. Once you’ve created a link or copied and pasted one into another app, you’ve established a link between them.

That link exists in the Hook universe with which I mean that, if you delete the linked-to document, the link will still be available in Hook. Next time, when you launch Hook’s panel, it will show you that link in the bottom section of the control panel and double-clicking it will launch the associated document, even if you’ve moved the file to another folder. If you’ve removed it from your system, opening the link will open the app you used to create the linked-to file (or entry) in the first place.

Dead links can still serve as an auditing trail but not much else and if you don’t need or want an auditing trail, Hook lets you remove them easily.

You can also have multiple files linked together and Hook will show all of them in its control panel. This is where Hook becomes a cross-referencing tool without the need for additional software and with the freedom to manage your files your way and not according to the vision a developer of a cross reference tool inevitably forces upon you.

The basics of Hook are easy enough to understand and use, but sometimes you’ll run into things that seem illogical. For example, linking from a document to an Apple Mail message was impossible on my system unless it’s been sent or received, despite the explanation on the support pages that seem to suggest an Apple Mail message should accept a link even if it’s still being edited.

On the whole, Hook is a godsend to those of us who tend to forget what they need to include or check when working on a file that has references to other information. And if you’re part of a team, Hook also has some limited sharing capabilities by using Dropbox as the location for Hook’s files and links.

A Hook licence costs $19.99 and includes one year of free updates. After that you can keep the software but if you want to update it further, you’ll have to pay the same again. I think you’ll want to.

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