Do you need a database to collect and manage information and content snippets or is a notes app that uses a database and is entirely based on Markdown perhaps better? Or do you perhaps need something that doesn’t use a database at all? Reinvented Software seems to think the latter and offers a solution that fits the description: Keep It, an app that lets you collect anything and everything and organises those things in Finder folders.
We used to call apps like Keep It “Personal Information Managers” or PIMs for short, but then came iOS and we started calling “applications” apps and PIMs became “note apps” (Bear app) or “content managers” (DEVONthink Pro). Keep It is a note app with a strong content management component. It’s not as powerful — and complex — as DEVONthink, which can be used as a full-blown research system, but offers way more powerful management features than Bear.
Keep It has a few unique features to begin with. It has a Compact Mode that reduces Keep It’s main window to a single-column format that can be used alongside other apps or in Split View. It doesn’t use a database at all; instead, it manages your content by simply putting them in — invisible — folders and offers the ability to make these folders visible so you can access them directly. This approach also allows you to dump stuff straight into the Keep It folder by setting a few preferences and have the app manage those files for you. And you can change the location where content is stored, including moving all of it to iCloud or Dropbox, Box, Sync, or any other macOS compatible cloud service, I would imagine.
Also unique is that, when you use iCloud, Keep It will store everything on iCloud as well as locally on your Mac. It will use iCloud to sync files with your other devices — as Bear does.
Except for these unique features, Keep It has some features that its developer doesn’t shout about. For example, every item can be stored with AES 256-bit encryption; these are stored as ZIP files. Another example: Keep It can save web pages as links, Web Archive or PDF (paginated or not) and does a better job than both Bear — which converts them to markdown documents that never render one-on-one for obvious reasons — and DEVONthink — which saves them as a Web Archive or PDF but internally renders the PDF at a fixed size and sometimes messes up the design of the webpage or doesn’t convert the CSS at all. So far, I’ve yet encounter a page that Keep It does not accurately convert into a PDF that is rendered internally the way Preview does — resizable and all.
Managing content, however, is what you buy Keep It for and it does a wonderful job. You can add files by dragging them to the Keep It icon in the Dock, to the Compact window or to a list in its sidebar, by adding a document or image/audio/videoclip with the Share extension from within another app, with a bookmarklet from within a web browser, by directly dropping the file into Keep It’s folder (if you set it up to allow that), from a scanner, and iPad or an iPhone, with the Services menu, and into a default list/bundle and with default tags.
Keep It’s management functionality includes presets such as “Recents”, “Favorites” and “Deleted Items” and allows you to create Folders, Bundles, Saved Searches and Labels. In contrast, Bear, for example, only lets you organise items in lists that are defined by a tag that you need to add to the item itself. In terms of management, Keep It’s management functionality id closer to DEVONthink’s although the latter also offers more structured and deeper features for categorising and cross-referencing items.
Keep It’s Folders are top-level organisation containers with Bundles a second type of container that can be arranged into folders. Items in Bundles can be replicated, i.e. you can have them appear in different Bundles without actually duplicating the items themselves — you can replicate them. You can give each item a colourful label. Labels are not identical to tags, because you can tag each item as well and filter on tags.
Finally, you can search for anything — Keep It can search the contents of most files, as it performs text recognition on PDFs and images, both standalone and when attached to notes, rich text documents and mail messages. You can also save these searches as item filters that appear in the Sidebar.
Items can be linked together across bundles and folders by copying an item’s link and pasting it into the item you want to link from. Clicking the link will then open the item in its own Keep It window and give you the opportunity to open it in an editing app. And here I found one thing that I think is not as efficient as it could be, because, as it turns out, the link to an item in another bundle or folder won’t enable you to instantly be taken there. You can open the item in its Finder-associated application, but not see where the item is stored in Keep It. To get that as well, you’ll need to go back and copy a second link to the folder or bundle where the item has been stored.
What’s the verdict?
Is Keep It a good content management solution? You bet it is. It offers enough power for anyone, from students to journalists to researchers and anyone else who likes to keep informational stuff organised and ready-to-act-upon in and from one app. The functionality to get items in the app is exemplary, the organisation features and those to find it back are powerful. The only thing that’s been implemented in a bit of a less efficient way is cross-referencing.
Is it better than DEVONthink Pro? I think DEVONthink Pro targets an audience that needs more cross-referencing power and more analysis — as in “Concordance” and such — of the items in the “database”. Keep It’s target audience is broader and the app is less convoluted than DEVONthink.
Is it better than Bear? It’s different, that’s for sure. Bear offers markdown note taking and item collection. It does that very well, but it doesn’t offer much in terms of in-depth organisation and the conversion of non-markdown items sometimes leaves much desired.
Keep It offers a powerful content manager for the rest of us. A licence can be yours for $49.99.