OneManOffice: Backpack

The next couple of OneManOffice posts are going to describe products from a great company, 37signals.  If you want to know more about their philosophy for building simple, useful, elegant web-based applications, check out their book, Getting Real. 

Backpack is an online organizational tool, a place to keep your notes, lists, ideas, events, photos, files — basically, any bits of information that you would want to keep track of.  You can create separate pages based on whatever categories you feel are useful, and then fill those pages with your notes, lists, photos, etc. (Full disclosure: If you sign up using the link I provided, I’ll get discounts to my own Backpack account.) 

Here are some pictures that might help make more sense. 

Backpack is based around pages.  You create these pages based on whatever categories you want.  They are listed in a sidebar, generally in alphabetical order, but you can “cheat” on that order by adding numbers or blank spaces to the front of a page name. 

Once you’ve made a page, you can add your content – text notes, lists, photos, even dividers so that you can further organize your life. Here’s the top of my home page, where you can see the different items you can add.  As you can also see, Backpack includes a calendar feature (which can read Google calendars), a reminders function that will email you one-time or repeating reminders, and integration with 37signals’ Writeboard, an online document creator. 

Top of a Backpack Page

Then, you just start adding!  Here’s a page that I create to help me keep track of books that I want to read. 

Reading Page from Backpack

(iBackpack is a little snippet of code so that I can use Backpack on my iPhone – cool, eh?) 

What makes Backpack so great, as opposed to say, oh, any of the other organizational tools out there? 

  • It’s free.  Actually it’s free for your first 5 pages, but that’s very useful in and of itself. That’s how I got started – created a free account and set up a few pages.  I used the free account for months before I upgraded.  And the upgrades are not expensive.  The lowest level upgrade is $7 per month. (All of 37signals’ products are based on monthly subscription rates.) 
  • It’s easy. It’s very intuitive, and there’s really nothing to learn.  There are certainly some tricks that you can pick up from the user forums, but you can start using Backpack out of the gate without any kind of learning curve. 

Is there anything else you need to know other than it’s free and easy to use? There is one more cool feature that will make it very useful to anyone who has to share information with colleagues in other offices.  Recently, Backpack added a multi-user feature, so that it can act like an intranet for files, notes, or other things you need to share.  You can also make Backpack pages public, making it a very easy way to create simple webpages.  Here’s a public copy of my reading list, so that you can see exactly how behind I am. 


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