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DaisyDisk Helps Keep Your Hard Drive Fresh

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Dec 17, 2013 5:00 AM PT

DaisyDisk is available from the Mac App Store for US$9.99.

DaisyDisk Helps Keep Your Hard Drive Fresh

(click to enlarge)

Since the dawn of personal computing, managing storage has been a persistent challenge. Certainly the pressure has eased up on the desktop with the proliferation of 1 TB hard drives, but for laptops and lightweight notebooks, the struggle continues.

One of the problems with grappling with all the data on a hard drive is transparency. Eyeballing thousands of file names in the Finder is both tiresome and inefficient. Moreover, it's a poor way to get the "big picture" on your storage situation.

Software Ambience thinks it has a better way to manage your personal storage. DaisyDisk 3.0.2 will hunt for storage sources on your Mac and network and present you with an interactive visual picture of the data on them. The map can give you the window you need to identify and remove junk from your data stores.

Hovering for Info

DaisyDisk's interactive map appears as a number of concentric circles on your screen. Portions of the circles are color-coded to identify a number of storage categories.

For example, when DaisyDisk scanned the hard drive on my MacBook Air, it found 22.8 GB used of 119.2 GB of available space on the notebook's solid state drive.

It displayed the used space in six categories: Users, Private, System, Library, Applications and Smaller Objects.

By hovering your cursor over a section of color, you can see additional detail about it. So when I hovered over the sliver of circle colored for Applications, DaisyDisk showed that 528.5 MB of 2.7 GB associated with applications was occupied by iWork '09 and the remaining 2.2 GB of space was settled by "smaller objects."

To drill down further into that information, you simply double click the sliver. That will display a new interactive map of the data it contains.

Numbers Don't Jibe

When you find a file you want to discard, you can drag its sliver to a target icon at the left corner of the DaisyDisk interface where it will sit until you decide to terminate it and reclaim the space.

That process can be like walking a tightrope without a net, because once a file is deleted, it's gone for good. If you kill a file that's critical to an application, you could find yourself in hot water when you try to use that app again.

Before you can see a map of a device or folder in DaisyDisk, you have to scan the location. You can do that via the Scan Folder button on the app's listing screen or by dragging to that screen what you want scanned from a Finder window or the desktop.

I scanned my Mac's solid state drive, folders on that drive -- including those for Web storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive, a network drive and even the shared folder on a PC on my network. The scans produced mixed results.

For instance, DaisyDisk showed my network drive with a capacity of 9,223.3 petabytes of data, though its capacity is a little less than a terabyte. It also showed me a capacity for the shared folder on the PC of 315.6 GB, while the capacity for the system's hard disk is 294 GB.

The Challenge Remains

For the most part, I found DaisyDisk conducted its scans relatively quickly. One place it faltered was on my network drive, where it took 20 minutes or so to scan the 157.6 GB of data on the 1 TB disk.

DaisyDisk does a great job of providing visibility into what's on your storage devices, but choosing what to ax on them may still be a challenge.

The program's developers offer a number of suggestions for identifying deletion prospects. Identifying large folders, they say, is good place to start. Old iOS backups -- located in /Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup -- are good targets, too, as well as the detritus of deleted apps usually found in /Library/Application Support.

As with all programs like DaisyDisk, you have to be careful, lest you delete something that could cause your system to act screwy.

Freeware Spotlight

The Journalist (just a note-taking app) is available from the Mac App Store for free.

The Journalist
(click to enlarge)

The Journalist doesn't have anything to do with journalism. It's about creating a journal from your photos.

To say the free app is spartan is an understatement. Its interface has two panels and a vertical toolbar.

What you type in the left-hand panel also appears in its neighbor on the right. However, when you mark up the text in the left pane with the Markdown language, created in 2004 by John Gruber with contributions from Aaron Swartz, it appears fully styled in the right pane.

For example, typing "***" in the left pane will appear as a rule line in the right one. When you drag an image into to the left pane, a link to the photo appears there and the image itself in the right pane.

In the app's the vertical toolbar, there's a tool for adding a new note and one for displaying a list of notes. A third tool is shown in screenshots of the software at the Mac App Store, but it didn't appear when I launched the program on my MacBook Air.

While I like the idea underlying The Journalist, its lack of sharing and export options make it too insular for my taste. You can't share notes from within the program nor can you create a document, like a PDF, for a note or series of notes.

In addition, the app exhibited some flaky behavior. For instance, after going from full screen to window mode, the icons on the toolbar disappeared.

Funny Realm, which makes The Journalist, is billing the app as "just a note-taking app." It's clearly more than just that, but not enough to give it the kind of utility expected from this category of app nowadays.

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and former special correspondent for Government Security News.

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