Talking Tech Friday – Backpack

Welcome back to Talking Tech Friday! Today I’m going to review Backpack, an online organizer service created by 37signals, who are perhaps most well-known for Basecamp, which is a web-based group project management application.

What is it?

Backpack is an information organizing tool that allows you to create lists, writeboards, notes, and files all on the same web space. You can also arrange to have reminders sent to your email address or cell phone. They have service options ranging from free to $14/month. The different account options mostly vary in the number of pages you can create, how much file storage space you get, and whether or not the calendar is included. I’ve been using the free option for a couple of years now, and have found that it meets my needs sufficiently. Additionally, any pages you create can be shared with anyone you specifically invite. They just need to create their own accounts to access and edit your pages.

How does it work?

Once you’ve signed up for a free account, you can get started. Your initial options are to create a list, note, or writeboard.

Lists are easy: you just create a title, then add the items to your list. When you’ve finished, you just click “done” and you’re done! Lists are always editable, and it’s easy to add or delete items. Once you’ve checked off an item, it drops unobtrusively to the bottom of the list. You can also rearrange the order of lists on your page, and items in a list.

A note is just what it says: an easy way to make a note. Again, you create a title, then just plug in the text of your note. Once you’re done, click on “Add this note” and voila! A note! The default option is to add the date after your note title, so that automatically helps organize and place notes into context. I haven’t run into text limit on notes, so you can type a rather extensive bit of text for your page. Again, notes can be rearranged on your page by just clicking and dragging them around.

A writeboard is a more extensive document. You can link to it off of your page, but once you select it, you edit on its own screen. It shows up on your page as a document. You can edit it at any time, and it saves your most recent versions. If you’ve shared it with others, they can also edit the document, or make comments on it below (like blog comments). Writeboards use simple formatting conventions, so you can use it as a simple word processor.

For the free account, you can create up to 5 pages at a time. That number increases if you choose to pay for an account, and you get additional features such as being able to upload pictures and files, and use the calendar function.

You can make pages completely open to the public, or invite individuals via email to share a page with you. RSS feeds make it easy to track changes on shared pages, and you can email a page to yourself or export it in XML format to your computer if you’d like a copy.

37Signals has a pretty robust user forum for Backpack, so if you run into trouble or have questions, it’s a great resource to try. There is also an FAQ page.

As a final bit of fun, you can customize your color scheme in the settings – because customization is what Web 2.0 is about!

Possible uses

I use Backpack in particular to collaborate with colleagues on projects or presentations, and often use it to outline any presentation I might give. Here are some possible examples given by Backpack as well.

Some reviews of Backpack

Marketing Shift

CrunchBase

TechCrunch

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~ by Anali on January 11, 2008.

5 Responses to “Talking Tech Friday – Backpack”

  1. This is a great product for librarians. I’m a college librarian, and using it to organize my instruction sessions and generally keep track of the weird pile of emails, scribbled notes, and working drafts I end up with every semester. Forwarding emails to Backpack is the Best Feature Ever–that way all of my stuff can end up in the same place for easy reference.

  2. What a great idea, Chris! I’ve never used that feature, but it sounds like a great time saver. I’ll have to give it a try.

  3. […] technology interest group for the library professionals in Maricopa County, AZ, recently published a review/description of Backpack. Lists are easy: you just create a title, then add the items to your list. When […]

  4. […] January, I reviewed Backpack, an online organizer that I’d used in the past.  I do still us it, but not as often as I […]

  5. […] technology interest group for the library professionals in Maricopa County, AZ, recently published a review/description of Backpack. Lists are easy: you just create a title, then add the items to your list. When […]

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