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PackRat without the Backpack?

I’m getting a little tired of working around the holes and bugs in 37signals’ Backpack API. My app is dependent on it. They screw it up and I’m in trouble. Not a good thing. Lately, they have seemed to have dropped the ball. There are some holes in the API (can’t get divider titles, can’t get position information on existing page links, no thumbnail image URLs, no Writeboard URLs) that cause PackRat to have some rather annoying blemishes that I’m sure users aren’t happy with and cost me sales. Posting on their API forums doesn’t get a response.

I’m wondering what people think of a PackRat that works like it does now, but isn’t dependent on Backpack for its data. We start out by importing all of Backpack’s data into PackRat which we essentially already do. From then on you just use it on your desktop to organize your life and keep track of your information. I would be free to improve it without the constraints of the Backpack data model or a Web-based UI. Or is the ability to access your data from any web browser the main reason you use Backpack (and hence PackRat) and losing this ability would render PackRat unnecessary for you?

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There are 10 comments .

Jason Fried

Hey Rod. Sorry to hear you’re frustrated. If there’s a specific issue with the API please email support. The forums are there for customers to help one another — we don’t provide official support in the forums. But if you send us an email we’d be happy to look into the API suggestions/complaints you have. Thanks.

Rafael Bugajewski


I think that it really depends on a case by case basis. Many people use Backpack, but also PackRat because it’s faster on their primary machine and you don’t have to use the web interface. I primarily use OmniFocus for the my daily tasks and use PackRat with Backpack as a supplement. All tasks added to PackRat get synchronized with Backpack and I can see them online or in the store using my PDA / cell phone. Without this basic synchronization PackRat would get useless for me since it would be another task manager a la iGTD, OmniFocus etc.

But I think you could add some more features to PackRat so that it would compete with these applications. Many of the users use PackRat as their primary organization tool (I suppose, because mixing many applications like I do is not the convenient way). Enhanced functionality could improve the user experience. The only think you should provide is basic Backpack synchronization (e.g. for lists). This mix would leave your old users and attract many other people that wish more functionality integrated into PackRat without the need of (complete) synchronization.

I hope everything will be O.K. and you will get more satisfied users and money for a really good product which I love to use at an everyday basis.

And sorry for my bad language… I hope you can understand it and my comment can help you in someway.

Der Linzer

I don’t think that Packrat without synchronization makes that much sense. Without that feature, it’s a plain organizer and there are so many of them already available on OS X.

I also had to smile a little about Jason Fried’s comment above: I mailed support several time with questions and bug reports about Highrise and guess what – i didn’t get one single reply.

If Basecamps sucks so much, why don’t you take a look at Zoho Planner? They also offer an API and maybe it’s worth a look…

Mike M —

I tend to agree with Der Lenzer. It’s the integration with Backpack that makes Packrat unique.

Arash —

Well, I more or less agree with the other posters. However, I would also like to add the following, if only as food for thought:

1. I’d be perfectly happy (actually, even happier) to be able to just export my Packrat stuff to my own website. I mean, why not? Or even a .Mac site… I’m guessing the tricky part isn’t the export, but the synchronization back to Packrat if I make changes to my list, right?

2. A synching option with my iPhone would also be super. I know, iPhone this, iPhone that, but really, it would be great. You have a Treo synching client, after all.

3. What about integration with something like RapidWeaver? As a plug-in to allow you to build your own Packrat-ready site?

I’m definitely not a web developer, but I think these are darn good ideas, and you can have them for free 🙂

Nick —

Well, another option could be to update Packrat to get information from a Google account instead of a Backpack account?

There’s notes and calendar (inc reminders) available. But you could also incorporate bookmarks and the blogger into Packrat?

I’ve been using google for some time, and I don’t know what Backpack offers me over google. To use the calendar, you have to pay, whereas this is a free feature in google. Most of the other things also seem to be part of google.

Someone has already created a Mac program to access email (MailPlane) and it does a good job, and seems very popular. Maybe a Packrat Google version may be quite popular too?

Donovan Watts —

I can understand frustration. I bought PackRat only because it interfaces with Backpack. Please don’t turn it into something else, despite your frustrations.

WordPress SEO

My vote is for enhanced functionality.

Keep posting on the Backpack forums over at 37signals.

Don’t fall for the bluster of private mails only.

They’ve got forums. Let’s use them.

Forums are about the only game in town which keeps developers honest.

Developer with no forum = trouble.

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