Nifty Box News

Sunday, August 09, 2009

OpenMeta Exporter

I've just released the new OpenMeta exporter for Nifty Box. This is a stand-alone tool for exporting file-tags from Nifty Box to OpenMeta.

OpenMeta is an open tagging format initially created by ironic software and now a couple of applications support OpenMeta.

How to use the OpenMeta Exporter: Unzip the application, start it and follow the instructions. After the completion of the export every OpenMeta-aware application should be able to access the file-tags from Nifty Box.

download link

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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Future of Nifty Box

Today I am releasing an update for Nifty Box. It introduces an enhanced mechanism to semi-automatically relocate lost file links. Usually Nifty Box will have no problems accessing files using Apple's alias technology, but this is true only if the files stay on the same hard-drive. If you move them to another hard-drive Nifty Box might need some help to correctly find the files at their new location. With version 1.3 a new assistant as well as a new library view ("Lost Links") have been included. You will find more information about this in Nifty Box's help documentation.

Some time has passed since version 1.2 and I have to admit that the development process of Nifty Box has been rather slow. This is because I was very busy doing freelance IT consulting. Slowly I became kind of detached from Nifty Box and lost the passion to keep on working on it as a side project. In the last couple of months I thoroughly pondered what my real interests are and made a decision to start a career in the space industry. If you look at the old screenshots on the Nifty Box homepage you might have guessed that I had this fascination all along.

Beginning with July 1st I am starting a new job and because of that I will stop the further development of Nifty Box.

What does this mean?

First of all, this new version (1.3) is a free release and I will stop selling Nifty Box. From now on Nifty Box will be freeware.

Of course there will be bug-fix releases if needed, but I am not planning to implement new features for Nifty Box.

The old contact channels will be kept open for you: you can either use the contact form or simply use the email address given on the contact page.

Transition: What to do with your data?

Needless to say, Nifty Box will continue working: there is no expiration date built in. But in case you want to use another tagging application in the future there are several ways you could extract the tagging data from Nifty Box and use it in the other tagging application:

  1. Spotlight Comments
    This is perhaps the easiest way to extract tags from Nifty Box. Just set "Export tags to Spotlight" in the preferences and all tags will be written to the Finder's Spotlight Comment field. Find out if the target application needs a special tag prefix (like e.g. "@") and set the tag prefix accordingly.

  2. AppleScript
    You can very easily transfer the tags for all Nifty Box items using AppleScript (if the target application does support AppleScript too). Please find information about Nifty Box's AppleScript interface here.

  3. XML Export
    Nifty Box offers an export of the complete tagging database in XML format. You can access this feature via "File > Export Database…". The format of the resulting XML file is explained in the Nifty Box help file.

  4. OpenMeta (unsupported)
    OpenMeta is a new tagging standard proposed by Ironic Software. There are quite a couple of applications that support OpenMeta. Currently Nifty Box does not support OpenMeta and I am not planning to implement a complete interface for it. So OpenMeta will not be officially supported in Nifty Box. That's the bad news.

    The good news is, that I am working on a simple stand-alone extract utility. It will help you to move Nifty Box tagging data to OpenMeta. Once this utility is finished it will be released via this blog (so please subscribe to the feed in case you not already have!).

    [edit 2009-08-10: I have completed the OpenMeta exporter. Please see details in this blog posting.]


So at this point I want to like to say a big "Thank You!" to all the customers and users of Nifty Box! I hope that Nifty Box indeed does help you to organise your stuff and you keep on having fun using the application.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spotlight Importer

Many people asked for an easy way to automatically import files into Nifty Box by using their Spotlight comments. I have created a small tool that will do just that:

First you choose a folder to import from (the original files wont be moved. Only aliases will be added to Nifty Box that will link to them). Here you can specify if subfolders will be imported too.

As a second step you can specify a tag prefix ("&" or "@") or leave it blank ("none"). If a tag prefix is specified, only tags will be imported having this prefix.

After clicking "Start Import" the importer will scan the Spotlight comments of all files in the given folder (and its subfolders if specified). If it finds relevant tags (taking into account the optional tag prefix) the tool will import the files into Nifty Box and set the tags in Nifty Box accordingly.

During the operation log messages are written to the text window at the bottom of the importer.

download Nifty Box Spotlight Importer now
(Note: This tool only works on Leopard. )

Programmer's note:

The importer is a cocoa application. But the cocoa "application" is just a wrapper for a python script that itself is just a wrapper for a couple of applescript functions. I've chosen to do it in such a rather odd way, because I had to use applescript as it can talk to Nifty Box and the Finder.

But applescript is rather a mess to deal with [1]. So for all the infrastructure I've used python. (I know, I could have taken the "appscript" module from python and get rid of all the applescript stuff, but that would have been just half the fun...)

If you like, take a look at the python source file. It contains a very, very basic python-to-applescript value converter (for strings and lists).

Included is a small replacement for the split() method of the string class, which can handle quotation marks.

If you have for example a string like:
    a = 'aa "bb cc"'
The standard split function would yield:
    a.split() -> ['aa', '"bb', 'cc"']
The function words() parses the quoted string as a single entity:
    words(a) -> ['aa', 'bb cc']

The module is released as open source under the BSD license, so feel free to copy, rip apart, whatever.

[1] As Joshua Hart tweeted: "AppleScript is easy to read but difficult to write. I call it the Anti-Perl." This sums up my experiences pretty well.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bug-Fix 1.2.1

There has been a nasty bug in version 1.2 that would sometimes cause Nifty Box on Leopard to use 100% CPU time after closing a window, but leaving Nifty Box running. This has been due to a bug in a NSObject category I implemented for dealing with delayed messages (I've written about this here and gave a brief explanation for those interested in Objective-C).
For all those not interested in the details: The bug has been fixed and using the new version is recommended.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Nifty Box 1.2

Nifty Box version 1.2 is ready for download!

This release adds AppleScript support to Nifty Box. Now you can access your Nifty Box tagging database through AppleScript or tag new items automatically. You can find some examples here.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

AppleScript for Nifty Box

There is a new beta version of Nifty Box available for testing.

This version introduces AppleScript support for Nifty Box. Now you can tag files and web bookmarks automatically via AppleScript and much more. Just take a quick look at brief tour of the Nifty Box AppleScript interface!

If you are interested in testing the new beta version: download the beta from here.

Please bear in mind that this version is beta quality
So please make a backup copy of your Nifty Box database located in ~/Library/Application Support/Nifty Box/NiftyBoxDB.sqlite before running the beta version.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to use the contact page.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Switching Hoster

In the next days I will be switching the hoster for

Update Nov. 8: Now the migration is finished. Everthing seems to be running alright.


Friday, October 26, 2007

New Nifty Box version for Leopard

Today is the day of the Leopard.

I made some small fixes so that Nifty Box plays well with the new Mac OS X release. There are no new features in this release (sorry for that), only one small added choice in the "View Options" for triggering what to display in the item table tool tips.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lost Mail

I am very sorry, but it looks like I lost messages sent through the web contact formular. If you've sent some inquiry using the web formular and did not receive a response it's because of that. I am very, very sorry for that. Now everything should be fixed again.

In the meantime I did move to a new flat in Düsseldorf, Germany. Now I will have to set up everything and start working again on Nifty Box, especially making NB ready for Leopard. More about that later...


Monday, July 02, 2007

Killing bugs...

Yesterday I released a new bug fix for Nifty Box 1.1.2. Details can be found here. A big thanks to all who reported bugs and helped with the beta testing for this release!

Currently I am not making as much progress with NB 1.2 as I wish. This is mainly due to a new consulting job I've been working on since April, which takes up most of my time. Additionally I am looking for a new flat, so things are a bit chaotic right now. I hope that I will be able to work more constantly on NB 1.2 soon.

The feature set for 1.2 has not been decided yet, but I think the two most important features will be Spotlight import and AppleScript support. Spotlight import will help you to more-or-less automatically import new files into NB if they were tagged via the Spotlight comment field. This way you can import files, tagged by other tagging application as long as they also use the Spotlight comment field.

Making NB AppleScript-able is something I've always wanted to do, but I somehow did not find the time for it. Now I am going to do my homework and make NB a good mac citizen. This way you can use NB for an even better organization of your documents.

The 1.2 release is planned for autumn this year. I know, I've been quite lazy updating this blog for some time. In the future I will write more frequently and let you know how the development of NB 1.2 is getting on.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Nifty Box update

Today I released I small update for Nifty Box, now version 1.1.1.

Nothing much has changed: You now can choose the "&" symbol as a prefix in the Spotlight comments, which should be more convient when using the Spotlight quick search (at least in Tiger).

As a second addition you are now free to choose the side for the tag index drawer: left or right (adjustable in "View options").


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nifty Box 1.1 is here

Finally Nifty Box 1.1 is ready for download.

There are some couple of new things, most of all tag clouds and Spotlight export.

As you might notice I've also changed the design of the homepage. I hope you like it.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tag Clouds everywhere (Nifty Box 1.1)

I am proud to announce, that finally Nifty Box 1.1 is ready and will be released next week (if all goes to plan). Version 1.1 will not only feature Spotlight export, but it will also include tag clouds and a hierarchical tag organisation.

One reason I wrote Nifty Box was, that I thought a hierarchical file structure, where every file has to be put into a tree-like folder/directory path, should be a thing of the past. Tags could be a good way to "put" a file into more than one category. But a pure flat tag organization might throw away useful information about the relationship between the tags/categories. So now NB 1.1 will feature tag folders: you put the tags into a hierarchical tree (if you want to), but not the files. So you can construct a tree like "Science -> Space -> Mars", where "Science" and "Space" are folders and "Mars" is the actual tag. If you then select for example "Science" Nifty Box will show you all items, that have a tag from the "Science" tree. More or less this works like folders and playlists in iTunes.

But this is just organization, now the visualization: Everyone who uses tags knows that after some time the number of tags grows quite fast and browsing them in a list can be quite confusing. Therefore some wise people have created the so called tag clouds, which were one ingredient of web 2.0 right from the beginning. Now - to help you managing your tags - Nifty Box will also feature tag clouds in the tag tree. This is how it will look like:

But if you are confused by all these clouds and don't like modern things, you can still use the traditional list view for the tags:

I still have to do some final adjustments, but I hope Nifty Box 1.1 will be ready by the end of next week.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sorry for the delay...

I know, I am really behind schedule for the 1.1 release of Nifty Box. The two main new features took much more time than I thought, but I think most of 1.1 will be ready in the next days for the beta testers. After that I only have to update my web-site (the current design really sucks) and adjust the help file.

I am looking forward to releasing 1.1 later in February, because I think this release will be a huge step forward. In the next days I will write a bit more about the new tag organization feature of Nifty Box 1.1.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Maybe you've already heard about the latest Mac software promotion MacSanta organised by Rogue Amoeba. This is a great idea and I am happy to join the crowd with Nifty Box.

Purchase Nifty Box with a 20% discount through December 25: just enter the promotion code "MACSANTA" in the purchase process.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

New feature for 1.1: Spotlight export

The last couple of weeks I've working on the export of tags and comments to Spotlight. This has been much more complicated than I expected. Nifty Box now writes the tags or comments to the Spotlight Comment field in the Finder's "Get Info..." window (for file items). This is a bit tricky.

First of all only the Finder can edit this field, which means one has to use AppleScript or AppleEvents. This is ok, there exists some source code from Apple (MoreFinderEvents) to do this. But during the testing sometimes strange things happened: for long comments written to this field it seems, that the Finder looses information about all the comments and icon positions in the folder of the changed item. After some experimenting I found, that the Spotlight Finder comment is written to the hidden .DS_Store file in the folder of the specific file. The .DS_Store contains all specific Finder information (like icon position and Spotlight comments) of all the files in the folder. But this information is somehow coded in blocks, which means that there is a maximum length set implicitly for the Spotlight comments. If you try to save a longer comment, the .DS_Store gets corrupted. By trial-and-error I concluded, that the combined length of the comment plus the length of the filename must not be greater than 1012 UTF-16 characters. Nifty Box will deal with this. For web bookmarks I dont use the Spotlight comment field, but provide an own Spotlight importer, which is much more convenient.

The way the Spotlight finder comments are used by Nifty Box is as follows: first all tags are written into the field, whereby these can be prefixed by a special character like "|" or "&". If you choose to use such a prefix, the Spotlight search can be narrowed down only to the Nifty Box items. An example: if you like to search in Spotlight for items tagged with "Apple" you would get a zillion hits if you just type in "Apple" in the search field, because - as you might guess - the word "Apple" can be found quite a lot on the mac. But if you only want to view the Nifty Box items, tagged with "Apple", you can define just a tag prefix like "|" and search in Spotlight for "|Apple" which should only give you the Nifty Box items.

After the tags you can choose to export your notes too. At the end a marker "_nybx_" is inserted into the comment field. After this marker the original comment from the Spotlight comment field is preserved. If the complete string (Nifty Box additions plus original comment) gets too long for the .DS_Store file, the Nifty Box additions will be shortened leaving the original comment complete.

Just to give you an impression, here is the new preferences tab for the Spotlight Export settings:

This will export a Spotlight Finder comment like this:

And here is an example Spotlight search for the tag "Mars": (please note the prefix "|")

In the screenshot you can also see the tagged web bookmarks at the top, which are provided by an Spotlight importer and not via the Finder's Spotlight comment field.

Using the Finder's Spotlight comment field for the file items also gives you information directly in the Finder if a file is tagged by Nifty Box: you can activate the "Comments" table column in the Finder window, which will show you the tag information for all files in a given folder:

So this export functionality is now implemented and in beta test. I am now working on the second new feature for version 1.1. I hope I will finish the development in December such that the new version can be released at the beginning of the new year.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Just a small bug fix release

This (1.0.1) is just a small bug fix release. Nothing new has been introduced. The bugs have not been severe: a couple of annoyances in the main menu, some problems with icon display in the item table, and strange behaviour with the toolbar.
Now I can focus on new features for 1.1. One thing I will definitely do is an export of the Nifty Box tags to the Spotlight comment field. This should make smart Finder folders even smarter. What other things will go into 1.1 I have not decided yet. I'll keep you informed on this blog.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Nifty Box 1.0

Ok, this is 1.0.
It was hard to stay away from implementing new features and just to work on the payment and licensing stuff. I have some nice ideas for improvement of Nifty Box but these will all go into version 1.1 (at least some of them), which should be ready in December, I think.

That's all for now.
Have fun with NB 1.0!


Friday, October 20, 2006

Preparing 1.0

I've finished most of the stuff for the first commercial release of Nifty Box right now. If all goes to plan it will be released by the end of next week. Although I said that I wont change the design I made some slight changes (rounded rects!) that should make the look of NB nicer - at least I think so.

For the registration stuff I included Lucas Newman's nice AquaticPrime framework and the auto update Sparkle from Andy Matuschak. Thanks!

All this was quite simple and fun. But right now I am reluctant to start the worst part of the job: updating the help file! I've always been a bad writer. Especially if you do not write in your native language it is quite a slow process.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

The last beta

Today I released version 0.999 of Nifty Box. I hope this will be the last beta version and that I can ship the first commercial 1.0 version in October.

This whole process has taken much longer than I thought. More than half of September I've been working on improving the old import window with nice animations and stuff. But in the end I threw it all away, because an import window makes things only more complicated than necessary. I put the whole import functionality into the main window, which makes much more sense now.

If you are experimenting with the design of an application it's a lot of trial and error. In the end you look at your product and say: "Man, I could have coded that in a couple of weeks - not months!", because all these wrong ways and bad ideas in the design process cost much more time than the pure coding. But that's common knowledge for everyone being creative in one way or the other.

That said, I will stick to the current design until version 1.0. So for the first commercial release I will only do slight changes (if at all) and bug fixes. Version 0.999 is now pretty much, what v 1.0 will be. In the next weeks I will be quite busy setting up the payment process and license mechanism.

So, that's it. Please try out the last beta version and have fun!


Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Version of Nifty Box

Nifty Box is slowly approaching 1.0...

As the expiry date of the 0.9 version is near, I released a new version 0.99, that will work until 1st of October. The only new thing is the change of the UI theme: leaving the pre-Leopard Finder look for a more iTunes-like skin. I've written about that here.

I am currently working hard on some features for the 1.0 version of Nifty Box, but they are not ready for release yet. The handling of the tags in the detail view will become much better and it should be easier to tag items using the dock icon.

At the moment I am planning to release version 1.0 some time in September, but that could change.

Have fun with the new version of NB!


Sunday, August 13, 2006

New Design

Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco is over. I have not attented and so I could only get the information, that has been made available to the general public. Judging from the keynote I think Leopard could be great: "time machine" can solve some issues I am facing all the time. It is not a simple "backup" utility, but a backup utility and version control system combined. All that with nice animation magic!

Unfortunately not much has been said about the future of Spotlight nor of the Finder. I was very curious to see the UI design of the new Finder, because I want Nifty Box to have basically the same look & feel as the Finder. The sad thing is, that the current Finder is not loved by many Mac users, especially the metal skin. As much as I used the current Finder as a blueprint for the UI design of Nifty Box I always wanted to get rid of the metal look as soon as possible.

For the first commercial release of Nifty Box I will now implement a design which is based on iTunes. This is one thing I have been working on the last couple of days and it is not yet finished, but I like to post a screenshot of how it looks like right now:

Dropping the metal skin and the wide borders makes the look more "light". In addition I also used a smaller font, so I can show the same amount of information by using less space without making the window too crowded. I hope you like the new design.

(The iTunes window was done by using the nice PolishedWindow code from Matt Gemmel. Thanks!)


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ágætis byrjun

Now after a couple of months of (sometimes) hard work I am going live with Nifty Box Public Beta 0.9.

During this time I often changed the design of the app completely (maybe I will write more about this in another post). Nifty Box surely has some potential for future improvements, but I hope right now it is "An All Right Start".