TagSpaces — The Independent User’s No Cloud, Local File Navigator and Data Manager

TagSpaces (or TS) is a new, cross-platform tool for organizing, editing and tagging information. It is compatible with Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iPhone, Firefox and Chrome. Users operate with local files and folders on different platforms through a single friendly interface which allows them to view, edit, and add tags to their information.

The main argument that comes to mind is that users can already do this by using the file managers of their own operational systems. Yes, of course they can, but imagine different operational systems, various platforms, personal computers, laptops, smart phones and other portable devices…all belonging to the same person, and all of them with their own complicated file structure. This is exactly where TS comes to help. It provides access to local drives from a common user interface. It also helps organize the information on different platforms and devices, using the same logic everywhere.

The need for tagging information on local drives is what inspired TS’ appearance in the first place. Many additional features have been included, of course, with the new releases of this open-source project.

TagSpaces managing photos

TagSpaces is an alternative to digital note organizers, such as Evernote and Onenote. It enables you to edit and create files (in text, markdown and rich text format) directly into the application. It is also suitable for web-clipping by taking screenshots or saving parts of web pages for further use. By using TS’ Chrome extension or the Firefox addon, users can open any web page online and save it to a local as one file for later viewing offline. This local file contains all the texts, pictures and formatting of the earlier accessed web page, allowing its classification (by tagging), as well as its organization in a file structure. Within this function, TS aims directly at the audiences of earlier “Read It Later” services, such as Pocket for example.

The Chrome web clipper in action

The combination of listed above features turns TagSpaces into a service with no real alternative in the open source world. Some of its users like to joke that they have an “anti-product”, because it offers a genuine, independent, no-cloud service. TS goes out of the mainstream in so many ways:

First, there are no registered users here. Users can benefit from its features without losing control over their information. They don’t have to share anything with anybody.

Second, there is no vendor locking, which means that users can stop using TagSpaces at any time and their local files will remain. Similar products (if any) do not provide user-friendly extraction of data. Actually, TS doesn’t use data bases for tagging and organizing purposes at all. What it does is to facilitate the use of local information on different platforms and / or devices, following the same logic everywhere — that of the end user, and not that of the producer.

Third, TS is compatible with services like Dropbox or Google Drive, if users decide to synchronize their files. No restrictions here, as well.

To sum it up, TS insists on user control and provides user independence. It leaves it all up to the end user. But how does he or she look like?

According to Ilian Sapundshiev, founder of the startup behind TagSpaces, it has been well-received by researchers (both students and teachers), by NGOs, pharmacists, lawyers and other specialists in a wide variety of professions. TS is especially cherished by the so called “privacy aware geeks” and “no-cloud activists” who appreciate the open source approach. It enables them to personally check the implementation and to further enhance the product.

Basically, any person who knows what is a file and folder can benefit from the ever growing functions of the TS. If you only use your smart phone to upload selfies and other personal photos on services like Facebook and to hit the “Like” buttons, it is probably not for you. But, if you have a large tree of files and folders on every device that you own (smart phone, tablet, laptop, PC, to name a few), TS will save you the time and energy to organize the information on your local drives. It will spare you the process of renaming and classifying your file based data. It will simply tag your files and folders, using your own logic, to organize them in a file structure according to your own preferences. It will provide you with the same user-friendly interface everywhere, on all platforms.

TS’s built-in editing and file viewing feature (text editor, pdf and image viewers and so on) makes you less dependent on your currently installed software. The application has been translated into more than 20 different languages and there is NO required registration for using it. This is NOT another cloud service. Actually, you don’t even need an Internet connection to use it, except for the download.

Making the long story short, imagine having the modern interface and functionality of services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote locally, without sharing any personal information. Nevertheless, TagSpaces is compatible with different cloud services, if you decide to use them together. Let’s examine a case study:

Peter is a guy who uses Dropbox in his everyday work. He also uses Google Drive for personal reasons, as many of us do. He has a large collection of photos, which he prefers to backup on Microsoft’s cloud service OneDrive. Peter keeps all the files and folders containing personal and/or sensitive business information on his hard drive. He doesn’t want to share them, but he also doesn’t want to lose them. So, he regularly backs them up on his Network Access Storage or USB stick.

Peter uses his smart phone mainly for social media fun and for personal communication. It’s a dual SIM, so he uses it at work too. He also has a new tablet with all those travel photos and videos in it. After somebody stole his tablet in Paris last year, he now carefully backs up the information on Microsoft’s OneDrive. He also uses the tablet for road navigation while driving, for watching football games on it, and for playing video games. His laptop is his working station. It’s business only. He also has an old PC. He uses it mainly as a storage device.

All these different devices mean that Peter has to bother with different platforms on a daily basis. Every hard drive comes with a huge tree of files and folders, accompanied by a whole army of programs and applications. The information requires regular optimization, but he always leaves the work “for another day”. Sounds familiar, right?

Well, now Peter has a universal, user-friendly browser, editor and navigator of his files and folders. It’s called TagSpaces. It’s working on all the different platforms. It allows him to use the same interface everywhere. And it speaks his mother tongue. What is more important for Peter, though, is that he can easily organize and navigate the information on his local drives, following his own logic in the process. His files are compatible for synchronization, so he doesn’t have to give up using the cloud services that he is happy with. He doesn’t have to change anything. His everyday work and life remain the same. But, he has access to all his information through a single, user-friendly interface. He can edit/view many of the files without using additional software. He can put tags on the pieces of information and associate/organize them in a file structure. He can do this whenever and however he likes. TS is his navigator through his own, personal chaos. But it has become an organized chaos.

Peter can stop using TagSpaces at any time and he will not be “punished” for his decision. He will not lose any information at all. His files and folders will remain. He is an independent user now. This is what TagSpaces is all about…

So, where’s the catch, you might ask? TagSpaces doesn’t come free for iPhone and Android, but the price is reasonable and fairly affordable. Desktop versions are free. Some users may dislike the application for renaming their files, but this is necessary for their compatibility with other platforms.