Visual memory is an important skill that you don’t get to use very much when dealing with the Finder. Raskin tries to innovate the way in which one interacts with a Mac, offering the tools to visualize and organize the most frequently used files on a single, zoomable surface.
Like many others out there I’m sure, I keep my most important files on my Desktop: it comes handy, obviously, and I can always remember their exact location, no matter how cluttered it becomes.
Browsing your Mac using the Finder can take forever if you don’t do well memorizing names, and even if you use the Thumbnail view, sorting the same files over and over again to find what you need can get tiresome.
Raskin is an application that deals with this situation at a whole other level: it allows you to browse, preview and access the content of your Mac from one single window, keeping track of the content changes and relocations in real time, while giving you the possibility to arrange your files visually, by creating the so called Places.
To solve the space issue, Raskin is proposing a zoom and pan workflow that seems inspired by the iPhone or iPad controls. In the end, your desktop will look very much like a table where you know the exact location of each item, although for the uninformed eye it might look a mess.The Looks
The first time you open Raskin, it will scan your computer in order to determine which files are used frequently and add them to the main window. This process usually takes a while, depending on how much data is stored on your drive, and a new scan will take place at each launch in order to detect the modifications.
The Raskin main, and only window, presents three areas of interest: on the left you will see text and visual instructions on how to use the application (Raskin allows you to use the mouse, keyboard shortcuts and track pad gestures), followed by the list of installed applications including window thumbnails for the ones that are currently running, while the main area will contain the “Places” that are frequently visited (folders containing the most used files).
Placing your pointer on the bottom right corner will activate the control buttons for the main surface, but if the zooming buttons work as advertised, I do not recommend using the scroll bar: if the main area is not virtually bigger than the screen, the bar and arrows become inactive and you must look for alternative solutions.
I must admit that using the keyboard shortcuts and mouse combinations is a lot easier, while things get more interesting if you own a track pad: the gestures resemble the ones you use on your iPhone.The Works
Raskin is offering two types of actions designed to make your life easier: it allows you to arrange your files using Places but also gives you the possibility to open them or launch applications.
Although your computer is treating Raskin as just another application, when active, the main window is covering your entire screen, so the second part becomes quite useful: you do not have to use the Expose to access other windows and you can easily drag and drop files from Raskin to your projects.
The best part is that thanks to the zooming capability you can always view the content of a file (or at least its first page) even if you are dealing with text documents, although support is provided only for the most common ones (for example it will not show a thumbnail for an EPUB file).
Usually, Raskin provides various solutions for the same action and the built in Help is a comprehensive guide on how to effectively use the application, so I recommend reading the document before/while trying to find your way around. (for example, if you do not have a trackpad, dragging the surface around is possible only if you press the Space button)
When it comes to dealing with files and folders, Raskin is offering support for basic actions. You can easily create new folders, preview a file content, rename a file/folder within the application, you can move them around between Places/folders, keep them arranged manually or sorted by different criteria and so on.
Although this is not mentioned anywhere in the documentation, Raskin also provides support for copy and paste: select the file or folder, press the ALT key, and drag and drop the item at the desired location. You can also duplicate the file/folder using the contextual menu (the hotkey is Command+D, although it will not appear next to the menu entry), but I think that you will agree that this way one wastes time.
If you plan to use the Search on Google feature that becomes available via the contextual menu when the name of a file is selected, note that Raskin will use Safari to perform the search even if you have another web browser set by default, which might not seem important but makes you wonder what other details have been overseen.
Last, but not least, I have seen the Raskin crash window in more than one occasion, and I have received more than one error message on the top right notifications window: the error messages were related to some files that could not be moved around, although no explanation was available.The Good
Raskin takes a new approach to organizing your work and seems to be addressing people that are usually dealing with visual projects. From this point of view the application becomes very useful because you get to see the entire content of a folder at a glance and decide in no time what you need and where you want to put it.The Bad
Raskin will take a big chunk of your resources: during testing it was using between 300 Mb and 500 Mb of RAM, and sometimes peaked for a second or two to even 80% of the CPU, especially if given rush commands, which translated into a frozen interface for a limited period of time.
The test has been performed on a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac with 2GB RAM, so I honestly don’t think it should have these issues.
One thing that I personally find annoying is the fact that the working area can be zoomed in smaller than the screen size. I do not understand why: I think it would be more logical to stop and autofocus when it reaches the screen size, or at least to offer this possibility.The Truth
Raskin is great if you like visualizing things and its concept its quite innovative. Still, using only Raskin can prove to be a bit complicated at times: for example if you zoom in to a certain location and you want to add a certain file to a project already opened in an application, I find using Command+Tab a lot easier that using the Raskin interface.
On the other hand, Raskin was quite helpful when I needed to clean up some folders and move files between different locations. The best part is that Raskin comes with a 30 days trial period which I believe that is more than enough time to find out for yourself if it is the answer to your problems or not.Here are some snapshots of the application in action: