You’ve probably heard about Backpack already, and it’s very much worth checking out. I’ve been testing it for a few weeks now, and I wound up with a work pattern for it that seems worth documenting.
Backpack will send you the contents of any page as email, and will accept email to any page as a way of adding to it. The format of the email containing a page’s contents is exactly the same as the format it accepts to add to a page. In other words, email is a round-trip format for Backpack content: Backpack -> Email -> Backpack.
Since I use my Treo 650 as a laptop wherever I go, Backpack has become the equivalent of a source control system for my writing. Before I leave in the morning, I send myself the content of my pages. While I’m on the subway or waiting in a movie line, I edit the text and give it a new title (“CodeZoo 2.0 rev. 4″) and then send it right back to Backpack. At the end of the day I delete the stale versions.
This is a fantastic way to work. It doesn’t matter where I am, nor whether I have a network connection, nor what sort of device is nearby, nor what application set is installed on that device. If I can get a Web browser, I can edit; if I can get my email, I can edit. It’s like a Blackberry for my whole desktop.
I’d love it if I could send an email to Backpack requesting the content of a named page (that is, a “checkout”), and I’d love it if I could replace the contents of a given note or list with contents of an email (a “checkin”). I’d also prefer that the email address for a page be mnemonic (currently, the addresses are Flickr-style random words), though I recognize that would raise a security problem. But those are jimmies on the ice cream. The breakthrough is the ease with which this pattern has fit itself into my life. Congrats to 37signals on another great app.