Back in the middle of last year, a clever little service called doo went into beta on OS X and Windows 8, which was itself only a consumer preview at that point. The service allowed users to import all the documents they had in various cloud storage pockets ––DropBox, Google Drive and email accounts — and bring them together in one place, where they could be automatically scanned, tagged and categorized.
Now doo is coming out of beta on OS X today and, over the next few weeks, on Android, then iPhone, then iPad (a refreshed Windows 8 app will follow in the next couple of months). And, while the end result is similar to that in the beta, it’s quite a different beast under the hood.
Why? As CEO Frank Thelen told me, the future may be all about semantic tagging, but for now people still love their folders:
“The beta period was a very tough time for us. We learned that people are not willing to put their documents into a library like iTunes. We had to change the product in a way that people can keep their existing folder structures, and we’re just a smart overlay. Basically we had to change the whole architecture.”
So, while the beta version involved wholesale importation of documents, the new overlay approach involves just pointing doo to existing folders and letting it do its semantic thing, namely optical character recognition, smart auto-tagging of people, sources and places, and categorization — doo can recognize and classify 70 different types of document, from contracts to tickets. In the beta, if you opened a document it would open in doo; now it will open in the service it’s stored in, such as DropBox.
Essentially, doo has morphed from a well-organized document repository into a cross-service search engine for consumer and small-business cloud storage. That in no way diminishes what it does — it’s super-valuable to have a tool that can return useful data when asked to, for example, find all invoices stored in the last 30 days. Additionally, Thelen said, improvements to doo’s syncing capabilities mean it can always detect when a file is stored multiple times across different services, and always serve up the most recent iteration.
You can also scan documents straight into doo, or even photograph them in via smartphone. But, for now at least, the main value for most people will be in its management of existing documents across DropBox and so on. It’s like a smarter alternative to Found (which was in any case acquired by YouSendIt last month).
By the way, for those of you who want to run doo on a Windows 7 PC, you may have a wait in store for you. While it will come at some point, Thelen said, the doo team hasn’t even started working on it yet.