I was chatting with someone in the comments section of one of my blog posts and we realised tha we’re both looking for the same kind of software we haven’t found yet. One that, in my words at least, fulfil the following: to be able to store stuff in a way that is
– easy to input
– easy to organise
– easy to access
– easy to retrieve
– easy to search
– easy to view
– easy to order in different ways
– easy to visualize
– easy to export
There are outliners, mind mappers, search programs and database programs, but none of them quite does all this the way we’d like. So we thought we’d start a Google Group and try to see if we could either
a) hone the requirement. What is it, exactly, we’re looking for, and are other people looking for it too?
b) find the perfect software that does all this?
c) define what we’re looking for so well that maybe someone else comes along and develops it for us?
Anyway, if any of you are interested, please do join us at personalknowldgebase. The discussion could be an interesting one. I’d particularly love to hear from people who are developing software that they feel already does this. As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of stuff like PersonalBrain, Topicscape, MindManager, outliners like MyInfo and more Wiki-based stuff like TiddlyWiki and ConnectedText, but without wanting to offend any of you, I don’t think that any so far represent the holy grail of a program that captures what you want it to capture and gives it back to you in the way, and ways, you want it. But maybe that could form the start of the discussion.
Anyway, hope you’ll join us in this discussion. And, if this discussion already exists outside a very program-specific forum, I’d love to hear of that too.
Technorati tags: software
One of my favorite and most used programs, the MyInfo outliner, is now out in a new version that wraps in tagging, fast searching and other tweaks that put it ahead of the opposition. If you use outliners, check it out, and if you don’t, you might want to consider it. (Outliners are simple free-text databases, organised in a familiar tree format. Great for storing more or less anything you want to keep in one place.)
MyInfo is developed by Milenix, a small software company in Bulgaria. It sells for $50. I’ve been playing with this version, 3.5, and it’s impressive. The tagging is simple but well thought through — a classic example of how tagging can be wrapped into standalone applications to improve organising and finding stuff. Search now works across as many files as you have open, so you can find stuff quickly and efficiently. Gripes? There have been some bugs but Petko, the guy behind it, has been pretty quick to fix them.
Here’s a tip for a piece of software I love, but which I know is not exactly mainstream. It’s an outliner called MyInfo, and it’s a great example of how versatile outliners can be. However, files can get corrupted, and, despite a good backup mechanism, it’s not impossible both the backup and the main file is rendered irretrievable. This is what happened to me, and despite the best efforts of the software’s inventor, Petko Georgiev, things looked hopeless. But actually there is something you can do if your MyInfo file (MIO) and the back up (MIB) won’t open:
- Open the directory or folder in which you keep the MyInfo file (using a program like ExplorerPlus which lets you preview the contents of the file helps here);
- Look for the most recent TMP file that containts RVF files (these should appear in ExplorerPlus’ preview window as a directory tree). Many of the TMP files may appear to be a decent size (i.e. not empty) but in fact contain no usable data. So this will only work if the TMP file contains those RVF files.
- Rename the file with an MIO extension.
- Open the file. Your MyInfo file should now be restored.
Expanding on their brick by brick, basics for free, pay for what you need approach, the guys at 37 Signals are now offering an Affiliate Program where users can earn free services:
The Basecamp Affiliate Program allows you to earn credits that are applied towards your Basecamp account. These credits reduce your subscriptions fees and allow you to earn free service. It’s your reward for helping us spread the word about Basecamp. EVERYONE who has a Basecamp account is eligible! When someone uses your affiliate code/link to sign up for a new account, you’ll receive a credit on your account after they’ve paid for their first month.
It’s not particularly new in itself, but for products like Basecamp and Backpack it makes a lot of sense. The basic features of these products — some of which are hived off as separate tools, like Writeboard and Ta-da List — are free but users who like the tools will quickly find they want the paid product. Now they can by corralling others into coughing up.
The guys at 37 Signals have just announced New Features for Basecamp 2, phase I:
Today we roll out the first phase of “Basecamp 2”
Basecamp 2 is our complete overhaul of Basecamp. We’re speeding it up, making it more reliable, adding new features (and pruning some that are barely used), improving the user interface (and making it much faster in spots), and more. All of Basecamp 2 will be rolled into the Basecamp you already use so there’s no need to go anywhere else, download anything new, or change your behavior. It’s a natural and gradual transition.
We’re tackling this re-write one section at a time. The first section we tackled was the fundamental people/company set-up and project access, along with some other enhancements related to these features.
There’s some interesting stuff in here that I’m going to try get my brain around.
(Last updated: Oct 1, 2008)
A directory of outliners, or programs that organise data in a tree-like format. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but a great way to organise data quickly in one place.
All are for Windows unless otherwise stated. This is just a beginning; I’m sure to have missed some, so please let me know. (Thanks Petko of MyInfo for the extra names. I think we’re nearing comprehensive…)
Some assorted resources on outliners:
I suspect not eveyone shares my preoccupation with outliners, or tree outliners, whatever one calls them. Still, it hasn’t stopped me drawing up a list of those that I’ve come across in my travels, in the hope that some of you might experiment with them. Any more suggestions would be welcome. I find them invaluable for saving large chunks of stuff where I can find them again quickly and without too much kerfuffle.
Here’s another one: General Knowledge Base, version 2.0 of which was launched today by Baltsoft, from Lithuania’s Vilnius. What is particularly intriguing about this is that the software supports quite a few languages, including Malay: Just select the language you want from the menu in the upper part of the main window. It costs $30.
I haven’t explored the software any further, but I’ve noticed that there are some key features that any decent outliner needs to work well.
- Simple: Folk use these things because they’re fast and intuitive;
- Adding text and notes, and editing them, should involve as few steps as possible. No fancy pop-up windows and forms to fill out;
- Formatting: Give them the standard formatting tools — nothing less;
- Drag and Drop: Nowadays we expect to be able to move stuff from one application to another using drag n drop. Not having it is a real black mark in an outliner (you know who you are);
- Export and import: The easier you make it to move databases in and out of your program, the happier and more comfortable your customers will feel.