Tag Archives: search programs

The Holy Grail of Software

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.

The New Windows And Organising Your Stuff

This month’s PCWorld gets hold of an early prototype of the next Windows, which, apart from the usual ‘interface enhancements’ illustrates what I think is going to be the most important change in how we store and retrieve files.

The magazine says that the new ‘Longhorn’ version Windows Explorer — the program which lists what files you have, and which folder there are in — “routinely displayed much more information about files and computer resources than it does in Windows XP”. There’s a panel in the program that “let users and/or applications associate search keywords, comments, and categories with files, data within files, or objects stored on other devices, computers, or networks.”

This basically means that, instead of lumping all your files in a specific directory, or folder, where they languish, you can give your files dynamic order depending on what keywords you assign them. Say you assign the keywords ‘home’ and ‘flubber’ to a file: you can then create ‘virtual folders’ using either, or both, those keywords which will turn up all files of whatever kind which contain those same keywords. This is called WinFS and in theory will allow you to find related resources regardless of their physical location or object type. If you’re interested, there’s more here on the Microsoft website.

I think this is a great innovation and one that is long overdue. The whole folder metaphor is tired and irrelevant to how we use data these days. However I have some worries: Given that most folk today still give their files less than helpful file names, and have yet to discover the joys of creating subfolders to give order to their hard drive, isn’t the ‘dynamic approach’ going to just make things messier? It will largely hinge, as far as I can see, on folk spending an extra few minutes entering keywords into each file’s properties box. Given we’re able to do that now in programs like Microsoft Word, but rarely actually do, what are the chances of that happening? Great in theory, I just worry about the implementation.

In the meantime, I use dtSearch to find stuff, and it works like a charm. It ain’t pretty but it’s sturdy and very configurable. Otherwise, check out X1, which is on the cusp of releasing a new version. Other good search programs: 80-20 Retriever and Enfish Find. Personally I couldn’t live without one of ’em.