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226  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: June 13, 2006, 04:10:03 PM
Just noticed this today at Google Labs:

Google Notebook - Clip and collect information as you browse the web.

  • Clip useful information.
You can add clippings of text, images and links from web pages to your Google Notebook without ever leaving your browser window.

  • Organize your notes.
    You can create multiple notebooks, divide them into sections, and drag-and-drop your notes to stay organized.

  • Get access from anywhere.
You can access your Google Notebooks from any computer by using your Google Accounts login.

  • Publish your notebook.
You can share your Google Notebook with the world by making it public.

Seems like a lightweight solution compared to some of the apps discussed here, but an interesting idea anyway.

I've been trying TaoNotes but oy vey! The UI is definitely a big speed bump, but there are some other things about it that drive me right up the wall.

1. You can't get rid of the standard databases "todos" and "clips" or even rename them. The program keeps rebuilding them. There are just some weird gaps in file handling in general - creating & managing tabs is a bit difficult and inconsistent.

2. The balloon tips! Please make them stop! "I have saved my file again!" "An hour has gone by!" It's like having a 3-year-old hyped up on cola and candy bars living in my system tray. Looked and looked for an option to configure or just disable these, but no such luck.

3. In the list view, you can change some attributes directly by clicking on them (priority, flag, progress, label) but others just bring you to the editing form. For example, click on "context" and you're suddenly in the editing form - but you're not on the right tab to set the context! So just by looking at what comes up, you can't really see where the information you requested/wanted to enter is supposed to go.

Vadim, I can see you have a lot of creativity and good ideas. Tao Notes shows a lot of promise. But I fear you've thrown the baby out with the bathwater in your app's UI design. We're all used to certain conventions in the UI of an application. It's OK to break those expectations once in a while, if there's a definite benefit. But Tao Notes breaks so many of them, and in such unexpected ways, that it becomes inscrutable. Yes, it's faster to mouse over a part of the screen to close a window rather than clicking a small X box or a button, but it's also easier to do this accidentally and interrupt your workflow. And the first few times it happens, the user gets hit with a "what just happened?" experience where it looks like the data they were working on just vanished.

If you don't have the time to really document the app, perhaps you could just be a little more judicious in your default settings. Turn off as much of the "gee-whiz" as possible by default. Let your users get used to the basic features. Then, IF THEY WANT TO, they can track down and enable the more "out-there" kind of stuff.

BTW - I still can't quite figure out how or why you'd "execute" an item. embarassed

And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE add an option to disable those balloon tips!  cheesy

227  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: June 01, 2006, 09:41:46 AM
Hear, hear, nevf!

Pictures are definitely worth their weight, IMHO. Even more important though, is text formatting. I need to be able to bold and italicize key words and concepts, create bulleted or numbered lists, indent things like quotations, sometimes even color-code text. And don't get me started about the usefulness of tables. I'd have a VERY hard time organizing my thoughts without these tools, even if I could forego pictures. Plain text is never going to cut it for me. If it did, I'd use notepad and leave it at that.

I've been using OneNote as a trial, and I wound up setting up a basic 2-column layout on most of my note pages. In some cases I'd simply put the main list on the left and a secondary list or two on the right. Sometimes I'd have a list of things to do on the left, with my annotations and progress reminders for each list item called out on the right.

Unfortunately, my trial expired yesterday, and I found out that not only does the application switch to read-only mode (which I had been warned about and had expected) but it disables the ability to copy anything to the clipboard! Cry I knew I'd lose the ability to update my notebook once the trial expired, but I never expected MS would hold all my info hostage! No wonder everyone thinks they're so evil.
228  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: PDAs - any use? on: May 30, 2006, 04:49:38 PM
I've used a PDA for years. I've always used Windows-based handheld units - stylus only, no keyboard. They are great for jotting quick notes - shopping list, that great idea that hits you out of the blue - but not so great for any kind of extended text entry. It can be done, it just isn't fun. I wouldn't want to take meeting minutes on a PDA, for example, unless I had an external keyboard.

I have never bought a NEW organizer. My rationale was always that I didn't want to spend $500+ on something that would be garbage the first time I dropped it on the sidewalk. Buying 2nd-hand PDAs on eBay is definitely the way to go. The things depreciate like mad, so you can get great deals. This seems to be an item that people use once or twice, then put in their closet for a year or two before they decide to sell it. Also, the market has shrunk of late, with Palm and Treo merging and a bunch of manufacturers abandoning Windows Mobile/CE. So you get a better selection if you shop among all the units that were ever available, instead of just what's being made now. And there have been some interesting devices made over the years. Some options to google include:

CASIO Cassiopeia - This is the model I have always used, and it works fine. Despite its small internal memory, my old E-115 can play movies and MP3s from a compact flash card, although doing so whacks the battery life. The battery is just now starting to flag after about 2-3 years of service. I think it cost me $60. Bonus link: Play videos on any PDA with the Core Media Player (http://www.tcmp.org/)

Psion 5MX - If you prefer a keyboard, this has one of the best PDA keyboards ever made. It's a grayscale unit, and good ones are hard to come by and still rather expensive (relatively - about $150 - $200.) It's also a NON-MICROSOFT piece of tech, if that matters. I think this unit probably provided the best compromise between a laptop and a PDA. Fits in a coat pocket or belt pack, instant on, etc. but has a full suite of productivity apps as well as the PDA basics like datebook, voice recorder, etc. Not sure if it plays MP3s or not, though. Bonus link: Just the ones you'd want on eBay.

Vadem Clio - This was one of a small number of PDA's based on Windows CE that ran at full 640x480 resolution, offering another angle on the laptop/PDA compromise. (The Psion 7 also went this route.) It combined a touchscreen and keyboard in a "flip-over" design that let you use the unit as a laptop, a tablet PC, or something like a digital picture frame. Bonus link: Egregious Clio pictures.

And yes, the first thing you do is load it up with freeware. That's the fun part! One of my personal favorites for this is PDAGold: http://www.pdagold.com
229  Other Software / Developer's Corner / Re: open source flash as a game development platform on: May 30, 2006, 03:33:54 PM
Mouser, you rock so hard!  Thmbsup This is about the BEST link I've come across in recent memory. Thanks * 1000!
230  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: May 25, 2006, 04:57:42 PM
It's definitely non-trivial.  undecided

Hi, Urlwolf, welcome to the thread. Your comment about text notes bing all you need is the perfect illustration of how hard this problem is. What works for you would never work for me. I use OneNote and find its layout and drawing capabilities restrictive because it doesn't have full set of drawing tools the way Word does.

I think the idea of rolling a file-management system into the app is the bank safe that breaks the camel's back. Sure it's doable - but I think realistically the cost is too high. Better to stay focused on the core principles. My personal version of these would be:

  • Speed - The app must be highly usable for both mouse-centtric and keyboard-centric users. Extra keystrokes and mouse clicks must be all but eliminated. Common functions must be riduculously easy to access.
  • Flexibility - The app must be highly configurable, to the point where it can actually have different UIs for different users. This is the only way you are going to come up with something that will satisfy everyone form the "text only" users to the "lots of pictures and layout" users. Ideally, the app should make it possible to visualize information in ways that are not possible with existing tools or even UI metaphors. The idea of templates or canned designs must be part of this, though, so you don't have to assmble the app prior to using it. The UI should allow tweaking and refinement over time.
  • Interoperability - Nobody uses ONLY a note taking program, and the program shouldn't act as though it's alone in the world. Other apps should be able to access its metadata. It should play well with the OS. It should not require a proprietary API to get working with other tools.
  • Portability / shareability / synchronizability - If I use the app at home and at work, there should be some smart way to move my info around without creating headaches. If I want everyone in my office to run the app, users should be able to share data without a lot of headaches.

I think the last item, while desirable, is a pretty tough nut. We might want to wait a LONG while before adding it in (Version 4?) but the architecture of the app should be in place to support it from the beginning.

BTW - I'm all in favor of using old-fashoned concepts wherever possible. F'rinstance, I'd like to see a substantial set of command line parameters for the app, almost to the point of it being like its own API. This would solve a lot of problems. If you could pass the app a unique ID on the CL and have that note come up, you could easily make desktop shortcuts to individual notes, gaining a lot of file system functionality for very little cost. If the app could return detailed information based on CL queries (or via a scripting library) it would be that much easier to make it interoperable with existing tools.
231  Other Software / Developer's Corner / Re: MOANTS Database Design on: May 17, 2006, 12:18:16 PM
Sorry, I'd say I'm 100% right in this case, too. cheesy (Just kidding. Maybe only 93% right.)

You don't pour the foundation (or even set the concrete molds) before you've designed the structure. You're assuming a lot of things as given that I think are far from given.

A post in the other thread suggested using the file system as a data repository. The database needed in that scenario is worlds away from the one needed in the "store all notes in the database" scenario. I don't know that this could work, but if nothing else it shows that some of your "non-negotiables" may actually be "negotiables" at this early stage.

I still think DB req's are premature at this point, and specifying them too early runs the risk of imposing needless limits on the structure of the program. Or at least of spending time doing work that runs a high risk of being completely discarded. But it's your time, I guess. Personally, I don't think I'll be posting to this thread again - at least for a while.
232  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: OS GUIs & Just About Everything You Wanted To Know About Them on: May 17, 2006, 11:54:59 AM
I'd seen this site referenced on a GEOS-related e-mail ist I belong to.

Neat that some of these older GUIs are now being open-sourced (GEM.) I still remember being excited when BeOS was announced.  embarassed
233  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: May 17, 2006, 11:41:41 AM
Welcome, Spivey!

I too toyed with the idea of using the file system as the back end for the ultimate Note Taking software. It does have some excellent benefits, and addresses the interoperability issue neatly. I left it out of my previous posts because they were so durn long already, and because, in the applications where I have seen this kind of scheme implemented, it sucked really bad.

I have to believe that it is due to limitations of the operating system, not lack of smart programmers trying to make it work. Generally, they linked files in the file system with some kind of database (to overcome the limited information available from the file system, as Rover mentioned.) This presents problems with synchronization that are probably not trivial. I won't go into a lot of technical details, but there are issues how the app can track things like files being moved around, brought into or out of the system from outside (i.e. through Windows Explorer), files being changed while the program isn't running, etc. Not to say it isn't doable, but it's probably not as easy as it looks at first glance.

Apps such as you describe do exist. Eclipse is one. It's free and you may want to check it out. Here's a link to the article that first got me interested in it:

Eclipse is not ready for prime time, though. It's a developer's tool and a bit to wonky (IMHO) for general use.

234  Other Software / Developer's Corner / Re: MOANTS Database Design on: May 15, 2006, 05:22:12 PM
Hi Rover -

I think I'm with Mr. Franks on this one. You've defined database requirements - but we're not talking about building a database engine. We're talking about building note taking software. Program functionality comes first, starting with interaction design. Technical stuff follows on as appropriate. Why would you start working on plumbing before the blueprints are even drawn? (Note: "Because I'm a plumber!" is NOT really a good answer!  Wink )

235  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: video editing software on: May 12, 2006, 05:57:36 PM
I use Sony Video Studio (which was Screenblast, which was the lite version of Vegas video.) It cost me $90 but it's very capable and fully featured.

For someone looking for something free, and with the patience to figure out a bit of a weird interface, there's Zwei-stein from Thugs@bay, which is now in beta for V4. This is almost more of a video compositor than a straight editor, although you can certainly use it for editing. Very powerful and extremely cool - check out their videos on the site: http://www.zs4.net/
236  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: May 12, 2006, 05:31:25 PM
There yet? I don't know, do you have a shipping version ready?  Grin

There is precedent, of course, superboyac. (Does that mean one should never do something unprecedented?) Wink The UI idea isn't actually all that far from something like the Visual Studio.NET interface, where you can dock multiple panes in different parts of the application window. And I didn't know you were an EE, though I'm not too surprised. I just threw it out because of the reputation of engineers to be very focused, logical and orderly in their thinking. And performance artist I just chose as a kind of opposite: expansive, intuitive and nonlinear in theirs.

At its barest level, the Frankenote UI would be something like a blank canvas. But since that's too scary for a lot of folks, ideally you'd have the idea of templates incorporated into the product. When you created a new page, you'd be given a choice of which template to base it on, one of which would be the blank canvas. Others would be templates analogous to the some of the UIs of existing apps. So you could have an "outlook" template, a "one note" template, an "evernote" template, etc. Since they're just pre-defined layouts, they would be immediately usable but also immediately tweakable.

A "note" should be able to store any kind of content, almost like a Word document. I can see the need for a few basic note types: formatted text, bitmap graphic, vector graphic. There would probably be a few specialized sub-classes of these, too. Everything else is a view. The trick would be this: as soon as a note is called on to contain more than just formatted text, it silently and transparently changes itself into a view!

So you’re typing away, and you decide to paste in a picture. Behind the scenes, the text becomes its own note and the "note" you were working with becomes an aggregator view containing your original text note and your pasted picture. If you continue typing text under the picture, that text becomes (internally) a third text note displayed in the view, but stored separately behind the scenes. This is all invisible to the user. As far as they are concerned, the "note" consists of text-picture-text. They will never see it represented in any other form.

Inside a view, there can be notes, other views and links. Views need a killer memory as to how they are constructed. Part of a view is its query, or what database items it uses to build itself. Part of it is its formatting rules. Part of it is its nesting rules (what kind of view can I be inside? What kinds can be inside me?) And part of it is its collection of links.

There are two types of links: hard and soft. Hard links are created and maintained by the system. Soft links are user-configurable. Take the above example of a text-picture-text note. The links in that view are hard links. The user never knows that it is actually a view - to them it is just a single note and they work with it as such. But to the program, it's a view with hard links to the two text notes and the bitmap note. Another example of hard links is a table. The table is really just an aggregation of notes (each cell is a note) with hard links that keep them together in the table layout. When you paste Excel data into Frankenote, the program converts it into a native table view and embeds that view in your current note, just like it handled the picture.

Soft links are used by the user to "wire up" the UI. Suppose you start with a blank canvas. You add a tree view - which is a type of aggregator. Now you have a tree view inside a canvas view. The tree view has some default contents - lets say it shows a node for every note in the database (and it shows what the USER considers "notes" - pure notes and views that contain only hard links.) Those tree nodes are notes linked to the view by a soft link. The user could change the soft link and have the tree show only the notes that were created in the last week, or only the picture notes, or whatever. (The notes appear as tree nodes because a tree view's formatting rules specify that this is how it displays the notes it contains - it takes their "title" attribute, assigns an icon based on some criteria, and creates a hierarchy based on some other criteria.)

Now you want to be able to select a node in the tree and view it in the canvas. So at the top right corner of the tree view is a small icon that looks like an electrical plug. You drag this icon out and drop it onto the blank canvas. This creates a soft link and wires the two views together. Now when you select a node in the tree, the note is displayed in the canvas.

This is the simplest case, but it pretty much encapsulates the whole concept. This concept of views is powerful because it is recursive. There would have to be an arbitrary limit on the recursiveness though, or things could get really ugly.

I absolutely DON'T think a SQL back end would be the way to go. I'd say a free-form database engine along the lines of AskSam is a better choice. Take a look at this page if you're unfamiliar with askSam. Especially the part under "Why People have chosen AskSam." Trying to map a beast like this to a rigid field/key/index structure is asking for heartache.
237  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: May 11, 2006, 09:50:20 AM
One Note does the grab-and-tuck-away thing pretty well, too. You can paste in text from a website, and it will automatically include a hyperlink back to the site you grabbed it from. It also retains much of the formatting. Of course, this is all assuming you're using Internet Explorer. If you try it using Firefox, the text just comes out as:
 tongue tongue tongue tongue tongue tongue tongue tongue tongue tongue tongue
(kidding... sort of.)

I think your post makes a very important point. It is VERY subjective. On another board I frequent, there was a discussion about 3-D modelling software and how many different titles and ways of working there are. Someone commented that it was the most personalized kind of software - that there was no "works best for everyone" solution.

I think note taking of software has the same issue. If the software is supposed to model, at some level, the way you think, then there can't be a one-size-fits-all answer, because people think very differently. You wouldn't expect an electrical engineer and a performance artist to have the same thought processes or approach to their work.

So it seems to me that the "ultimate" note taking software either can't exist, or would have to be some kind of super-morphing application, with the user taking a hand in the construction (or selection) of the UI. Perhaps this would look like some kind of free-text database back-end coupled with a dead-simple GUI builder front end that shipped with a number of common GUI configurations out of the box. Maybe you'd start out with pages or tabs (a la KeyNote or OneNote) but you could choose a default UI for each one - the "tree on the left" UI, the "sticky notes" UI, the "scrolling column" UI, the "cloud of tags" (del.icio.us) UI, etc. Then you could tweak the templates, mix and match, or construct your own from scratch.

It would be a pretty major project. Programmatically, though, it shouldn't be impossible. Essentially, you are dealing with two different types of objects that interact with the database. Let's call them "views." You'd need "content" views which show individual database items, and "aggregator" views which show high-level groups of items. There would be a number of these - a tree view, a list view, a tags-only view, a "canvas" view (for those sticky notes), etc. Then you'd need the underlying structure to position and link the views in the application window.

Data interchange is the other bugbear of this project. Ideally, you would want Google Desktop to work with it, because no matter how good it is, you're always going to have some of your data stored elsewhere - in Word files, in presentations, in e-mail, etc. A closed search system would be less than optimal. It should play well with others.
238  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Anyone actually use rewriteable media? on: May 10, 2006, 12:53:28 PM
Carol said:
" Why do people feel the need to use CD-RW and DVD-RW as large floppies with the need to format them??? When I use DVD-RW (I don't bother with CD-RW these days at all - partly because of compataility issues with CD players) I just use it as a standard DVD-R disc."

Which is kind of my point, except for the reformatting part. If you are just using a CD-RW like a CD-R, why bother with it - why not just use CD-R? The ability to re-use disks by reformatting is a plus, but traditionally I want to be able to add to and delete from a removable disk as I go, like the floppys and zip disks I used to use with such ease. I've got a thumb drive now, and it works great, but size is an issue and it's pretty expensive on a per MB basis.

As for the "bleh" issue, from everything I've read on the subject, compatibility between computer DVD burners and consumer DVD players is still spotty at best. It depends on a number of factors, including the drive used to burn the disk, the media, the type of player, burn speed... there's no universal compatibility. Even with combinations that "should" work, sometimes it just doesn't work.

This is based on articles I've read, though. My actual DVD burning experience is pretty limited. But I just bought my first DVD burner a few weeks ago, so hopefully that'll be changing.
239  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: May 09, 2006, 04:44:15 PM
Wow, this thread is STILL going!

I've tried out a number of the apps I've seen mentioned here. When I first encountered this thread, I was using KeyNote. I liked it because it was free, and because it had a nice basic feature set, and because it was free. However, I didn't actually find myself using it that much.

I tried Surfulater and I did like the way it worked, loved its handling of web content, but I found creating original information with it a bit cumbersome. And then the trial ran out. I felt my ability to evaluate it was hampered a bit by not being able to create my own file - I always had to kind of work around the canned content that was in there. I guess that this is the trade-off with offering an unlimited-time trial version, though.

I've got Evernote installed now, but other than some initial futzing I haven't really been using it.

What I actually AM using is One Note. (Which is scary, 'cause when the trial runs out, it'll cost me more than the others.) OneNote has some serious shortcomings, and I have almost zero confidence that MS will continue to support and refine the app for very long. As always, unless it's Office, Windows or IE, you embrace an MS product at your peril. But I suppose we'll see.

OK, well, that's a fair amount of blathering, but it's background for the question I'm asking myself, which is WHY did OneNote win? What compelling feature does it have that makes it usable (for me) the way the others are not? I've come to the conclusion that it's not organizing or searching the information - ALL the programs can do this very well, even if not equally well or in the same way. No, it's PRESENTING the information where OneNote excels.

I'm a very visually-oriented person. While all the programs give me the ability to structure information STORAGE in a way that suits me, only OneNote gives me the ability to structure information PRESENTATION easily. Its interface is almost like a desktop publishing program - you can position multiple blocks of information on a page, whether they are text, tables (sort of) or pictures. Re-arranging things is easy and quick (although often frustrating, as the program often thinks it's smarter than I am and it's "guidance" actually hinders me while I'm working. Another common M$ flaw.  Roll Eyes)

I have about a dozen pages in my OneNote notebook, broken down by the projects I work on plus some general purpose categories such as Reference. The page I "live on" is the To-Do list page for the project I'm most involved in at work. On this page I have four different checklists (which are super-easy to do in OneNote) that I keep updated. As things are done, they get moved to another "completed" page in the same notebook. If I need to annotate an item, either with text or a quick image, I can add that right on the page and draw a line between the two, or juxtapose them visually. The important thing is, I've been able to create a single view that organizes several different categories of info. I don't have to hunt through a tree or even search - it's just there, all at once, in my face. I can print it off to take to meetings, or just to archive as a snapshot of what I'm working on.

Evernote's "single chronological column only" layout feels a bit like a straitjacket to me, even with the great filtering they offer. And with tree-based metaphors, the display of info is always modal - I might be able to quickly and easily find the four nodes that contain info I want, but then I can only look at those nodes one at a time. OneNote has some of the best features of "sticky notes" type organizers, but wraps them in a more consistent and manageable interface. And now looking back, I recall that this was one of the most appealing things about Info Select - the information was displayed in discrete chunks that you could arrange and re-arrange to your liking.

Ok, that's enough of a rant for now. But it occurs to me there's been little discussion about presentation in this thread. I know some people will see this as a non-issue or even an anti-issue, but for me I think it boils down to being THE issue. It turns out I'm not willing to live with inflexible presentation, no matter how good the organization behind the presentation might be. Does that just make me shallow?  undecided
240  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Anyone actually use rewriteable media? on: April 27, 2006, 04:50:29 PM
Wow, all this time I thought it was just ME that couldn't get CD-RW to work!  ohmy The promise of CD-RW was always that you could use it more or less like a big floppy disk. I've NEVER had that kind of experience. Has anyone?  embarassed

I've tried on many different systems with many different drives and a few different packages (Nero's InCD, the Roxio thingy, etc.) I always suspected I was missing some major piece of the big picture or was just having a really long string of bad luck. I couldn't believe that a technology as ubiquitous as CD-RW could be so flaky, unreliable, incompatible and flat-out difficult to use.

In fact, I still don't get it. How can they keep selling CD/RW disks and drives if EVERYONE has these kinds of problems using it? It seems like the technology would have choked on its own bile by now. Are people just buying them and using them like CD-Rs because they don't know the difference?

241  News and Reviews / Mini-Reviews by Members / Re: Instant Text V Pro - more than the usual features of a text expander on: March 21, 2006, 12:06:41 PM
I'm still using the RoboType utility from PC Magazine that I downloaded back when they gave their utilities away for free.

RoboType 3 at PC Magazine
242  DonationCoder.com Software / Cheat Sheeter / Re: New Program Idea: Cheat Sheeter on: March 16, 2006, 04:36:48 PM
Cool idea, mouser!

May I suggest an enhancement, possibly for version 2.0?

The company I used to work for made a toolbar component for programmers to add toolbars to their applications. Part of the design-time interface for this component was a "menu copier" tool. You could point it at an application and it would "walk" the app's menu structure, duplicating the layout of the menu items and sub-items in the proprietary format used by the component.

Maybe it would be possible to add support for an "auto cheat sheet builder" using similar functionality. (This is kind of similar to reading the application's INI file that was suggested, but goes in through the front door instead of the back.) The util could walk the menu structure looking for any stand-alone letter (such as O for Open) or group of letters beginning with "Ctrl-" or "Shift-". It could then build a basic cheat sheet that contained the menu text plus the hot key.

Just my 2 cents. Keep up the good work & thanks! I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for this one!

PS - I hope you keep the ability to use the Win key as part of the hotkey combo to display the cheat sheet. It is under-used, and less likely to conflict with either an application or system-wide hotkey than a Ctrl-Alt or Ctrl-Shift hotkey would be.
243  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software on: March 16, 2006, 04:04:57 PM
I'm coming in a bit late to this conversation, but I was surprised to see that with all the discussion of tools old and new there hasn't been more mention of InfoSelect. http://www.miclog.com. From what I recall this was the product that spawned the whole outliner/notes application genre. (Or at least the grandson of the product. Tornado Notes for DOS was arguably the first outliner/indexed organizer, and InfoSelect is the suped-up Windows version.)

I've toyed with the idea of getting InfoSelect over the years, but I can never quite get past how breathtakingly expensive it is. However, it has a lot of features that I think are pretty useful and unique. Many of these are PIM features like ticklers and reminders, and so are probably not germaine to this discussion.

But it also has a couple of things that really set it apart, AFAIK. One is the ability to create grid-style notes and form-style notes. A lot of times I need to store tabular data, and busting rows & columns down to plain text qucikly becomes a headache if you've got to do any editing or maintenance of the info. And the ability to create notes that are like mini database forms is also great. Outliners work well with unstrucutured data, but there's no reason they shouldn't handle structured data as well.

Their implementation of "hot spots" is also interesting. These are essentially mini-tabs for selected category sub-items that appear at the same level as the parent item in the category. So you can move items to frequently used sub-folders withouth having to expand the folder that contains them.

It's a shame this app is still stuck at the high end of the price range. On the one hand, it does so many things I can see why they charge so much for it. But on the other hand, when a product like Surfulater can be had for less than $50, it makes you wonder whether it's worth it.
244  News and Reviews / Best ScreenCaster / Re: Another possibility - WME on: March 16, 2006, 01:54:50 PM
You can check out the Firefly features list at the following page:

There are other related pages at their site, but this gives the most concise and informative sum-up of what the app can do.
245  News and Reviews / Best ScreenCaster / Another possibility - WME on: March 15, 2006, 09:56:54 AM
Hi, guys!

Great review. Thanks very much. I've watched this category myself over the years, and it's always good to keep up to date with what's current now.

My company is using a screencasting tool called Firefly for some of its training stuff. It's pretty high end, but has some interesting abilities, like being able to simulate applications. It actually captures menu choices, drop-down choices, etc. and caches them even when they are not chosen/displayed during recording, so during the demo you can turn the controls over to the viewer/user and let them play with a simulated version of the app you are demoing. Pretty unique.

But the other thing I didn't see mentioned and wanted to point out was that there is a tool for capturing fluid movies that gives hgh-quality output and is free - Windows Media Encoder. The latest version of WME include a "screen codec" with capabilities similar to Camtasia's proprietary codec, and you can use the encoder app to capture screen movies with audio narration.

There are no bells or whistles - no editing and no annotation/graphics. But the output is very good and the price is right as well. Makes a good alternative to Wink if you are in the "free or nothing" crowd (unless you're also in the Mac or Linux crowd!)  smiley
246  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: startup/tasks manager? on: February 01, 2006, 01:52:50 PM
I'm glad I'm a packrat and have saved all the PC Magazine utilities I downloaded years ago. They still come in handy, but now I'd have to pay to re-download them. Oh, well....

I also use MLin's Startup Monitor and Startup Control Panel. But the utility I've found the most useful for managing startup configs is Startup Delayer by R2 studios. (http://www.r2.com.au/) It has no database functionality and doesn't seem to deal with services at all, but what it does it does well. It manages your startup items, and lets you specify a variable delay for each item. Basically, this gives you control over the order of the startup process, and lets you space out the startup of certain apps so they're not all competing for the CPU and HD at the same time. The result is a more responsive machine during startup and (theoretically - I've not tested this) a faster startup time for each item.

The best part is that in addition to spacing out the execution of startup files, it has an interactive mode where you can cancel any item in the startup process. So when I'm working offline on my laptop, I can prevent my firewall software and other internet-specific apps from loading at all.

SD could definitely use a few tweaks - the ability to skip a single process without cancelling everything that follows it, or the option to launch an item immediately instead of waiting for its programmed delay to elapse - but even so I've found this to be a great startup manager.

(My first post as a member, BTW, so hi everybody!  embarassed)

- Jimdoria ~@>@
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