Monday, June 16, 2008

InfoHandler from 1999 to 2003

Because I began to realize during the late 1990s that a hierarchical organisation is not the most effective means for keeping one's notes, I began looking for an alternative. I found it in InfoHandler.

InfoHandler presents itself as the solution to "The Card File Problem," asking you to "[t]hink of a card file box. In this box you have several thousand[s of] cards with evaluations of articles in periodicals. Every card with a header line - author, title, and reference - and below that extensive notes. All cards are ordered accurately by subject. If you are looking for something for a given subject, you only need to find an appropriate index and view all cards belonging to this topic. -- So far so good - but now you are looking for something that was published for a certain subject in a certain magazine. You scan the few hundred cards for the subject and select those with the wanted periodical. Because you are uncertain about the subject[,] you search other subjects as well. Now you see you got far to[o] many cards, you couldn’t examine them all. You guess that really you are only interested in certain products together with this subject. Unfortunately, after deciding to order by subject, you couldn’t have ordered the cards by products too. So now you begin to search the collected cards for the wanted product. Don't forget to return all the cards that you have removed to the right places in the box when you have completed your task. -- Libraries ... solve this dilemma by having two card indexes with duplicated cards, one ordered [by] authors, the other [by] subjects. -- Another problem [arises] if, [in] preparing a new card, you find that several of the categories seem to fit and you cannot decide where to put the card - unfortunately, a card cannot be simultaneously at several places."

The solution: the developers of InfoHandler "conceived [of] the unique concept of categorizing information that [they] implemented with InfoHandler. This is much more than just attaching 'keywords' to the info. Most important is the centralized management of the Categories and their organization in groups. Categories are not just 'words' or 'character strings' but 'objects' with their own properties and functionality. Shortly, with the help of these grouped Categories , a kind of multi-dimensional view on the data is accomplished, as opposed to the one-dimensional view of the common card indexes or with the hierarchical organization that is offered by most of the available tools for personal information management (PIMs)."

This approach sounded good to me; and it is a good solution to the problems that card files present. InfoHandler also provides the means of connecting or linking cards directly. Although its method was cumbersome, it was no more so than that of any of the other programs I knew. It was the discovery of wiki technology that opened my ways to much better ways of doing this.

But it was not just wiki technology that made me abandon InfoHandler. Its way of handling rich text and copying of Html was not consistent. something that looked good in one version of the program, looked entirely different in the next. Sometimes, cards seemed to have no information (though I found out later - after having deleted the cards - that the font had changed for no reason apparent to me to the color silver. In other words, it was there -- it just could not be seen. It also was not "simple," but it's busy look (see screenshot) began to grate on me more and more. And the development of the program took a turn that "turned off" many people, including me. So, I did not renew my license. Version 8 was the last I bought. It is now at version 10, sort of.

In spite of these criticisms, I must say that InfoHandler is a very capable program, with a powerful search feature that allows complex (Boolean) queries on your data, using the categories you have assigned.

To say it again, InfoHandler is a good solution of "the card file problem," if only because it is based on a powerful database application. But it is not the best solution of this problem because it depends too rigidly on categories and filtering. For the longest time, there was not even the ability to search and list the results of such a search. More, even redundant, capabilities of searching, listing, filtering, and jumping from one card to another would, in my humble opinion, have improved the product more than moving it to the Microsoft.NET Framework.

On the other hand, it is much more capable and still promising than the otherwise very interesting Freeware Zettelkasten application by Luedecke. For me, it was an interesting step on the way to ConnecteText. It is no longer a live option.

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