Sunday, June 15, 2008

Keeping Notes around 1991

Another program that I used to keep notes together with Organize! in 1991 and 1992 was a quirky database program named Scraps, written by Raymond Lowe.

Viewing all scraps:

Looking at one scrap:

Scraps billed itself as a "freeform data base" that "relieves you of the straight-jacket imposed by most data base programs but, at the same time, .. takes away a lot of the structure and safeguards with which you may be familiar." The usage tips are still somewhat relevant:

"Keep retrieval in mind: The real importance of the stored information is not the storing but the retrieving of it. That being the case it is worth always considering how you might want to look something up when you enter it.
Use standard words: Sprinkle your scraps liberally with standard keywords, pick those words yourself so they make sense to you. For example you might choose to put the word "PHONE" in every scrap that contains a telephone number, and "ADDRESS" in ones that holds an address. This ensures that you will not fail to find something because you used a term in the scrap different to that which you are using to search for it.
Throw in keywords: When several different words can be used to describe a key concept put all of them into the scrap. In a scrap about cheap airline tickets type "AIR PLANE AIRPLANE CHEAP ECONOMY TICKETS FARES" across the bottom of the scrap. That way you can be sure that you'll find the scrap when you need it, regardless of how you ask for it.
Use project keywords: If you have a whole bunch of scraps revolving around a single task or project try putting a standard code word in each. Every scrap about the West District Housing Project might have "WDHP" or "WESTHOUSING" in it. That way you can quickly find all the those scraps by searching for this key word. By using an invented word or acronym you can be sure that no other scrap will accidentally happen to include the word."

The most important function was a fairly powerful search capability, in which the Boolean operators of AND and OR could be used. It worked best with many small items. Even though each "scrap" could be as long as memory allowed, memory was scarce in those days. More importantly, however, breaking down large documents into chunks has virtues of its own, and I still prefer smaller notes over long ones: between 250 and 800 words seem to work best for me.

Scraps could also do reminders and alarms, but I primarily used it for keeping scraps or snippets of information.

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