Introduction to InfoHandler, the Personal Information
The Card File Problem
Think of a card file box. In this box you have several
thousand 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 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 use to solve this dilemma by having two card indexes
with duplicated cards, one ordered on authors, the other on subjects.
Another problem comes about if, 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 InfoHandler Solution
To solve these kinds of problems with organizing information,
this time using not a card file box but a computer, we conceived the
unique concept of categorizing information that we 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).
But what is "information"? Bits of
information are not only the perhaps numerous notes that you make on all sorts
of occasions and topics and store somehow on your computer. Information are also
the documents of all kinds that you create, the programs ("applications") that
run on your computer, dates - single ones and recurring (e.g. birthdays) - that
you have to observe, Internet pages that you want to revisit, postal and e-mail
addresses, e-mail messages and News articles, and so on. For managing all these
many types of information there exist many specialized programs or features of
the operating system, all with their own concepts and user interfaces.
MDE InfoHandler enables the organization of
all this information under one uniform interface. To do this, of
course, you need some other special features aside from the universal
categorization technology. Most important is the quality of the text that you
can attach to the info. With InfoHandler this text can be "richly"
formatted, it can be initialized automatically for new info, and it knows about
"fields" where you can jump to using the keyboard or toolbar buttons. To manage
documents, Internet pages, or e-mail addresses you can attach links to those
objects to the info and then manipulate the objects from within InfoHandler.
To manage dates, or birthdays, or other time data two universal time objects
(called InfoTime1 and InfoTime2) are optional components of
the Info. And last not least InfoHandler Alarms, attached to
InfoItems , remind you about things to do.
To retrieve all these many bits of different kinds of
information you apply the same set of powerful means. Using the assigned
Categories you compose complex queries on the data
('category filters') with just a few clicks of your mouse. By
setting bounds for the diverse time stamps ('time filters') you
narrow further the displayed choice of InfoItems . And, of course, there is a
handy global text search function that you can apply
selectively to the components of the collected data.
On the other hand, because InfoHandler has a broad
and powerful range of features suited for many different information management
tasks, it and its user interface are a bit more complex than some of the more
specialized "simple" tools. But it will be well worth the effort to invest an
hour or two to familiarize yourself with its concepts and interface. Several
sample InfoHandler databases (InfoBases) are
provided to assist you in this. Help is also easily obtained
from within the program itself.