January 4, 2011

Personal Information Management Programs


Like most knowledge workers, we have to keep track of lots of electronic information for any project, such as documents, correspondence, cases, and notes that may be in Word, Excel, PDF and other formats.  We also have to keep track of tasks across many projects. Here are three inexpensive ways to track and organize your tasks and working materials.

OUTLINER SOFTWARE: Try MyInfo 5.0, by Milenix Software (www.milenix.com). MyInfo lets you type or import notes, including saved web pages, and organize notes in a “tree” structure. Additionally, you can attach files in their original format to notes, add keyword “tags” to notes, search your notes as well as all labels in the tree, and password-protect your file. To help yourself visually, you can also change the tree with individual fonts, icons, and flags. One caveat is that in my experience, As I accumulate several megabytes of data per day, I have noticed that MyInfo does not handle very large files as elegantly as Treepad X Enterprise, a similar “tree” organizer (www.treepad.com) – the file save-time increases dramatically with file size. This means you should aim to create a new MyInfo file for individual projects where possible. MyInfo comes in Standard ($49.95 USD) and Professional ($89.95 USD) editions.

ONLINE TASK ORGANIZER: If your projects require that you handle a succession of tasks on a particular timetable, and would benefit from simple Gaant charts, try Tom’s Planner (www.tomsplanner.com), which is essentially an online spreadsheet where you can add tasks and sub-tasks to rows, assign workers, add colour-coded blocks to represent time allotted for completion in days or weeks to come, and drag-and-drop elements to reorganize easily. Tom’s Planner is intuitive to use. You can use one schedule free of charge, pay $9 per month for 20 projects, or pay $19 per month for unlimited projects.

A DATABASE FOR YOUR WEB BROWSER: If you like the idea of storing notes, or tasks, in a single file which you can read on any web browser, try TiddlyWiki (www.tiddlywiki.com). It’s a single file that works like an entire website which you can use as a notebook or database, but it does not require any program except your web browser, since the web page contains its own programming to help you modify its contents. You can use it to keep your personal notes, track information on a particular project, or if it resides on a network drive, distribute common information to staff, like an office manual. It comes in a “basic” version periodically upgraded by its author, but some programmers create their own versions, e.g., to organize to-do items (for example, try www.dcubed.ca. TiddlyWiki is free!