Over the past ten to fifteen years, two major innovations have dramatically changed daily life in home and business offices: Email and the Web.
Before the advent of email, we relied on snail mail, faxes, phone calls, and the occasional (now obsolete) technique of actually walking to someone’s office to communicate in person.
Before we were all introduced to the Internet, we tended to gather our research information from magazines, books, newspapers, pamphlets, manuals, and technically savvy co-workers.
Then along came the ability to send electronic email messages, and to surf the web. Few people could have predicted the extent to which these changes would affect our work-a-day lives, but everyone would agree that they have – substantially. Now almost all workers who spend their days within six feet of a computer have to devote a significant amount of their time to the management of a mountain of electronically-presented information.
Unfortunately, access to all these tidbits of enlightenment and critical data presents a problem: How do I manage all this input? Where do I store my user names and passwords, my important webpage addresses, and those critical excerpts from emails or articles from the Web that I really need to save for later? Where do I save that review I saw on plasma TVs, or that clever instruction on how to speed up my computer, or that great joke my brother-in-law emailed to me?
Andrew Kantor summed it up when he wrote in a USA Today article in June, 2005, “In case you haven't noticed, people are having trouble dealing with all their data. Search tools are popping up to help people find things on their own hard drives.”
People are creative, though, and they do find workarounds. Some use their email programs to tuck away important information (and even send emails to themselves). Some save vital data in MS Word documents, or Excel, or Notepad .txt files. Many have a combination of approaches, including writing on yellow sticky notes that they paste on their paper calendars or directly on their monitors.
You would think that Microsoft Outlook would address this problem, and it does – sort of. After all, Outlook has a Notes module where you can type or paste content. Unfortunately, the content you can type or paste there is limited to plain text only – no graphics, fonts, formats, HTML, tables, templates, photos, audio or video recordings. Essentially, what you can store in an Outlook note in 2006 is about what you could store on an MS-DOS machine over 20 years ago.
Fortunately, there are some companies that have developed alternative software to fill this void, including (just to alphabetically list a few) Copernic, EverNote, Google, MicroLogic, and Microsoft.
The solutions can be found in three categories of software: Desktop Search, Web Clipping, and Note Management.