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Info Select 8 Reviews

Read what the reviewers are saying about version 8:
 

Info Select 8.0 Collects, Organizes Your Random Bits of Data

Info Select is unlike any PIM you've ever used before. It looks more like a hierarchy -- much like your files and folders are listed in Windows Explorer. Info Select arranges a wide variety of data, from freeform notes and appointments to address books and mail-merge templates in an easy-to-use outline. Best of all, the utility comes with an exceptionally fast search engine; finding those random bits of information is quite easy.

The program is divided into two main sections -- the hierarchy outline on the left (clicking on items in this list expands or contracts the list or displays individual items) and a work area, where you enter full text of notes (see illustration).

The learning curve is a bit higher than with most personal information managers, but you should be able to become familiar with Info Select and learn your way around in less than an hour, in part thanks to the Quick Start window that lists the most common functions and how to execute them. After you're comfortable adding notes (or just short ticklers to yourself), you can explore some of the unique features.

For example, when you want to add an event to your calendar, you can add it to your calendar (with an optional alarm) or just as a ticker; the program reminds you of these events, and can even send you a reminder e-mail as an event's time gets closer. Since I'm more often checking e-mail than my calendar, I find this particularly useful.

You can also add an individual item by selecting it, then clicking on a horizontal "tickler bar" that represents the next 30 days (or whatever time span you've defined) to set a reminder. Info Select can also import your appointments and notes from Outlook.

Info Select does a good job of letting you jot down quick notes, and the notes area supports plain or formatted text (text copied from Word maintained standard font properties -- bold, italic, and so on). But the program is much more than just a fancy notepad. Among the items you can add: spreadsheets, simple flatfile databases, and pointers to files (you can even directly edit text files). Items in your hierarchy can even be Web sites (click on the item and Info Select opens the page in its work area).

If you need a quick-and-dirty image manipulation program, Info Select may be all you need. It can alter brightness and contrast, rotate, crop, and resize images in a variety of standard formats, but drawing straight lines on an image (for annotations) was nearly impossible (holding Shift, Alt, or Control doesn't restrict the freeform drawing tool to straight lines, as in other graphics programs).

Info Select is flexible enough to let you have as many of whatever you want. For example, I can keep three calendars -- one for business use, another for personal appointments, and another for a soccer team schedule -- though you can't combine calendars into a "master" calendar.

Manual entry isn't the only way to add information. Paste an object to the clipboard, then click on the lightening bolt in the system tray (not the taskbar, as the help file says) and Info Select adds a new item to the hierarchy with your clipboard content. Very fast, very easy, and very habit-forming.

One of Info Select's best features is its search capability. Sure, you can search for words or phrases (Boolean searches are supported), but you can also specify the types of items (notes, calendar entries, databases) you search, and you can limit the search to just bold text -- or to calendar items within a date range. As you type in your search term(s), the program uses a grid system with "red" boxes indicating hits; the more you type, the fewer the "hits" until you find either a small enough number or you refine your search until you see just one match. It's incredibly fast.

While there is a lot to praise about Info Select, there is much that simply leaves me scratching my head. As an Office user familiar with Excel, I found little reason to add a spreadsheet grid. In fact, there's good reason to avoid it. Doing simple calculations left me baffled. First, the wizard to build a formula listed the "Sum" function in the "statistical" category instead of the more logical "mathematical" category. Once I figured that out, I tried to use the wizard more than a dozen times, but I could never get a simple columnar sum to work (even after downloading the latest release). Furthermore, Outlook users (which is about two-thirds of Office Letter readers) will find no compelling reason to use Info Select's calendar and e-mail elements instead of those in Outlook.

For organizing random bits of information, Info Select does a good job. Its fast find is a pleasure to use, and while its unconventional behavior takes some getting used to, it does let you save a variety of information into a single application. At $249 (upgrades are $99.99), however, it is a pretty pricey information organizer. You may find the $49.99 annual license a better approach, which includes all updates for a year; if not renewed, your data can be accessed in read-only mode.

DJames E. Powell

Copyright 2004, The Office Letter


Life in disorder? Info Select hits the right note

After years of battling chronic personal information disorganization disorder, I believe I may have found the cure in a solution called InfoSelect.

I lead a project-oriented life--every story is a project and I have many such projects underway at any given time. My projects assimilate information gathered from a variety of sources--interviews, e-mails, the Internet. For example, an e-mail inspires a story idea, so I put the message in an Outlook folder. To research the story, I make phone calls, take notes in Notepad, and save the notes in a folder called "Column Research." Sources for the story and their contact information are either embedded in my research notes, stored in Outlook's contact database, or in my own custom built contacts database. I bookmark some Web sites. Eventually, I start writing the story, using Microsoft Word, and store the story in a folder called "Column Drafts." But, with all the information that I've collected hiding in various nooks and crannies of my system, writing the story is more work than it has to be.

This scattershot approach to my profession has been bothering me for years. About a year ago, after playing around with Microsoft's TabletPC operating system, I began to think that Microsoft's OneNote might be the solution I was looking for.

Serving as a central repository for a variety of data types, OneNote enables you to create a hierarchical organization based on the way you work. At the end of the hierarchy's branches, the "leaves" are pages and these pages can hold word processed text, handwritten text or drawings (if you have a TabletPC), and images. For my story projects, I have a branch for "columns in progress" and within that, I have separate branches (you drill into branches through tabs across the top of the screen) for stories in progress. Within the tab for each of these stories, I have pages for each bit of information relating to that story. Pages are also accessible via tabs, but page tabs run down the side of the screen rather than across the top. One page might have the notes from an interview. Another page might have something that was cut and pasted from the Web. When Web pages are cut and pasted into OneNote, OneNote is smart enough to include a hyperlink with whatever was pasted that takes you back to the original Web page.

Though I've never tested it, OneNote also has an extremely cool feature that allows you to not only record a meeting, but that synchronizes any handwritten or typed notes with that recording.

Although I don't have a TabletPC (I almost never take notes with a pen and wasn't about to start with a stylus), I gave OneNote a try to see if it could keep me organized. I used it extensively for note taking and organization of my research. Before long, I had many branches and many pages within some of those branches. If I lost my way, searching across all of my notes for specific instances of text was a breeze. I could even initiate an e-mail directly from OneNote. Still, OneNote wasn't doing it for me. I had a logical hierarchy in place, but I found it difficult to glance at my life as it was represented by that hierarchy. Multiple branches, for example, can't be left open simultaneously in a way that allows you to see the drill-downs right to the leaf level.

So, after test-driving OneNote for over a year, I'm turning my organizational reins over to Micro Logic's InfoSelect. Based on what I've seen so far, I'm impressed.

In contrast to OneNote, InfoSelect's two-pane user interface enables the entire hierarchical tree to be shown in one pane while the contents of the currently highlighted leaf are shown in the other pane. If a branch (a "topic," in InfoSelect's parlance) is highlighted instead of a leaf, the second pane goes away until you highlight a leaf again. Like a real tree, leaves (basically documents) can sprout anywhere (including from the trunk) and topics can be deeply nested. Multiple topics of the hierarchy can be "exploded" simultaneously. If your life is reflected in the design of the hierarchy, a quick glance at the tree can help you keep your priorities in order.

If a glance won't do it, InfoSelect's other features--including a robust calendaring function--will. With the hierarchy displayed, any branch or leaf can be tagged as a to-do item and a giant blue exclamation point appears next to that item's icon. Any item can also be set to "tickle" you by clicking on a graphical tickler bar while a leaf is open. A mouse-over tip tells you what date the tickler is being set for, and how many days away that date is.

InfoSelect's full potential can be realized if you use it to replace your current e-mail and calendaring software. Not only can you set up your calendar as you would with Outlook, but you can add tasks and to-do items that can trigger events at specific times. For example, if you want your system to automatically run an executable file at a specific time, InfoSelect can do it for you.

Though InfoSelect can be tied to an Exchange Server via the POP3 protocol and serve as your primary e-mail client, it can't seamlessly participate in MAPI-based group calendaring with other Outlook users. (MAPI is a Microsoft proprietary protocol for handling e-mail and calendar-based communications between clients and Exchange Servers.) However, InfoSelect does have a collaboration feature that allows any InfoSelect-filed information (topics, documents, calendar items, etc.) to be shared seamlessly with other InfoSelect users across a network or even the Internet.

Why would you want InfoSelect to be your primary e-mail client? One reason is that e-mails can be filed under any topic or sub-topic. To the extent that a topic represents a collection of data types, an e-mail is just one of those data types. Unfortunately, whereas a local file is one data type for InfoSelect (for example, a local spreadsheet could be a leaf within a topic), a local e-mail from Outlook isn't--unless you save it as a separate file first. This could prevent users who are married to Outlook from using InfoSelect as a repository for e-mails that are relevant to their projects. My workaround was simply to cut and paste text from relevant e-mails into new InfoSelect notes.

InfoSelect supports a mind-boggling number of data types-- e-mail and calendaring items, newsgroup files, plain vanilla notes, and Web pages. For example, point a leaf at a Web page, retitle that leaf , and when you click on the leaf in the hierarchy, the Web page appears in the right pane. You might as well keep your browser bookmarks in InfoSelect. InfoSelect even has a flat file database capability where a table is like a topic, and the fields are like the leaves. This makes it possible to import your entire Outlook address book. Or, you can design your own databases; InfoSelect provides a forms facility for data entry and retrieval.

So far, my favorite feature--even though it isn't perfectly implemented--is InfoSelect's ability to work with external relational database management systems through ODBC. After using Sybase Central to create a multi-table query for my deployment of Sybase's Adaptive Server AnyWhere, I tried opening that query with InfoSelect; within about a minute, my 5,000-record query result popped up in InfoSelect's second pane. InfoSelect has a query execute button for any time you want to rerun the query.

Unfortunately, the properties of the ODBC connection can only be entered once and not updated or maintained. If something changes about your ODBC connection, you have to delete your existing references to your databases and create new ones. But the most surprising aspect of this ODBC capability is that InfoSelect automatically incorporates the query results into its search set when doing a full-text search across your hierarchy. For example, when I searched InfoSelect on Microsoft, the hierarchy collapsed to only reflect hierarchy items that contained that text. One of those items was my database query; when I clicked on it, the right pane showed a filtered listing of records that contained the word "Microsoft" in any field. In other words, all that InfoSelect was showing once I searched on the term Microsoft were any branches or leaves with the word "Microsoft" in them and any record in any one of my preprogrammed database queries that contained the term in any one of its columns.

However, this ability to search across all the data you're keeping in InfoSelect doesn't apply to some data types. If InfoSelect is the container of the data itself, then InfoSelect's search will work with that data. But, if you're inserting a Microsoft Word file from the local hard drive as a leaf or a Web page, then it doesn't work. That said, InfoSelect's search capability has a small option whose results simply astonished me. After inserting your search criteria, there's a small check box that, instead of pointing the search at InfoSelect's data store, tells InfoSelect to direct its search at your Web cache.

How many times have you wanted to return to a Web page that you viewed a few days ago but not remembered where it was? Although it's slow, this feature of InfoSelect takes care of that for you by digging through your Web cache and looking for every occurrence of your search term on your previously viewed Web pages. Once it's done, it creates an entire branch in your hierarchy that's devoted to that search and, within that branch, creates a leaf for every Web page from your cache that scored a hit for the search term.

Another cool feature of InfoSelect is its ability to encrypt and decrypt your notes. InfoSelect users have the option of using a pair of public/private keys from Micro Logic or PGP. You pick the password and InfoSelect will encrypt your notes, making them impossible to view without the password and the right key pair.

Impressed? I am. And this review only scratches the surface of what InfoSelect can do. For example, the Windows version can synch with an InfoSelect version for the PalmOS. If you're expecting InfoSelect to be $49 utility like other jacks-of-all-trades software, you're in for a shock. InfoSelect costs $249. But, if you use it religiously as I am now (it has full word processing capabilities and I'm writing this story with it), you'll recoup that cost and more in terms of what your time is worth. OneNote? Good riddance.

David Berlind

Copyright 2004, ZDNet


First Look: Info Select 8 excels as a tool for storing, organizing your ideas

Micro Logic's goal for InfoSelect has always been to enable its users to manage all of their information -- notes, images, e-mails, schedules, contacts, ideas, plans and other types of data -- in one place. With the recent introduction of InfoSelect version 8, this program has moved significantly closer to realizing that ideal.

In this "first look" article, I will give you a brief overview of the new and improved features of InfoSelect 8, with a special emphasis on those that make it well-suited for use as a personal idea journal.

What is InfoSelect?

For those of you who may not be familiar with this program, InfoSelect combines the best features of a word processor, a free-form database and a personal information manager into a single, powerful application. InfoSelect enables you to record, capture, manipulate and organize many different kinds of text-based information, quickly and easily.

InfoSelect's two-pane interface makes it easy to organize content to suit your needs. The left panel, called the selector, contains headings for your notes and items, arranged in a hierarchical outline format. Each heading or item in the selector corresponds to a document window that is displayed in the larger right-hand panel of the InfoSelect's well-organized display.

One of the strengths of InfoSelect is that it literally invites you to enter notes, ideas and information in a free-form format. You can then reorganize and rearrange them later with complete freedom.

To create a new note, you simply click the new note icon in the program's toolbar. A new blank topic appears in the selector. Type in a name for your note and press the enter key. InfoSelect saves the title of your note in the selector window, and opens up a new, blank note in the workspace, which you can immediately begin typing into. Nothing could be simpler.

Once you have added a note or other content to InfoSelect, you can easily drag its title from one location to another in the selector window. This model of capturing and organizing information is both powerful and liberating, because it lets you focus on recording ideas, without getting in the way of your creative "flow."

Notable features of InfoSelect 8

With each new version, InfoSelect just keeps getting better and better. Here are some of the most notable capabilities of InfoSelect 8:

Context-sensitive toolbars: One of the ways that Micro Logic has improved the usability of InfoSelect 8 is by incorporating context-sensitive toolbars. And one of the places where this is most helpful is in the notes window of the program. The notes toolbar appears only when you're actually editing a note; otherwise, it disappears from view, helping to minimize screen clutter -- very nice!

Advanced text formatting: InfoSelect 8 now supports advanced text formatting, including bullets, subscripts, superscripts, text highlighting and more. Also, the program includes a spell checker and a thesaurus, making it well-suited to the needs of writers.

Edit text files from within InfoSelect: New in this version is the ability to open and edit a variety of files within InfoSelect. In other words, you can use it as an editor for files that are stored on your hard disk. Formats supported include text (TXT) and rich text (RTF) formats, comma- and tab-delimited records and a variety of image formats. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t support higher-end file formats like documents produced by Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. This limits its usefulness, but still it’s good to see Micro Logic thinking “outside the box” with this capability!

Intelligent management of the selector and notes windows: In InfoSelect 8, the width of the selector and the notes window changes automatically, so you always have an optimum view of what you're working on. This was always an area of frustration for me with past versions of InfoSelect: I'd have to experiment with different selector and note widths, until I found a combination that I liked.

New divider tool: InfoSelect 8 includes a new divider tool, which enables you to insert a horizontal line to divide your topics in the selector window into sections. For example, you could use a divider to separate your ideas from your other notes.

New drawing feature: InfoSelect 8 now enables you to create graphical drawings, such as diagrams, sketches, graphical ideas or street maps, directly in a note. Sometimes your ideas come to you in visual form, so the addition of this capability to InfoSelect is a big plus!

Improved handling of e-mail: If you're using InfoSelect as a personal knowledge base, e-mail is probably becoming a more important source of information that you may want to capture and save. InfoSelect 8 includes improved capabilities for importing e-mail messages fromMicrosoft Outlook, plus the ability to import messages from Eudora, another popular e-mail program.

Web page views: You can integrate views of web pages into your personal information base. Select Insert/Web page and the program inserts an MSIE-compatible browser window into the workspace. Type the site's address into the address bar, and you now have an "active" bookmark to that web page.

Conclusion

I have been a fan of InfoSelect for a long time, and I have always been amazed by how easy it enables me to capture, organize and retrieve information. With version 8, Micro Logic has been a very good job of improving a number of InfoSelect's existing features, while adding other new capabilities that enable you to capture a wider range of the bits and pieces of important information you come in contact with on a daily basis. This means that it's more practical than ever for knowledge workers to practically "live" in InfoSelect. You can also use the program as your primary e-mail program, calendar and to do list. You can not only use InfoSelect 8 for building your personal knowledge base, but also to use it to write reports, record meeting notes, create correspondence and other common tasks for which you would normally use a word processing program.

As a tool for capturing your ideas, insights, wisdom and knowledge, InfoSelect is still without peer.

The price of InfoSelect 8 is $249.95 for new users; if you are already using an earlier version of the program, you can upgrade for only $99.95. You can also license the program as a one-year subscription for $49.95, which gives you access to all updates to InfoSelect for a period of one year

Chuck Frey

Copyright 2004, INNOVATION tools
The original is here.


Pardon my evangelism, brothers and sisters, but there is a new version of  the software that defines my personal computing life, Info Select for Windows.

Longtime readers have noted that I'm all but fanatical about showing how  this amazing hybrid of word processor and random data manager knows no peer when it comes to the serious side of using computers. Which, by the way, has become a rather minor reason that people fire them up.

Our data crunchers and word mincers have evolved into gateways to e-mail, Web browsing, picture making, music playing and now video viewing. Computers today have very little to do with computing.

But when you want to organize your life, track the complexities of your work and play, and then simplify the way you do it, Info Select probably cannot be equaled.

Writing something that clearly conveys the Info Select experience is like trying to describe a circular staircase without using hand gestures.

Here goes: On the left of the screen is a narrow pane that lists as single lines of text the title and other aspects of a given piece of information. A big window to the right displays the content of whatever item is selected on the left.

A typical user might open an item called a note to write his weekly computer column, or a letter to his daughter in Kansas or a memo demanding still more coddling from his boss. The note tool includes a full-featured word processor capable of the bulk of features that draw us to Microsoft Word or Word Perfect.

All the fonts are there for newsletters or fancy e-mails along with features like frames and inserting pictures. There's a spell-checker that underlines misses in squiggly red as you type, just like Word, and it's a simple mouse click to quickly display your word count.

The software handles mail merging, as well as custom and mass e-mailing just as well as Microsoft Office. It lacks high-end tools, including the collaboration tools of Office, Microsoft's automatic document index creation and much more.

But few of us need that kind of bulked-up computing power for our personal lives or for running small to midsize business operations.

The Info Select advantage comes because it also keeps a database of each document one creates or pastes from a Web site or even from a disc.

That database is searchable by the engine created by the visionaries behind the software. You can do simple keyword searches or advanced Boolean queries, then search among the search results.

Enter a telephone number, a joke or an entire novel into a note and every word in it can be recalled with no need to run an additional program or look somewhere on your hard drive for some file.

My own Info Select hoard includes the rough drafts of most of my past writings, the lyrics of Nanci Griffith's songs, the collected poetry of William Butler Yeats, a lot of T.S. Eliot's work, an archive of Beatles songs, a list of my coin collection and all of my telephone contacts. Now, thanks to the new Version 8, my database includes a collection of hot links to my multitude of photographs, movies and songs.

Another note includes the Web addresses of every site in my rather dismaying collection of Internet bookmarks. All are hot links that call up the target in a new note pane. You can save the entire page as another note, or you can paint, copy and paste any text desired.

Unlike other browser users, my bookmarks are keyword searchable just like the rest of my data. And when I call up a site, the software uses the Windows Internet Explorer to display it. Power users should know that Info Select can be placed on a network for multiple users either in-house or over the Web.

Info Select includes a limited spreadsheet that handles all the formulas and arithmetic I need to track budgets, stocks and schemes for world domination. A top-drawer Calendar is available as a single note. It handles all the alarms, to-do lists and Outlook schedule keeping. The new version even imports Outlook Calendars.

Because calendars are notes like all other data, it's a snap to create multiple ones for home, job and hobbies.

My hands are tiring with all this gesturing, so let me point you to Micro Logic Corp.'s Web site (www.miclog.com) for more information and pricing.

We evangelists leave the tough stuff for last.

Micro Logic has started a complicated price scheme based on a yearly subscription of $49, or $249 for the Version 8 software without subscription.

The $49-per-year deal covers all upgrades. They also sell earlier versions that cost less and deliver most of the best. These range from $159.95 for Version 7 to $99 for Version 5.

Amen.

James Coates

Copyright 2002, Chicago Tribune