Info Select, a flawed gem
This is a resurrected post following a website crash. It had a high Google hit rate, a lot of links around the web, and many users’ comments which have unfortunately been lost forever.
- In my opinion Info Select was the best single computer program in the known universe. It still could be with a few tweaks.
- If I were only allowed one program on my computer it would be Info Select.
- There isn’t much you can’t do with it.
- I’ve been using it since 1992 or thereabouts, shortly after it evolved from Tornado Notes.
- Despite these sterling qualities, until I initially published this post in 2007, I was the only person I knew who used it.
There’s a lesson here.
If this program’s so damn good why was I the only known user this side of the black stump? That’s easy. Info Select is the product of Micro Logic, a company whose grasp of marketing, design, pricing, listening to user feedback, and customer service are, umm, different.
What’s so great about it?
Info Select started life as a program for storing and retrieving random text information. It gradually gained extra functions and evolved into a word processor, spreadsheet, database, email client, web browser, news feeder, contact manager, calendar, form builder and organizer–I could go on, but you get the picture–all rolled into one. Having said that, I only use it for its core function. I don’t use all those extras. I have other programs which do those things far better for my purposes. Until I switched most of my data to Evernote in 2009, I had whole filing systems of information packed into my Info Select data file. I could find anything in milliseconds.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say that I wish to find information about the many and varied problems folk have had networking between Vista and XP. I press the F5 key and up pops a search box. Each of the little red squares represents one note in my data store:
: Now I start typing, when I get as far as “vis”all the notes which contain that string remain red, those that don’t revert to black.
I type some more. Now we only have 8 notes with the strings “vista” and “netw”. I could add and xp which might narrow the field even more, but it’s not necessary:
And finally I press the Enter key and we return to the main window. The 8 items containing my search parameters are shown in the Selector pane on the left. I click on any one to see it in the pane on the right.
Even in an IS file containing tens of thousands of notes, large and small, this search process is virtually instantaneous. You can search for words, phrases (between quotes, like Google) or for Boolean strings using the AND, OR and NOT Regular Expressions as we did above.
If you have a significant amount of data—and who doesn’t—this program is a blessing. It has been the main barrier to me in switching from Windows to Linux. It can run in Linux using the Wine Windows program loader. Some of IS’s many functions don’t work under Wine, but text and image storing and the search functions, its main raisons d’etre, work splendidly and that’s good enough for some.
Rob MacDougall, historian and robot fancier, summed up Info Select nicely in a comment in this post :
Info Select is a weird program with an ugly interface and a lot of unnecessary googaws, but at its heart it applies the Gmail philosophy “search, don’t organize” to notetaking of all types.
The great thing about Info Select is its blazingly fast full text search, which, like Google, renders redundant a lot of the organizing and tagging and foldering you might do. So if I read something cool or have an idea or get a business card or find a recipe or hear a funny limerick or anything I might ever want to remember again, I just type it into Info Select and include in the text itself a few plausible tags by which I might remember it later. No muss no fuss – it feels like just writing something on a scrap of paper and shoving it in a huge drawer – except that at any future date I can just type “limerick” or “recipe” or “cool” or “Timothy Burke” and every relevant scrap of paper is instantly returned to me.
It also has a tickler feature, so I can tag a note to make itself scarce and then come back and wave itself in my face at a given future date and time. In the long run, this is the only paradigm that I can see working for me. I don’t want to have to devise some system of tagging or organization now that has to cover every possible query or project I might take on 10 years from now.
That’s it in a nutshell. In the original version there was no way of even organizing notes in a tree structure. In some ways that was a good thing. Creating a structure could be viewed as an unnecessary distraction. The search capability is so good that there’s no real need for any structure at all. As Rob said above, “search, don’t organize”.
If you don’t use all of its bells and whistles – and I’m sure most users don’t – it’s grossly over-priced at US$249.95. Upgrades at US$99.95 are extortion.
The free version of Evernote does everything many users require of Info Select and what’s more your data are accessible from any computer on the planet. The exponential growth of Evernote over the last 2 years should be ringing alarm bells at Micro Logic. 10,000,000 Evernote users as of June 2011, including over 400,000 Premium customers. And the Premium user base is growing faster than the overall rate.
It’s sad to see so much Info Select potential destroyed by lack of vision.