Content attractors

In my quest to become more digital I’ve become accustomed to set of tools that allow me to create, annotate, manipulate, access, … content more on my terms. What I mean of this software is that it works with me, with the way that I think. Sometimes it even causes me to realize the implications of my thought process (e.g. realization of relationships to other thought and expression).

Here is a short list of software that attracts me to content:

Having come from a hand-made blog, WordPress was a delight to discover. No more worrying about plumbing and infrastructure. WordPress had all the features on my to-implement list, it was a breeze to install and it featured a team of committers that was helpful and supportive to newbies and oldies alike. Now I can focus on producing content, which is the essential premise of most blogs–certainly mine. And when I have the time to personalize my blog, adding and/or creating themes and/or plugins is straightforward.

I can’t attend a meeting without OneNote, and I’ve converted a significant number of my colleagues at work do have the same perspective. When you read the passion behind this new edition to the Office 2003 family in the form of Chris Pratley‘s and Owen Braun‘s blogs and then use the product a strong sense of design fidelity comes across. To say that OneNote replaces Notepad is a gross understatement; it changes the way I take digital notes on Windows–and I don’t even own a Tablet PC! Read the tips; install the PowerToys; download and activate templates; record an hour of voice-quality WMA in 6~7 MB; roll-up TODO items and lists; etc. OneNote has a bright future ahead of itself, too (e.g. shared notebook enhancements, OneNote Mobile, OneNote to PDF conversion, etc.).

MindManager is the most recent application to make the above list thanks to my colleagues at work. MindManager allows me to more effectively capture brainstorming that doesn’t lend itself readily to lists–and this happens more than I would have otherwise known. While I may not have formally “mind mapped” pre-MM, post-MM the value of mind mapping has become clearer and more familiar–except that my hand-written scrawls on scratch paper can be captured and circulated far more effectively (e.g. convert to PDF, Office formats, etc.) Now I just need to take some time to familiarize myself with the full functionality of this powerful tool. You can join me by tapping into the well-written newsletter and blog feeds here. (Yes, passion behind product matters!)

Omea has already been blogged by me. It’s a daily participant and guide in my efforts to stay current on trends, technologies and practices that will impact my architecture. However, this is another tool that I’ve not yet fully exploited where aggregation and annotation of “resources” is concerned, and here I’d like to see further usability (discovery and accessibility) improvements made by the JetBrains team.

Back in July of 2004 when I first became aware of and began to leverage Lookout, life in Outlook became significantly better where message and content retrieval was concerned–important for pack rats like me. Yes, MSN Search Toolbar is where Microsoft is investing now, not Lookout, but Lookout addresses at least 80% of my needs where Outlook-based search is concerned.

Just as Advanced Find in Outlook is inadequate to my needs, straight search in Windows Explorer is similarly insufficient. Enter Copernic Desktop Search. The CDS UI, its taskbar augment and its ability to be extended to index additional file types are welcome improvements (e.g. Mindjet Labs’ CDS integration for MindManager). A complaint I have with CDS, though, is its habit of holding a write lock on my PST file. IMHO, an indexer should be as passive as possible–and still perform, of course.

Who doesn’t use Google? I mean, who doesn’t Google? When your product becomes a verb, you must be doing something right. In a sense Google is to me like Lookout is to me: it just works and does so consistently. Yes, there are other search engines with auxilliary services out there, but I find no compelling reason to switch. So, why don’t I use Google Desktop Search instead of CDS or even CDS and Lookout? To be honest, there may be some habitual inertia in play. There are conflicting views, for example, about GDS and security (e.g. fine vs. concerned), and this has given me pause. The recent addition of the GDS Sidebar and the large number of useful plugins is nonetheless compelling, and several of my friends and colleagues benefit from GDS. What do you think? Worth the switch?

What tools attract you to content? How do they make content management a delight?

What tools do you tolerate or avoid where content management is concerned? Why are they so frustrating or limiting?

-Craig
http://craigrandall.net/
@craigsmusings