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Tech Tuesday: Conceptualize, Organize, and Diagram

Creative people have a lot of ideas. Whether it is for a current project, a piece of software, the spread for an upcoming dinner party, or electing Ralph Nader as President of the United States. Whichever the case may be, pen and paper is the method most creatives use to outline and sketch their inital course of action - a brain dump if you will. With the advent of OS X and the ubiquitous laptop - even ones that act as writing tablets - there are a host of applications geared toward getting your idea digital as quick and as organized as possible, without cutting down trees.

In the first “Tech Tuesday” installment, I will introduce you to sixteen of these applications.

Curio by Zengobi Price: $99 System Requirements: OS 10.2.7 or higher

“You’ve been exploring for ideas and gathering lots of notes, images, and files. You’ve got dozens of sketches created with the scribble tools scattered in several idea spaces. How do you organize all of this stuff?

Believe it or not Curio is storing all of this information within a single file in the Finder. Your project dossier. Your scribbles. Your notes. Even all of your embedded or aliased assets. This means one file represents your entire project! Finally, everything in one place instead of scattered in folders all over your hard disk.”

I have never used Curio but I like the concept. It tackles the two main concepts of these types of applications, brainstorming and file management. Not only can one diagram and outline in Curio, but one can attach URLS, PDFs, Word documents, and images that one would like to associate with an idea. It even plays media files such as MP3s within the application without the need to run a separate player. With a $99 price tag, Curio is more expensive then most of the applications listed here but is one of the most feature filled.

DEVONnote by DEVON technologies Price: $20 (special offer of $15 until the end of April, so hurry!) System Requirements: OS 10.2 or higher

“It’s the most sophisticated notepad application for Mac OS X, keeping all your ideas, documents, important information and even your bookmarks in one single, accessible place. Professional but easy-to-use features help you organise your notes and make structure out of chaos.

And with its integrated text and RTF editor you can even use it not only to enter short notes but to write letters, articles, books. Comfortable highlighting functions and character/word counters will help you, not to forget the split-screen view for navigating and editing even thousands of documents almost instantly.

And if you’re surfing the net a lot, you’ll love the tight integration of a complete web browser based on the Safari engine. Just select a boomark and DEVONnote immediately opens the page in the preview/edit pane of its window. It can’t be easier.”

DEVONnote doesn’t have diagramming capabilities, it is more of an outliner. Like Curio, it has file management and can be used as an outliner. Including a web browser is clever, limiting the need to leave the application when conducting online research. At $15 (until May 2004) it’s a steal but if one wants to be able to attach PDFs and images to an idea, one has to move up to DEVONthink.

DEVONthink by DEVON technologies Price: $40 personal, $75 professional System Requirements: OS 10.2 or higher

“DEVONthink is an information manager capable of intelligently storing and organising all types of data, text files, PDFs and images. Put in whatever you want, organise it, let DEVONthink search for it. And with its integrated text and RTF editor you can even use it not only to enter short notes but to write letters, articles, books. Comfortable highlighting functions and character/word counters will help you, not to forget the split-screen view for navigating and editing even thousands of documents almost instantly.

DEVONthink can store your text or code fragments with just one mouse click via its Mac OS X service, and help you working with them with its intelligent classification function, lightning-fast search and even faster concordance. Developers can also store their documentations, help files and references and look up articles faster than ever before.

Our powerful search technology provides instant, ranked search results and lets you broaden your search by proving similar words based on spelling or context. For example, similar words based on context for �Hubble� could be �telescope�, �space� and �astronomy�, where as similar words based on spelling could be �hubble�, �Hubbles� and �hubbles�, but also �bubble�. Dynamic keywords and a fully automatic see-also function based on content similarity are only some of the many features that make DEVONthink really �think�.

DEVONthink stores Internet bookmarks and lets you organise them in any way you want. Also, it inserts some quite convenient commands into the Mac OS X services menu to store selected text, e.g. in a web page, directly in DEVONthink, look up a selected word or phrase and summarise text intelligently.”

DEVONthink is the big brother of DEVONnote. It also does not have diagramming capabilities, but goes further than an outliner by including database capabilities. Coming soon is DEVONthink Professional which will include a host of security features, include multiple database support, and a “database optimisation method called “Dreaming,” which improves the results of any search dramatically.” I think that should be called “Reality.”

inspiration by Inspiration Software, Inc. Price: $69 System Requirements: OS 7.1, 8.0, 9.0, OS 10.1 and Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT 4, ME, XP

“Powered by the proven techniques of visual learning, inspiration supports improved achievement for students grade 6 to adult. inspiration strengthens critical thinking, comprehension and writing across the curriculum, in language arts, sciences, social studies and anytime your students need to structure research or other thought processes.

inspiration’s integrated diagramming and outlining environments work together to help students comprehend concepts and information. Educators use inspiration to customize instruction, achieve standards, assess student progress and energize learning.”

inspiration is geared toward educators and students. They also have a “kidspiration” edition for K-5 students. One of the best features is the ability to outline an idea and then view it as a diagram. OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle do this in tandem, but it’s nice to be able to do so with one application. It has some nice tools such as “Rapid Fire” tool which lets one brainstorm quickly in diagram view without needing to mouse. Another plus is the fact that inspiration ships with 1300 images, symbols, and shapes. At $69 and with support for a variety of platforms and operating systems, this application is one of the best in the bunch.

MacJournal by Dan Schimpf Price: Free System Requirements: OS 10.1 or higher

“MacJournal is a program for creating, modifying, and managing a personal journal. It can be used for diaries, logs; most anything. And, because it’s written using Cocoa in Mac OS X, it supports all the cool OS X doodads you would expect. Things like oolbars, spell checker, font and color panels, localization, and drawers are all utilized to provide you with a useful and consistent inter ace that you’re used to in Mac OS X.”

This application has been a hit. And it’s free. It doesn’t have diagramming capabilities but is a great application for keeping a running log of anything or for a journal. One can password protect journals and export them in a variety of different formats. Did I mention it is free?

NoteBook by Circus Ponies Price: $49.95 System Requirements: OS 10.1 or higher

“Circus Ponies NoteBook is a combination outliner and freeform database that lets OS X users clip, organize, and share unstructured information from any source in any way they like. The program uses an easy-to-understand notebook interface to provide state-of-the-art media capture, multi-dimensional indexing, and inter-application clipping services. - Intuitive outlining and note-taking; - User-definable page styles and transparent tabs; - Annotation with customizable stickers, keywords, and highlighting; - Store and organize files of any kind on OS X; - Customizable page styles and user preferences; - Integrated, easy-to-use inspectors; - Dynamic indexing; - Super-Find searching based on any attribute, even file type, highlighting, or stickers; - Inter-application Clipping Services; - Media Capture — direct import from digital cameras; - Media Frame tools for image handling and video playback; - Drag-and-drop Page Bundles; - Export to HTML, XML, RTF, OPML, and TXT.”

NoteBook is similar to NoteTaker as it acts as if one is using a spiral notebook. This application does not include diagramming capabilities as its strengths are as an outliner. I have never used it but the company name sure makes me think.

NoteTaker by AquaMinds Price: $69.95, $39.95 academic System Requirements: OS 10.2 or higher

“NoteTaker is powerful new OS X software for organizing your information lifestyle, your digital workstyle.

At its most basic level, NoteTaker is a personal note and idea organizer. With NoteTaker, you can make a list, organize an outline or jot down an idea. It’s that basic. But with everyday work and lifestyle demands, our information needs are far more complex and diverse. And NoteTaker reflects this reality so that users can add and change the content and use of their information as needed.

NoteTaker’s user interface metaphor uses a visually rich “spiral” notebook pages with section tabs. Some users will simply have one tab and a long list of outlines while others will organize entire project and research journals with many sections and many pages within those tab sections. And it makes no difference how you decide to organize and use NoteTaker, it’s flexible yet easy to understand. It’s like having electronic paper on your OS X desktop.

In short, NoteTaker applications are unlimited. From managing the daily to do list information to sharing a project team binder across the Internet, NoteTaker becomes the software of our everyday lifestyle. Use it to communicate ideas. Organize personal information. Keep a project journal. Think on paper.”

NoteTaker is similar to NoteBook as it functions as an outliner. Some nice features include the ability to take voice notes and the ability to publish NoteNaker content online using personal web sharing or Apple’s .mac service. At $39.95 for an academic version, it is a great tool for students.

OneNote 2003 by Microsoft Price: $99 System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP

“Capture, organize, and reuse your notes on laptop computers, desktop computers, or Tablet PCs. OneNote 2003 gives you one place to store all your notes and the freedom to work with them how you want. It helps you capture information in multiple ways and then organize and use it according to your needs.

OneNote 2003 combines the freedom and flexibility of paper notes with the efficiency and power of digital organizational tools. Be more productive with OneNote 2003 anywhere you work with notes—in meetings, at your desk, presentations, classes, phone conferences, or brainstorming sessions.”

OneNote is for Windows only but a lot of its features appear in Office 2004 for Mac due out in May. It is very similar to NoteBook and NoteTaker but has more robust text editing features which it incorporates from Word. It must be wonderful on a Tablet PC and even ships with some of them.

Office 2004 for Mac by Microsoft Price: $149.95 student/teacher editon, $229.95 standard upgrade, $399.95 standard full, $329.95 pro upgrade, $499.95 pro full System Requirements: OS 10.2.8 or higher

“Record audio while taking notes in Word; save pictures and text in a scrapbook; handle all of your project details in one location, and more! Use Office 2004 to advance the way you create, share, and manage ideas and information.”

I am not a huge fan of Microsoft but I must admit I like the Office suite. Even they say it is better then the PC version. Office 2004 for Mac should rock. Although not at all a diagramming tool and not a strict outliner, Word 2004 has taken many features from its PC brother OneNote. Unfortunately it is relatively expensive due to the fact that one must buy it as part of the entire Office suite. After a a few months or so Microsoft will most likely release each component as a standalone product as it has done in the past. If Apple releases a tablet laptop and Inkwell becomes standard among software developers, I cannot wait to see the results.

OmniGraffle by The Omni Group Price: $69.95, $119.90 professional System Requirements: OS 10.2 or higher

“A well-designed chart or diagram communicates information far better than words. A graphical drawing is incredibly powerful when you need a clear understanding of how tasks, activities, and processes are carried out.

Diagrams are basic to the way people think, and we create them all the time without even realizing it. Whatever your profession or interests, chances are you’ve occasionally sketched out some ideas on a piece of graph paper or the back of a napkin. OmniGraffle is the tool to help you organize your thoughts visually, document them beautifully, and communicate them to the world.

With OmniGraffle, it’s as easy as dragging and dropping to create flow charts, org charts, network diagrams, family trees, project processes, office layouts — anything you can think of that can be represented by symbols and lines.”

This application is a step away from Illustrator. Along with OmniOutliner, it is my choice for getting my ideas down quickly and almost in initial presentation form. It has a ridiculous feature set, one being a billion floating palettes. One of my favorite is when it auto senses the distance between objects. No need to go to the Align palette as in Illustrator (although it has it) and distribute objects, as you drag a square next to two others, it will snap when it is equidistant. Another wonderful feature which some of the listed applications also include is AppleScript support. My current favorite is Create an iTunes CD Cover for quick mixes.

OmniOutliner by The Omni Group Price: $29.95 System Requirements: OS 10.1 or higher

“Kick start your creativity, hatch new thoughts, and organize a collection of preliminary ideas into a cohesive plan - anything from a grocery shopping excursion to a complex business proposal. Designed both for the home user and the professional, OmniOutliner provides a welcome relief from trying to use a bloated word processor or spreadsheet program to do basic outlining and list-making functions. And when you’re ready to do more in depth project management involving calculating columns with durations and attached notes, OmniOutliner does that too. All within an easy to use interface, with multiple export options like HTML, OPML, RTF and plain text for compatibility.

Use OmniOutliner to draft multiple to-do lists, create agendas, manage tasks, track expenses, write legal briefs, take meeting notes, monitor project status, and much more. Everyone makes lists, so why not use a tool designed for it? With multiple columns, smart checkboxes, customizable popup lists, automatic numbering, per-level styles, and notes, OmniOutliner helps you get your thoughts down fast - then build on them until they’re perfect.”

Next to my email, address book, calendar, and browser clients; OmniOutliner is constantly running on my Mac. I use it for everything (as I did for this post) as it is probably the most widley used outliner at the moment. Its integration with OmniGraffle is great, letting one import outlines to view ideas visually as inspiration does. It also has Excel type features such as the ability to calculate. This makes quick and simple time-sheet and billing outlines a snap. At $29.95, it is a steal. I heard it is now shipping on new Macs?

Alias SketchBook Pro Price: $179 download, $199 boxed System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP, XP Tablet Edition

“Sketch Naturally: Ultra-responsive digital pencils, pens, markers and airbrushes look and feel just like the real thing. Annotate Instantly:
One-click screen capture and fast annotation of images use non-destructive layers. Present and Refine Ideas Anywhere: Flick through sketch collections with clients and friends. Mark in your ideas as you go. Focus on Your Art - Not Your Keyboard: Access the tools you need to start sketching right away. No need to switch from pen to keyboard back to pen.”

SketchBook Pro is a very specialized application, making it relatively useless without a Tablet PC or a Wacom Tablet. Out of the bunch it is the closest that one can get to paper. It reminds me of Painter. It is perfect for illustrators, architects, and industrial designers; where sketching is of essence. At $179 it is one of the most expensive of the listed applications but if you need digitized paper, this is your best bet.

StickyBrain by Chronos Price: $39.99 System Requirements: OS 9, OS X

“Welcome to the world of StickyBrain. Store anything and find anything with one click. It’s fast. It’s easy. And best of all, you don’t have to be organized to use it.

StickyBrain will soon become your trusted companion because it only remembers and recalls what you want it to. When you ask StickyBrain to recall “Hawaii” you won’t get 7,400,001 hits. Rather, you’ll see the article describing the bungalow accommodations on Maui’s east coast that you promised yourself a year ago you’d visit when you finally took some time off.”

This application wins the best name award next to Circus Ponies. It is similar to a DEVONnote and DEVONthink in that it catalogues any information and files you throw at it, then lets you search it. The application breaks things down into two categories: Storing and Finding. I used it once a while back and from what I remember it is a bunch of floating palettes and a confusing interface.

Tinderbox by Eastgate Systems Inc. Price: $145 System Requirements: OS 8.6, 9, OS 10.1 and higher

“Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals and web logs.”

This application scares me. I have never used it, and I have a hard time even understanding its scope. Despite its hefty price tag ($145) and steep learning curve, it seems to be popular among those who have tried it out and use it regularly. The biggest feature and the one that sets it apart from the rest of the listed applications, is its ability to post to ones blog through the application. If anyone has used it, please Speak Up. I am very curious.

xPad by Garrett Murray Price: $9.99 System Requirements: OS 10.2 and higher

“xPad is the ultimate notepad, TextEdit and Stickies replacement for Apple’s OS X. With a simple, easy-to-use interface and powerful multi-document features, xPad will quickly become your daily text editor of choice.

With xPad you can create as many documents as you like, all of which are managed in one window. Attached to that window is a drawer containing a list of all the documents you’ve created. Any document can be selected and loaded instantly—at any time—allowing you to easily create and manage hundreds of documents without cluttering your desktop.

Staying organized with xPad is easy. With the category editor you can create and color-code categories, then quickly assign documents in the drawer. Documents can be sorted by name, date or category. Now you can efficiently manage limitless documents with color coding that provides a constant reminder of your organizational scheme.

You can quickly rename documents, delete one or many, and export a single, multiple, or all your documents in both Rich and Plain Text formats using both drag and drop or conventional panels. You can also instantly export to your iPod, allowing you to read your documents when you are away from your computer.

xPad automatically saves your work, so you never have to worry about manually saving what you’re working on or accidentally closing something without saving—and losing all your information.”

xPad is what it says it is, a cross between TextEdit and Stickies. xPad reminds me of a more robust MacJournal and like the latter it is written in Cocoa so you get all the OS X niceties you have (or not, please upgrade) grown accustomed to. It has a nice website and at $9.99, it is the least expensive of the listed applications.

Stick with pen and paper or grab of the listed applications. Whichever you choose, do not conceptualize, organize, and diagram Nader’s bid for the Whitehouse!

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 1924 FILED UNDER Hardware/Software
PUBLISHED ON Apr.27.2004 BY Kiran Max Weber
Mr. Kahn’s comment is:

Very nice collection. Thank you for putting this together. This is one of the most useful things I have seen in Speak Up.

On Apr.27.2004 at 05:32 PM
Paul’s comment is:

As someone whose desk is covered with little scraps of paper with sketches, notes, urls, phone numbers, etc. upon them, the idea of the organization these tools offer is appealing but baffling. Does anyone use any of these? Exactly HOW do you use them? I guess I can't quite imagine going to the computer with this kind of ephemera, but maybe someone here can convince me to try...

On Apr.27.2004 at 06:27 PM
mitch’s comment is:

as nice as some of these are, i use something that costs about 10 bucks, almost never breaks, never crashes, has no OS requirements, needs no batteries, is lightweight, highly portable, has infinite resoloution and requires no user manual.

its a sketchbook and a pen. much as i like the idea of all these programs, its just plain faster and easyer 95% of the time to jot stuff down in a paper sketchbook. obviously stuff like super long URL's and video are not going into a sketchbook but everything else does.

On Apr.27.2004 at 08:29 PM
big steve’s comment is:

I A) love technology 2) have terrible handwriting and D) am often too afraid to scribe anything in my sketchbook because I cannot erase pen or tear out sheets if I fuck something up or it becomes useless. BUT...

Art school forced me to believe that i need to keep a sketchbook on me at all times, and it is a lot smaller/faster than software based idea collection. I like being able to whip out my book and draw a sketch of the pretty girl in the hotel lobby next to a list of our future children's names, and another list of the sexual positions that would be used to concieve them -- call me old fashioned. It's cool to stumble onto a TO DO list from Nov. 13 2003 next to half a dozen logo mock-ups and storyboards for a XXXmas holiday photo shoot. That said, Apple's Inkwell is the bomb, and I've been dying for Alias to port Sketchbook to OSX since first hearing about it...

Now if it were only a little easier to press mixed media into the digital sketchbook (MoCA stickers, business cards, a shiny feather, et al), and if it were easier to group things spatially (with the exception of Sketchbook, which does allow for such), I'd be sold

On Apr.28.2004 at 07:02 AM
pk’s comment is:

its a sketchbook and a pen. much as i like the idea of all these programs, its just plain faster and easyer 95% of the time to jot stuff down in a paper sketchbook.

and it's ten time harder to find it three years later, scan the material, re-type the written information so that it can be shared, then sent to a colleague.

this is the primary usefuilness from these applications, and it seems to be flying over your head. it lets you entend your information in an easily manipulable form.

On Apr.28.2004 at 01:10 PM
mitch’s comment is:

actually, pk, nothing is flying over my head expect your insulting attitude, and i have no idea where its coming from. granted I am on only about 90 minutes of sleep last nite so maybe im just misreading :)

clearly a paper sketchbook is not condusive to a searchable database of items to email to a colleague, but it IS condusive to very spur of the moment, anytime anywhere randomness of ideas, which just does not happen electonically (at least in my experience.) I date my sketchbooks and keep them all on the same shelf in order so i have somewhat linear progression of work, but to me that total looseness of paper and pen outweighs a more rigid digital soloution.

having said that, for tracking meetings or design collaborations or things of that nature, it can certainly be argued that some of the above applications would be excellent, and indeed the items you point out are clearly advantages in those instances.

On Apr.28.2004 at 02:40 PM
Greg’s comment is:

I'm with mitch here. When you design electronically, it looks like you designed electronically. You never think outside what the computer can do. When you design outside the computer and then try and move it, you've come up with a better solution 99.8% of the time.

Then again, I don't have to share my ideas with co-workers...but it seems like "Hey, c'mere and look at this," works as well as email.

On Apr.28.2004 at 03:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I had a chance to briefly play with a friend's eTablet PC over the weekend. He had OneNote -- and I have to say, it was pretty neat. He works for a company that takes advantage of cutting edge technology -- so he's able to truly apply his digital sketches to real use. It's how many in his team work as well. Kinda impressive.

I also imagine that these types of software tools are made for people who aren't accustomed to sketching out ideas, or are poor at translating things over email. For them, these applications facilitate more graphic dialogues of this nature. It's probably less impressive for designers because it's how we already work.

Whenever I have a meeting over at Microsoft, there will inevitably be 3 or 4 eTablets whipped out in the meeting. Their teams and processes are critically dependent on the documentation of meeting notes, sketch diagrams, and informal graphic notations accummulated throughout their day. It'd be virtually impossible to manually collect, scan/type, and email traditional notes to everyone. So it's easy to see how these types of applications can revolutionize work processes.

Me? I'm like mitch. I have a red, grid-ruled, Miquelrius sketchbook that I write everything in. I go through one every 6-9 months. I never (rarely) lose a phone number, a name, or a fleeting idea.

But if Apple ever comes out with their own eTablet, well guess who'd be a convert...

On Apr.28.2004 at 06:20 PM
james’s comment is:
I agree that none of these programs are going to replace the immediacy of a sketchbook, but I don't think it renders any of these useless.

I've been running a demo of DEVONThink for the last couple of days and found it to really useful for organizing manuals and reference guides (usually available in pdf format), my design portfolio, the Web sites of various photographers and illustrators, rejected comps that may be useful someday, so on and etcetera. All of these items are then searchable and cross-referenced by keywords, which I imagine will be handy once I've added more items to the database. Like I said, it's not a sketchbook replacement, but in this case, it's not trying to be.

On Apr.28.2004 at 09:41 PM
justin powell’s comment is:

why not use a combination of things?

i personally use the old fashion sketch book... but research, definitions, inspirations, and ideas come from all over and sometimes get separated from the project. wouldn't it be great to collect all that information into one file and include it with the completed project?

i have been debating throughout the day in my head about this technology. i was thinking that you could take time to scan in essential sketches to include with the compiled assets, although scanning is a pain. I have yet to purchase anything just yet... but, the software could certainly be powerful. especially for collaborations, case studies, and archives.

On Apr.29.2004 at 12:10 AM
Neil’s comment is:

(note: playfully said - tone is so hard to convey online) I love it when designers insult each other because another designer's workflow and process is completely different than theirs. :)

Hey, it's design. Inspiration is a wily, slippery beast, and while I agree that working in a sketchbook is often the best for abstract brainstorming, having an outliner / organizer around is also darn helpful. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Each person has their own unique method for extracting ideas and inspiration.

Besides the aforementioned sketchpad, I use Notetaker as a dumping ground for URLs, images, snippets, outlining, course prep and curriculum development, lists, etc. I used to use OmniOutliner and think it's a wonderful piece of software, but Notetaker has a really, really deep feature-set and tons of flexibility. I love how I can select some text and send it to a particular Notetaker notebook without having to open it.

One major benefit of the text-based outliners is that I can type faster than I can write, so if I'm brainstorming an idea that requires writing, it's WAY easier to sit down in front of the computer rather than pulling out the sketchbook. Conversely, if I'm doing thumbnails or visual brainstorming, I almost always use the sketchpad - besides the abstractness of it, I can sketch way faster in my book than on the computer.

For me, it's all about making sure the speed of output is fast enough so I can capture the idea as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. I suck at retention and often lose good ideas because my brain sucks. These help.

On Apr.30.2004 at 01:20 AM
victor’s comment is:

Great collection, thank you.

I've been using Tinderbox since it was beta. It can be used as a normal outliner, but also has very sophisticated features for organizing notes in ways that should satisfy any organization freak. If someone wants extensive control over organization, it's worth the price.

On Apr.30.2004 at 09:28 AM
Stacy’s comment is:

I find myself creating duplicate folder structures in Mail, Safari bookmarks and my documents folders for all of my projects. I can find stuff but it is a lot of work to keep up the duplication.

Is there anything out there that would create a stucture that would reach into all of these places? So I only have to build the folder/subfolder structure in one place and it would be imported into these other apps and would create links to the objects in these folders in these other apps

Is this just a crazy pipe dream of mine or does anyone know if there is software out there that will do this?

On Apr.30.2004 at 02:23 PM
mazzei’s comment is:

(note: said with a yawn- eye rolling is so hard to convey online) How about the old saying? “These are tools use them accordingly.” As for insulting people about what programs they use to sketch, convey ideas and be creative, that concept totally goes over my head. Thankfully.

On May.07.2004 at 10:11 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

This post and all future Tech Tuesday posts (suggestions?) are meant to be objective, they are only meant to present technical (hardware, software, etc.) issues that graphic designers and creatives encounter everyday. As for this topic, I never meant any of these applications to replace a paper workflow or a sketch/notebook. I should have been clearer. I do use a notebook of sorts but since I spend 12 hours or so at a computer (as I'm sure most designers nowadays do), I find it more effective to use software then paper.

This is one of the most useful things I have seen in Speak Up.

Great collection, thank you.

Thank you. Tech Tuesday is meant to bring some practical, everyday topics to Speak Up.

Does anyone use any of these? Exactly HOW do you use them?

I use two of these applications daily, specifically OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle. OmniOutliner is the perfect list making application. For instance I have one document called projects that launches at start up on both of my desktops at home and in the office (it's on my portable FireWire drive). It's divided up by projects and their to tasks. I also use it for simple time tracking as it has calculation features. OmniGraffle is great when you need to diagram something quick. It has an incredible feature set, but the one I like best is that it's just much faster then Illustrator for brainstorming. When trying to convey an idea to someone I find it easier and more professional when I have a print out and not just a bunch of scribble in a notebook. It's more efficient too. Most often the original diagram impresses so much that the person asks for the digital version. Then it's just Export > PDF > Email

its just plain faster and easyer 95% of the time to jot stuff down in a paper sketchbook.

You never think outside what the computer can do.

Completely agree, sometimes it is much easier to just grab paper and pen and go at it and most often sitting under a tree in a park or on a plane will lead to different ideas then when sitting at the same desk and monitor day in and day out. Plus as many of you have mentioned, it's portable. That's coming to the digital world soon though ie tablets, PDAs, and Smart Phones.

It's cool to stumble onto a TO DO list from Nov. 13 2003 next to half a dozen logo mock-ups and storyboards for a XXXmas holiday photo shoot.

Yes it is. I love that. You could find a solution to a current project!

and it's ten time harder to find it three years later, scan the material, re-type the written information so that it can be shared, then sent to a colleague.

That is the big benefit. Information management. As we move to an ever increasing digital world (music, TV, movies, news, text, etc) how will me keep track of it all? We will compile (or we already have) so much information, finding the right piece at the right time will be nearly impossible without software unless one is very organized and have the space. Pogue touched on this in the Times a while back. Try pulling up photos of your vacation but only those with Uncle Bob and your kid - software will do that - shoe boxes won't. James touched on this.

I used to use OmniOutliner and think it's a wonderful piece of software, but Notetaker has a really, really deep feature-set and tons of flexibility. I love how I can select some text and send it to a particular Notetaker notebook without having to open it.

Very cool, I've always been meaning to try out NoteTaker, now I have too! Neil, I agree, speed is a very important point too.

Is there anything out there that would create a stucture that would reach into all of these places?

Good question Stacy. I am assuming you would like to do this on one computer? That may be tricky. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you want to do exactly. You would like a bookmark in Safari but also in Mail? You want an email in Mail but also in your Documents folder?

The following applications may do what you want:



You Software


Let me know the outcome, I'm curious.

Here are some further articles I recently came across:

About This Particular Outliner


Notebook, Notetaker, and Tinderbox

On May.07.2004 at 01:30 PM
Stacy’s comment is:


I am trying to do this on one computer. I have a lot of different projects going, taking classes, intership and teaching. In my finder documents folder I create sub folders for each of these (of course) then then subfolders and the projects grow. To do my work I use a lot of web sites and of course communicate by email.

So to try to keep myself organized, I create duplicate folder structures in Mail and in Safari bookmarks so I can fiind my stuff in the future. I also have flashes of brilliance ;) as I am reading some of this stuff and want to make notes on what I am thinking

I have downloaded the trial version of DEVONthink (Dt), and am giving it a shot. I have to copy/paste the email content into Dt, but can create folder structures and drag my bookmarks, PDFs and .doc into this one set of folders. I can also highlight the documents, which has been useful for web pages to make myself remember why i bookmarked it in the first place.

I am no sure that this is exactly the product for me, but must get my directory structure life under control. One thing I would like but have not discovered in Dt is a way to annotate the individual files, add metatdata about the files.

Thanks again for this great review -

On May.18.2004 at 03:19 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:


Lucky you! Doing this on one computer already makes things easier to start with. You sound more organized then most people, at least digitally.

That's a pain about having to copy paste the email content into Dt and adding metadata may be ahead of most applications but it sounds like you're headed in the right direction.

I've been using Entourage 2004 for the last few weeks to do exactly what you are attempting (among three computers though) and it seems to be doing the job great so far. In our case, Entourage's "Project Center" should fit the bill.

Here are some chronological screenshots.

It can do most of what you want, the main point being keeping your email, schedule, contacts, notes, and clippings (URLs) all in one place - grouped by project.

Here's the good news. Microsoft just announced that a "test drive" is available for the Office 2004 suite. You can download it here.

In addition, you mentioned you are a student/teacher? This means you are most likely eligible for the educational version of Office 2004 for a measly (for what you get) $149. You can get the purchasing information here.

There may be other applications to do what you want, but for the power and price Office 2004, I'd give it a shot.

Hope this helps.

On May.19.2004 at 10:31 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Stacy, this may be a good Project Center intro as well.

On May.19.2004 at 10:21 PM