More Features for the InfoSelect Faithful

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Info Select version 6

Bottom Line:
Flexible, powerful information organizer with a quirky interface.
Price: $149.95; $99.95 upgrade from earlier versions

Micro Logic Corp.

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Micro Logic Corp.

Info Select 6 Page

WinList: PIM/Contact Manager

February 28, 2001

More Features for the
Info Select Faithful

Throughout its long history, Info Select has attracted a small but loyal cadre of users who appreciate the organizer’s flexibility and its ability to handle unstructured data. For these users, Info Select version 6 brings some welcome features, such as better handling of e-mail and Web pages. However, version 6 isn’t going to win many new users, because — despite improved help files and pop-up tips — it’s still fairly idiosyncratic and difficult to learn.

I’ve used Info Select for years to manage free-form textual information, such as meeting notes, excerpts from news stories, and an ever-growing collection of pithy quotes. The program excels at handling such unstructured information. To enter something new, whether it’s a page of notes or a new address book entry, you create a “note” and paste or type the text into it. If you’ve selected information in another application, there’s also a system tray icon that copies it directly into Info Select with a single click.

Info Select version 6

(click to see larger image)
Info Select’s rapid search tool shows all matching records in red. As you type in your search term, non-matching records turn black.

For retrieving information, Info Select’s search tool is unexcelled. In the search box, the program shows the number of items matching your query. Initially, that’s every item, but the number of matches decreases as you type in your query. For example, there might be a hundred items with the word “dog” in them, but only a handful with the word “doggerel”. As a result, you often arrive at a manageable number of results before you’ve even finished typing.

However, using Info Select requires a long learning curve, thanks to its odd interface. For instance, you access the search tool by pressing F5, or the G key if you have selected an item in the left-hand, outline pane. Menu items are not always where you expect them to be — to insert a scanned document you need to use the File menu, not the Insert menu (and I couldn’t get this feature to work with my scanner, a Brother multi-function device).

Info Select version 6

(click to see larger image)
Info Select Version 6 displays linked Web pages in the program’s right-hand pane, but these pages aren’t included when you perform a search within the program.

The new version has many improvements. While Info Select has been able to send and receive e-mail for awhile, this feature has become truly useful in version 6. A slick import tool lets you automatically configure Info Select for your Internet mail account by importing settings from Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, or Netscape Messenger. You can also import messages and address book entries from Outlook or Windows Messaging (but not Netscape).

You can now insert Internet URLs into Info Select. When you click on these links the Web page appears in the right-hand pane. You can do the same with folders or files on your local hard drive. But this feature’s usefulness is limited, because these linked pages and folders aren’t included in Info Select’s searches.

If you could somehow buy Info Select’s search engine by itself, and use it for searching your hard drive or the Web, the program would have wide appeal. But Info Select carries other baggage that will turn off most users. Because of the program’s complexity, Info Select is likely to appeal most to those who are already familiar with the program, and who are willing to put up with its unconventionality in exchange for the considerable power it provides.

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More Features for the InfoSelect Faithful

Caution: Broadband content

(Publish) — For Web designers, so-called “rich media” has long been an irresistible temptation. Plain text and HTML seems so bland to the black-clad art-school crowd-wouldn’t it be better to juice up the home page with a few animated GIF files and maybe an interactive game built in Macromedia Flash? Before you know it, your Web site might prominently feature a Java applet displaying a video of your chairman’s latest message to the shareholders.

Meanwhile, your customers-the majority of whom are using 56kbps or slower modems-are spending their time waiting: waiting for the page to download, waiting for the animation to appear, waiting for the jerky video and gap-filled audio files to play.

Thanks to such obvious design gaffes, smart companies have learned to restrain their use of bandwidth-hogging multimedia technologies. The most successful business sites all sport simple, rapidly downloading Web pages. On the Yahoo, REI, Lands’ End and sites, most pages have plenty of information-rich text, image files are small in size, and multimedia or broadband features-if any-are kept well off the home page. That way, customers who want to look at a large graphic or watch a video can seek those features out, while the majority can easily avoid them.

But now that broadband Internet access is becoming more widespread among home users, a lot of people are talking about broadband-enhanced content. The golden age of streaming video is about to dawn-right? Not so fast. It’s true that broadband connections are becoming more widespread, but that doesn’t exactly give Web designers carte blanche.

According to a recent study by Internet research firm Jupiter Research/Media Metrix, broadband Internet access is indeed growing. One-third of U.S. online households will have a high-speed Internet connection by 2005, Jupiter predicts-that’s over 28 million households. Stiff competition among service providers will drive the cost of broadband access down to about $20 to $25 per month-about what a dialup connection costs today. However, Jupiter predicts that broadband growth won’t really pick up steam until 2002. What’s more, most of the people surveyed by Jupiter (53%) have no interest in broadband right now.

In fact, according to an international survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, home Internet users are primarily interested in going online to research information and use e-mail, and for that, a dialup connection is just fine, thank you very much. Streaming multimedia entertainment, according to this study, is the least popular reason for going online, garnering interest from a mere 6% of U.S. consumers and 4% of those in Europe.

The Internet’s infrastructure just doesn’t support video and other bandwidth-intensive multimedia very well yet. Keynote Systems, which monitors the performance of Web sites, recently started tracking streaming media features on popular Web sites. The initial results show that most multimedia delivery is shockingly poor. On Keynote’s scale, which goes from zero to 10, the average site rated a mere 1.87 in streaming media performance. The problems Keynote identified will be familiar to anyone who has tried to view a video on the Web: media files that are slow to start (or unavailable), poor quality video and audio, and an overall poor quality of experience for the user.

Broadband Internet access only fixes part of the problem-the “last mile” data connection. If you produce broadband content you have a host of additional expenses. You need to worry about requisitioning plenty of extra bandwidth for your network operations centers, beefing up your servers, and perhaps contracting with content delivery companies such as Akamai, which can help deliver broadband to end users more quickly. After you’ve done all of that, traffic on the Web continues to make broadband quality unpredictable.

Even when your customer is another business, you can’t count on it having a fast connection. Maybe your customer’s T-1 line is filled to capacity at the moment he tries to access your site, or maybe the CEO is checking out your site from a dialup line in his hotel room. Either way, if your site relies on multimedia and you can’t deliver it, you’re hosed.

Finally, even if the predictions are correct and one-third of all home users do have broadband connections by 2005, that still leaves another two-thirds of consumers on slow dialup lines. What sensible business would exclude 66% of its potential market?

If you must add broadband content to your site, do so with care. It may add cachet, and it might help prove to your more naive shareholders that your company really “gets” the Internet. But the bottom line is that most of your site-including, most importantly, the home page-should be easily usable by consumers on slow dialup connections. And that rule is not going to change for several years.

Dylan Tweney is an award-winning technology journalist in San Mateo, California. His Web site is at

Link: Caution: Broadband content

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Caution: Broadband content