Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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May 2004, Week 4 -- An Old Pro Soldiers On

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Let's start out with a 20 year old program that's not that easy to figure out and costs a lot of money -- $250. And oh, yeah: it's great.

   It's InfoSelect, which has recently been upgraded of course; they call it version 8. This thing is so good that some people use the program for everything they do on the computer, and we'll see why in the next few paragraphs.

   InfoSelect started life back in the dawn of computer time as "Tornado," a random access note taker. That remains its core to this day. It was called Tornado because it was so fast. These days, in the time of gigahertz central processors, a lot of programs are fast. But there's still a difference.

 

   What most people, including us, like best about InfoSelect is that you can just type in notes or a whole book if you want, and the program will call it up in an instant if you just search on any key word. Met a guy at a trade show in Kansas City but can't remember anything about him except you made a note he was from Milwaukee? Hit the F5 key to do a search. Type "trade show" and "Milwaukee" and that note pops up immediately.

 

   This was also true of earlier versions of InfoSelect and you can save a bunch of money if you buy an old one. But the new version lets you do the same kind of note taking with pictures, drawings, web pages, or just parts of web pages that you think are worth saving. If you change your mind, the standard "undo" key combination of control-z works here as well.

 

   You can create pop-up appointment reminders, share files over the web, collect email, encrypt files and outgoing messages, compress files, import addresses from Microsoft Outlook and do mail merges. Files can be shared with any number of users and some or all of those can be given the power to make changes.

 

   You can browse the web in a split screen: InfoSelect and all its functions appears on the left-hand side of the screen and whatever web site you have called up is on the right-hand side. You can highlight any text you want from that web site and drag it over to the left side and into a note. Whole web pages can be saved in this way, but each one becomes a separate note. Individual images can be added to InfoSelect, but again they are saved as separate notes. If you link them they will all be in a group that comes up with a search.

 

   The obvious way to link notes or images is to use some key word or words. But notes can also be linked and collected by color or type. All financial information could be given a "green" highlight, for example. But if you collected a lot of notes from the news on many topics, and wanted to review those, you would use a topic link: "news."

 

   There's a lot of power here as you can see, but it is not all readily apparent. This same failing was present in the very first version we reviewed many years ago. In short, the program reveals a "techie" origin and remains less than user friendly. If you are willing to spend some time with it, the results will be well worth the effort.

 

   Users of "Microsoft OneNote" ($180 at Amazon.com) will point out many features similar to those in InfoSelect. True, but there are some important differences: OneNote, for example, saves files as images, not text. So a hundred or so middling size notes take up about 30 megabytes. With InfoSelect you can store an encyclopedia in 30 megabytes. You can also create a structured database with InfoSelect if you prefer that to random access searches; you can't do that in OneNote. What OneNote does very well is let you create sub-topics within larger sets, which you can easily identify as tabs in a menu line across the top of the screen.

 

   InfoSelect is $250 as a download from www.miclog.com. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you buy it and don't like it. Or you can buy it for $50 a year as a subscription.

 

Pictures on the iPod

 

 Belkin Camera Link

   You can download digital photos to an iPod music player using a new $79 device from Belkin www.belkin.com.

   The "Belkin Digital Camera Link" is about the same size and weight as the iPod and connects the camera and the iPod with a USB cable. Since the iPod can store 15 gigabytes, that's a lot of photos. This is a handy and cheaper alternative to carrying lots of high capacity flash memory cards for the camera; just dump a card's contents to the iPod and start taking pictures again. The pictures can be transferred to your computer later. The device works with hundreds of digital cameras and you can see the list at www.belkin.com/ipod/cameralink.

 

In Tune

  Guitar Tracks Pro

 

   "Guitar Tracks Pro, version 3," provides a 32-track recording studio for the electric guitar.

   Just plug in, check your levels, and hit "record." You can move loops of music around just like handling blocks of text in a word processor. There are six special effects, like adding a rock band sustain or screech. With 32 tracks, you can mix and record the whole band if you want to.

   Guitar Tracks is from Cakewalk, which is pretty much the gold standard in computer music editing. It's $209 from Cakewalk www.cakewalk.com and  works with Windows XP or 2000.

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.

 

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