Managing personal and small group information.
When it comes to so-called Web 2.0 and 3.0 technology, one of the most proliferate marketplaces involves the explosion of applications for managing information for individuals and small groups. Looking only at applications developed for Macs, we see an array of information management technologies.
One of the most popular formats for managing information uses the paradigm of a notebook. The user can create a notebook, often selecting from multiple canned formats, such as a diary, class notes, or a novel, complete perhaps with a notebook cover and a spiral wire down the left side. The application creates a table of contents, and users can create sections and pages – and stuff virtually any kind of information on each page. Two very good examples of this approach are NoteShare and Notebook.
Interestingly, and perhaps because many of the applications in this category have been around for a number of years, these tend to not be true web applications. Often you can share notebooks, including full read/write access, via a URL and a simple browser interface, and you can publish a notebook at a URL. But the products are primarily for single-user, desktop use.
A good example of a notebook application that is a true web application is Zoho Notebook. (Zoho actually provides a large set of web based applications, of which the note program is just one.)
The other very popular note format uses the bucket or folder approach. The application may or may not support the nesting of these buckets and/or the creation of conceptual buckets, so that a given note can exist in more than one bucket. Two very good applications that use this approach are SOHO Notes and Yojimbo. These two applications are desktop-based, although most applications in this category support the synching of notes over multiple machines, using the Apple web-synching technology.
A hybrid desktop/web application is Evernote, which has elegant desktop applications for Windows machines, Macs, and a variety of handhelds and cell phones. It also has a very effective web interface. The user can sync multiple Evernote desktop instances via Evernote’s web server. Users can thus avoid ever using the web interface.
One specialized sort of information management application involves the creation of embedded outlines and bulleted lists. These applications, such as OmniOutliner, actually provide a full notebook functionality as well. OmniOutliner notebooks can be published on the web, but it is very definitely a desktop application.
An even more specialized class of information management applications support To-Do lists. Great examples are Zenbe Lists (they also provide integrated email and collaborative software) and rememberthemilk.com. These are web applications.
Photos and video.
There are a rapidly growing number of applications that allow users to collect, sort, tag, edit, and share photographs and video. Apple’s iPhoto is a great example. It is very much a desktop app, although applications in this class typically support the publication of images and video on the web, and sometimes, even read/write access via the web.
Stories, scripts, novels, and storyboards.
There are a number of highly specialized applications that support the development of fiction, including Final Draft and Montage (scripts), Scrivener and StoryMill (fiction prose), and Toon Boom storyboard (which is actually an impressive drawing program). Again, users can often publish to the web. Interestingly, many of these applications can easily be used as full blown, generic note applications, and can manage many forms of media.
Perhaps the most popular diary application on Macs is MacJournal (by the Montage and StoryMill folks). An interesting twist is that it is also an excellent blogging program. I use it to write this blog. This is, of course, one of the most widely used vehicles for sharing information on the web, and you can expect other sorts of personal information management systems to have blogging capabilities added to them.
Small, forms-based database management systems.
These applications are desktop apps. Apple’s Bento is a very good example. It actually is a sort of hybrid database/spreadsheet application. The most recent release allows multiple instances of Bento to share databases running on computers on a shared network.
The “circles and lines” applications have become highly specialized. The most well known one is MindManager, and there are versions for Windows machines and Macs. These are desktop apps. The vender, MindJet, recently introduced both web interfaces for sharing and updating desktop mind maps, as well as a web-based application that has a fresh, smooth interface, and provides team collaboration tools. Many forms of media can be placed in MindManager, including data from a wide variety of relational database management systems.
Screen and audio capture.
There are a number of applications that allow users to capture desktop video, along with audio voice-overs. Camtasia (which has Windows and Mac products) and Screenium are popular products.
These applications are, in a way, successors to slide applications like Microsoft Powerpoint and Apple Keynote. More and more presentations are being engineered with screen capture and audio applications, and these applications often support text and image data, as well as the insertion of video capture of the speaker. Sometimes, Powerpoint slides can be imported.
There are several applications that provide hybrid desktop/browser live communication, including video, sound, and collaborative white-boarding. The best known one is probably Cisco WebEx, which comes in varieties for Macs and Windows machines. Skype supports a similar, limited product – which is free. One of the nice things about these products is that they come with their own voice lines. Other products, like Adobe ConnectNow, require the use of a cell phone to carry voice. With most of these products, a conference can be recorded for later use.
Importantly, we note that in this rapidly-exploding marketplace, the borders between these various categories are being broken down, and applications often support a number of these capabilities at once. A good example is Curio, a desktop application that supports notes, lists, video, audio, white-boarding, mind-mapping, and limited web publishing.