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An Apple for a Knowledge Worker

I am a knowledge worker. I have to read a lot. And much of what I read comes from the Internet. I read the documents, making notes as I read. My notes structure the ideas from the text and capture new ideas. Then I bring together these ideas in a new text, hopefully clarifying or developing the original ideas. As a knowledge worker, I have to deal with a great many documents. I used to print them. That made it easier for me to make notes, writing directly in and around the printed text. But it was costly and not very ecological. What’s more, it didn’t make storage easy. And it didn’t make it easy to look for articles or ideas later. What I need, as a knowledge worker, is an intelligent way of storing documents on my computer so that I can annotate them and later retrieve those that contain ideas of interest to me. OK, Microsoft allows you to annotate Word documents, but most documents are not in Word.

I use a Mac. The finder of the Mac lets you index documents and then search using that index. The search result lists the file name and the degree of pertinence according to the search criteria. But this information is insufficient. I need Apple to go a little step further. File names often don’t mean much and they are necessarily limited in length.

What I need is an extension to the finder that allows me to insert certain categories of information about the document: its title, the author’s name, the source url, a date, the language (if that can’t be recognised automatically), your overall comments, … (*) Adding this additional information could be a choice when saving a document. And in the search preferences you need to be able to say which information you want displayed in the results. You might just want the title, or additionally the name of the author. And finally, if PDF were the standard document format – the Mac allows you to save all documents in PDF – then there should be some way to annotate the PDF documents and to be able to choose to search the annotations rather than the documents themselves, should you need to.

Come on Apple, how about a little effort for a knowledge worker in your next version of MAC OS X!

Alan McCluskey, Saint-Blaise

(*) A longer-term alternative would be to extend the use of XML-type mark-up lanaguage to all documents so that the title, the author, the date etc can be tagged within the oringinal document irrespective of its format and subsequently used by local OS-based search engines. This would bring an open, standards-based solution to handling documents locally as well as at a distance.

See also "The end of file names"

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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey,
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Created: April 26th, 2004 - Last up-dated: Aprtil 26th, 2004