The Personal Wiki System!


by Davil Soul

Three very strong words to describe a software package. Descriptions that perhaps should be common, in this sixth decade of programming, and yet, very few applications can claim to be more than one of these. But one notable application embraces all of these attributes: ConnectedText.

If I was given just one sentence to describe ConnectedText I would unabashedly say:

"ConnectedText is a high-performance environment, a tool to augment thinking skills."

I work with ideas in many forms and have long sought the "perfect tool" to assist me - in fact., in the course of my work I have used many techniques: from free structured forms such as brain storming to mind maps, to more structured tools such as outline processors and concept maps. I have struggled with all, and had some success with all. But now, in ConnectText , I have finally found my tool of choice.

While one can look at ConnectedText as an outline editor -- like a word processor, but where concepts can be structured in a hierarchy, and yet this is quite simply not a rich enough description. For while one can, for example, create a document made of chapters, sections, paragraphs, and sub-points it is possible to do much more as ConnectedText can help you not only to write, but also to organize your thoughts, ensure that they flow well, and quickly get perspectives on very complex conceptual structures.

For quite simply, ConnectedText is hypertext done right

That is, it permits "links" between those paragraphs, topics (concepts) or even different project files. This allows you to point at a reference and view the source text, or create directories of places in your files and quickly move to them, or build networks of related ideas. And you can categorize as you go - giving multiple ways to correlate, synthesize, even the most complex of topics.

ConnectedText is a writing tool that helps me think.

With it I can structure ideas, compare and merge related ideas, or tease apart ideas that seemed at first blush to be commingled and irretrievably complex. Much more that, I can use it to reference other ideas, in other places and spaces.... be they on my local hard drive or on the web. Even if they are in or controlled by other applications, I can create links and back links to move freely between content through meaningful connections. Within ConnectedText the navigator not only lets me "see" at a glance the connections between concepts (as described in the various topic pages) but also to travel through these connections with speed and ease.... Perhaps finding previously unnoted connections, or perhaps just confirming ones I have already established.

With ConnectedText I have an idea processor that lets me structure my thoughts as I move through them -- categorizing here, linking there, summarizing or expanding and capturing (writing) down new ideas as I go.

Better yet, nothing can be lost because the built in powerful search facility acts as a powerful "safety-net" or tool of last resort for that rare occasion when I should happen to outsmart myself with a link so obscure that I can't recall where I filed the damn thing - well maybe not so rare, or why would I have totally done away with all other browser "bookmark" tools in favour of capturing web snip-its (complete with URL) to ConnectedText using its clipboard capture routine. Capturing usable web content is simply a matter of highlighting what I want and the capture is automatic - and then, with just a few edits, the piece can be seamlessly linked into my categorization scheme complete with links to other concepts I have gathered.

Nothing could be easier, more efficient, or more effective

For "simple" idea processing jobs I can categorize ideas in a hierarchy - while in slightly more complex jobs I might chose a hierarchy of hierarchies as I can nest the categories in multiple ways to my heart's content:

for ConnectedText allows rather than constrains .

Indeed this seems to be due a basic design philosophy that pervades the application. So when I need a simple outline organizer I have it; and when I need much more, such as a fully hyperlinked web, I have that - seamlessly, in one well designed easy to use package. Power with simplicity. But I still haven't yet touched the program's real elegance.

Amazingly, ConnectedText is a very small package - even if one loads, as I do, "every" available plug-in (for things ranging from Timeline Plots to sophisticated automatic network diagram plots). For most users, it will be found to be "complete off the shelf," but, if required, it is extensible (by the user ) through many means from simple keystroke capture macros to python scripts. . ConnectedText allows you to develop new sub-systems, since it handles the user interface and file system, while exposing much of its power through an OLE Automation interface. This allows plug-ins/scripts to query the current project or topic and output the desired results as a ConnectedText topic. I've cobbled a few of these types of systems together myself to automate things that I do frequently with no problem, but in most cases I find that while my schemes add a little to the fondness I have for the program, they are small compared to the value I get from the standard features - I would use this program even if I couldn't have the plug-ins, scripts and external macro capabilities. Further, I would be derelict if I didn't mention the strength of the company itself; for I've found the tremendous user support and the incredibly quick response to many user requests for enhancements and new capabilities second to none. I stand in amazement at the improvements I have seen added in the relatively short time that I have been a user - and all were done in an impressive fashion that added to rather than compromised the elegance of the program itself.

ConnectedText uses the wiki model but adds so many tools to help in knowledge management that it would be an absolute disservice to consider it just yet another wiki. In fact, it is so much more than just a wiki, that one is in danger of thinking it might fall prey to the "jack-of-all trades" syndrome - that is thinking that because "everything work's" it can't be as good as specialized tools. With ConnectedText this is simply not the case:

As linking and categorization are at the heart of thinking, a tool that does just these things well will do well in augmenting the user's capabilities in any thinking task - but when other power is added, such as is the case with ConnectedText, then the tool can be used, and will excel, in augmenting the user's intelligence and skills for all thinking tasks.

For example I use ConnectedText for my Personal Information Manager, my calendar, my To-Do List and so much more and it does them all well. For these tasks I have developed my own system based on merging the best concepts of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" concepts with the Covey 4 Quadrant system, and a third proprietary time management system I "grew up with" which was based on maximizing the effectiveness of communication channels (360 degree communication - with boss, peers, clients, suppliers, colleagues and staff). While no commercial system I've found allows me do all this effectively, with ConnectedText I now have exactly the system I want - more importantly one that works-because the software allows me to link any topic to any topic and categorize to suit. This alone is worth more than the price of the software - and it doesn't involve any customization or modifications at all - just using the ubiquity of forward and backwards links combined with the power of well implemented categorization gives a resource second to none.

This is the true strength of ConnectedText: for anything that I can categorize I can manage - people, places, things, resources, constraints -- I just link things the way I think they should be linked and I get a cohesive management plan.... one that increases my effectiveness, not just my efficiency.

For most large thinking tasks, most of the battle is figuring how "the pieces fit together in a coherent whole" and it is just this that ConnectedText is finely tuned to give. I believe that Connected Text is a boon to all those whose success depends on the clarity of their thinking and communications, that is anyone who must gather, collate, sift through, categorize, synthesize and make meaning from an otherwise overwhelming deluge of data.

If ever there was a tool to eliminate "Information Anxiety" ConnectedText is it.

Of course, ConnectedText doesn't attempt to think for you - it is not "artificial intelligence." - but it does extend your ability to think. Using ConnectedText, I'm finding a steady improvement in the structure, and flow, and ultimately clarity of my thoughts on complex, interwoven topics. My notes for one current project consist of some thirteen thousand concepts - concepts that I have to understand and synthesize into a manageable whole. A whole that I must ultimately be able reduce at least to book-length form. I don't believe I personally could handle this task in any other reasonable way - without ConnectedText I would be lost. Conversely, I also use ConnectText for the most simple of tasks - remembering which of my books I have lent to which colleagues for example. Powerful yet simple enough to use for everyday tasks - I've even tied archiving important pieces of email into my ConnectedText routine.

Simply put, I've been involved with computers for over 40 years - both as user and developer. I've progressed from the mid 60's from building hardware and programming as a "hobbyist" using an IBM 360, through to today's "real world" of software commerce including stints as manager of application and system developers and culminating in roles as CEO of software firms (including a new start-up), yet only once before have I felt as strongly about a program as this one.

In the early 80's I was an early user of the very first spreadsheet program - Visicalc - which allowed me to do things I simply could not do any other way. I knew from first touch that this was something that could change the world. It was Elegant, Powerful, and Simple in a way that virtually no program that had come before even came close to matching - a program for thinking with numbers that was analogous to the lever of the physical world... one that could be used to "move the world". Now I have ConnectedText - a program for thinking with words and concepts that gives me even greater power than I could have imagined - and can yet one that can be described with the same three magical words: Elegant, Powerful, Simple.

In the text above, I've used many words to describe how much I value ConnectedText but have neglected, till now, to use the two most powerful words in the English Language and I simply must correct that:

to the author(s) of ConnectedText:
Thank you

David HC Soul
CEO - Salamander Systems

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