New York Times technology writer David Pogue offers a few of his biggest productivity tips, from working at home (thus avoiding a time-intensive commute) to using voice-to-text transcription software, text expansion, and keyboard macros. What caught my eye is how he uses a personal database to store and find information he needs. Pogue writes:
Years ago, I started using an address-book program that’s now called iData 3. It’s a freeform database, meaning that the “cards” in this database don’t have separate fields for Name, Street, City and so on; instead, you can type or paste whatever you want into each freeform card.
This program doesn’t play well with field-based contact managers like Google’s or the iPhone’s, but the beauty is that it holds whatever you want: recipes, brainstorms, article fragments, driving directions, lists, Web addresses and so on. And you can find anything in a fraction of a second. (Actually, iData now lets you create field-based databases as well, but my freeform database has been growing since about 1988 and I’m not about to convert it.)
An iData screenshot is included here; it’s $70 for the Mac, with a Windows version also available. For awhile I did the same as Pogue does with a personal wiki. Tired of hosting my own installation, eventually I switched over to Evernote, and I use KeePass for sensitive stuff like passwords, PIN numbers, and software serial numbers which I want encrypted and saved only on my own hard drive.
When you’re choosing your own personal database software, the question of structured (fields) versus unstructured (freeform) data is an important one. Both wiki pages and Evernote are pretty unstructured documents, though wikis do offer inter-page linking. KeePass is a structured database (it comes with username, password, URL and other fields) but it also offers a freeform comments field for each record, which you can use how you like. No software application is perfect, but as Pogue says, it is a time-saver to have that one place where you know you can store and find everything you need quickly. Pogueâ€™s Productivity Secrets Revealed [NYT]