A Personal Information Manager on an Installment Plan

If you could have only one program on your PC — not one office suite, just one program — what would it be? A word processor? A Web browser or e-mail client? A spreadsheet, scheduler, database, outliner, newsgroup reader? Micro Logic bills its Info Select as all of the above — but, first and foremost, a fast, friendly personal information manager (define) that was a cult favorite more than a decade before Microsoft got into the free-form note-jotting and -searching game with OneNote.

Once you take the plunge and try this underdog alternative to Microsoft’s ultra-dominant Outlook, you’ll find yourself spending more and more of your workday in its versatile workspace, stashing and almost instantly finding reminders, contacts, e-mails, appointments, text captured from Web pages, or other scraps of information and organizing them into topics as you like. We’ve given Info Select thumbs-up reviews in the past, and after seeing version 8’s nice if not colossal refinements, our opinion hasn’t changed.

The program’s pricing, however, has changed in a way that gives us chills: Micro Logic has made it easier to try Info Select, but has also started discouraging customers from sticking with one version rather than ponying up for regular upgrades. You can now get a one-year subscription to Info Select — the 6.4MB initial download and all subsequent upgrades — for a thrifty $50, but if you don’t renew your product-activation password each year, the software stops working (according to Micro Logic, it goes into read-only mode, letting you access but not add to the data you’ve stored).

If you want a conventionally purchased copy of Info Select 8 — i.e., one that’ll never expire, but that entitles you only to minor upgrades instead of to version 9 when the latter arrives — the price has spiked from the still-available version 7’s $150 to $250. To be fair, there’s also a conventional upgrade for owners of previous versions for $100.

As you can tell, we have mixed feelings: Getting five years’ worth of future versions for the cost of this year’s package is a great deal, but while the annual-subscription model works for updates from your anti-virus supplier, we’re uneasy about it for your own data — your contact list, correspondence, and project outlines. And after all the times we’ve bashed Microsoft for trying to turn customers who are content with two- or three-year-old products into a steady revenue stream for upgrades, it’d be unfair of us not to bash Micro Logic for doing the same thing, albeit with a friendlier fee structure.

That said, there are good reasons to take a $50 flier on Info Select 8. How many reasons? Well, how many memos, message slips, and Post-It notes are on your desk right now?

Finding a Needle in a Haystack — of Needles, That Is

At heart, Info Select is a two-pane window on your life: The left-hand “selector” pane is an endlessly rearrangeable, drag-and-drop, nested outline of topics and items, whose contents appear in the right-hand viewing or editing pane. Pressing a function key or just N lets you start a new note, typing a three-word reminder, a transcript of a client phone call, or a complete word processing document with formatting, fonts, bulleted lists, and embedded graphics (below).

Example of Info Select 8 Personal Information Management Capabilities

If you don’t feel like typing, you can simply select or highlight some text in most other applications or on a Web page, then click a lightning-bolt “transporter” icon in the system tray to capture or import the data. (Web-page graphics and spreadsheet ranges, alas, don’t transport intact.) You can leave your notes as a virtually infinite, random stack, but you’ll probably want to organize them into topics, collapsible and expandable containers in the selector.

Besides notes, you can store images, Web pages using Info Select’s slightly stripped-down browser, attachments (pointers to disk files or whole Windows Explorer folders), or one or more appointment calendars with provision for alarms and recurring events. Customizing an item’s background color or font or changing a note to a topic or vice versa takes just a few clicks, as does spotlighting it in the selector as an exclamation-pointed to-do item, check-off box, “hot spot” that stays visible even in a collapsed outline, or Post-It-style “pin-up.”

Where Info Select shines — where it’s shone since its long-ago debut as a DOS program dubbed Tornado — is in its fast-as-thought searching and retrieval of random items. Press another function key (or G for Get), and Info Select applies on-the-fly filtering as you type — pulling up all items containing the letters ro, then your crescent roll recipe, then finally your order history, e-mail correspondence, her kids’ names, and next week’s lunch date with Mary Rollins, all by the time she’s finished saying hello on the phone.

Go to Page 2: Ticklers, E-Mails, and More >

Must Read

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.