Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been slack and haven’t given Surfulater as good a test run as I had previously promised.
At the gentle insistence of Neville Franks, last night I finally relented and tested it on my home pc (the one that the kids use for homework, MSN, etc).
WOW! Having given it even a cursory run has enamoured it to me – it may even replace my much-beloved athoc toolbar as the organizer of my bookmarks.
Code cutting Nev has waxed lyrical about why he built it in the first place and let me pull some of the key elements out here:
So Surfulater has a core set of basic capabilities which are completely independent of the application it’s being used for. These include:
- A high performance XML engine which stores and retrieves information.
- A tree component that can display information directly from the XML engine. Windows applications typically have to copy information between the tree and its data store and build the hierarchical tree. These processes can dramatically affect performance, especially as trees get larger. Surfulater does not have these performance impediments.
- A Content window that displays information from the XML engine, based on a set of HTML Templates stored in the XML file. The point to stress here is that the application does not include any hard code which dictates how information is displayed. This is handled entirely by information stored in the XML file. This means we can add new display templates, display existing content in different ways and change existing templates, all without changing one line of code in the program itself. Compare this to the way other Windows applications work!
- A Metadata system to control UI aspects from XML file information.
- Dynamic HTML (DHTML) enables the user to expand and collapse content to get a better view of their information. It also paves the way for other UI capabilities in the future.
- Style Sheets to control the look and feel of information displayed in the content window.
- A HTML editor which enables all content to be edited in situ. In situ editing allows you to work more effectively because your flow isn’t interrupted by shifting focus to a new window to perform data entry. You also get the benefit of working with exactly the same form that you see while viewing content, so there is no context switch.
- A fast full text search engine with boolean and, or, not and wildcard operators that searches the XML engine directly.
- A mechanism to enable cross-reference links to be added to content so you can tie related information together.
- A mechanism that allows the same article to be placed in as many different folders as desired. Other programs only allow a record to be placed in one folder at a time, which is a major impediment for many people. ie. There is no single best folder for an article.
- The ability to attach any external files to articles and store them as part of a knowledge base. For example Word, PDF or Zip files.
- A system to prompt users and provide feedback without continually getting in their face and interfering with their work flow. This is primarily accomplished using pop-up tips that can be hidden as required on a per tip basis. Tip information comes from an XML file instead of being hard coded in the application.
- Drag and drop, Cut, Copy and Paste, and Editing of tree items.
- Sorting of XML content.
- An integrated Help system built using Surfulater itself.
- A Web Server.
- A Database manager for efficiently storing non-text items.
- An E-Mail component with MS Address Book integration for e-mailing content.
- HTML and MHTML export components.
- A Knowledge Base update system to enable new HTML templates to be added or existing ones changed.
- A component to inform the user when a new release is available.
- An integrated E-Commerce purchasing and licensing system.
- Various other bits of clever code.
When you add all of these components together, and take into account that so much of the application is driven indirectly by what’s in the XML Knowledge Base instead of being hard coded, you have a very flexible system that can be used for a broad range of information management style applications. (Lee: my highlighting)
Future developments Neville is planning include:
- Content markup (highlighting).
- Create new articles from Clipboard content.
- Copy articles between knowledge bases.
- Content tagging (keywords etc.).
- Filtered tree views.
- Advanced Search.
- Easy creation of new article templates.
- Template extensions.
- Automated content categorization.
- Knowledge Base synchronization across PC’s.
- Shared and collaborative use.
- Access over the Web.
I’m not the only person who has become enamoured with Surfulater – there’s a page of glowing testimonials.
This is not a paid plug; I get no kickback from Neville for promoting his software. I just think it is really very smart and as one of my clients is starting to (finally) focus on Knowledge Management issues something really simple yet clever I can add to the mix.
If you need to manage your knowledge better, better get Surfulater…