Data management for visual learners

Scopeware Vision file index utility uses images to improve search and retrieval

People rely on many methods to recall information, from rote memorization to visualization to even scent. While I’m not ready for a scratch-and-sniff button on the keyboard, poring over dull lists of text from standard reports triggers boredom, not memory.

Enter Scopeware Vision from Mirror Worlds Technologies. Based on research demonstrating people remember items based on time and images, Scopeware presents a "stream" of information. Every file, picture, spreadsheet and image appears onscreen as a card with a "glyph" (icon) indicating the type of document it represents. The cards stretch back in time, with the newest at the front and the oldest receding in the distance as if you spread a deck of playing cards across a table.

Additionally, Scopeware Vision creates a thumbnail for each object indexed. Images in a thumbnail help you find the right one, of course, but amazingly enough formatted documents have a recognizable look and can be found via the thumbnail.

Essentially, Scopeware Vision is another index utility that reads files, indexes the words in each file for fast retrieval, and provides a search screen to find and present files. We discussed dtSearch not too long ago, which did much the same thing.

Yet calling Scopeware Vision just another index utility does it a great injustice. Information retrieval should fit the person doing the retrieving, not vice versa. For too long we had to conform to what the computer gave us, and now visual learners have an index utility that presents information geared for them.

Like all good indexers, Scopeware Vision works fast, offers plenty of search flexibility and will launch the appropriate application if you click on the thumbnail. You can filter your searches for any type of Microsoft Office document (or all types at once), e-mail (if you use Outlook or Outlook Express), text, HTML, pictures, sounds, MP3 or video files, and search a block of time. Know you received an invoice via e-mail three weeks ago? Use the Streams Wizard and five mouse clicks will select e-mails including the word invoice received between two and four weeks ago.

Another nice feature is the transparency mode. When you put the cursor on a card in the time stream, it changes to yellow for contrast and the cards in front blocking your view fade to near invisibility. This lets you see the tiny thumbnail on the card and puts the larger thumbnail up in the right corner of the screen.

The larger view displays the first page a bit larger along with the first few lines of the file. The glyph indicating the file type appears in the upper left corner of the thumbnail, such as the icon for Word or an envelope for e-mail. If you click on the document title or the thumbnail image, the appropriate application will launch and load the file. A line called Operations under the title offers shortcuts to open, print, delete, properties, send to, and open with functions.

Streams can be saved and retrieved quickly. For example, you might make a stream for all e-mail containing the words Jefferson Project or all letters you send per month to valued customers. This feature turns the index program into a business database of sorts.

Scopeware Vision will ship early this year. The basic Vision product I tested in beta will be free, and include Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail integration. If you want the Personal version, which adds Outlook calendar and contacts, it will cost about $50. The Professional version adds support for networked drives and bumps the price around $100. Enterprise versions with scanning, optical character recognition and wireless support will be priced per seat with volume discounts available.

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Network World, 07/01/02

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