Category Archives: Knowledge Functions

Knowledge Enthusiasts and Knowledger

I’ve been writing about knowledge apps for over two years here and now I’m going to begin the reveal on my latest knowledge pursuit.

I am building an iOS and Mac Knowledge app using FileMaker 12. FileMaker Go on iOS is free. My distribution options are wide open. This is the creative part of my app journey, though, so distribution is not on my mind yet. It is great fun building the app I want for my iPhone, iPad and Mac.


I call my new app-in-the-making Knowledger. It’s the shortest app name I could think of that plays on the word Knowledge – the focus of the app. For now it is a code name. Things are in flux.

Knowledger is a customizable, personal knowledge dashboard. It can pull information from Wikipedia, Google Search and Google Maps on subjects of interest. It is your own database and internet tool. Ambitious Knowledge Professionals may want to use FileMaker Pro to integrate Knowledger into their own Filemaker framework. Lack of integration is one of the frustrations in the knowledge arena and the door is open to go there as needed and desired.

Knowledge Enthusiasts

If you are a knowledge professional, you must keep up in your area of specialized knowledge and also knowledge in general – including current events. You don’t operate in a vacuum. Forces outside your specialty affect your work. Your perishable knowledge exists in world that changes every day.

Computers have been the tool du jour for knowledge professionals for good reason. You need to master the tool to function as a knowledge professional or pay a price. Now we have new species of computers: iPhones, iPads and their brethren providing access to information 24/7.

Are you a Knowledge Enthusiast? I’ve come to believe that my real market is what I call Knowledge Enthusiasts. I’m one. I love to learn. I have learning goals that exceed my professional interests. I am curious about my passions and become curious easily. Managing my attention so that it goes where my priorities are is part of the reason for Knowledger.

Maybe 5 – 10% of the population share this passion for knowledge whether working or not. That’s where Knowledger comes into play more broadly.

The Holy Grail of Knowledge

I’m treading on dangerous ground working on an app called Knowledger. Having access and storage of all your notes, ideas and clippings, books, whatever is what the knowledge enthusiast craves. Ideas, insights and information slip away as other pieces of information and other ideas come to mind. Knowledge at your fingertips. Google says they want to put the world’s knowledge at your beck and call. I’m entering holy grail turf with caution in my own way and trying to keep focus in the midst of a hurricane. Here’s what I’m up to.

Knowledger Features in Development

In its current incarnation, Knowledger tracks your people, groups, places, things, ideas and works. Whenever you encounter any of these and want to save them and follow them as needed, you just type in the name. Data entry is next to nill. Quick. No hassle. Frictionless.

One of the problems you encounter on iOS is that you have to operate in app silos – App A doesn’t know what App B is doing. That problem is starting to be addressed here and there by URL schemes that allow apps to talk to each other. Knowledger uses URL schemes to talk to other apps. Knowledger can access the web with FileMaker’s built in browser, but stopping there limits you. Key Apps used in concert can crucially improve the experience and aid your knowledge quest.

Knowledger can talk directly to excellent Wikipedia apps like Articles and Wikipanion. It can talk to Chrome if you have it installed. It can talk to Drafts and Day One. This inter-application communication is a key feature of an app that is designed to be your dashboard to the world of information beyond your doorstep.


Creating requires invention which requires concentration over time. It is facilitated by obsession. To be creative you need to be mulling over the roadblocks to your vision, dwelling in the subject matter at play and using your subconscious to do the rest while you are driving, dreaming or in the shower. You need to have your note pad ready at all times to capture the stray insight that comes your way. But, the dwelling on and obsession piece is where Knowledger comes in.


There are huge possibilities for knowledger. We are a world of knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. Flooded with information, most of which we don’t want. Collect the places that catch your interest and learn about them in your spare time. I’ve got Iowa where my grand father was born to go with Duluth where my Norwegian grand parents migrated. I’ve got the classic cities like Paris, London, Rome and Berlin. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. And Akihabara, the amazing gadget shopping mecca in Japan. Every time I capture a new place or person I get a sense of satisfaction that I’ve claimed them for my collection.

Better Use of your Time

If you are a knowledge enthusiast, you may be among the minority who resist the call of various iOS games, staying on track with your quest for relevant knowledge. Or not. I would like you to have Knowledger with you as a constructive option and alternative to seductive time-fillers.

With Knowledger, you spontaneously add people, places and things as they occur to you. You favorite the ones you want to dwell on and unfavorite them when they’ve become less interesting or you’ve moved on.

That’s it. Your knowledge system dashboard and personal interests database.

Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire 2 vs. iPad mini

Updated Oct 23. My 16gb Nexus 7 is gathering dust. The Nexus specs are nice. The Kindle Fire HD 7 is a decent competitor to Nexus 7 for those who want content and simple not a full-function tablet. I have the old Kindle Fire but wanted a pure Android device so got the Nexus 7. Fire 2 didn’t and does not interest me because I don’t like the limitations but I’m a geek. Today’s new iPad mini with bigger 7.85 inch screen is the one to consider now.

The table above shows specs for the Nexus 7 and approximate specs for the Kindle Fire HD 7 and the iPad mini. As expected iPad mini is a narrow and light version of the iPad 2. The iPad mini wins on lightness, apps and hardware virtuosity. But the price starting at $329 is a lot higher than the comparably specced Nexus 7 16 gb at $249. I am fine paying $70 more to get better apps but I’m not sure you are. Knowledge professionals who like the Mac and iOS who are in the market for a smaller iPad that would replace a Kindle and a full-sized iPad should pay close attention to the Mini.

The Devices

TABLET MARKET TO DATE. Competitors to iPad have not had success with 10″ tablets. I attribute this most to their having to play catch up with their software. The three main iOS competitors Web OS, RIM Playbook and Android were rushed out the door with numerous bugs and interface issues. Any new device platform starts behind in apps. There were few apps available for these other tablets when released last year. RIM is on the rocks. Google-based Android is far from crying wolf. Kindle Fire’s Android variant has had moderate success.

NEXUS 7. I have an iPad 3 and a Kindle Fire and I still ordered one. It looks good and has killer specs and a great price point. The 8 gb version at $199 is the best deal if you can get by on the smaller storage. Most who expect to have the device for a length of time and want convenience will prefer the $249 16 gb version since there is no cellular connectivity allowing you to stream when outside a wifi network. Besides being fast, it runs the latest version of Android Jelly Bean and has some nice bells and whistles like bluetooth. The instant response and new Google Now in Jelly Bean add to the appeal of this device.

KINDLE FIRE HD 7. The Kindle Fire released last November was a break thru Android tablet due primarily to its price at $199. It is a 7″ device that does a creditable job as a tablet due to decent specs and a simplified Amazon user interface. Kindle Fire had good sales last Christmas probably helped by Amazon’s track record and fan base with their eInk Kindles and their excellent Amazon store. Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is a geek which is a good thing. He plays big and Kindle Fire HD comes close to matching features with the Nexus 7. Your choice between the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD comes down to whether you want an all-purpose tablet like the Nexus 7 or a more focused tablet optimized around Amazon’s content offerings. The three negatives for me on the current Kindle Fire are the limited availability of apps and the dumbed down version of Android (4). As a geek, I want the latest Android OS more than I want a simplified interface. You may feel differently. One last point, right now you get twice the storage with the Fire HD vs. Nexus 7 for $200. But the Fire includes ads and requires $220 for the ad-free version.

IPAD MINI. From the beginning, many including myself, thought a smaller tablet would be appealing. Apple adamantly refused to build a smaller iPad and (Steve) said you would have to file your finger tips down to operate the buttons. It’s here now. The weight and size is going to be very appealing to anyone who compares it to an iPad 3 or 4. The price at $329 is too high to compete on price against the $249 similarly specced Nexus 7. However, anyone who trusts Apple and likes what they see in an iPad and its amazing app ecosystem might be smart to pay the premium to get the clear winner in the tablet space to date.


THICKNESS. iPad mini is 7.2 mm thick. The Nexus is 10.45 mm thick – 45% thicker. And the Fire HD is similar.

DIMENSIONS. The iPad mini is wider than the Nexus but actually slightly less wide than Fire HD. The iPad mini with a 7.85″ diagonal screen is 5.3″ wide and about 7.7″ tall. The Nexus is 4.7″ wide and 7.8″ tall. I could grab this iPad around the back at the waist and hold it with my moderately long woman’s fingers. But it would be close. I could certainly prop it up at the corner with one hand at the lighter weight and smaller size. But I would say, the Nexus wins the one hand holding contest. The iPad is a lot lighter due to its thinness (see above). All 3 will be easy to manuever relative to a full-sized iPad.

The narrow form of the Nexus is good for reading a single column of text like in Instapaper or a single column eBook. The wider iPad mini & Fire HD screens will be better for notebook like productivity kinds of things and a bit better for the web due to its width. The skinny form will be better for wide screen movies.

CONTENT. Amazon wins books easily over iBooks and devastates Nexus for now. The iPad wins easily in Music and with its Apple TV and ability to put the contents of the iPad up on your HD TV, it probably wins there too. Amazon comes in second easily in Movies, TV and Music with Nexus lagging pretty far behind. Amazon has their store together, there’s no doubt about that and they have this thing called Prime which is a nice mini-version of Netflix streaming.

APPs. This is your toolbox. And, iPad wins easily far and away with the quality and quantity of apps. This is a big deal for those who want some creativity, productivity and utility in their tablet, not just entertainment. Because developers have so far chosen the iOS platform by a great margin, you have to wait longer for the best apps to appear. Since your device can languish while you wait, it is an obsolescence issue too. Amazon’s first Fire didn’t really get that many creativity/productivity apps compared to the full Android Marketplace but I expect the Fire HD to do better. It’s just now there’s a fast, cheap full Android device running Jelly Bean to lure developers away from the Fire HD. But that’s why Amazon had to be competitive with this offering.

USER EXPERIENCE. The iPad has a large lead here against even the latest version of Android 4.1, Jelly Bean but the gap is closing somewhat. The Nexus 7 and its visionary designer, Matias Duarte, are emulating Jony Ive and Steve Jobs here and they are narrowing the gap. Recent reports suggest that Jelly Bean is considerably better this way than Ice Cream Sandwich. Fire hd will runs Ice Cream Sandwich with a makeover. Their simplified Amazon store-books-media experience which is OK if you are looking mostly for content.

WIFI – CELLULAR. Only iPad mini offers a cellular option. I like the wifi only options on all 3 devices. That means I can buy one. There’s no way I can have 3 cell phone plans. However, I am now on a Everything Verizon plan for my iPad 3 and iPhone 5 so adding the iPad mini will only cost $10/mo. If this is your first tablet, you may want that extra always on connectivity. It is a little ironic to use a web-oriented device like Android without cellular but it sure is cheaper and some folks like college students are often surrounded by wi-fi. Rumors have it that a cellular option for Nexus 7 is coming maybe to be announced on Oct 29 at the big Android event coming next week.

PRICE. Amazon Fire HD 7 has a slight lead here with a $199 16gb version but it does come with ads which cost an extra $20 to eliminate. The Nexus 7 $199 model is only 8gb which is slim pickins for a non-cellular device that is good at video. The much higher priced 16gb iPad mini is not closing the gap tight enough to appeal to the price sensitive. Apple is leaving quite a bit of room for Google and Amazon to grow their 7″ tablets into something more competitive with iPad.

RETINA NOT. I haven’t seen the iPad mini yet but apparently it does have an awesome screen that is not up to the retina in iPad 3 and 4 but probably easily matches the quality in the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. Also, the screen is better than the iPad 2 which is pretty nice in itself.

MY PLAN. Since I use a Macbook Air, iPad 3 and iPhone 5, I don’t need an iPad mini. However, the synergy is awesome and this iPad mini would eliminate the need to carry the Kindle Touch or Nexus 7. I will probably decide in the next couple of days what to do. If the iPad mini was $299, I would be all over it and keep my iPad 3 around. I would probably start carrying the mini everywhere and leave the iPad 3 at home.

Related Post. My Nexus 7 has been road tested. See my July 23 post for details: Nexus 7 Hands On: Pros, Cons, Tips and Apps.

Why My Favorite Notebook App for iPad is ThinkBook

Thinkbook app for iPadThinkBook was released for iPad a little over a year ago. It took the app store by storm and was highly acclaimed. Since then, updates have been few and far between for this app. Nevertheless, this app stands tall in the app store because it is the best Think book. You should be using it as your idea book on your iPad. It’s available for $1.99 right now. Crazy good deal (iTunes).

ThinkBook is a remarkable digital notebook. There are many notebook apps on the iPad and I’ll discuss them briefly to explain how they differ from ThinkBook. Then on to twelve reasons to love ThinkBook and a couple limitations that might stop you. And one wish list item…

Handwriting is something else. First, there are a large number of Notebook apps that let you handwrite on the iPad with your finger or stylus. There are a bunch of these and the best of them are probably Penultimate and Notetaker HD. I’m going to skip that discussion to say, if you can type, you’ll probably prefer typing on your iPad even on the glass to handwriting just because it isn’t as tiring and you get digitally readable text when your done. Text is a godsend. It is lightweight and repurposable in the extreme. These handwriting apps are great and I keep hoping that Notes Plus will get debugged enough after its ambitious rewrite to win the handwriting category one of these days.

Catchall Notebooks Like Evernote are Different. I use Evernote to clip things to. To save articles for reference. It’s like an electronic filing cabinet for me and accessible from Mac, Web, iPhone and iPad. Evernote provides important knowledge functions – capture, collection, storage and search, primarily. ThinkBook is more about thinking than storing. It’s where you keep your thoughts and work with them. ThinkBook has the most powerful outlining and organizing tools I’ve ever seen. Keep using Evernote, but don’t stop there.

ThinkBook App for iPadThinkBook is this magical thinker’s notebook with unique and original features found nowhere else. There are limitations to ThinkBook and I will get to those, but first I want to talk about what is original and uniquely valuable in ThinkBook. The reason you should use it if your thoughts are an important part of who you are.

Twelve Reasons to Love ThinkBook

1. It’s an Amazing Outliner. Indenting and moving notes, to do items and more is built-in at the ground floor of this product. Organizing your ideas and notes is at the root of what this product does.

2. Several Great and Unusual Note Types. In ThinkBook, a notebook is a type of note. A Page is a type of note. A Project is a type of note. A To Do is a type of note. A Question and its answers is a type of Note. And, of course, plain text notes are notes.

3. Everything is a Note. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but what it means is any note type can be inside another note type. So, I can create a Day Page (note) on a Client Page (note) in a Clients Notebook (note) on some Business Page somewhere. It’s kind of like Alice in Wonderland or something. You get to stash things where you want. And then move them somewhere else or put things inside of the smallest thing.

4. Dashboards. ThinkBook has these widgets that will show you your outstanding to do’s and unanswered questions. They are called Finders because they allow you to define criteria about notes that makes them qualify to be found. Kind of like Smart Folders in OS X. Dashboards define a scope (Everywhere, a particular notebook or page to which it applies), required Tags, the number of found items to show, etc.. Very powerful stuff.

5. Projects. One of the note types you can create. A project has a special circle icon at the left and its text appears in bold. Underneath that project goes at least 1 to do item and any number of notes. As to do items under a project get completed, the circle fills in like a piechart showing % of completion of your to do items. Brilliant!

6. Fast Search. You can still just search for what you want when you want and get it in a hurry.

7. Tagging. What would a modern notebook be without tagging, so you can cross-reference to your heart’s content. And tags are inherited which is cool when notes can be inside of notes. If you tag a page business, then the notes on that page are automatically tagged as business.

8. Gorgeous Look. Every page of your ThinkBook is beautiful. ThinkBook looks amazing on the new iPad. I love it! I also really enjoy using Vera Sans Mono which is an unusual but very cool monospaced font option. Helvetica Neue, Gill Sans, Trebuchet MS, Hoefler Text, Palatino, New Times Roman and a cool newer font called Nobile is also available. Lots of font size choice. And three themes, Sky Blue, Polar White and Black Pearl. All three themes are great and I have trouble sticking to just one for very long.

9. Delicious Feel. You will love the intuitive and uber responsive gestures:
a. Indent or Outdent by dragging left or right and then down to move a series of contiguous notes. We need this all the time when outlining.
b. Drag notes to the right into the Slider when you drag on the right side of the screen. This feels wonderful once you get the hang of it.
c. Drag the slider up and down like butter and it pops into place in between items.
d. Drag things out of the slider by dragging left.
It goes on but the main thing is it is just right on iPad.

10. Tabs. My man Emiliano thinks things through. By default you get the most recent notes you visited last across the top, but there’s more. You can define some persistent tabs and then undefine them when your priorities change. If you are working on Money issues this week, bookmark that tab so it will stick around on the left side of the tab bar. When you have your money under control, slide the tab to the right to make it a normal tab that will only stay present for a while. Let’s say you made a mistake and really needed that Money tab back. Just slide it left and it gets a nice little black star on it to show it is here for the duration.

11. Dropbox Integration. You can save backups to dropbox of specific notes, notebooks, pages, projects. Or backup your entire Thinkbook to dropbox. Or you can save the text of a note, notebook, page, project to dropbox. By saving the text, you can then edit that text from Mac/PC or iPhone. Since dropbox is accessible via web, you can access from other devices too although you may need to download the file to edit it and then put it back in dropbox when you are done. You double-tap the icon to get all sorts of options for that item.

12. The Little Visual Help System. OK, I ran out of numbers. I could keep going but I like this help system! Lots of pictures. Accessible from whereever you are by clicking the little i in the left sidebar. There are 5 little instructional videos on the Thinkbook website. There is a Thinkbook Notebook on the Home Page with a lot more detailed help.

What’s Not to Like

1. Right now ThinkBook is text only. No pictures or documents or PDFs can be put inside your ThinkBook. But this is on the front burner for the Bitolithic development team.

2. Exporting is Limited and no Fancy Printing. You can email a notebook, page, project, to do or note in modestly formatted text form reflecting outlines, to do’s and notes. And don’t worry your data is not trapped in ThinkBook. In fact, ThinkBook’s notes are all plain text and use XML which is the most universal data language on the planet. The foundation is built, but, for now, ThinkBook doesn’t directly print or export to PDF so you don’t get the formatting pizzaz that comes alive inside of ThinkBook.

3. Useable URLs. Another essential addition – is on the do list.

Big Wishlist Item

1. ThinkBook for iPhone! But I can wait. The big plus will be that always with you thing that would place your wonderful Thinkbook in your pocket.

Don’t Wait

Don’t wait for more features. What has happened in the last year is the product has been debugged, polished and made wonderful. What hasn’t happened is these 3 items above and a lot of other things on the drawing board. But, ThinkBook is telling us our wait will soon be over. If you are anything like me, you’ll want to enjoy the powers of this tool now. It is mind-bendingly good!

Writing Kit is the best Writing App for iPad Right Now

The New Writing Requires New Tools

Writing, INKNOP-style. This blog is all about tools for independent knowledge professionals. If you are an INKNOP, as my friend, Mike Van Horn, likes to call us, you are running your own business. Among other things you need to market yourself. I consider blogging and eBook writing the two best ways to do your marketing, so I blog and tweet a lot about writing tools.

The reason this makes so much sense for a knowledge professional is that you are in the know in your specialty and you can show off that knowledge, help people and gain fans, even sales by sharing some of that precious knowledge you have in your head.

Researching while Writing. Since I’m in the technology field, my knowledge is deep but the playing field, players and tools are constantly on the move. It is rare that I don’t need to do some research in order to write a decent blog post. Since the whole world seems to be changing out from under us, you too might need to do some research when you write.

Writing is Changing. That brings us to Writing Kit for iPad (and iPhone/iPod Touch). As I’ve mentioned previously, writing itself is changing. Paper is no longer the primary output. Email has been king and still dominates. PDFs get sent around. People blog, tweet and lately lots of people are writing eBooks. It’s pretty wild. Word Processors still sometimes apply and some may never give up their love affair with Microsoft Word. But we are moving on.

Online All the Time. We live in a net-connected world. We work online a lot now and Writing Kit is designed for the online writer.

Laptops in Coffee Shops. We have moved from sitting at a desk to do our writing to just sitting somewhere. First with laptops that allow you to move around the house or go down to your local coffee house to write and research online.

Now iPads and iPhones. Now there is this big surge towards even thinner, lighter, smaller devices that fit us even better. The iPad is the brand new writing tool that is starting to take hold – and replace laptops for writing and research.

Writing Kit is designed for this new world and explicitly designed for the iPad. The iPad is big compared to an iPhone but small compared to the typical laptop. You operate the iPad with your fingers which means controls need to be bigger so you don’t really have room for multiple windows like you do on a laptop.

One App, Many Apps. This lack of screen real estate on iPad gives the advantage to a single multipurpose app for writing and online research. In this single-tasking, smaller screen, apps need to have mini-apps within or temporarily handoff tasks to other apps which can politely work with them.

Writing Kit is Leading the Way. The maker of Writing Kit figured this out faster than many others and has built this awesome app for what we need in our new world. The feature set is truly killer.

Killer Features:

  • Built-in Web Browser which uses Readability
  • Built-in Search (DuckDuckGo)
  • Deep integration with Instapaper
  • A URL Queue for saving links
  • Markdown to write easy, non-distracting shorthand HTML in your documents.
  • A great Markdown cheat sheet built-in
  • A really nice scrolling extra keyboard row
  • Gesture control of the cursor and indenting.
  • Outline navigation
  • Great monospaced fonts like Anonymous Pro, Inconsolata and Droid Sans Mono.
  • Terminology integration (cool dictionary and more)
  • A giant list of Open in… Apps
  • Dropbox, Text Expander, etc. of course

True, you may not always be writing and researching. maybe you can get by with iA Writer or Byline or another less powerful tool. But I recommend you hang out in Writing Kit a lot when writing on your iPad. It is more fun to bring iPad with or without a Bluetooth keyboard when out and about. Compared to the alternative of a laptop. Writing Kit does very well with an external keyboard in case you doubted it.

One man show, Anh Quang Do. Be afraid! Be very afraid. He is an amazing developer! And he writes so you get good documentation othrow to use the app. Check out his blog here. Other larger text writing app firms will catch on – one would think. So I’m hoping some judicious hiring is in the works. I have no complaints at all with how fast the features are rolling out, though. A big new 3.0 release came out in February and I wouldn’t be surprised by a 4.0 release in May or June.

You can buy Writing Kit for iPad and iPhone/iPod touch for $4.99. A great, great deal. If you like this post, you may want to check out: Writing on the iPad: Top Dropbox Text Editors. I continue my thinking about writing in my next post: Writing on Mac, iPad, iPhone – Best Apps. There are a couple more nice writing apps to include in your toolkit.