Organizing & Planning

These resources are useful in organizing your life, whether it's concepts or the tasks necessary to get things done.

Name Comments
Axon2007

What it Does: Organize and process ideas in multiple ways.
Runs on: PC only
Price: $135
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: The extraordinary versatility of the program
Worst Feature: The unfamiliar (but logical) and sometimes awkward interface
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: "The Axon Idea Processor provides a specially designed environment that supports and empowers the thinking processes. Objects and Links form the basic entities for idea processing. These entities are displayed in a multi-level, 3D workspace." It's true.
Organizing note: In initial stages when planning
CmapTools

What it Does: Concept relationships - Useful in group situation
Runs on: PC, Mac, Linux
Free
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: Public server allowing group projects.
Worst Feature: Initially difficult to see how powerful it is.
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Medium
My use: Infrequent --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: I have used it quite successfully in several courses. It was particularly helpful in promoting class interaction.
Organizing note: Useful when trying to make connections between concepts
Filemaker Pro

What it Does: Database tool (relational) with exceptionally straightforward interface
Runs on: PC, Mac
Price: $250
Best Feature: Allows fairly easy keeping of detailed grading and attendance records and personalized Emails.
Worst Feature: You'll have to invest several days of time to get comfortable enough to use it (or any database) easily.
Learning Time: Days --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: You want to pay for Filemaker if you do a lot of database work and want a really good user interface.
Any time you get over about 100 things that need to be remembered, sorted, searched - up to that point Excel may be easier. If printed output appearance is critical FileMaker is excellent.
- Access (in MSOffice) is licensed, but tougher to use. Base in Openoffice is an Access clone, and currently very flaky. MySQL is free and even tougher for the non-techie.
Organizing note: Any time you get over about 100 things that need to be remembered, sorted, searched - up to that point Excel may be easier. If output appearance is critical FileMaker is superb
Review & Comments about Filemaker Pro in Academic Tools Blog
Freemind

What it Does: Relationship diagrams - brainstorming etc.
Runs on: PC, Mac, Linux
Free, Open Source
Best Feature: Very rapid development of a set of concept relationships
Worst Feature: Cannot add much text or images.
Learning Time: Half Hour --- Export/Import: Medium
My use: Infrequent --- Confidence in Evaluation: Medium
Comment: A simple but elegant tool for organizing a bunch of ideas. Ideal at the brainstorming phase of a project. Quicker to use than cMap, but not as powerful.
Review & Comments about Freemind in Academic Tools Blog
KeyNote

What it Does: Outline note taker and organizer
Runs on: PC only
Free
Best Feature: Speed of access. Simple format
Worst Feature: If you don't like outlines you'll hate this.
Learning Time: Half Hour --- Export/Import: Medium
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Wonderful outline/notetaking/organizing tool. It's no longer being updated, but it's still very good. See the commercial product myBase for its successor.
Organizing note: Particularly collecting stray pieces of info - because it's so fast
Review & Comments about KeyNote in Academic Tools Blog
MS Excel

What it Does: The standard spreadsheet
Runs on: PC, Mac
Drexel Site License
Best Feature: Easy lists
Worst Feature: Time to learn its vast array of features.
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: For any heavy user it's worth adding the spreadsheet assistant mentioned elsewhere, and then learning how to record/write macros (VBA).
Organizing note: Excellent for small lists.
MS Word

What it Does: The standard word processor
Runs on: PC, Mac
Drexel Site License
Best Feature: Outlines for those who love them.
Styles for those who love them.
Worst Feature: Complexity beyond the simple.
Immediately Useful: Yes --- Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: For those writing a lot it is very much worth exploring the bells and whistles - they can make a very big difference.
Organizing note: The outline mode is very good for organizing.
myBase

What it Does: Outline organizer like Keynote - excellent internal search
Runs on: PC only
Price: $59
Best Feature: Splendid search - many features.
Worst Feature: Must like outlining.
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: "myBase is a versatile free-form database system that allows entry of unstructured text, webpages, images, documents, emails and even arbitrary files without regard to length or format. All information is compressed with the integrated zip utility and stored in the tree structured outline form." True.
Use the free program Keynote till you want more.
Organizing note: The search is more powerful than Keynote
Review & Comments about myBase in Academic Tools Blog
pb wiki

What it Does: Online, easy wiki (collaborative, interlinked document) creation.
Runs on: Web
Free
Best Feature: "Easy" creation of interactive websites.
Worst Feature: Must learn wiki formatting rules.
Learning Time: Hours ---
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: I use for having students submit "logs" of weekly activity that I want to be visible to others. It's very successful although there are inevitably plagiarism possibilities.

 

 

Update: 2006-11-26