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PIMLite Retrospective, October 2002

by Andy Dent mailto:dent@oofile.com.au

Back in July 1993, I got a bee in my bonnet about Personal Information Managers after a program which I found very useful (ThoughtPattern) apparently died and the promised version 2 never materialised. (http://www.tidbits.com/tb-issues/TidBITS-173.html)

ThoughtPattern had a few interesting ways of tagging data and a fairly large, loyal following.

I have an intense interest in user interface design and decided to try iterative design using a range of participants, over the internet, by mailing out questions, ideas and screen mockups.

We had a very successful 4 round of tests, then the program never got written.

There were two main reasons for this never happening:
1) a friend committed to getting the first version written during university summer holidays in 93/94 - then went off and did something else instead.

2) my wife of the time had developed undiagnosed post-natal depression which became full-blown clinical depression and my life became too complicated to manage an R&D project like this on the side (1994-98 were horrible years and after her recovery she divorced me in 1999).

It's saddening to read the enthusiasm in the responses and look back over this design, thinking that it will never be implemented.

I think there are a lot of good ideas in there which have never been implemented in PIM products I've seen (and some ideas which should have stayed in the design stage :-).

By publishing this I hope that other people can benefit from the thinking and get some ideas for their own UI design conducted around the world.

If I were doing it today I would use a Wiki to build shared understanding, using an engine like Twiki (http://www.twiki.org/).

One good thing that came out of this project - the early parts of the implementation grew into our OOFILE database engine. (http://www.oofile.com.au/)

If you are looking for PIM products today, I suggest a long hard look at Tinderbox from Eastgate Systems (http://www.eastgate.com/) and the Chandler project, which as I write is just in the design stage (http://www.osafoundation.org/)

Note: the Postcards referred to below are applications that allow you to view a saved picture - a technology that predated PDF files. As the original word processor is no longer on my system I had to leave these as postcards, they should continue to run on any Mac - I've run them on OS 8.6 and in Classic mode on OS/X 10.2.1



Download complete PIMLite archives in Stuffit format (warning lots of Mac-specific postcard and PICT formats but includes the HI1 posting which was a large Postcard) (168KB): http or ftp

Just download the Excel spreadsheet of questions and collated responses.

Original News postings and later Discussions
(designed to generate interest in the beta process and eventual product)

Round 2 of Description and Questions

Round 3 of Description and Questions

Round 4 of Questions

Round 4 Long Description

Round 4 Screenshots

Back to our UIDesign page.