Instant Recall: a free-form filing system for Apple. (evaluation) Brian J. Murphy.
Do you ver get the feeling that computer filekeeping isn't the miracle of automation that it's supposed to be? Searching computer files for bits and pieces of lost information can be almost as dreary as sifting through sheets of paper in a filling cabinet.
A new filekeeping program, Instant Recall By Charles R. Landers from Howard Sams & Co., Inc., does away with the least attractive aspects of computer filekeeping. Instant Recall does for Apple II filekeeping what computer filekeeping did for conventional paper filing methods. This system re-automates the entire process of keeping files.
Before we examine the program, leths examine two of the problems which inspired it.
One problem is that some data can be categorized under two headings. In maintaining a home recipe file, for example, you might try to figure out where to file your recipe for boeuf bourguignon. You could file boeuf bourguignon under French Cuisine, Stews, Main Courses, or Beef Dishes, just to name a few possibilites.
Of course, you could choose to file it under all those categories, but then you would have to enter all that data into every file. With most home filing systems, including the Shell Cabinet supplied by Apple, you must re-enter all of the recipe information for each of your four databases. Chances are you will decide it really isn't worth the trouble.
For another aspect of the same problem, suppose someone else is searching your data looking for boeuf bourguignon under Beef Dishes not knowing you filed it under Stews. You can bet the information will be hard to retrieve.
Leths examine another problem: half-remembered data. Let's say you are a sales representative and have decided to use your Apple II to compile a file on all the contacts on your route. You like to keep your sales calls friendly and personalized, and one of your techniques is to "remember" important personal data, such as awards, birthdays, and anniversaries of your clients. One day, as you are about to start a circuit of the four dozen contacts on your route, you remember that one of your clients has a son named Bruce who will enter college this month. You want to mention him to your client, but which of your contacts is Bruce's father?
It is in your Apple files, but would you want to sit down and scan all 48 records to see whose son it is? Suddenly, the file you have struggled to set up has diminished dramatically in value to you, because it has become a nuisance to work with it. Solutions
Instant Recall is a free-form file cabinet. You can create files that combine related or unrelated data as you please; you will have no trouble retrieving the information instantly. Instand Recall features a unique key word search feature that allows you to call up a file using any word that may occur in any part of that file.
That is a very powerful feature. All you have to remember to access any desired file is any word at all that may occur in that file. The more specific the better, of course, but you can be sure that if you have even the slightest idea what you are looking for, you will find it.
Remeber our example of the sales rep trying to remember which of his clients is Bruce's dad? All he would have to do with an Instant Recall file is to find his database on clients and search for the word Bruce. The Instant Recall file will find every Bruce in the database.
This search capacity makes the categorizing of information less restrictive. Remember the home recipe file? There is no need to enter the boeuf bourguignon recipe in your file on stews, then to repeat the process for beef dishes, main courses, and French cuisine. You can recall the recipe by searching the file for bourguignon or any other word that may occur in the recipe. If you like, when you save the recipe, you can add to the file the various categories into which the recipe falls as key words. Then, searching the words stew, French/cuisine, beef/dishes, and main/courses, will always yield the recipe.
Notice tha some of the search keys were actually two words. That is another powerful Instant Recall feature. Our sales rep could use the double key word feature to find the missing college student by searching Bruce/college. The system will bring up only those files in which both of those words appear. This helps to narrow the search and speed the process.
Learning to use this filekeeping system takes only about an hour or so of study, using the tutorial that comes with the program. Once you are set up (file disk must be formatted for Instant Recall using a special initializing utility in the main program), simple commands allow you to enter the files, save them to disk, clear memory, and create new files. Creating Files
Extensive editing capabilities make Instant Recall seem like a word processor for data files. Editing functions allow you to write over errors, remove lines, and close up the text, or open up a space for
new text between lines. Automatic features
like wraparound, which prevents the splitting of words from one line to another, help keep the text orderly and readable.
Instant Recall has automatic features which allow you to use your disk space more effectively. While you are entering text, a numerical display counter at the top of the screen tells you how many entries there have been in the file so far and which entry your are working on. As you write and save files, the system keeps track of how many characters you have left in your file. An Apple standard disk can hold four Instant Recall files of 28,000 characters. With two drives you can simultaneously handle as many as 229,000 characters in eight files. Documenation
The documentation is designed to be very user-friendly and supportive. The system itself allows you to add as much or as little structure to your files as you please. You don't have to set up and stick to rigid fields of information, the way you would with a Shell Cabinet type filekeeping system. You write your files to suit yourself; you are not forced to input the information in predetermined order.
It is also worthwhile to mention that this system operates at a very high rate of speed. Instant Recall boots up quickly, and the maximum loading time for any file is five seconds or less. When you use the catalog command, you see the list of all four files on your disk. Into this list you may put any descriptive titles you want to simplify your searches. Once you are in the desired file, you can speed your searches by using the double key word feature. Printing
Sooner or later you will want hard copy duplicates of your files, and you will find that Instant Recall handles this chore with grace. With some file programs, turning on the printer commits you to printing everything you call up. When you address the printer with Instant Recall, however, you won't print the files until you give a specific command to dump the records to the printer. This means you don't have to access the files once to find your data and a second time to print out your hard copy.
The greatest strength of the program, its free-form filekeeping capability, makes it less than ideal for some business applications, specifically report writing. The formlessness of the program does not lend itself well to the formality of a corporate environment. The program can be made to adapt, of course, if your Apple has upper- and lowercase and if you are willing to enter or edit the reports in a manner suitable for the requirements of your project.
In the final analysis, Instant Recall is best suited to be a personal data bank, a place to keep memos to yourself, information you have trouble classifying (but know you will need sooner or later), and the information you need on a daily basis.
Instant Recall is full of nice surprise. It has a good many capabilities which you can explore, and you will find that you pick them up quickly and easily. One night's practice should make you an Instant Recall veteran--and enthusiast.
Products: Instant Recall (Computer program)