I think it is pretty remarkable how many applications have appeared that could help people to capture creative thinking. Here is a selection (I restrict it mostly to OS X applications):

Graphing

Outlining

Here is a comparison of NoteTaker and NoteBook.

Managing notes

  • Tinderbox: notes organizer, hypertext writing, mind mapping, personal content management (this site is done with it)
  • KnowledgeTank: another tool to collect notes (seems to be an early release but has a promising roadmap)

Personal databases and structure creation

  • DEVONthink: a freeform database to store and query information pieces
  • Haystack: a personal desktop information portal/dashboard
  • ZOE: a search system mostly for the personal e-mail repository (creates a browsable hypertext of the mailboxes)

Groupware

  • IHMC CmapTools: a groupware client/server concept mapping tool
  • Groove: a groupware tool on a peer-to-peer network base with pluggable modules for outlining, whiteboarding
  • Near-Time Flow: networked aggregator for adresses, files, RSS feeds
  • SubEthaEdit: the concurrent writing feature makes this text editor a very interesting groupware application

Other

  • Curio: organize a scrapbook hierarchically and publish it online in one go; add structured dossiers to projects
  • Keynote: an easy to use slideshow application (easier compared to PowerPoint)

I am sure this list is just the tip of an iceberg. But keeps me thinking though is that there is no developed practice yet to really deal with all that power. These tools train their users on the fly. They allow structuring things only if a systematic strategy is applied. But where does this strategy come from?

Sometimes the question is how to tell the application what the user wants (and he/she needs to know what he/she wants) – sometimes the application suggests how to do it (then the user needs to know if which approach aligns best with the goals).

Here are some skills, that users need to care about if they want to become powerful action researchers with these tools:

  • Simplification: do not collect everything (be willing to hide/delete too narrow sideways); writing with simple wording if structure is the main actor in the scene
  • Keeping goals: always re-iterate on the goals you want to achieve, ask wether or not the document will serve the final purpose
  • Educated decisions: make informed decisions on structure and relations instead of hoping that the tool will suggest one or let one emerge
  • Explicate intention: Keep record of your intentions when doing chances if there is one; ask if new goals emerge and prioritize goals
  • Use hypothesis: experimentally ask questions and try to answer them with your document;
  • Epistemological twists: use falsification; remodulate questions to reveal new answers; try to become better in asking revealing questions
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