Computers and smartphones can store and sift through reams of data. With a bit of help, you can harness that power to manage the information you need, whether it's something hidden away in an obscure email message, a search engine result, or a tidbit that you haven't written down at all. The nine services and applications below can help you become more productive and make better use of the technology you already own. Each offers a free version, too. Thanks to these knowledge managers, your next project may be easier to finish than you might think.
One popular type of knowledge-management service is the "catch-all" service, which acts as a big bin into which you throw random bits of knowledge for retrieval when you need the information.
Evernote is probably the best-known service in this category. It has a desktop application, a Web app, and mobile apps that allow you to feed new information and search for existing data. Evernote also offers the Trunk, a hodgepodge of third-party applications, services, and hardware that all play well with the service.
Another attractive catch-all system is Springpad. Though it doesn't have a desktop application, it does provide a slick Web-based interface, as well as browser add-ons and mobile apps. What makes Springpad special is context: If you clip a Web page containing a recipe, for instance, Springpad recognizes it as a recipe, parses the ingredient list, and even offers to put the ingredients on your shopping list.
While Evernote has a limited free version, Springpad is entirely free, and displays occasional promotional messages based on the information you save into the service.
Browser-Based Wiki Systems
Just as Google is synonymous with "search," Wikipedia is synonymous with "knowledge." This global online encyclopedia proves that the wiki format works well for managing knowledge. You can make a wiki of your own, too. Of course, your wiki doesn't have to be all-encompassing; it can focus on one particular topic or project, or serve as an interactive journal.
On Wikispaces, you'll find a simple way to get started with a collaborative wiki. With this online service, you can quickly set up your own public wiki, pick a theme, tweak the settings, and invite collaborators. The free plan includes up to 2GB of data, more than enough for most projects. You can't make a free wiki private--which means anyone can read your wiki--but only the collaborators you invite can edit it.
Not all wikis must be collaborative--or even public, for that matter. TiddlyWiki is a tiny personal wiki that resides in a single HTML document, with a small, optional Java applet on the side. TiddlyWiki costs nothing, can live in a Dropbox folder or on a USB stick, and works with pretty much any modern browser. It's customizable, as well, and it even has optional plug-ins. Your wiki is divided into individual topics called "tiddlers," which are ideal for storing tidbits of knowledge.
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