Software

Review: PpcSoft iKnow 2009 knowledge management

PpcSoft's iKnow 2009 application looks to provide a better experience for personal knowledge management than either Evernote or Microsoft OneNote.

PpcSoft's iKnow 2009 application looks to provide a better experience for personal knowledge management than either Evernote or Microsoft OneNote, the current market leaders. iKnow uses a different paradigm than either of those two applications, and puts the focus on connections between notes and ease of searching.

Note: This review was performed with the free 30 day trial version of PpcSoft iKnow 2009 Professional.

Specifications

  • Operating systems: Windows XP, Vista, or 7
  • CPU: Pentium 900 MHz or better
  • RAM: 128MB
  • Disk: 5MB
  • Cost: Lite: Free, Standard: $79, Professional: $249
  • Additional Information: Product Web site
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

People who deal with a lot of text information, especially where each piece of text is a relatively small chunk, will definitely want to take a look at iKnow. Workers that use a lot of visual information, such as pictures, charts, graphs, etc. will not get much use out of iKnow, as it is deliberately aimed at text. If you are ready to start turning these various bits of data into useful knowledge, iKnow is worth a look.

What problems does it solve?

iKnow is designed to help you manage a collection of loosely related chunks of text. If you have lots of information that is text and resides in dozens of different files, scraps of paper, and so on, iKnow can help you get them organized and put together in a way that it is easy to find what you need and in such a way that the relationships between them are clear.

Standout features

  • Note Connections: iKnow's killer feature is the linking between notes combined with the automatic linking of notes. This makes it a snap to use it almost like a personal Wikipedia.
  • Flexible Cost: iKnow comes in three editions: Lite, Standard, and Professional. The difference between them is the number of notes they can store (100, 1,000, and 100,000) and the amount of free support and upgrades (none, 1 month, 1 year) provided.
  • Clean UI: The user interface is clean and crisp, without distracting features, and makes sense from the start.

What's wrong?

  • Limited Functionality: iKnow does not support PDF or Web clippings or importing. There is no support for tables or text formatting beyond basics (bold, italic, strikethrough, all of which cannot span multiple lines). Images are not allowed.
  • One Word Note Titles: Note titles are limited to only one word; this is probably a requirement because of the autolinking of notes, but it is still an annoyance.
  • Broken Tag System: The application supports a tagging system (which is not meant to be anything more than a temporary identification before you connect notes), but it did not link notes to tags until I exited the application and reopened it.
  • Hidden Functionality: Some items, like the tags and lists, do not appear anywhere in the UI and are not mentioned in the tutorial; you need to go digging around to discover that they exist and how to use them.
  • Bad Start Menu Icon: On my system (a W7 64 bit machine), the Start menu icon pointed to the iKnow installation folder, not the application itself. This was a minor annoyance but it looks bad.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

iKnow supports a different paradigm from OneNote and Evernote. Both of those applications are happy if you dump anything and everything you find into them. iKnow, on the other hand, heavily discourages this kind of use. In fact, it is very, very difficult to use it like this. While you can change the font for a note, you cannot change it for a selection of text, for example. And without support for importing PDFs or Web pages (can can copy/paste from a Web browser or a PDF into iKnow, of course), it becomes very hard to turn iKnow into an information landfill. Instead, iKnow encourages you to take the time to transform the large amounts of information on a Web page or in a document, book, etc. into a useful scrap of knowledge in a note form, and then connect the notes as needed.

If you are willing and able to work within iKnow's workflow, it is an outstanding application. In OneNote, I tend to dump entire Web pages in, and then use the highlighter tool to mark the text that interests me. What I end up with is a collection of Web pages that I need to look through to find the useful information, and then wonder how it relates to the other items I marked.

With iKnow, you would either copy just the relevant information, or reword it to fit your needs, and it all links together. In a nutshell, iKnow requires slightly more up-front effort and care than OneNote or Evernote when creating the notes, but once they are made, using the information is much easier.

Other than the broken tags and bad Start menu icon, the only real ding on iKnow is that it works a little bit too hard to fit your workflow into its paradigm. By limiting your text formatting options and not allowing tables, lists, or images, it is very difficult to use it for anything other than basic text. I love the autolinking of notes; anytime you type a word that is a note title, it automatically links to that note, and when you are in one note, the names of any linked notes are highlighted in the sidebar. Along the same lines, the search functionality is outstanding. If your knowledge management needs require you to venture beyond text more than occasionally, you will need to look elsewhere. But within the world of text, iKnow is great.

User rating

Have you encountered or used PpcSoft's iKnow 2009? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

6 comments
MarkSpeevak
MarkSpeevak

Too bad there were not a few screen shots

Atle Iversen
Atle Iversen

Great review - you were spot on ! A few comments: The broken tags was an embarrassing bug that has now been fixed. Most "dump anything and everything" applications become *less* useful as you add more "stuff" due to information overload - you simply have trouble finding previously stored information again. PpcSoft iKnow is designed to become *more* useful as you add more information to it, because all your information is automatically connected to related notes - and more notes = more connections. Some power features are "hidden" as most users won't need (or want) them - instead they are designed to be "discovered" as you get more used to using PpcSoft iKnow. We designed PpcSoft iKnow to be dead simple to get started with and use - and hopefully power users will discover the *real* power of PpcSoft iKnow as they use it more extensively. Thanks, Atle Iversen PpcSoft

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What is your preferred knowledge management tool?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Actually, there is a an entire photo gallery - check out page two or the link to the photo gallery page.

Justin James
Justin James

Atle - Glad to know we hit the mark! J.Ja

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I really appreciate vendors who join us in the forums to answer questions and provide clarification.