Mary Lou Calvin is the Library Director for Warner Norcross & Judd.
Create a Quick Reference Database with this Inexpensive Tool
Information overload is a common complaint. Keeping track of crucial little pieces of information isn't always easy. How often do you get a research question, realize that you've answered that same question recently, but are unable to remember where you found the answer?
Several years ago I started using a simple database program called Cardfile that came with Windows 3.x. It was originally designed to organize names and addresses, and so was subsequently abandoned when Outlook 97 was introduced. However, it's usefulness extends beyond a simple rolodex as it is ideal for organizing small notes and other free-text information, something that Outlook can't accommodate. Luckily a replacement product, called AZZ Cardfile has since been released complete with enhancements. The cost of AZZ cardfile is $12 and it is available from their website at http://www2.omnitel.net/zdramys/azzcardfile/index.htm.
The biggest advantage of the program is the ease of use. AZZ Cardfile is designed to resemble a simple, small, notebook and includes the ability to browse or search to locate an item quickly. You start off with empty cards without any predefined fields and build your information from there.
I have several cardfiles that I use on a regular basis, one for all my IDs and passwords, and another one for all my research tips. Whenever I am doing research and run into a source of information that I think I might need again, or someone on a listserv shares a source of information I think I might need in the future, I add a card to my cardfile.
To add a card to card file, you simply select add from the card menu, or use the "add card" icon on the toolbar. You are then prompted to add a title for the card. After you have entered the title, you simply type in the body of the card as much or as little information as you need about the research source. The display screen is a split screen that shows the titles of all the cards in the cardfile on the left hand side of the page and the contents of the cards on the right hand side of the page. The text and titles of the cards are searchable. The program will minimize to a system tray icon for one click access, which means you can quickly add or search for a card. The program is also network ready. I have the program on a network drive so that I can share the information with the rest of the library staff.
Below is a screen shoot of my Research cardfile. The right and left pointing arrows on the toolbar take you to next & previous card. You can also click on any card title on the left hand side of the screen to go to that card. The binoculars on the toolbar offers the search function.
This program isn't sophisticated, complicated or expensive, but it meets a real need to save and retrieve bits of information that would otherwise be difficult to remember. Makes you wonder why Microsoft abandoned such a useful little utility. Then again, maybe it's because it isn't sophisticated, complicated or expensive.