People often complain about information overload. I'm not sure the problem is with the amount of information or the data sources. Not long ago, most information I acted on was from email. Today, I act on data from many sources. One data capture software product I reviewed, Anagram from Textual, allows me to parse copied text from one program and use it in other programs such as Microsoft Outlook.
Rather than rearrange letters to form new words like the word game, this Anagram lets you create items from the same data. An item can be a contact, event, task or note for Outlook, Palm Desktop, Agendus or Salesforce.com. The program sits in your system tray until you're ready to copy and parse data from one source into another.
This data flexibility allows me to capture and transfer the following types of information:
- An email signature in Gmail into an Outlook contact
- A list of recipe ingredients from a web page into an Outlook task
- An Excel column of training items into an Outlook task
- A favorite quote into an Outlook note
- A row in a PDF election brochure into an Outlook Calendar item
The Anagram Data Capture Process
The process starts by highlighting the text you need and pressing your Anagram shortcut key. The program determines the item type and where the data elements should go. You can edit the information such as adding a subject line or text.
In the example below, I've used Anagram to convert a list of training items from an Excel spreadsheet into an Outlook task in a few keystrokes. I only need to add the subject and dates.
Although the program behaves in a similar fashion to "copy and paste", much more is happening than reducing my keystroke count. Anagram uses computational linguistics and your preferences to determine where your parsed information should go. As example, I set my Anagram preferences to always create tasks and leave the Subject line blank. However, I have friends that would cringe at my setup since they place tasks on their calendar. This is one example where I think Textual recognized people have different methodologies and accommodates both behaviors.
Like many software programs, Anagram doesn't always match your expectations. Before I changed my preferences, it seemed the program was converting more of my items into calendar events than I expected. This may be an issue for people who expect it to be as precise as email address capture programs like AddressGrabber. A key difference is Anagram is capturing and converting more than addresses so the algorithms need to account for other data types such as tasks, notes and events. In some regards, the program is like a desktop version of Slap for Palm , but with more functionality.
On those occasions where Anagram erred, the program has several ways you can correct the item. For example, if I want the training checklist be a calendar event, I can click the Anagram toolbar button, use the Rescan function, and choose "Event".
In Outlook, Anagram adds a button to the editor toolbar for Contacts, Calendar and Tasks. Apart from rescanning information, the button provides conditional options based on where you are in Outlook. One item, I frequently use in Contacts is Swap. In the example below, I highlighted Jesse's address from a Word document. Anagram parsed the address but copied it to the Home address based on my preferences. Before I save the record, I can click the Anagram button and select the Swap Home/Business Address.
One unexpected program benefit is the information flow isn't just to Outlook. Using the Copy as Text menu item, you can copy contact information into an email or other source. Another example is the "Map It" feature, which displays a map in your browser with the contact's address using one of three mapping services: Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps or Map Quest. This is a nice compliment to Outlook's map feature, which uses MSN maps. The feature is limited to US addresses.
I started using Anagram with my Gmail account and highlighted more items as I saw how the program captured and converted information. You soon get a sense of how much data to highlight and what type of data causes parsing problems. For example, highlighting parts of a table or PDF file can pose challenges as you may pick up extraneous data. The problem isn't so much with Anagram, but how Windows captures the data.
I wasn't too long into the trial before I changed my preferences. The first item I changed was the default shortcut key, which is two Control+c. I had difficulty with the repetition so I changed my key to F12. I think by day two, I made three more changes that better suited my style. Each change also raised the program's effectiveness.
Textual, the publisher, offers Anagram with a generous 45-day trial. This software trial period period along with the QuickStart guide and help file should answer most questions. The trial period should also give you the chance to see if the program conflicts with other programs. A concern was whether Anagram would work with my other Outlook add-in programs. I'm guessing the developer recognized this issue as the program includes a system log you can send if you run into problems. To date, the program has co-existed with my other add-ins.
Anagram is a program that will benefit most users, particularly if you take the time to explore the program. The program can reduce the time it takes to capture and convert data from one application to another. Given the reasonable pricing structure, I think the program is well worth the investment.
Anagram Product Review Info
- URL: http://getanagram.com/
- Version Reviewed: 2.50 for Outlook
- Trial: 45 days (fully functional)
- Requires: Microsoft Outlook or Palm Desktop or Agendus or Salesforce.com subscription
- Pricing: $29.95 (Salesforce.com and NetSuite pricing is a subscription.)
Last Updated (Wednesday, 29 August 2012 14:59)