Evaluating Software from a Users Perspective

Jonathon Giebeler has very recently discovered and purchased Surfulater and made a really interesting post over on another forum, where Surfulater related software is being discussed. I have to admit I mentioned this discussion to Jonathon during an exchange of e-mails, as I thought it would be of interest to him. I had no idea the outcome would be a very enthusiastic post about Surfulater and also a discussion on how Jonathon evaluates software. I follow a very similar evaluation process to Jonathon, but mostly use search engines to locate products, not software sites.

My guess is that most people are fairly ruthless when evaluating software, I know I certainly am. Jonathon’s point 5 “If the UI sucks – uninstall the program” rings true to my ears. Very few people give first impressions a second chance. I wouldn’t for a minute suggest that Surfulater has the best UI around town and as sure as I’m sitting here writing this, there will be people who have uninstalled Surfulater as quickly as they installed it, but hopefully not too many.

 Without further ado here is Jonathon’s post in its entirety:

Just a quick note on this.  During the last few weeks I downloaded a ton of programs (including the ones discussed at the beginning of this thread).  I don’t see what the interest in MyBase is?  I installed this program and promptly uninstalled it because I didn’t see anything I wanted to use. 

In my view (perhaps different from yours because I am an architect/law student).  I want a nice UI and easy access to my information.  The information is what it is all about.  As far as a text only programs there should be not discussion.  There are a ton of text editors that all do the same thing.  What is important is a tool that will allow you to gather information from everywhere (the web included) organize it (usually trees) and link it. Obviously the ability to grab information from the internet is important (because there is so much information out there) but you need to also be able to use simple text or import from other sources, docs, pdfs, etc. 

With this said, I am placing my bet on Surfulater.  I down loaded this program with about 20 others and it is still installed.  My process for evaluating is as follows:
1. Go to download.com and do a general search so you get as many results as possible (then do it again so you do miss it)
2. Go through the hundreds of results, read the descriptions, look at screenshots, visit homepages, and finally download promising programs.
3. Install all the promising programs (I do it while I am searching)
4. Gather all the new shortcuts on the desktop, and open each of the programs
5. If the UI sucks – uninstall the program
6. Take a closer feature look at each of the remaining programs.  Can you import the information you want? Does it work well with other programs? Can you input data easily (i.e. is the structure of the program not so restrictive that it takes to long to input simple date), etc, etc,

I did this, and have already deleted many “promising” programs.  Surfulater is still running and here is  why:

It is a web companion yes, but I can also use it to input practically anything else with the attachment and clipboard utility.  To understand the features you’d have to try it.  A good quick view of the possibly it to look at the help section – it was created in the program and is obviously not just clippings from the web.

Here are a few features I loved:
1. I can create many different “books” (that’s what I am calling them).  I have created, Projects, Personal, School, and AEC.  The books are displayed as colored tabs along the top so I can quickly switch between each, and in each book I can have as many articles and folders I want. 
2. It is the best for capturing web articles.  I can download just the part I selected, the selection and the page (which appears as a thumbnail by the imported selection), or the selection and a link to the page.  The title automatically is inserted as well as a link.
3. Here come the best features – accessibility to data – to any note I can add comments, a reference, attachments, or “see also” (which creates a bi directional link to another article. 
4. Visibility – I have never seen this feature but I love it.  Next to each of the items noted above there is a minimize button so I can hide, the article and just view my comments, links, etc.  Also if I click on the “Roofs” folder I can see all the sub articles instantly without having to select each separately.
5. The clip board tool.  I am working on a project with about 100 pages of restrictions, and I am using Surfulater to organize these.  I scanned the document into PDF format.  When I read something I need to reference, I select it and copy it, then I go to Surfulater and create a new article base on this selection, then I put in my comments, i.e. what we are going to do to comply with the requirement

Anyway the possibilities are endless.  I really never write reviews for programs, but I am just extremely impressed with Surfulater.  I haven’t found a program quite like it, and if you guys really want the best editor  – information compiler- possible, I would at least try it.  I still don’t understand what you liked about MyBase.  I chose “General knowledge Base 2.2” over MyBase, and even that has been replaced by Surfulater…did I miss something?  I don’t remember being impressed.

Thanks Jonathon, the cheque is in the mail. 😉