Surfulater Version Released

The Surfulater evolution continues with the release of Version This is another milestone release with major changes to the Surfulater code base to bring it in line with the latest Microsoft Development tools, in particular MS Visual Studio 2008 and the latest C++ Compiler. This makes Surfulater more robust and enables us to use the latest Microsoft technologies as we move forward.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to make substantial changes to the way the Surfulater code is packaged. In particular seven DLL’s have been completely removed and two more have been taken out of the Installation package. This code refactoring and repackaging removes problems caused by wrong versions of DLL’s and moves us closer to the possibility of a single .EXE file, potentially without any need for an Installer. Further it helps pave the way for a Portable USB Stick version of Surfulater. And finally it reduces the size of the Installer download file from 7.79MB to 5.67MB and the installed code footprint from 16.347MB down to 12.68MB. Substantial effort has gone into this, taking up much of our development time since the last release.

That is all below the surface, but there are good things happening above ground as well.

The most visual change in this release is how Tags are displayed in articles.

Tag Hyperlinks

They don’t just look a lot better, but they perform better as well, in that you can now click on Tag to jump to it, in the Tags Knowledge Tree and then see and work with all the articles with that tag.

The next enhancement is the ability to change the color of text using Set Text Color, which is in addition to setting its background color.

Set text Color Toolbar button  Set Text COlor Context Menu

Clicking on the button or choosing the right click context menu item changes the color of the selected text to the current color.

Set Text Color Context Menu

Clicking on the down arrow opens the color selection palette, which enables you to change the current color. Note that the current color is displayed below the A image. Restore to default is also new in this release and sets the current color back to its default value. This is also included on the Highlight Text color palette.

Another new feature is Set Title to selection which enables you to set the Title of the current article to the selected text. This is available on the right click context menu, when used on selected text.

Set Title to selection Context menu item

There are times when an Article Title is not what you want and this provides a quick convenient way to change it.

If you are observant you will have noticed Web Search on the menu screen shot above.

Web Search context menu item

This new feature enables you to perform a Google search using the currently selected text. Another handy time saver.

A subtle change we’ve begun in this release is the ability to make more changes to selected text without having to be in edit mode. For example the Add a Link and Remove this Link commands can now be used when not in content editing mode. As can the new Set Text Color.

Of course there is more; drag & drop can now be used during content editing to move text and images, and Copy and Paste as reciprocal ‘See also’ links can now be used in the Tags and Chronological Knowledge Tree views.

As always all of the new features and bug fixes are documented in the V3 Release Notes in the Help as well as in new and updated Help topics. Make sure you at least read the release notes.

The latest release of Surfulater is available from our Download Web page.

We’ve recently completed a major overhaul of the Surfulater home page and I hope it does a better job of conveying to people what Surfulater does and how useful it can be. Feedback welcome.

I’d like to dedicate this release to our friend and golfing buddy Neil Oram who sadly and unexpectedly passed away last Monday 20 Apr 2009. Neil was always a pleasure to be around and had many great games of golf left to play. He will be fondly remembered and greatly missed.

Too much of a good thing

A new Surfulater customer e-mailed over the weekend wanting to know how to get Surfulater to automatically save each and every Web page he visited in his Web Browser. He commented that disk space is cheap and a 1TB drive only costs $150, so there is no reason not to do this. Well Surfulater doesn’t have this capability and it isn’t even one I’d considered, nor do I think has ever been suggested. I have to wonder is this wanting “too much of a good thing”?

I see several issues. First up out of all the pages one visits how many are of any real valuenot many. Every time you do a Google search, do you really want the Search Results pages saved, and out of all the pages you visit from these Search Results, how many are of interest; when you are watching a Video on YouTube do you want that page saved, and on on it goes. Then there are issues of security! Do you want pages saved when you are doing your On-line Banking, or purchasing some goods with your credit card number shown – I don’t think so.

Yes disk space is cheap, no doubt about it. But if all these pages are so important, then backups must be just as important. We all know disk drives die, usually the day before you go and put a backup system in place! So you need a 1TB External Backup drive; no big deal and reasonably cheap as well. But this alone isn’t enough, well not for me, and would have to be complemented with a secure, reliable off-site backup. Ok now we are set with backups. But how long will it take to back up all these web pages, and how often will you perform the backups? And what about disk clutter, are these pages splattered all over the place as lots of individual files, or stored in a database. And what overhead is there in actually capturing them all in the first place.

This leads on to findability. There is little point storing large amounts information if you can’t quickly and easily find the specific gems of interest again and again. The more information you store the more difficult it becomes finding those needles in the haystack. If say 60% of the saved information was never of interest in the first place, then you’ve just made findability all that much harder. Computer people have a saying “garbage in – garbage out” and that is what we have here.

Organizational capabilities, such as Tagging, placement into Folders and adding Cross-Reference links along with the ability to add Notes and edit Captured content all aid greatly in findability, but I find it difficult to believe anyone would undertake such tasks for each and every web page that popped up in their Web Browser. And everyone that uses Surfulater knows just how important organizing content is, in aiding findability.

Now I doubt any of this will make any difference to the aforementioned customer and others like him and that’s fine as we can and should be able to use our computers in whatever way we feel works best for us. This simply seems like a bad idea to me, or for me. I want to be in control, saving the information I consider to be of real value and not cluttering my world with lots of useless crap I need to weed through.

Let me finish on something which is a good thing and that is the next release of Surfulater should be out this week.