AFTER SPENDING MORE THAN a decade getting used to the "desktop metaphor," with its ubiquitous folders and files, I'm about ready for a change. Finding the information I want has long been the result of a seemingly endless series of clicks to drill down from where I am to where I hope to be. And simply rummaging around for files with a standard search tool isn't much better.
Now there might be a better solution. A product called ScopeWare (www.scopeware.com) from Mirror Worlds Technologies, offers a different way to look at things. Instead of files and folders, you see your data as "streams" of documents flowing across your desktop. These streams look something like a row of overlapping index cards, with the most recent documents nearer the front. Hovering over a card causes more detailed information to pop up on the right-hand side of the screen. Double-clicking on a card lets you instantly edit it without ever leaving your Web browser. It's equally simple to create new documents, such as e-mail messages, Word files, or calendar entries.
What's also interesting is that ScopeWare works on all kinds of devices. A wireless PDA or device like a BlackBerry can show a stream (granted, in a list form rather than as cards) just as easily as a PC.
ScopeWare is the brainchild of David Gelernter‹a well-known computer scientist and author of Mirror Worlds, a 1992 book that predicted the emergence of a global information network. (The book also had another effect‹reading it reportedly incited convicted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski to send Gelernter a bomb that seriously injured him.)
With Scopeware, Gelernter's stated goal is to create software that allows people to access all of their information, whenever they need it, and without the hassle of opening multiple applications or thumbing through endless file folders.
The Scopeware tools sit on top of operating systems and constantly monitor the flow of information. The tools also index new documents and retrieve old ones via the system's search engine. You can quickly set security privileges with just a couple clicks, allowing other users to access important documents that you created and vice versa. And you can switch streams easily, creating new ones for such things as "The WonderCorp. Account" or "June Marketing Plan" in moments.
Using ScopeWare doesn't keep you from doing things the old way, either. You can still check your email in Outlook or store your calendar in Notes, while ScopeWare keeps track of everything behind the scenes. The next time you want to get an overall view of your information, ScopeWare will be there, ready to provide the big picture.
I'm not sure the corporate world is ready for a shift like this‹a shift whose benefit will be tough to measure in hard dollars at a time when everyone's looking to save money, not push the envelope. Still, if it might break our ties to the desktop, it's probably worth a look, right?
This story, "Gelernter simplifies your search" was originally published by CIO.