June 30, 2012, 7:21 AM — Computers and smartphones can store and sift through reams of data. With a bit of help, you can harness that power to manage the information you need, whether it's something hidden away in an obscure email message, a search engine result, or a tidbit that you haven't written down at all. The nine services and applications below can help you become more productive and make better use of the technology you already own. Each offers a free version, too. Thanks to these knowledge managers, your next project may be easier to finish than you might think.
(For links to all of these downloads and services in one convenient list, see the "Your Personal Wikipedia" collection.)
[ Free download: How to craft a mobile-application strategy ]
One popular type of knowledge-management service is the "catch-all" service, which acts as a big bin into which you throw random bits of knowledge for retrieval when you need the information.
Evernote is probably the best-known service in this category. It has a desktop application, a Web app, and mobile apps that allow you to feed new information and search for existing data. Evernote also offers the Trunk, a hodgepodge of third-party applications, services, and hardware that all play well with the service.
Another attractive catch-all system is Springpad. Though it doesn't have a desktop application, it does provide a slick Web-based interface, as well as browser add-ons and mobile apps. What makes Springpad special is context: If you clip a Web page containing a recipe, for instance, Springpad recognizes it as a recipe, parses the ingredient list, and even offers to put the ingredients on your shopping list.
While Evernote has a limited free version, Springpad is entirely free, and displays occasional promotional messages based on the information you save into the service.
Browser-Based Wiki Systems