Whether I am writing reviews, collecting web information, scouring research databases, bidding on jobs, creating journal entries, or sending e-mails, I am, in one way or another, terminally entangled in a world of text. Yet another software tool promising to untangle my text-tangle is AceText, a sharp, innovative little program from the developers at J.G. Software (Just Great Software). Barely into it's third week of Release, AceText offers a fresh solution to an old, worn-out writer's problem.
The "think-ahead" theory behind the AceText software tool is simple: All the text in a user's unmanaged "text world" would indeed be managable if it were all contained in one centralized location. With this theory as their foundation, J.G. Software developers created a versatile "text storage" software program, containing a multitude of features and options for 24/7 text users, such as myself, to safely accumulate what we consider to be important chunks of text. Of the many "text manager" software trials I have downloaded, AceText ranks the closest to actually enabling me to manage a day's work. Without being invasive or demanding, AceText provides many ways to create, store, edit, and organize text.
Basically, AceText is an extension of the Windows Clipboard. Rather than the one-page standard that is Windows Clipboard, AceText allows for many Clipboards, each having the capability of storing many forms of text including web bits, web pages, e-mails, URLs, RSS feeds, and both research and personal data. The information, or Clips, saved onto each Clipboard, can, in turn, be separated, saved, and titled, thus becoming individual text "Collections" that can be retrieved, sorted, edited, merged, and so forth. The idea, of course, is that AceText becomes the "centralized location" for the user's most valuable data. No more searching for lost files. No more digging through My Documents.
However, designing eye-appealing, storage areas for text is easy. The real trick, the niche, the one thing that separates winning "text management" software from its counterparts, is finding ways to continually entice the user to want, need, and "know how" to move the information into the storage area before it gets lost in life's daily text shuffle. Indeed, J.G. Software's description of AceText as "A companion that eases and speeds up your everyday computer activities, whether that is writing, text editing, programming, searching and collecting information, sending and responding to email, messaging and chatting, or any or all of those" will only hold true if the user can, by working within the program, accomplish all these tasks at lightening speed, and without having to think too hard beforehand. Amazingly - and herein lies AceText's "fresh approach", J.G. Software offers two features that seem to make this happen: The "HotKey" Function, and the "Visible Window" option. These two features, in my opinion, are the main key elements to making this program work as advertised.
The main AceText Console, when enabled to be always visible on the computer screen as you work, is a constant reminder of where your text can and should be placed for future reference. In addition, by memorizing AceText's HotKey functions, and utilizing them "by touch" in much the same manner a court reporter types in code without ever looking at the keys, a user could - technically - zip through the day, clicking at HotKeys, and simultaneously completeing tasks in an orderly fashion.
To show how AceText's two most important features might prove uniquely productive, the following is a description of a simple, rather uneventful daily senario that suddenly comes to life, later, when translated into nothing but the language of AceText HotKey commands [NOTE: for purpose of example, the user is specified as "U"]:
Offline, "U" is typing a journal entry onto the AceText Clipboard. A taskbar "pop-up" announces an important e-mail. One click puts "U" online; one more, and "U" is reading her e-mail. Commanding AceText to remain visible, "U" quickly opens a New Collection and drops her journal entry inside the Clip Folder. She then saves several back-to-back e-mails by cut/pasting the text, in quick succession, into a "Password" Collection. An RSS feed catches "U"'s attention, and she begins surfing for information. Wanting to save this web bit and that web bit, as well as the URL's for future viewing, "U" does so by saving the text in a "Web/URL Info" Collection while still surfing. An idea strikes concerning the last saved web bit."U" stops, retrieves the bit, cuts it, opens an Essay Project Clip Collection, scans the contents, finds a spot to insert the bit, moves the old text, inserts the new text, and closes the Collection. Annoyed by AceText's Visible Window, "U" shuts it down. Later, e-mails and bank accounts must be checked. "U" retrieves forgotten passwords after enabling AceText as visible. To end the day, "U" finishes and saves the morning's journal entry, decides to move the text saved earlier in the Essay Collection to another, more relevant file, filters her "Web Bits" Collection for replacement text, finds two paragraphs to merge instead, completes the task, saves all folder work, closes the open Collections, and shuts AceText down.
The same scenario, much more exciting when translated into a succession of AceText HotKey commands, would go something like this:
Shift+Ctrl+C, Click, Click, Cntl+A, Cntl+O, Select, Cntl+X, Cntl+V, Cntl+N, Windows+V, Cntl+Enter, Windows+V, Windows+V, Windows+V, Escape, Ctrl+O, Ctrl+F3, Ctrl+M, Shift+Ctrl+Up, Shift+Ctrl+M, Ctrl+S, Ctrl+W, Ctrl+A, Ctrl+O, Ctrl+S, Ctrl+W, Ctrl+O,Ctrl+M, Select, Ctrl+Shift+V, Ctrl+S, Ctrl+O....
I actually made an attempt to memorize a succession of HotKeys and, being a fairly speedy typist, it did prove to be a productive and self-gratifying way to manage my text and ideas as I went about my day on and offline. As I stated, the HotKey commands are, in my opinion, the only way to achieve the software's full potential.
The AceText 2.1.1 30-day Trial Version, which includes all but the Spell Check/Dictionary feature, is available for download at free-downloads.net via the J.G. Home Site. The purchase price of AceText 2.1.1 (Full Version) is $39.95, but does include a three-month unconditional guarantee, which I felt was a nice touch. In addition, the J.G. Software website is full of tips and tricks, testimonials, and plenty of helpful instruction on the usage of each feature and option. With a three-month unconditional guarantee, you really can't go wrong by giving this interesting program a fair try.