10 May 2010

Idealist lives

My favourite free-form textual database, Bekon/Blackwell Idealist, continues to impress me. Last week my Thinkpad finally died (well it was six years old) and I replaced it with another Thinkpad – this time an X60s running Windows Vista (which turns out to be not nearly as bad as many of the pundits made out). My main fear about the move was that Idealist would not work on the new operating system, but I need not have worried – within minutes it was up and running (using Win95 compatibility mode). The version I am using was last updated in 1999. When I started using it, I was running it on a Compaq laptop with Windows for Workgroups. Since then I have used it with Win95, Win98, Win2000 and XP Pro. Unlike most other pieces of software, it has never let me down; it has never crashed; it has never lost or mangled any of my precious data (currently something like 30,000 records spread across half a dozen databases).

Another recent piece of good news about Idealist, which is buried deep in the comments on one of my earlier Blog entries on Idealist, is that someone is actively working on an open source replacement for it. The first alpha release was posted on the web a couple of days ago (here). Its developer says:
Unlike Idealist, it has 'field' buttons (to the left of each field, support for WWW and DOI addresses, and uses colour. Also, record and field definitions are saved in each database, which I think is an improvement over the idealist way of doing things. I developed it on Kubuntu Lucid Linux. It should run on Windows, although several other packages will have to be downloaded and installed. A Windows exe is not yet available so it must be run as a Python script. Searching by integer, float, record-number and date are implemented, but as yet word/phrase searching is not. 
Fortunately there are some open source text indexing engines already available (e.g. Xapian) that can be used. Progress is quite slow and so I'm still hoping to find some 'helpers' - particularly with some of the more advanced programming. Also, the project needs a more distinctive name (suggestions welcome).
By the way, if you want to try out the original, you can download version 3 of Idealist from here.


CK said...

I have been trying to post a comment on your "After Idealist" blog. I have now tried four times, but each time I am told the comment has been saved, the count of comments goes up from 129 to 130, my comment appears at the foot of the comments page, but it is never transferred to the page with the original post, and as soon as I navigate away from the comments page, when I go back there my comment has disappeared and the count has gone back down to 129. Ami I doing something wrong?

Lawrence said...

CK, sorry about that. For some reason Blogger's automatic spam detection decided to block your message. I have now told it that the message is not spam!

CK said...

Thanks for doing that.

Incidentally, in relation to one of your other software posts, you may like to know, if you don't already, that there is now a public beta available of Scrivener for Windows with the final version scheduled to be released in July. Details can be found at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivenerforwindows/

Lawrence said...

Thanks for mentioning the Scrivener beta. In fact, I did know about it and have been experimenting with it for some months. I may even find time to write a blog entry about it before they finally release it.