Let’s start out with a 20-year-old program that’s not that easy to figure out and costs a lot of money – $250 (all figures here are in US dollars). And oh, yeah: It’s great.

It’s Info Select, which has recently been upgraded, of course; they call it version 8. This thing is so good that some

people use the program for everything they do on the computer, and we’ll see why in the next few paragraphs.

Info Select is a random-access note-taker. That remains its core to this day. It was called Tornado because it was so fast. These days, in the time of gigahertz central processors, a lot of programs are fast. But there’s still a difference.

What most people, including us, like best about Info Select is that you can just type in notes or a whole book , and the program will call it up in an instant if you search on any key word. Met a guy at a trade show in Kansas City but can’t remember anything about him except you made a note that he was from Milwaukee? Hit the F5 key to do a search. Type “”trade show”” and “”Milwaukee”” and that note pops up immediately.

This was also true of earlier versions of Info Select, and you can save a bunch of money if you buy an old one. But the new version lets you do the same kind of note-taking with pictures, drawings, Web pages or just parts of Web pages that you think are worth saving. If you change your mind, the standard “”undo”” key combination of Control-Z works here as well.

You can create pop-up appointment reminders, share files over the Web, collect e-mail, encrypt files and outgoing messages, compress files, import addresses from Microsoft Outlook and do mail merges. Files can be shared with any number of users, and some or all of those can be given the power to make changes.

You can browse the Web in a split screen: Info Select and all its functions appears on the left-hand side of the screen, and whatever Web site you have called up is on the right-hand side. You can highlight text from that Web site and drag it over to the left side and into a note.

Whole Web pages can be saved in this way, but each one becomes a separate note. Individual images can be added to Info Select, but again, they are saved as separate notes. If you link them, they will all be in a group that comes up with a search.

The obvious way to link notes or images is to use some key word or words. But notes can also be linked and collected by color or type. All financial information could be given a “”green”” highlight, for example. But if you collected a lot of notes from the news on many topics, and wanted to review those, you would use a topic link: “”news.””

There’s a lot of power here, as you can see, but it is not all readily apparent. This same failing was present in the very first version we reviewed many years ago. In short, the program reveals a “”techie”” origin and remains less-than-user-friendly. If you are willing to spend some time with it, the results will be well worth the effort.

Users of Microsoft OneNote ($180 at Amazon.com) will point out many features similar to those in Info Select. True, but there are some important differences: OneNote, for example, saves files as images, not text. So a hundred or so middling-size notes take up about 30 megabytes. With Info Select you can store an encyclopedia in 30 megabytes.

You can also create a structured database with Info Select if you prefer that to random access searches; you can’t do that in OneNote. What OneNote does very well is let you create subtopics within larger sets, which you can easily identify as tabs in a menu line across the top of the screen.

Info Select is $250 as a download or a subscription of $50 per year from www.miclog.com. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you buy it and don’t like it.

PICTURES ON THE IPOD

You can download digital photos to an iPod music player using a new $79 device from Belkin (www.belkin.com).

The Belkin Digital Camera Link is about the same size and weight as the iPod, and connects the camera and the iPod with a USB cable. Since the iPod can store 15 gigabytes, that’s a lot of photos. This is a handy and cheaper alternative to carrying lots of high-capacity flash memory cards for the camera; just dump a card’s contents to the iPod and start taking pictures again. The pictures can be transferred to your computer later. The device works with hundreds of digital cameras, and you can see the list at www.belkin.com/ipod/cameralink.

IN TUNE

Guitar Tracks Pro, version 3 provides a 32-track recording studio for the electric guitar.

Just plug in, check your levels and hit “”record.”” You can move loops of music around just like handling blocks of text in a word processor. There are six special effects, like adding a rock band sustain or screech. With 32 tracks, you can mix and record the whole band if you want to.

Guitar Tracks is from Cakewalk, which is pretty much the gold standard in computer music editing. It’s $209 from www.cakewalk.com and works with Windows XP or 2000.

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