It's perhaps no surprise that with the evolving complexity of our computers, app phones, and personal data, everything is becoming a database, and many of our actions now consist of querying the database (even if we don't think about it that way).

I first realized this with Evernote, but I now realize that it applies to Apple Mail, OmniFocus/Things, Gmail, Launchbar, Spotlight search on the Mac, and simplenote (just to name a few). So many of my actions consist of either adding information/files, or searching for them. I suspect it all started with Gmail, which (in my mind) was the first large-scale implementation of such an idea. When Google launched Gmail, suddenly we were freed from folders or tags, and could simply archive (at first Gmail didn't permit mail deletion, but they eventually added it). With the power of google, you could search for that email by its sender, content, title, or whatever. No longer was there a need for looking for folders, wondering how it got misfiled, or trying to remember the appropriate tag. It just worked, and you searched with whatever came to mind—fluid, natural, and easy.

With that lovely search box in some many applications and even the Mac OS, suddenly we have that power everywhere. So I'm scouring Evernote for a PDF, searching OmniFocus to see where a task is lurking, or querying my emails. With Launchbar, I'm searching my applications, bookmarks, or address book. The hard work, of course, is done on the backend where the computer has indexed all these things previously, and your search is merely searching an invisible index (again, this sort of thing is thanks to Google). But it's fast, natural, and obvious. I don't have to navigate through a home folder to a folder of babysitter contacts; I can merely type "babysitter" and up comes that list or contact.

The problem is with applications that don't operate this way. Older Course Management Systems (that shall remain unnamed) force you to do those endless clicks to burrow and get where you want, and similarly with Exchange online server and others. Instead of a more natural "let me search for it as I want," it becomes "you must accommodate to our filing system and naming conventions." I find myself growing impatient with such approaches, as they are falling behind the current standards.

Everything's a database--happy hunting!

AuthorKevin Taylor
Categoriestech #alt-ac