Fine Tuning the Development Process: An Electronic Notebook, Page 5
Besides the backup functionality, perhaps the most important advantage of the Electronic Notebook is the ability to search the complete notebook.
This is a major drawback of the paper-based notebook system. As mentioned earlier, referencing needed information is only possible if you know where to look. This is extremely difficult when you have dozens of paper-based notebooks.
Although people are often used to searching through a single electronic document, many people do not realize that you can search through entire directories.
For example, if you are searching for a text document with the word 'compiler' in it, you can right-click on the notebook directory and then search the entire directory structure for all text documents with the word 'compiler' embedded in it as seen in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Engineering Notebook Directory—Searching.
As you can see in Figure 8, the search located the file with the desired word. This process is extremely helpful in retrieving appropriate information in a timely fashion. You can take all the notes you want; however, if you can't retrieve the information you need, they are virtually worthless.
Figure 8: Engineering Notebook Directory—Searching.
You have touched on a few things that can be included in an Electronic Notebook; however, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to actually designing the structure of a specific Electronic Notebook. One of the directories that I include is called links. I am constantly searching for relevant and current articles to use in the classroom or in a professional capacity. When I find articles of interest, I store the links in the links directory.
There are a large variety of implementations of this concept. I have seen several variants of this idea called names like Electronic Journal. There are also several commercial packages that provide much of the same functionality and, in some cases, much more. However, the point of this article was to present something very simple, yet useful.
Whereas the concept presented here is indeed simple, there are other steps to be taken that can greatly increase the utility of the Electronic Notebook. Although certainly not required, the migration of an Electronic Notebook to a server, or even a web page, can make the organization and retrieval of your information even more efficient. Next month, you will explore this track and create a simple web site for the Electronic Notebook.
About the Author
Matt Weisfeld is a faculty member at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland, Ohio. Matt is a member of the Information Technology department, teaching programming languages such as C++, Java, C#, and .NET, as well as various web technologies. Prior to joining Tri-C, Matt spent 20 years in the information technology industry, gaining experience in software development, project management, business development, corporate training, and part-time teaching. Matt holds an MS in computer science and an MBA in project management. Besides The Object-Oriented Thought Process, which is now in its second edition, Matt has published two other computer books, and more than a dozen articles in magazines and journals such as Dr. Dobb's Journal, The C/C++ Users Journal, Software Development Magazine, Java Report, and the international journal Project Management. Matt has presented at conferences throughout the United States and Canada.