In Support of External Representations for Personal Information Management
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This article describes research that looks at how structure is now used and might be better used in support of personal information management (PIM). Efforts to structure personal information find expression in various external representations (ERs) such as folder hierarchies, physical piles and analogous groupings of items on a computer desktop, user-assigned property/value combinations, annotations, file and folder names including leading characters, etc. But the ways in which these ERs develop over time and the roles they play in the management of personal information are poorly understood and poorly supported. Fieldwork is described that identifies several opportunities for improved support of ERs to manage personal information. A Project Planner prototype supports a rich-text outline view for the creation of ERs (project plans). Project plans can be used not only to represent the structure of a project but also to organize information (electronic documents, email messages, web pages) required to complete the project. The Project Planner works by extending, rather than trying to replace, the user’s current file folder structure. The Planner works as an extension to the file manager to provide people with rich-text overlays to their information.