Processing information means taking raw information and making it more useful by putting it into context. An example of a useful context is the due date context. If you have an item in your database representing a task which must be completed by a certain date, giving the task a due date makes it more useful because you've placed the task in a meaningful timeframe. In so doing you've provided a new way to look at the task, that is, according to its due date. You've also provided a new way *not* to look at the task, in that you might choose not to look at tasks with a due date far in the future, thereby leaving yourself with a shorter list of tasks with due dates focused on the immediate future.
To further illustrate this point, imagine you have 100 tasks which need to be completed by various dates spread over a two month period. If you haven't assigned due dates to these tasks, you'll have to sift through these 100 tasks every time you want to pick a task to work on. On the other hand, if you've assigned due dates to the tasks, you can create a more focused due date context, so that you can work on just the tasks coming due in, say, the next 10 days. This might very well reduce your list of tasks from 100 to just 10, making it a much easier list to manage. This is just one way information processing can help you put your data into a useful context.
Putting It Into Context
In Zoot, folders represent contexts in which to view subsets of the information in your database. Since items in Zoot can be assigned to more than one folder, any given item can be viewed in multiple contexts. For example, the item "Call Tony about book sale" could be viewed in both the context of a due date (click on the Today folder to see which items are due today) or in the context of a priority level (click on the Priority folder to view all of your Task items sorted by priority level). This same item might also be assigned to the Phone Calls folder (click to look at the phone calls you need to make). Again, each folder represents a context in which to view the items in your database.
Making Information More Useful
Processing information with Zoot generally involves three main activities:
Collecting the information
Evaluating and labeling the information
Acting on the information
Collecting information is easy because you can transfer information to Zoot from any standard Windows application. You simply select (highlight) the information you wish to collect, then click on the Zooter icon and choose one of the clip commands. Of course, you can also enter data directly into Zoot.
Labeling information during the collection phase is critical if one is to avoid information overload. When you label a piece of information, you make it easier to place it into a useful context. For example, the <Subject> field of a Zoot item lets you quickly summarize the contents of an item. This is an important label because it saves you time, since you can quickly scan a list of items and glean their contents based on the short description in the <Subject> field. Due date is another important label, because it places an item in the context of a timeframe.
Making use of your information means being able to view it in the context of a current activity. Zoot lets you view your information in different contexts by clicking on folders. For example, you might have a folder in your Tasks database representing the phone calls you have to make. When you're ready to make phone calls, you would click on this folder to see a list of the phone calls you need to make. If you have a lot of phone calls to make, you might apply a filter to the folder view, so as to see only those phone calls with a timely due date.
The power of Zoot is in the wide variety of ways you can contextualize your information, thereby breaking it down into more focused, activity related subsets.