Nomad PIM
Ideas behind Nomad PIM
As of December 12th, 2009, the development of Nomad PIM has been discontinued

The current approaches to PIM

In order to point out the main ideas behind Nomad PIM, I will evaluate the current approaches to personal information management (short: PIM) first. The following aspects of the different approaches are considered:

  • one program vs. many programs
  • web-based vs. desktop-based
  • ready-made vs. self-made
These aspects can be combined independently, so there are eight possible approaches.

One Application vs. Many Applications

Using one application for all personal management tasks has the advantage that everything is integrated well. For example, the address book in email programs often generates a list of possible email addresses as you type to whom you want to send the email to.

But this comes with a disadvantage, too. These programs are often hard to extend or extension is limited as they are monolithic applications. Some of them contain a plugin-system, but the way plugins can integrate in the application is often very limited. Therefore, if you want some feature that is not implemented in the program yet, it can be hard or impossible to get this feature.

Using many applications is a very flexible approach, and that's its main advantage. If you want to manage some special information, say your money, your emails or your meals and recipes, you will find a special application for this, often one that suites your personal preferences well for this task.

But there is a main disadvantage here, too, and that is exactly the advantage of using one program: integration. When using many different programs, there is often a lack of integration between them. This can result in a lack of efficiency, for example when searching information on a topic in the notes, emails and chat logs must be done separately. Another reason why this is not really good is the fact that you have different user interfaces with different settings and so on. Basically, it's similar to the difference between using an IDE and using a bunch of independent tools.

Writing scripts that integrate the applications can solve some of these problems, but the scripts need to be written and maintained, and they may lock you to a specific operating system.

To summarize this section, I think the one program vs. many programs aspect is an abstraction of the pre-Eclipse-IDE vs. bunch-of-tools approaches to development, and it can be applied to the domain of personal information management.

Web-based vs. desktop-based

In a web-based approach to PIM, you access your data using a web browser. The data itself and the application are located on a web server.

A big advantage of web-based PIM is the fact that the information can be accessed if there is a connection to that server and a browser available. You are not bound to a specific operating system or computer.

But there are disadvantages, too. The first disadvantage is again the fact that you need an connection to the server. I experienced that there are many situations where this connection is not available, for example on journeys. In this situations, you can't access your personal data. Another con is the general con of thin clients vs. rich clients, their limited abilities to create a rich user experience.

Another disadvantage of web-based approaches only applies if you use third-party services, for example web-mail on third-party-servers. Then it is possible that someone might read your sensitive personal data.

Regarding the categorization one program vs. many programs, it is hard to integrate a web-based many programs approach, especially when using 3rd party services, because it requires writing personal scripts that must be stored somewhere. If you maintain the servers where the data is stored or integrated, this might be possible, otherwise it might be impossible.


Here is a short summary of the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches:
approachadvantagesdisadvantages program
  • good integration
  • hard to extend and modify
many programs
  • good extendibility
  • lack of integration
  • higher maintenance cost
  • os lock more probable
2.A.web based 3rd party service
  • no installation and maintenance required
  • only browser and internet connection needed
  • availability depends on internet connection
  • risk of 3rd party access to sensitive data
  • limited user interface
web based self-maintained
  • no installation and maintenance required
  • only browser and internet connection needed
  • availability depends on internet connection
  • server maintenance
  • limited user interface
B.desktop based
  • complete control over sensitive data
  • offline use possible
  • rich user interfaces possible
  • installation and maintenance
  • lock to certain operating systems
  • cannot be used everywhere a browser and internet connection is available
  • possible data multiplication
3.A.ready-made commercial
  • 3rd party company evolves and develops the product
  • instantly available
  • perhaps high buying costs
  • perhaps update costs
  • might not fit the requirements exactly
  • dependency on company
  • changes and extensions might be impossible or cost intensive
ready-made open-source
  • community evolves and develops the product
  • no buying costs
  • instantly available
  • might not fit the requirements exactly
  • 3rd party knowledge might be required for maintenance and extensions
  • can fit the requirements exactly
  • can be changed and extended easily
  • high development cost
  • not instantly available