Backpack - web based, but PIM?

Via Downloadsquad. Backpack from 37signals, who also gave us Basecamp and Ta-da List, claimed to be the on-line information manager for both individuals or small business.

The mechanics is actually quite simple -- I was in fact expecting a full-blown PIM suite when I heard the phrase "get organized", but it gives me not much more than a personal wiki has already given me. So what does it have?

  • Create inter-linking pages with Textile markup.
  • Associate pages with lists (single-line items), notes (title + multi-line body + date), file attachments and images. The last two require a paying account.
  • Pages can be either public, private, or shared with other users.
  • Add reminders (free text + date/time) that can be subscribed via iCalendar, or notified via email or SMS.

And that was about it -- free form pages with lists -- despite the raving reviews pasted all over the place on their website. It does however have nice Ajax effects, implemented using script.aculo.us and prototype, that gives a refreshing feel to the whole application.

There are some examples on how to use Backpack, however a lot of them will be very much limited by the restrictions on free accounts. For example, with only 5 pages from the free account and without a proper search functionality, you can hardly use Backpack as a simple CRM tool. Updating to a Premium or Plus account will still not give you the ability to search, and at USD$9-19 per month there are many other better packages else where.

What about as a personal organiser/mind-dump? As I have said it previously, Backpack did not really offer me more than a personal wiki. I have my own personal wiki site (on SSL + HTTP auth so you won't be able to access it) where I keep all my notes. All pages can be easily linked together with Wiki words, and as far as I can see it is easier to use for a non-techie than coding in Textile.

You can also get free wiki sites from places like PeanutButterWiki, SeedWiki and many others. Some of them give you hundreds megabytes of storage, unlimited number of pages, full-text indexed search, and ability to put password to make it totally private. I see it as a better/simpler way getting yourself organised.