Hack 10. Keep Track of Your Collectibles
If you are a collector, you can use MemoPad or a specialized utility to manage your hobby.
If you're a collector of anything from books to Precious Moments figurines, you may have a hard time keeping track of what you have in your collection and what you still need to acquire. Fortunately this task can be greatly simplified with a Palm Powered handheld. You can keep it simple and use a variety of Memo Pad entries, or you can use a more specialized application to track everything from what you have in your collection to how much you paid for it and an estimation of current value.
If you have a relatively small or uncomplicated collection, you may find that the built-in MemoPad is all you need to keep things under control. You can have up to 15 categories of memos, so you can create a separate category for each collection or you can have one Collectibles category. You can then use individual MemoPad entries for groups of items, say books by the same author, or Hallmark ornaments organized by year. This method isn't going to work for an incredibly large collection, but if you just want to make sure you don't purchase duplicate DVDs, this is a good method to use. Even better, when you get information about something you want to purchase you can add the relevant information to the MemoPad, so the next time you're shopping you'll have everything you need to make the best addition to your collection. MemoPad replacements, such as pedit (http://www.paulcomputing.com), allow you to sort the lines in a memo (see Figure 1-17), which can be useful if you have a lot of items listed.
Figure 1-17. Sorting in pedit
Shadow Plan is an outliner, but it also does a very good job of handling lists of all kinds. I've found that the best method is to start a new outline for each kind of collectible, such as DVDs, books, or hub caps. Within the outline, create top level parent items for each category; the screenshot (Figure 1-18) shows the sample setup for a book collection. I have a rather extensive book collection, so I chose to organize the list by topic; under each topic I've listed books by title, or when I have several by the same author, by author as sub-topic with the individual titles listed below. I can attach a note to any or all of the items that contains additional information such as the condition of the book, the publisher, the price, notes from my reading, and so on. I also use Shadow's tagging feature to locate the book on a particular shelf, which makes finding any book in my collection very simple.
Figure 1-18. Using ShadowPlan to track books
This setup could be adapted to suit any sort of collection, from the most mundane to the most elaborate. Within each outline you can set up areas for what items you have or are looking for, as well as information about dealers and shops that carry the sort of collectible that interests you. ShadowPlan has many other uses, as well as a very active online discussion group. For more information about ShadowPlan, visit the Code Jedi web site at http://www.codejedi.com.
This is an unusual recommendation based on one of the most popular Palm OS applications ever. HandyShopper is a freeware grocery shopping manager, but beneath that simple interface is a surprisingly powerful database. It requires a bit of tweaking to set up correctly, especially since you'll be using it for something slightly different than what it was designed for. But with some careful thought and planning, you can turn HandyShopper into a rather powerful database application. You can start by creating a different shopping list for each type of collectible, and then using "stores" to organize your collectibles. If you have a large movie collection, you could have stores like Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, and Romance, with a list of items contained within each store. Each item can have its own notes, and since HandyShopper is designed to handle shopping tasks, it already has built-in fields for quantity and price. There are also some desktop applications available that allow HandyShopper lists to be imported from and exported to Microsoft Excel. You can get a free copy of HandyShopper from PalmGear at http://www.palmgear.com. Also, be sure to check out the very active discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/handyshopper/.
For the truly serious collector, a database application is the best option. Since databases are customizable, you can add all of the fields you need to adequately describe your collectibles. Example fields include:
One of my personal favorites is Piranha from FPS Software. It's very easy to use and has a robust Windows desktop companion application available that quickly and easily imports and exports databases to Microsoft Excel. You can get a free trial at http://www.fps.com. A more advanced option is HanDBase from DDH Software; it has a desktop application capable of communicating with Microsoft Access but has a much steeper learning curve. You can learn more at http://www.ddhsoftware.com/.
With the right inventory system, you can easily keep track of all of your collectibles, whether you have 5 porcelain dolls, 75 DVDs, or 500 Hallmark Christmas ornaments.