The Virtual Cardbox

The Virtual Cardbox
– How to Put Your Notes on a PDA –

“Eureka!”
– Archimedes –

We have already introduced the Card System, a method of storing all of your clinical notes neatly, thoroughly and systematically for easy use and recall. Here we introduce an electronic form of the Card System, the Virtual Cardbox, which has many advantages compared to paper or card note making. The idea is to store your Card System on a ‘PDA’ (personal data assistant).

An Virtual Cardbox means that your notes are no longer a dead resource, but a living reference tool that will be easily updated and instantly accessible whenever and wherever you are seeing patients. This means instant reinforcement of knowledge and much greater learning.

Because the Virtual Cardbox uses internet browser technology, searching through your notes is as easy as browsing the internet. You will, however have to write PDA notes on your computer before transferring them, but this is made easy through the use of templates and hence you should eventually find it faster than writing paper –notes–
Making a Virtual Cardbox

Step 1 : Getting a PDA

To make a virtual cardbox you will eventually need to buy a PDA. Besides storing your cardbox, PDAs have many other features that make them very handy for the busy medical student to organise their lives, and many traditional medical reference resources are also available for PDA.

Step 2 : Installing the Software

The only software you need to install to write Virtual Cards is Netscape Navigator, an internet browser available for download free online. Install it on your computer. We use Netscape Navigator because it has a ‘composer’ that makes it easy to write cards.

When you have a PDA, you will need to install two other pieces of software. The first of these is iSilo, which you will use to show your cards on the PDA (you can download a trial version from the site to try). The second piece of software is iSiloX for making the cards accessable to iSilo. Install it to your computer.

Step 3 : Writing an Virtual Card

First, make a ‘Cardbox’ folder in the Documents folder on your computer. Now run Netscape Navigator. Click on Window from the pull-down menu at the top of the screen and select Composer. This opens a blank document.

Now click here: icardtemplate.html and open this file in the composer: a blank card template will appear. Make sure you are in Normal Edit Mode (found in the View menu). Next click on Format and select Page Title and Properties. Give you new card an appropriate title and close the box.

Now enter all your pearls of wisdom in the spaces provided on the template. Include as much detail as you like. Use the headings as a guide, delete those you don’t want and add others your do want. Format the text how you want it to appear. It is a good idea to keep your sentences short and hit ‘return’ after nearly every sentence to make your notes easy to read on a PDA.

When you have finished editing your card click “File” then “Save As…”. Save your card with an appropriate name. Save it in your Cardbox folder.

Congratulations! You have just written your first Virtual Card. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Step 4 : Indexing Your iCards

Once a card is written you will need to ‘index’ it. This ensures you will be able to find it later when you are ‘browsing’ your Cardbox. Start Netscape’s Composer again and download and open this file: Index.html. Add your new card subject alphabetically to the list – it should appear as simple black text.

Now you have to make a ‘link’. Links allow you to switch between files or sites by clicking, just like browsing on the internet. Highlight the text you have just written in the Index file, then click the link icon. Click on Choose File from the box that appears. Find the appropriate card to link to from your Cardbox folder. Don’t alter the little box that states ‘URL is relative to page location’ then click OK. Always remember to save your cards before you link to them. Your text will turn blue and become underlined to show it is now a link. Click ‘Save’ on the toolbar.

Now for a test run – time to browse your Virtual Cardbox. Click on Browse from the toolbar, and read through your notes.

Note that in Navigator mode you can only view your notes and can’t edit them.

Step 5 : Browsing iCards on a PDA

If you want to use a PDA as well as an internet browser to read your notes, you will next need to start the iSiloX application you copied to your computer. A blank box will appear called Untitled.

First click on Document from the pull-down menu and select Default Properties. Click Links (under Property Panels) and change Maximum link depth to 3. Click OK. You only need to do this once after installing iSiloX.

Now go to Document again from the pull-down menu and select Add… In ‘Step 1’, give your Virtual Cardbox a name and click Next. In ‘Step 2’, click Add URL/File…, then Choose. Find and select the file called ‘index.html’ in your ‘Cardbox’ folder. Click Next again, change the HotSync box to you as appropriate, then click Done. Now highlight your named file that appears in the Untitled window, and select Convert.

Next time you ‘sync’ your PDA, open iSilo – your iCard System will be all ready for browsing!

Tips and Tricks

Writing Other PDA-Based Notes

If you want to just make some simple notes on a topic without making a Card, just open a New Composer document and start typing, formatting as you go. You can insert horizontal lines to make your notes tidier by selecting Horizontal Line from the Insert menu. You can also insert tables or pictures.

You can transfer them to your PDA in the same way as described above.

Creating Links within a document

You can create links to different sections within any documents or cards you create. You have already seen some of these ‘internal links’ in the iCard Template (the blue letters D E A B M I M at the end of each section, indicating Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Aetiology and so on). These are there so that you can navigate quickly to the heading of interest in your card.

To make an internal link, highlight the word or heading you wish to create a link to and select Named Anchor from the Insert menu then click OK. A little yellow and black anchor icon appears before the word. Next go the location where you want to access the link from (for example a menu at the start of the document). Highlight that location and click the Link icon. Click on the down arrow to the right of the text box that appears and select the ‘anchor’ to which you want to link. The highlighted location will now become blue and underlined.

Creating Further Index Pages

It is probably best to simply arrange your index system alphabetically at first. As you become more familiar with arranging files and linking, and your Cardbox grows, you might wish to create more indexes to file your cards in a more organised fashion.

For example you might decide you wish to be a cardiologist, and so to start a very detailed study program for a fellowship in cardiology. You might then want to start a new Cardiology Index Page to file your future list of cards, with a separate link from your main index. You can easily create such indexes from new documents as you become more familiar with the composer.

Remember though, to only save your cards in the one Cardbox folder, so that iSiloX can find them.

Good luck!