Towards memory supporting personal information management tools

David Elsweiler, Ian Ruthven, Christopher Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
156 Downloads (Pure)


In this article we discuss re-retrieving personal information objects and relate the task to recovering from lapse(s) in memory. We propose that fundamentally it is lapses in memory that impede users from successfully re-finding the information they need. Our hypothesis is that by learning more about memory lapses in non-computing contexts and how people cope and recover from these lapses, we can better inform the design of PIM tools and improve the user's ability to re-access and re-use objects. We describe a diary study that investigates the everyday memory problems of 25 people from a wide range of backgrounds. Based on the findings, we present a series of principles that we hypothesize will improve the design of personal information management tools. This hypothesis is validated by an evaluation of a tool for managing personal photographs, which was designed with respect to our findings. The evaluation suggests that users' performance when re-finding objects can be improved by building personal information management tools to support characteristics of human memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)924-946
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number7
Early online date16 Mar 2007
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2007


  • memory
  • information retrieval
  • personal information management tools


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