Test lab. (personal information managers) (includes related articles on Arabesques Software's ECCO Professional PIM and two calendar programs) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
Anyone using a PC daily for Any length of time soon begins to fantasize about using it to control the details that make up daily life. Years ago, when I got a terminal at my desk attached to the company's quarter-million-dollar minicomputer, the first thing I did was write a FORTRAN application to control my to-do list.
Today's personal information managers (PIMS) routinely handle to-do lists, schedules, address books, and phone dialing. To these core functions, the programs add a dazzling variety of other bells and whistles, tools and utilities. You'll find calculators, inspirational quotes, project managers, Gantt charts, checkbook processors, prayer rolls, phone logs, contact histories, daily scripture readings, alarms, personal journals, customizable databases, daily cartoons, sales follow-up information, and dozens of other clever and useful ways to manage your life.
No other type of software offers so much variety. Because personal information is ultimately individual (even intimate), you probably won't find a program that precisely matches your work style, your personality, and your particular information needs. The trick in choosing a PIM is to find the one that most closely approximates the way that you think and the way that you work.
To help you find that program, Test Lab looks at ten outstanding Windows PIMs this month. While PIMs were interesting under DOS, they didn't achieve major success until the age of Microsoft Windows. The ability to keep your PIM running on the desktop at all times and to whiz back and forth among calendars, task lists, note windows, and other PIM modules makes Windows the ideal PIM environment.
Windows PIMs make up a dynamic field; COMPUTE'S editors and I decided to hold up these reviews to await the release of major upgrades of PackRat and Commence, as well as the significant new Sharkware--all in the same week, well after our initial deadlines. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get our hands on another highly touted new PIM, ECCO Professional, in time for a full review in this Test Lab, even though it will be shipping by the time you read this. However, a sidebar does cover this product.
It was a true delight to work with these programs; they offer a diversity of unique tools for special purposes while still covering the core functions admirably. With so many facets to these programs, I wasn't able to tell you everything about each program in the space available. To give you the most useful information possible, I've listed the most important items in the features grid, which will answer many of your questions.
In the reviews of these personal information managers, I've characterized each program, mentioning the depth of the program, special features, the work style it supports, and its central focus. You can assume that unless otherwise specified, the programs cover the basic core features.
These programs exemplify the power of the metaphor in Windows software. Each of them has chosen a basic approach to the job that mimics a familiar desktop tool. YourWay is a card file. Ascend is an electronic Franklin Day Planner. Lotus Organizer, using perhaps the most visually appealing metaphor, looks like a pocket-size ringbound notebook. Info Select, believe it or not, is a mass of virtual Post-it Notes. Many of the programs imitate a desktop calendar. One of these metaphors is likely to strike you as just right.
You may wonder which personal information manager is the best. That I can't tell you. I know the characteristics of the programs, but which one is the best for you depends totally on your personality. Other writers and editors have recommended their choices over the last year. These include Lotus Organizer, Info Select, PackRat, Desktop Set, Ascend, Commence, YourWay, ACT!, and In His Time. Had it been available for review, I'm sure Sharkware would've been chosen as well. Obviously, there is no consensus.
One important area I haven't addressed is networking capacity. Many of these programs have network versions that add amazing levels of work group effectiveness. Only a few of COMPUTE'S home and small-business readers, however, use networks--so far.
If you're ready to tackle that unorganized, frustrating mass of unrelated yet desperately important details we call personal information, one of these programs is likely to be a good match for your needs. Test Lab has the information to help you find it.
ACT! FOR WINDOWS 1.1
ACT! for Windows 1. 1 is nominally a contact manager, not a PIM. It has, however, all the necessary features to function as a PIM, even though its core, its reason for being, is contact management. We review it here because it's a perfectly good PIM that's an excellent choice for someone with heavier-than-normal contact management needs.
ACT!, of course, is the longtime best-selling contact manager for DOS. The company applied its marketing mastery to the Windows version, taking several years to develop it. You may have heard that it was painfully slow and had many bugs when it was first released last year. Version 1. 1 has corrected all that, resulting in a relatively bug-free program that runs at an acceptable speed.
ACT!'s basic contact record has more than 70 fields laid out in a logical two-screen spread. In addition to the normal information, it provides fields for results of the last sales call, the scheduled date for the next call, and similar sales-related information. Any or all of the fields can be redefined, renamed, and moved. There's a wealth of flexible information storage capacity at your fingertips.
Filling in fields is almost fun. Common choices for many fields are available in pull-down list boxes, but ACT! also moves through the list to the closest match as you type in the field. Often two or three letters are all you need to fill in a field quickly.
Appointment scheduling and to-do list processing are not as deep or flexible as in some of the other high-powered PIMs, but they're good enough to handle most normal needs.
As part of its contact management features, ACT! provides a useful set of letter templates and word-processing functions, though it also comes with automatic DDE links to the primary Windows word processors.
A feature unique to this program is its link to the HP95LX palmtop computer. A special version of ACT! for the HP95 comes with automatic links to the desktop versions of ACT! so you can quickly and easily exchange data between computers. If you use a laptop or notebook computer, ACT! can merge the data in both your laptop and desktop computers so that all data is in both databases.
ACT! is really a whole family of products; including lstACT!--a streamlined, limited-feature version that could be adequate for many users. There's a 1stACT! version for DOS and another for Windows. The program limits you to one database, prints only five preformatted reports, and cannot send faxes directly, but it retains the full set of 70 fully user-definable fields.
ACT! for Windows 1.1 is an excellent choice if you happen to be interested primarily in tracking discrete bits of information on many contacts and don't have an extremely complex schedule to-do list.
Circle Reader Service Number 371
Ascend, like Sharkware, is designed around a specialized management philosophy. It's an electronic implementation of the Franklin Day Planner, the million-selling time management tool used by people trained in Franklin Quest seminars. If you're a Day Planner user, you'll love Ascend. If not, you'll want to buy the version that comes with a copy of the paper planner and the fourhour audiotape seminar that teaches the system.
The Franklin system starts with your values and goals and shows you how to select daily activities leading to your longer-term goals. For those willing to undertake this thoughtful evaluation of their lives, this is powerful stuff indeed.
While Ascend's screens don't try to look like the paper book (the way Organizer does), the 12 basic functions of Ascend mimic the 12 primary parts of the Day Planner. The Prioritized Daily Task List is the base of daily operations; it's a to-do list with priorities in letter-number pairs such as Al and B4. (Hard-core time managers insist on precision in priority rankings.)
The Appointments window handles daily scheduling nicely, including provisions for recurring events. You can drag and drop appointments and to-do items between lists and link them to a person's contact history. The daily, weekly, and monthly views take every opportunity to present your committed time graphically.
Almost all basic records--appointments, to-do activities, and so forth--have unlimited freeform note fields built in. Most note fields provide basic wordprocessing features, such as fonts, justification, italic, and even date and time stamps.
The Daily Record of Events is a journallike listing of whatever comes up during the day. You enter the data, recording details of commitments you make as well as information you receive. it's all kept on that day's page and is available to you through Global Search at any time.
Other features include Turbo File (a minidatabase for organizing small bits of loose information), a phone log, the Master Task List (for storing tasks without specific deadlines), a database of motivational quotes, a separate personal journal, and the Red Tabs section, which mimics the Day Planner's numbered red tabs for keeping pages of related information on topics of your choice.
Underlying it all is the values pyramid, a four-level compendium of your basic values, long-term and intermediate goals, and daily tasks. Here you build down from what you'd like to accomplish through the steps it'll take to get there. Include the daily steps in your to-do items, and you may achieve your goals more quickly than you thought possible. Values Quest, an add-on program priced at around $50.00, provides extra guidance in setting up your pyramid.
Ascend prints pages in Franklin format for use in Franklin binders, another reminder that the program is aimed directly at Franklin users. But, like the Day Planner itself, Ascend can be useful to anyone; it's just at its finest when used with the full Franklin philosophy.
Circle Reader Service Number 372
Commence 2.0 has a distinguished history. The developer, Jensen-jones, sold the marketing rights to IBM, which sold the product as Current 1.0. Current was OK, but it suffered from IBM'S lack of savvy regarding the style of the PC software market. The manuals were stuffy and hard to use, and the program wasn't particularly friendly.
When Jensen-Jones reacquired the rights to Current, it reworked the program, named it Commence 1.0, outfitted it with decent manuals, and started to market it intelligently--with much more success than IBM. The new Commence 2.0 adds maturity and refinement to an already capable PIM.
Commence exhibits remarkable power. Its agent technology uses supercharged macros that launch themselves whenever predefined conditions occur--not just at a preset time. For instance, you can tell Commence to automatically print out your to-do activities and appointments for the days you'll be gone the evening before each of your trips.
It's highly customizable--you can create entire applications with custom databases, custom links, and agents. Version 2.0 adds an extremely versatile set of networking tools that can make Commence an officewide source of shared information and integrated personal management tools.
Best of all, however, is the interface, which is logical, intuitive, and pleasantly easy to learn. Menus for the powerful features (such as agents) remain out of your way until you want them, while buttons for the routine features (such as calendar, to-do lists, and phone dialer) are right up front where you can't miss them. Commence feels natural; things work the way you expect them to.
The linking system of Commence is also visible and understandable. As you set up tasks, address book items, projects, appointments, and other basic data records, the dialog box shows the possible links, each in a list box of its own. Links include Relates to Project, Assigned to To-Do Item, Relates to Note, and many more, with only appropriate links offered for the type of record being added. Thanks to these dialog boxes, you can use the PIM more effectively.
I find Commence remarkably well balanced. PIMs often have one module that serves as the base, around which all else revolves. You can't pick out such a base in Commence; all the functions seem equal. Commence has no ax to grind, no vaunted system of personal management you must learn, It's a neutral tool that you can customize to emphasize your style.
This PIM contains a number of pleasant extra features, including conference room scheduling (including display of floor plans and seating arrangements), expense reports, time-tracking and billing reports, and simple Gantt charts.
Drawbacks and weaknesses are few. Task priorities are limited to a paltry 1 through 3. Version 2.0's manuals are a little awkward because the company didn't rewrite them from scratch. There's a new manual with version 2.0 changes. Look there first; if your topic isn't there, use the version 1.0 manual.
Commence is ideal for someone who needs to get to work quickly but may eventually need to create complex PIM applications. It's flexible and powerful, yet easy to learn and use at its uncustomized, basic level.
Circle Reader Service Number 373
DESKTOP SET 4.0
Of all the PIMs examined in this month's Test Lab, Desktop Set 4.0 from Okna has the most powerful phone management system, accompanied by a first-class calendar and scheduling module and a printing calculator that allows you to put words on its tape along with the numbers. Written for mouse lovers, this program lets you do a surprising amount of work without ever touching the keyboard.
The phone management features are so remarkable that it takes some effort to shift your attention to other matters. Phone functions start with the address book, which offers unusual depth, with eight phone numbers per name, a window for business information and another for home data, and 32 blank fields for you to define,
The dialer function in this PIM provides 21 push buttons for your most frequently dialed numbers. The dialer can handle international codes, long-distance service codes, credit card calls, and least-cost routing. If you have Caller ID service in your area, DeskTop Set displays the caller's personal information as you answer the call. Also, it creates phone logs of incoming and outgoing calls. Clearly, this personal information manager is a phone enthusiast's dream.
Each name in the phone book can have an unlimited number of notes attached (up to 16K each), along with linked reminders, follow-up tasks, links to events, and even links to files in other applications that you can launch on the spot, Most of these functions reside in separate windows, so ferreting out all your information on a person is a multistep task. PIM users concentrating on industrial-strength contact management may find the constant window diving tedious.
Scheduling of time-related events is just plain fun, as you can often do it entirely without the keyboard. An ingenious event window lets you click on a clock face to show time or paint a range on a time scale to show beginning, ending, and duration times. From a list of common task descriptions you've created (dentist appointment, weekly staff meeting, tennis at the club), you can select the task title by mouse.
In addition, you can set up any number of separately named to-do lists which are not time related. These tasks carry priorities and deadlines, and you can move or copy the tasks to your daily to-do list as appropriate. Priorities run 1 through 10 only.
DeskTop Set has an excellent icon-driven backup and restore function, which not only writes the data files to disk but compresses them as it goes. It also merges data from a second computer's set of files (for users of laptop computers).
DeskTop Set makes thorough use of the Windows interface. You can drag and drop many objects in order to copy, move, or link them into other modules. The right mouse button pulls up a floating, context-sensitive menu of appropriate function choices. By pushing to the limit, however, it does things with the mouse that are decidedly nonstandard in the Windows world. They make sense, but they can be disconcerting when you're not expecting them. In order to save desktop space, DeskTop Set uses smaller than-normal fonts throughout and makes many windows nonsizable. This may be an advantage but for me, using 800 x 600 resolution, things were a bit too small for comfort.
DeskTop Set is a finely crafted, powerful tool for tracking phone activity, contacts, and daily scheduling, containing hundreds of subtle little touches of elegance that are delightful to discover. If your PIM needs run heavily to phone work, this is the program for
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INFO SELECT FOR WINDOWS
Although Info Select for Windows lacks many of the features of th structured PIMs found in this Test Lab, it's the only thoroughly personal manager of information in the bunch.
That's because Info Select is almost totally free-form-if you want it to be. You can add any structure you desire, however-as much as suits your style. It's the most versatile, adaptable tool you're ever likely to see.
Think of it as electronic stacks of paper. You can put absolutely anything you can type on paper (but not Windows graphics) into any stack. Once it's there, Info Select can instantly retrieve any piece of paper (each in its own window) by searching in a variety of clever ways.
That's the totally free-form style. A more structured alternative involves using forms--windows with a data structure predefined, rather like paper forms. Info Select provides 19 ready-made forms, including address book entries, phone messages, fax covers, to-do lists, order forms, purchase orders, and so forth. It's a snap to design your own forms as well, including automatic features such as time and date stamps and sequential form numbering.
With any stack, searching for individual windows of information is a snap. You can search for text matches using and, or, and the equivalent of not. A "neural" search checks for a list of words, returning a stack of windows with the most matches through the least matches. Date searches are easy, as are size searches based on the number of characters in the window.
If you've built your stack in database format, each window has a data marker field, which allows you to sort them--a good choice for an address book stack, for instance. Mail merge is available, as is an autodialer function.
While Info Select is the very essence of flexibility, it doesn't provide all the necessary functions of other PIMs. When possible, Info Select provides an equivalent function (such as the address book described above), but some functions are either missing or only partially covered.
Take daily scheduling of appointments, for example. Info Select's tickler system works with any window containing two asterisks followed by a date. Activating the tickler searches these windows, showing you a stack of all items with today's date or earlier. This works, but it's a far cry from a standard PIM's daily schedule view and alternative week-, month-, and year-at-a-glance views. In addition, most PIMs also let you link appointments with contact records, notes, or other information.
If you deal in free-form data that you'd love to be able to access instantly,. Info Select is a dream come true. If you need a more formally organized tool, you might want to use Info Select on the side. Having all that loose, random data instantly at your fingertips is a powerful feeling.
Circle Reader Service Number 375
IN HIS TIME
For Christians who would like their PIMs to help organize the spiritual aspects of their lives as well as the daily grind of work, In His Time: The Christian Information & Resource Organizer is a, well, godsend. It brings management of prayers, Bible study, personal journals, and spiritual meditation under the PIM's umbrella. While it doesn't try to match the most complex PIMs feature for feature, it's a highly polished program that shows capable professional programming throughout.
In His Time is in the same general class as Lotus Organizer; it's simple and easy to learn, and it doesn't aim for the top of the market. Its basic metaphor is a small notebook with side tabs for changing sections.
Its address book covers the basics nicely, capturing home and business addresses, four phone numbers, and spouse's name, along with a 1000-character free-form note field. It doesn't, however, link to events or to-do items or dial phone numbers. It prints the address book (and other information) in all the popular organizer book sizes.
Appointment scheduling and to-do lists are similarly uncomplicated. You can schedule recurring items or normal appointments. A check box posts an appointment to your prayer list. The Events to Remember page reminds you of important upcoming dates.
To-do item processing is similar. Priority choices are low, medium, high, and critical, numbered 1 through 4 in most screens. A Master To-Do List box sets up recurring tasks. Both to-do items and appointments have 1000-character scrolling note fields.
In addition to the normal printing options, In His Time also prints an elegant two-sided, single-page report that includes a monthly calendar, daily to-do items and appointments, your prayer list, events to remember, a daily devotional thought, your scheduled Bible reading. Similar to OnTime for Windows' wonderful three-fold report, this single page is all you need to carry to organize your day.
Each day's calendar page presents a scripture from a variety of Bible translations. The Walk with Wisdom button pulls up a par graph of commentary on the ture. (Additional daily devotional topics are available separately.)
The Bible Reading plan lets you pick portions of the Bible to read this year, then creates a plan with specific chapters and verses for each day.
The Daily Prayer Journal tracks your prayer requests, reminding you of items you want to pray about daily or weekly. Your appointments, to-do items, and upcoming events can also be posted to the Daily Prayer Journal. When the prayers are answered, you record the details in the Praise Report section.
A Topics section lists dozens of spiritual topics. Highlight one, and a half-dozen or so Bible references will appear. If you have a Windows Bible program, you can call up the Bible text through a DDE link. If not, you'll have to read it from the Good Book itself. You can personalize this section by editing topics and adding new ones.
The Make a Joyful Noise section provides an appropriate daily Christian cartoon, and you can create a daily journal by linking to any word processor.
In His Time is a rich environment for managing your spiritual life along with your daily activities.
Circle Reader Service Number 376
It had to happen. With Windows' graphic capabilities, someone was certain to give us a PIM in the form of an onscreen pocket notebook. Lotus Organizer does it brilliantly, delivering a fully realized low-end PIM in a virtual notebook that's complete down to the six rings in the middle and colored tabs down the side. And, best of all, it works.
The notebook has tabs for six sections:calendar, to-do, address, notepad, planner, and anniversary.
The calendar pages spread a week over two facing pages. Adding an appointment is great fun, using a clever mouse-dragged pair of tiny clocks to mark the beginning and end of the appointment. It's the most effective, quickest way to set times that I've found in any PIM yet.
Instead of a number of daily to-do lists, Organizer has one list arranged chronologically by due date. Priorities are limited to 1 through 3 only. Lengthy notes for to-do items and appointments involve linking to the notepad section. Create a link by clicking on an anchor icon on the source a d again on the target. Once the r is created, click on the little symbol to see what's available, and then move to the linked item. It's not as easy as having note fields or windows for each item, as many PIMs do.
You can, however, build more extensive links. Organizer can link any item to another application and file, including non-windows applications. For instance, if you plan to write a letter to the editor of COMPUTE next week, you can link Clifton Karnes's address record and a to-do item dated next week to your word processor, assigning a filename for the letter. Then, from either place, clicking on the link symbol would run the word processor and open that file.
The address book presents a small page per entry with three user-defined fields, two phone numbers, and an unlimited text note field. You can change the display to show as many as six abbreviated entries per page.
Notepad keeps any kind of text you wish. Each note has a title, which is used to create a table of contents. Many of your notes, of course, will be linked to other parts of the program.
The planner section comes on a clever foldout page that shows a year at a time. On this longrange planner, you can mark out 15 different time spans for things such as vacations and major projects.
Finally, the anniversary section tracks recurring dates of importance, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
Organizer isn't meant to compete with the full-scale PIMs. By limiting its scope, Lotus made Organizer so easy to learn and use that you'll be up and running within a half hour. If you don't plan to keep thousands of address records, don't need to shuffle dozens of tasks a day, and don't have dozens of appointments and meetings a day--all of which could overwhelm the information presentation abilities of Organizer--then Organizer is an excellent choice.
Circle Reader Service Number 377
PackRat 5.0 is more than a PIM; it's practically an entire operating environment. Among its many functions are desktops that include not only PackRat objects but icons to run other applications, even DOS apps.
PackRat's metaphor is file folders. Each file folder--you can have as many as you want--has a tab on top; all you have to do is to click on the top to change folders. Each folder is a desktop unto itself, containing a selection of PackRat objects, icons for other applications, and OLE client objects (parts of files from other programs open on your desktop in PackRat without running the other applications).
PackRat objects include all the normal PIM functions and many more. Each of the 30 objects is a mini application window, including such functions as clock, commitments chart, list viewers, calendar, to-do list, day or month view, document manager, memo pad, spelling checker, and so forth.
With all these tools available, you can create a desktop folder with everything needed to work on a certain project, including your spreadsheets and word-processing documents, without ever leaving PackRat. Third-party objects for PackRat are in the works, such as MapLinx demographic data and MasterSoft file viewers and converters.
All of this customizability, if presented with blank folders, could be overwhelming. PackRat's SmartStart function lays out a set of standard folders for 1 1 typical occupations, including sales/marketing, legal, medical, and real estate. Pick the one that comes closest to your occupation, and PackRat will give you a good starting point.
This new version of PackRat uses all the latest interface innovations, including tabbed pages (folders), drag-and-drop object movement and linking whenever possible, and right-button clicking for floating custom menus that relate to the object in question.
Unusual features of PackRat include financial journals, which are essentially check registers for financial accounts with reconciliation routines built in; the document manager, which maintains an annotated database of documents that you can launch at any time; a full macro programming language; and a project manager complete with Gantt charts. (Unfortunately, the project manager and two other objects did not ship with the initial copies of PackRat; they're promised within a few weeks.)
It's safe to assume that PackRat can handle any normal PIM function, though perhaps not always as quickly and directly as in some of the simpler PIMs. With its incredible power comes complexity, which occasionally gets in the way of otherwise simple things. All that power makes it slower than its simpler competitors as well. It's easy to become impatient as you wait for PackRat to load, switch folders, or pull up dialog boxes.
You also might get the impression that Polaris wasn't quite finished with PackRat when it was shipped. A 92-page supplemental manual documents changes and additions after the main manual went to press, and a long README file covers changes to the supplemental manual. Combined with the missing objects mentioned above, it makes you wonder if too much emphasis was placed on shipping the same week as two major new competitors and an upgrade of another.
Nevertheless, there is no question that PackRat is the most powerful, most feature-rich general PIM available and that its new move into desktop management through folders takes it a ahead of the field.
Circle Reader Service Number 378
In his three best-selling books, beginning with How to Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, Harvey Mackay shares his secrets of success. He says that it's not what you know or even whom you know that leads to success, but What you know about whom you know. In short, contacts and networking are everything.
Working with Mackay, Cognitech has created a powerhouse PIM called Sharkware. It automates Mackay's system, down to the smallest details, and even includes an audiotape to build enthusiasm for the system. It's not just a PIM; it's a way of life.
Even if you don't want to adopt the entire Mackay methodology, Sharkware can still be a fine PIM choice. It handles all normal PIM tasks, including linking between contacts, appointments, and to-do items; keeping phone logs and contact histories; and attaching unlimited free-form notes to almost anything. Then it goes on to give you an arsenal of unique Mackay-designed custom tools.
Take the Mackay profiles. The Mackay 5 are general principles of success. The Mackay 66 are detailed questions that capture essential contact information. Additional questionnaires help you analyze your employees, understand your competitors, and evaluate potential employers. The Mackay system teaches you to use all this information effectively in networking and understanding people. It's powerful stuff.
Then there's the contact database. The predefined screens capture the traditional information, including four phone numbers and as many addresses as you might have (you can include vacation homes and so forth). Moving to the custom fields screen, you find fields for family information and customer profiles. That's over 60 fields already, but you can define up to 10 million additional field sets with up to a thousand fields in each. And there's no limit to the number of contacts.
Sharkware, then, is a potentially massive personalized custom database for your contacts. It can quickly set you up to track virtually any specific data sets you can imagine--with the only practical limits being hard disk space and your willingness to enter all the information.
The screens are always full of information, but it's organized well enough to keep it from being overwhelming. While Sharkware is no pushover to learn, it's not unduly challenging, either. Again, the organization makes sense; it doesn't often leave you wondering how to do something.
As with almost any first version, there's plenty of room for improvement and refinement in Sharkware. While the interface is generally good, it could be streamlined in a dozen places with logical shortcuts, such as typing the first few letters of a field and having potential matches pop up. In this version, getting to the right contact or the right choice in a list box often seems cumbersomely slow. I also expect to see redialing, a way to set recurring events, and more than three to-do priority levels in subsequent versions.
Sharkware is a power-hungry, Ram-eating beast. On a 486/25 computer with 4MB of RAM, it's noticeably slow, and it seems to be constantly accessing the Windows swap file. The minimum RAM requirement is 4MB, but 8MB is recommended, with good cause.
If you have the hardware to run it and want to benefit from the accumulated wisdom of the Mackay method, you'll find Sharkware to be an intensely powerful, laserlike tool for your quest to success.
Circle Reader Service Number 379
If you tried YourWay in an earlier version and didn't like it, come back for another look. Virtually a new product, YourWay now offers additional PIM features that make it worth a look, and the price is right at $99.
YourWay's heart is a visually presented card file. You navigate the fanned-out deck of cards with alphabetical tabs or by searching for a specific text string. The program comes with a preformatted simple address and phone file, but you can quickly set up a contact database using whatever fields you like. Each card file database is a separate file, so you can have as many card files as you want--but you can work on only one at a time.
Each card holds as many as 50 fields of information. Unlike most address book functions, however, these fields have no types--you can put any data in any field. Each card has an external note attached, holding up to 10,000 characters of free-form data. Linking from cards to events or phone logs is easy, but it only works with the card on top of the deck.
Daily calendaring and to-do list handling are together on a calendar-page screen that shows daily events, daily tasks, master tasks, and daily calls. Items on the two task lists show priorities with a letter (A-C) and number (1-6) combination. A daily task is one you plan to finish the day you record it; a master task will stretch over many days.
Each task, event, or call has a dialog box that includes a scrollable note field for free-form notes. Tasks also have fields for categories, due dates, and persons assigned to the tasks, as well as a timer for tracking elapsed time on the task.
Appointment scheduling is weak. The small daily events section shows up to nine lines and a scroll bar. You can't see the whole day's schedule at once. The week-at-a-glance and month-at-a-glance screens show either summary info (two daily tasks, one daily call) or the first couple of words of each entry for the day. Neither is particularly informative. To get a truly useful display of your daily information, you need to print it in one of the many organizer book formats available.
The reporting module is innovative and interesting; clicking on the Reports icon pulls up a blank spreadsheet. YourWay provides four basic reports: Card and Note reports (generated from card file information), as well as Free Event Time and Activity reports (generated from the events, calls, and task lists). Calling up any of these reports pops up a dialog box where you pick the various report elements. The time- and task-related reports are unimpressive, but the cardbased reports give you a lot of flexibility in reporting on your basic database information.
YourWay really shines at data import; you can lay out your card file with fields in the same order as the source data.
YourWay is best suited for database-related work, whether it be your address book or other personal data that lends itself to a card file metaphor. If you're looking for ease of use, power enough to handle future growth, and flexibility in data handling, YourWay is a natural for you--and the price is easy to take, too.
Circle Reader Servies Number 380
Arabesque Software hot new personal information manager, ECCO Professional,shipped too late to make our deadlines. We can, however, give you some brief information about it in this sidebar
ECCO works in outlines,with basic piece of information as an outline element. A normal to-do list might include"finish painting the garage." That's the first-level outlin entry. Under it, you can lay out the remaining steps, such as "Buy the paint," "Strip the old paint," and whatever else may be involved. Through linking, you can also show "Buy the paint" on your shopping list. Under that entry, you could add your notes on the color, the amount needed, and even a map of how to get to the store. These indented outline elements would show in both outlines.
Outline items can be collapsed, expanded, moved, copied, or indented. Drag a name from the phone book to a time slot in the calendar, and ECCO creates a meeting. You can link items in any way imaginable; linked items show up in all outlines that they've been linked to.
Once you get the hang of outlines, you can move them into folders, which group related items. You might have folders for projects, coworkers, and so forth. With nested folders, you can organize your work in virtually any way your mind can conceive.
ECCO presents a new methaphor--the outline--in a fully developed, extremely useful program that's endlessly customizable. And surprisingly, it's easy to learn. If you find quick outlines helpful in organizing your thinking, you'll fall in love with ECCO at first sight.
ECCO Professional retails for $395, although the company is offering a $99 introductory price "while supplies last." Call Arabesque Software at (206) 869-9600, or write the company at 2340 130th Avenue NE, Bellevue, Washington 98005.
If you don't need all the features of the Windows personal information managers covered in this month's Test Lab, maybe a good calendar program is what you need instead. Here are two.
Is your desk buried in scraps of paper reminding you of appointments, messages, and assignments? OnTime, a calendar program available in both Windows and DOS versions, can help you organize that clutter into a comprehensive calendar.
OnTime is a combination appointment book, to-do list, pocket secretary, desktop planner, and alarm clock. It can display your schedule by the day, week, or month and can maintain your calendar to the year 2079. The program will also alert you to conflicting appointments as you schedule them.
One of OnTime's most useful options is its print capability. On one sheet of paper, OnTime can print your itinerary for the day, week, and month that you specify; your to-do list; and a list of important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. When you fold the printout in thirds, it becomes a brochure of your personal schedule
The Windows version 1.5 of OnTime lists for $129.95, while the DOS version 2.5 is $69.95. For more information about the product, contact Campbell Services at 21700 Northwestern Highway, Suite 1070, Southfiled, Michigan 48075; (800) 345-6747.
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CALENDAR CREATOR PLUS
Even with the multitude of calendars on the market, it's still difficult to find one that's exactly what you need. Spinnaker Software's Calendar Creator Plus, in both Windows and DOS versions, let you design your own.
Both versions give you a wide range of design options, including control over calendar format, font selection, print colors, and paper size and orientation. You can also include scalable clip art in or around the calendar. While both versions give you the flexibility of using scalable fonts, the Windows version lets you use any of your TrueType or Type 1 fonts.
Calendar Creator Plus for Windows has a few more features than its DOS counterpart. It comes with the PoweAlbum, an electronic clip art book with nearly 300 images in nine categories. Events lists for national and international holidays and famous birthdays are also included with the Windows version. Versions 1.0 for Windows ($79.95) and 5.0 for DOS ($69.96) are available from Spinnaker Software, 201 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02193; (617) 494-1200.
Circle Reader Service Number 384