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November 1996 Reviews TOC

11/96 Reviews SW: HEAD TO HEAD: PIMs

PIMS to Please Any User

By James E. Powell

PIM upgrades are appearing everywhere. Lotus has just upgraded Organizer, long a favorite of mine because it looked so much like my paper-based organizer. The changes enhance the latest upgrade, but you may still find that you trade power for ease of use: With Organizer, you're likely to run out of steam quickly. If so, Odyssey Computing is waiting in the wings with its latest version of On-Schedule.

New in Organizer 97 is a well-designed day view that, as in most PIMs, shows appointments in blocks whose length you can change by dragging or stretching. Unique to Organizer is a feature that shows both the start and end time of your appointments, and if an appointment doesn't start precisely on a quarter hour, the appointment block aligns accordingly. It's a feature every PIM should adopt,rather than defaulting to align-ment on the quarter or half hour.

Organizer's contact records include an e-mail field, and the program now incorporates the TeamMail feature found in other SmartSuite products, so it's easy to communicate with your clients via electronic mail.

Organizer's import feature is tops, its Find command is incredibly fast (and it finds all possible matches at once), and the bright and colorful interface is still one of the best among PIMs.

But Organizer hasn't kept up with its competition, nor has it adopted standard behaviors we've come to expect in Windows programs, especially in PIMs. For example, there's no simple way to just drag and drop the contact on an open spot in the calendar. There's virtually no support for custom fields, and no way to customize the layout or reports.

If you find Organizer too limiting, take a look at On-Schedule. The latest upgrade lets you view contacts, appointments and to-dos in customizable lists. You can even keep two or more different views of the same data open simultaneously. It ties together everything from contacts and appointments to e-mail logs and to-do items. The program shines in several key areas, such as logging incoming calls and setting follow-up appointments from just about anywhere.

Most of On-Schedule's views are customizable; you can even view different time slots for different days in the calendar view. A Summary tab includes information on the last call made and the next call scheduled. Data is displayed in spreadsheet-like tables, not forms, and customization is limited to six fields with pick lists, six check boxes, two date and two currency fields, and two free-form short text fields-a good start. You can globally update data, search or sort on any field, and tag records for frequent use. It's also possible to link documents, contacts, e-mail, even applications, to a contact; view a contact's complete activity history; and see all pending activities.

Version 3.0 adds provisions for broadcast e-mail (using Microsoft Exchange), faxes and pager messages, and a simple-to-use Mail/Fax Merge Wizard. You can link to any of the big three word processors to create letters from templates, and then easily develop a mail merge using the supplied macros.

Setting filters is just as easy. Select the value in an existing record that you want to find in all other records and press the Filter by Selection icon. You can also build a custom filter expression using the program's Filter Builder. Filtering is simple and flexible, but getting results back on screen-even trying to locate a single contact using the Find command - is annoyingly slow.

Like Lotus Organizer, On-Schedule's calendar offers day, week, month and year views; you can drag and drop appointments between dates or drag the borders to change an appointment's length. Output options are flexible and the printout quality is good, with dozens of predefined layouts for the major datebook formats. You can push the snooze button on a reminder, and incomplete tasks roll to the next day.

The On-Schedule beta I tested is close to perfect, but correcting the spelling of a person's last name corrupted the file's index and forced me to restart the program, though no data was lost. The calendar lists time in 30 minute increments but changes the legend if an appointment has an odd starting time (such as 1:05 p.m.), which is confusing if you have two overlapping appointments for the same time period.

On-Schedule's learning curve is slightly higher than that of most PIMs, but don't let that stop you. Its power-surprisingly, more so than Organizer's-won't disappoint.

-- Info File --
Lotus Organizer 97
$79; also included in SmartSuite 97
Pros: Attractive; familiar design
Cons: Limited customization
Disk Space: 15MB
RAM: 8MB (16MB recommended)
Platforms: 95, NT
Lotus Development Corp.
800-343-5414, 617-577-8500
WinMag Box Score 3.0

-- Info File --
On-Schedule 3.0
Pros: Flexibility; broad feature set
Cons: Slow searches; limited custom fields
Disk Space: 8MB
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Odyssey Computing
800-965-7224, 619-675-3660
WinMag Box Score 4.0

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