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Web-Wise PIMs
Personal information managers are adding Internet capabilities to their long lists of features.

-- by Jim Boyce

Just over a decade ago, a little utility called Sidekick became the first title in a software genre known as the personal information manager, or PIM. Since then, the PIM has become an indispensable element of most desktops.

The latest focus in PIM software is, not surprisingly, Internet support. Today's "Web-wise" PIMs enable you to share calendars and address books, and store live e-mail addresses and URLs in contact records. These PIMs can automatically launch Web applications such as browsers and e-mail programs and even import HTML page information into notes, contact records and other data objects.

We'll take a look at the new breed of PIMs so you can determine how these features can help you work more efficiently and productively than ever before.

The degree of importance you should attach to having Web features in your PIM depends on how much you use the Internet and whether you need to integrate Internet access with your contacts, schedule and correspondence. If you communicate with customers via e-mail on the Internet, a Web-wise PIM can make creating and tracking your correspondence easier. Just click on an e-mail address in your contact list, and the PIM launches your e-mail editor with the correct address already in place. If you work from home or travel frequently, being able to manage your schedule across the Internet or through a dial-up connection becomes critical. After a busy day of meetings, you can update your schedule back at the office from the comfort of your hotel room.

Some Web-wise PIMs also let you share calendars and address books across the Internet. You can access your calendar remotely through the Internet and synchronize your local copy with the remote master stored on your company's server. In this way, others in your organization can schedule meetings with you and vice versa, even when you're working from a remote site. Web-enabled PIMs often provide a shared address book so everyone in your organization has the same contact information and can use new contact information as soon as it's added to the master address book.

Another common feature of Web-wise PIMs is support for Internet e-mail addresses and URLs.

In addition to hotlinked e-mail addresses, contact information may also include the URL to the contact's Web site. Clicking on the URL opens your browser and takes you to the site.

Web-wise PIMs can even integrate Internet-related information with your contact information. If your Web browser holds bookmarks, you can import them into your PIM. You can also import Web page information, such as page titles and URLs, into notes or contact records in your PIM, so you don't have to enter these items manually.

Create a Wish List

Before you start shopping for a Web-wise PIM, analyze how you currently use the Internet. Create a list of features you and your organization need. Do you need to schedule and manage calendars and addresses remotely? Do you need to integrate your Internet-based e-mail with your contact information? Is it important for you to import Web data into your PIM? With wish list in hand, you'll be ready to start shopping for the Web-wise PIM that best suits your business needs and fits into your price range.

All the programs described here provide the PIM basics-contact management, address book, calendar and scheduling. We'll focus on the products' Web-related features.

Day-Timer Organizer 2.1

Version 2.1 of Day-Timer Organizer from Day-Timers adds Internet mail and Web site support. The product offers a nice set of general PIM features behind a clean and easy-to-use interface. And its relatively low price makes it an attractive option for individuals and small businesses.

Day-Timer's Internet features aren't extensive. Version 2.1 includes the ability to embed Internet addresses and URLs in notes, schedules and so on. Clicking on an Internet e-mail address brings up your e-mail editor with the address in place and clicking

on a URL launches your browser. But if you're looking for the ability to synchronize group schedules over the Internet, you'll have to consider a more expensive alternative.

ECCO Pro 4.0

NetManage's ECCO Pro 4.0 does a good job of bringing structure to your personal information with a clean and functional interface.

ECCO Pro comes with a database of Internet resources, so much of the job of adding Internet sites to your PIM is already done. Removing the sites you don't need is easy, as is adding sites. Like most Web-wise PIMs, ECCO Pro will launch your Web browser when you select a URL, and your e-mail application when you select an e-mail address. To extend group scheduling to remote users, ECCO Pro lets you synchronize your calendar over a TCP/IP connection to your server.

ECCO Pro does an outstanding job of managing unstructured information in a structured way. You can use a hierarchical structure in the Calendar and Phonebook to create and manage data lists, and create similar structures in the Notepad to help manage tasks and projects.

GoldMine 3.2

GoldMine Software Corp.'s GoldMine has earned its reputation as a powerful contact management tool. This version adds many new features. InfoCenter, for example, lets you create and manage free-form documents in a tree-structured, hierarchical library. This type of structure is great for creating online information centers. The new Org Chart lets you apply a hierarchical structure to contact information so you can track relationships between your contacts. GoldMine also now supports paging and improves ease of use through extensive wizards and toolbars.

Chief among GoldMine's Web-wise features are database synchronization via the Internet; Internet e-mail; and Internet Web support. Database synchronization enables your copy of GoldMine to synchronize its local database with the version located on your company server. You can automatically update changes to your schedule, contacts and other shared information through a direct dial-up connection to your LAN or through a WAN connection, such as the Internet. Although synchronization relies on the transfer of a synchronization file set between the remote and server locations, you can configure GoldMine to transfer these files automatically at a predetermined time.

GoldMine will automatically send and receive your Internet mail if you have an ISP. In addition, its Internet mail services interact with the contact database and history folders, automatically creating links to sent messages in a contact's history folder. This lets you see at a glance the messages you've sent to and received from that contact. GoldMine also provides support for messages in rich text format, MIME attachments and e-mail filtering.

Another important feature in GoldMine is its Web support. A Webmaster can create CGI/Perl scripts that collect data from Web hits and forms, and forward that information to GoldMine users through e-mail. The e-mail can contain instructions directing GoldMine to perform a number of actions with the data, including creating records, scheduling follow-up calls and generating e-mail to other users.

Although GoldMine is one of the more expensive tools highlighted here, it's also one of the most powerful. Its interface is a little more complex than some of its competitors', but that trade-off is worth the difference in features and performance.

Lotus Organizer 97

Like all the applications in Lotus SmartSuite, Lotus Organizer 97 adds basic Internet awareness to the Help menu. By selecting the appropriate command from this menu, you can launch your browser and connect to Lotus' Web site for technical support or to access file updates.

The product does more than simplify access to technical support over the Internet, though. In addition to giving you capabilities you'd expect, like entering Internet e-mail addresses and embedding URLs in an Organizer Notepad, Organizer 97 lets you access your calendar file over the Internet. All you need is a Web browser to share your calendar with key clients and associates, and to update it from anywhere in the world.

You can download Web Calendar, the server software required to implement this feature, free from Lotus' Web site (http://www.lotus.com/dir_mktg/org97cal.htm), or you can test-drive it. The server software requires Netscape Commerce Server 1.0 or later, or Microsoft Internet Information Server, running on Windows NT Server 3.5x or later. On the client side, you'll need Netscape Navigator 3.0 or Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or later.

If you already use Lotus SmartSuite, choosing Organizer is a no-brainer. Yet even if you don't use SmartSuite, Organizer's ability to let key customers into your schedule via the Internet make Organizer 97 and Web Calendar worth a look.

Now Up-To-Date 1.5 Web Publisher Edition

Almost more a Web authoring tool than a PIM, Now Software's Now Up-To-Date 1.5 Web Publisher Edition still provides the usual contact information tools you'd expect from a PIM. But if you have a lot of entries in your address book, its spreadsheet-like appearance can be daunting. More friendly is the tabbed calendar, which lets you switch between views by clicking on the appropriate tab.

Like most Web PIMs, Now Up-To-Date lets you embed Internet e-mail addresses and URLs in events and contacts. Clicking on the linked object opens Netscape to perform the appropriate Web-related action. But because the program is hard-coded to look for Netscape, you're out of luck if you use IE or another browser.

One of Now Up-To-Date's most interesting features is Web Publisher, which enables you to post your calendar on the Internet in HTML format. Anyone using Now Up-To-Date or any other PIM that supports the Versit data exchange standard can drag events from the shared calendar to a local calendar to schedule an event automatically. This, plus the ability to publish contact lists on the Web, makes Now Up-To-Date a handy tool for posting event and meeting schedules to the public.

Now Up-To-Date isn't as feature-rich as some other Web-wise PIMs, but its ability to publish professional-looking calendars on the Web without any HTML programming or hassle makes it a great addition to any Web publishing toolbox.

OnTime Enterprise 4.0

If we gave an award to the product that supported the most client and server platforms, Campbell Services' OnTime Enterprise 4.0 would probably win hands down. On the client side, OnTime supports Macintosh, Windows 3.1x, Win95 and NT. On the server side, OnTime supports NT, Novell NetWare and Banyan Vines. The system we tested used Windows NT Server 4.0 for the server and Win95 for the client. OnTime is a client/server group scheduling product that provides real-time scheduling across a TCP/IP network (among others), such as the Internet. You may connect via a TCP/IP LAN to your OnTime server down the hall or access the server from a remote location using TCP/IP through a dial-up connection to the Internet.

OnTime's scheduling features compete head to head with most other group schedulers, although the contact management capabilities provided through the standalone OnTime PhoneBook application aren't as extensive as others. PhoneBook does a good job of tracking phone, address, e-mail and other general information, however.

Microsoft Outlook 97

Microsoft Office is inarguably the most popular productivity suite and has been for some time. As current users upgrade to Office 97 and new users jump on the bandwagon, the popularity of Microsoft Outlook, which is included with Office 97, will rise by default. But Outlook is a solid, full-featured tool in its own right.

Like its competitors, Outlook simplifies Internet access through drag-and-drop e-mail addressing and the ability to launch a browser and connect to a Web site. In addition, Outlook makes it easy to embed a URL in an e-mail message, so the recipient can simply click on the URL to go right to the referenced resource.

Outlook does a nice job of group scheduling, just as its predecessor, Schedule+, did. But Outlook extends group scheduling to the Internet by letting you send and receive meeting requests across the Internet via e-mail. Outlook also acts as a site manager of sorts, letting you collect Web pages in an Exchange public folder for a group to share. You can keep track of how often the pages are accessed, when they're updated and who owns each page.

Outlook interfaces seamlessly with the other applications in Office 97. The interface's layout is neat, and drag-and-drop support throughout make it easy to organize and integrate your contact data and schedule. Unless you're looking for the real-time Internet scheduling offered by a product such as OnTime, Outlook should fit the bill.

Sidekick 97

Starfish Software has changed Sidekick from a small, helpful information manager into a well-rounded and nicely styled Web-wise PIM. As you'd expect, you can launch URLs and Internet e-mail through the program. Sidekick also supports scheduling across the Internet through e-mail messages. It automatically sends invitations and collects replies, then incorporates them into your schedule. Sidekick's e-mail support includes Microsoft Exchange, Netscape Navigator and Eudora Pro. If a user doesn't have an e-mail address, you can specify a fax number and have Sidekick automatically send a fax to the recipient using Microsoft Fax. Specifying a voice number causes Sidekick to place a reminder in your Calls list to invite the person by phone.

Another Internet-related feature is Sidekick Internet Time Synchronization. This lets Sidekick continually update your system time through an Internet time server. Clicking on the EarthTime icon opens a window showing a world map with night and day demarcations and eight cities you specify, with local times listed. The EarthTime database contains information for more than 540 cities, so customizing the world to suit your preferences is easy. EarthTime also enables you to determine the time difference between two cities.

With the new Sidekick Web Publisher add-on, you can publish slick, professional-looking calendars to the Web from your private calendars. To view a sample, point your browser to http://www.starfishsoftware.com/products/webpub/calendars/opera/sfcal.htm.

Don't let Sidekick's low price fool you. It's evolved considerably from its humble beginnings. The result is a solid, easy-to-use but powerful PIM with Internet-based scheduling and the ability to publish great-looking calendars to the Web.

Time & Chaos32 5.2.5

Time & Chaos from iSBiSTER International began life as shareware about five years ago. Since then, the product has matured quite a bit. The latest version offers a limited level of Internet integration and incorporates workgroup scheduling along with typical standalone PIM features. Perhaps one of the best features is the clean way it integrates the calendar, phone book, appointment list and to-do list in a single window.

The Internet features include automatic e-mail addressing and the ability to launch your Web browser from URLs embedded in your contact data. The current version doesn't support scheduling across the Internet, but it does provide LAN-based workgroup scheduling.

Money Isn't Everything

When you're shopping for an Internet-enabled PIM, price isn't everything. Some of the lower-priced products offer some of the nicest features. Even though Internet support is important and grows more so every day, it's still secondary to a PIM's basic contact and schedule management features. If you have to jump through hoops to use the program locally, adding Internet connectivity won't help.

If all you need is a PIM that has the intelligence to recognize and deal with Internet e-mail addresses and URLs, any of these products will do. Not all of the products support group scheduling across the Internet, so check the features carefully if that's one tool you can't live without. And if you need the ability to perform interactive or real-time scheduling across the Internet, the two products to put on the scale are Campbell Services' OnTime and Lotus Organizer 97.

Contributing editor Jim Boyce is the author of Upgrading PCs Illustrated (Que, 1997)

For more information on buying personal information managers, check out our Interactive Buyer's Guide at http://www.winmag.com/ibg/.

Sidebar -- What Can Web-Wise PIMs Do?

Share calendars and address books across the Internet. You can access your calendar remotely through the Internet and synchronize your local copy with the remote master stored on your company server.

Store links to Internet e-mail addresses. Clicking on one of these links opens your e-mail application and automatically inserts the address into the To: field.

Store URLs. Clicking on a URL automatically opens your browser and takes you to the Web site.

Import bookmarks into your contact information. If your Web browser holds bookmarks, you can import those bookmarks directly into your PIM as live links.

Import Web page information into notes or contact records. This saves you the trouble of entering the data manually.

Post your calendar on the Internet in HTML format. At least one PIM, Now Up-To-Date, lets you publish professional-looking calendars on the Web without hassling with HTML programming.

Sidebar -- Address Book

Day-Timer Organizer 2.1

Reviewed in January

Price: $59.95; deluxe, $79.95

Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95


800-225-5005, 415-572-6260

Circle #889

ECCO Pro 4.0

Price: $139

Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95


408-973-7171, fax 408-257-6405

Circle #890

GoldMine 3.2

Reviewed in November 1996

Price: Single user, $295; five users, $895; free upgrades

Platforms: 95, NT

GoldMine Software Corp.

800-654-3526, 310-454-6800

Circle #765

Lotus Organizer 97

Reviewed in November 1996

Price: $79; also included in SmartSuite 97

Platforms: 95, NT

Lotus Development Corp.

800-343-5414, 617-577-8500

Now Up-To-Date 1.5

Web Publisher Edition

Price: $99

Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95

Now Software

800-730-7862, 503-274-2810

Circle #891

OnTime Enterprise 4.0

Price: Up to 100 users, $56; more than 5,000 users, $40

Platforms: Server-NetWare, NT; client-Windows 3.x, 95

Campbell Services

800-559-5955, 810-559-5955

Circle #892

Microsoft Outlook 97

Reviewed Fall 1996

Price: $109

Platforms: 95, NT

Microsoft Corp.

800-426-9400, 206-882-8080

Circle #801

Sidekick 97

Price: $49.95

Platforms: 95, NT 4.0

Starfish Software

888-STARFISH, 408-461-5800

Circle #893

Time & Chaos32 5.2.5

Price: $45

Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95

iSBiSTER International

972-495-6724, fax 972-214-6566

Circle #894

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Windows Magazine, May 1997, page 212.

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