Welcome to Luca!globe
 The CPA Journal Online Current Issue!    Navigation Tips!
Main Menu
CPA Journal
Professional Libary
Professional Forums
Member Services
Feb 1994

Take another look at Lotus Agenda. (The CPA & the Computer) (Evaluation)

by Rowe, Walker Elliott

    Abstract- Lotus Agenda is the only available database in the market that allows the keying of data to precede the creation of database tables. It may appear dull, since more thought has been given on its internal design than on its physical appearance, but Agenda is an excellent tool for sorting piles of information into meaningful categories. With this program, users can keep track of their activities, writings, research, notes, expenses and even other programs. Agenda can accurately read dates in practically any wording, from 'next week from Friday' to '6/30/93,' and can create a separate category for items that have not been classified under any particular category. Lotus has stopped actively marketing Agenda since its developer, Mitch Kapor, left the company, but the program is available from Tiger Software for $79.

Call your local computer store and chances are they have never heard of Lotus Agenda. They know about Lotus 1-2-3 and perhaps FreeLance Graphics, but they scratch their heads in bewilderment when you ask about Lotus Agenda.

One can hardly blame the puzzled clerk at the local computer store for knowing nothing about Agenda. Lotus no longer actively markets Agenda and never put much effort into its sale and distribution in the first place.

Mitch Kapor, father of 1-2-3, created Lotus Agenda. When Kapor left Lotus Development Corporation, he took with him Lotus' enthusiasm for Agenda.

Victor Cruz, spokesman for Lotus Development Corp., says Lotus stopped developing Agenda after selling only 100,000 copies. They thought Agenda was too difficult to learn, so they bought a no-brainer program called the Threads Organizer from a company in the United Kingdom. Threads looks like a notebook and a day calendar, so it is obvious what it does. Agenda is more subtle. Lotus has sold 450,000 copies of Threads.

Agenda might be a little complex at first, but for the curios, it is a completely flexible tool. For its small community of users, it is a well kept secret.

James Fallows, political analyst and author of Looking at the Sun, a study of Asian economies, praised Agenda in The Atlantic magazine in May of last year. Mr. Fallows says, "A significant number of journalists use it."

He uses Agenda to track sources and store notes for his books and magazine articles. He even uses Agenda as an accounting program to track expenses.

Dr. Earnest Forman, Professor of Management science at George Washington University and author of Expert Choice decision-model software, says, "Agenda is a wonderful program. I put everything in there and use it to track activities, writings, research, decision models, and to keep track of software. Agenda has even helped me clean up my office." Forman wishes Lotus would let someone take over its maintenance.

In today's world of Windows, Agenda looks a little dull. Its facade is an ordinary character-based screen. You might argue that with today's emphasis on graphic interfaces and brightly colored documents, there is more effort spent on appearance than on content. How would the U.S. Constitution read if James Madison had used Microsoft Word? Would he have spent more time on the wording of the Bill of Rights or drawing neat little boxes? If you think the Constitution might have suffered, Agenda is a product you can feel good about. With Agenda, more thought has been spent on internal design rather than external appearance.

What does Agenda do? With it, you can weed through a mountain of information and arrange it into categories. Suppose you keep track of phone calls, are writing a proposal, and need to maintain a daily calendar. If you type "Call Bob and tell him to send the proposal notes by Friday," Agenda is clever enough to read this sentence and assign this item to the categories: phone calls, proposal, even Friday. When you ask the computer what you have to do Friday, it will remind you to call Bob and insist that you ask him about the proposal.

With Agenda, you can throw away your desktop calendar. It can read almost any date regardless of its wording. Agenda understands "two weeks from Friday" is July 30. Agenda knows "next Wednesday" is July 21. Agenda knows what is meant by "6/30/93" or "30 June 93." Best of all, if you type "write your wife a letter every Monday," every Monday the computer will remind you to pen a letter of love to your spouse.

Agenda can point out items that are not assigned to any particular category. For example, you might have tasks that must be assigned to people. You can create a new category called unassigned tasks and tell the computer to put here any tasks that do not belong to the category "people."

If you write notes on legal pads, you can highlight important points or punch holes in your notes and stick them in a notebook. But you cannot sort these notes nor can you search through them without reading every word. Lotus Agenda can do all of this in a flash.

Suppose you are working on a team that is building a computer system. You have volumes of memoranda, specifications, and much more stuff than time to read. If you convert all of this documentation to text files and load them into Agenda using the import feature, you can retrofit categories for the documentation you have gathered. For example, you can tell the computer to take every paragraph containing the word "modification" and assign the paragraphs to the category tracking software modifications. Further, you can tell Agenda that "modification," "mod" "enhancement," and "software change," all mean the same thing.

Are you working in the international business? Agenda uses artificial intelligence, so when you write "telephonez Monsieur Simenon Vendredi," Agenda will remind you to call Mr. Simenon on Friday.

Join the enlightened. Buy Agenda. Agenda is available from Tiger Software (1-800-88-TIGER) for only $79.

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

©2009 The New York State Society of CPAs. Legal Notices

Visit the new cpajournal.com.