Controlling appointments. (Software Review) (Evaluation)by Warner, Paul D.
Frequently, we are faced with the need to maintain lists of contacts and appointments. Many computer software programs have been written to assist in this task. The programs under review provide three approaches. Two of the programs, Maximizer and ACT!, are classified as contact managers (CM); the other, Day-Timer Organizer, is classified as a personal information manager (PIM). Maximizer and Day-Timer are list- based, while ACT! is forms based. The one you select should reflect your personal preferences.
CMs are special purpose databases bundled with related features such as calendars, appointment books, to-do lists and phone dialers. Many contain built-in word processors for letters and memos, as well as being able to do mail-merges and handle faxes. While CMs are primarily designed for use by sales people, they are useful for any busy professional. Think of the people with whom you deal: clients, colleagues, staff members, bankers, association people, revenue agents. etc. Often you need to phone, write, fax, and set up meetings with them. CMs are designed to control these tasks.
PIMs are actually to-do lists that have many of the same capabilities as CMs. The principal difference is the way the data is handled.
Maximizer for Windows 1.2
Maximizer is a list-based CM that categorizes data as follows:
* Clients--both individual and company clients,
* Contacts--individual contacts at a specific client,
* Categories--tags assigned to clients and contacts for sorting and cross-referencing,
* Documents--letters created by the built-in word processor,
* Notes--short comments on clients and contacts,
* Hotlist--to-do lists and other reminders,
* Calendar--lists appointments by date and time,
* Journal--record of phone calls and mailings, and
* Expenses--of course
In addition to maintaining these lists, Maximizer provides the following built-in tasks:
* Phone--dials current client/contact and records details of call,
* Phone log--shows history of phone calls received and made,
* Edit--Maximizer's word processor; also produces templates for standardized documents,
* Print--reports, letters, etc,
* Macros--creates macros that can be used to automate procedures, and
* Transfer--merges or updates data from one Maximizer database to another.
When Maximizer opens, it presents a file and edit menu typical of Windows' applications and an icon toolbar. When you click on the client icon, you are presented with a table containing the categories selected for the default view. The choice of categories displayed can be determined by selecting "column setup" from the list menu. Maximizer provides 30-plus column choices. A substantial number of additional columns can be added.
Clients. There are two types of clients--companies and individuals. The data entry screen presented depends on the choice made. In addition, contacts (persons associated with each client) can be added. Maximizer allows individual clients to be converted to company-type clients or the reverse. Clients are essentially the first layer of information in the database, with contacts the second. For example, to enter a corporate entity, you would start with the company, then add as contacts the actual individuals who work there. Whenever you click on a client, you can have the associated contacts appear in cascaded-view underneath. To see all the information on a company, including any notes, categories, and documents, you simply open the particular client company record. To see any notes on any individual at that company, you open the contact record. The linkage between the client and contacts eliminates the need to reenter client data.
Categories. Categories are another important element of Maximizer. They are tags that can be assigned to clients/contacts to help find and group them. These are user-defined fields with an unlimited number available. Categories are structured on two levels. Categories can be used to group clients/contacts by occupation, income level, or any other criteria. For example, under the heading Personal Interests, you can enter items such as sports and hobbies.
Categories are added, modified, or deleted via a category setup menu. Four types of categories are available:
* Date, and
The table option is used to generate pop-up lists that can be used to select the categories. Once a category has been selected, items within that category can be added. The names assigned to the categories can be edited, but the type cannot be changed.
Searching and Sorting. Maximizer contains capabilities for searching and sorting. Sorting by category is a handy way to find things; you simply click on the desired column name. Unfortunately, you can only sort in ascending order. If sorting isn't enough, you can search on any field. Only those items matching the search criteria will be displayed. You can even search for duplicates. The searches at the client level are indexed, which speeds up the process. Searches at the contact level are slower. Searches by category provide limited Boolean capabilities.
Notes and Journals. Maximizer makes it easy to keep records through the use of unformatted notations (notes). The notes function is triggered by clicking on the Notes icon on the menu bar. The note is automatically associated with the client or contact that is active. If you want to create a note to yourself that is not connected with any client/contact, you would use the Journal instead. Notes and journals can be printed. The Editor can be used to upgrade notes and journal items into documents that are fully formatted word-processing documents.
The word processor, "MaxEdit," can be used to generate letters, do mail- merge, and fax documents. Its capabilities are enhanced by the inclusion of a spell checker and thesaurus.
The Calendar and the Hotlist. The Calendar is an electronic appointment book that can be used to schedule meetings and set a reminder alarm. It is intended for scheduled events that occur at a defined time. An unlimited number of appointments can be scheduled, each with a duration and a priority. While a recurring appointment can be entered, modified or deleted in total, this function is somewhat limited because of the Calendar's inability to accept any modification of an individual appointment within a recurring entry.
One of Calendar's friendly features is conflict checking. While it does not tell you what the conflict is, it warns you about a conflict, but also allows you to ignore it.
The Hotlist is a to-do and reminder list pegged to a particular client/contact and a certain date, but not necessarily at a specific time. While time-scheduled items also appear on the Hotlist, items without designated times do not appear on the Calendar.
Telephone Calls and Faxes. If the computer is connected to a modem, telephone calls can be made automatically. Maximizer can be set up to dial numbers for each selected client/contact. The length and results of a call can be recorded. A pop-up menu can be used to select previously defined reasons for the call (e.g., tax reminder). Information on incoming calls can also be logged. Faxes can be handled in a similar fashion if the modem is equipped to handle them. Automatic faxing is supported through WinFax Pro (version 2.0 and up) and other faxing software.
Drag and Drop. Mouse drag and drop lets you drag clients and associated contacts to the toolbar and drop them on icons such as Contacts, Categories, Documents, Notes, Hotlist, and Calendar. The feature can be used to automatically dial a phone number or create a document.
Printing Capabilities. The following types of documents can be printed using Windows printer drivers:
* Calendars, and
* Income/expense reports.
Network & Portability. Maximizer is shipped local-area network ready. If installed on a network (use of network capability requires payment of an additional fee), multiple users can access any of the Maximizer databases. Record locking is incorporated at the item level to prevent simultaneous editing of the same item.
User ID and password security can be implemented in both the single and networked versions. The availability of private clients adds an additional level of security by completely locking out any user other than the owner of that particular client.
The LAN capability adds the ability for group scheduling as well as portability. All or part of the database can be transferred to another computer such as a laptop.
Evaluation. Maximizer is relatively easy to learn. The text and tutorials provide easy-to-follow instructions. It is well suited for marketing-oriented applications, as well as the maintenance of appointment schedules and to-do lists.
ACT! for Windows 2.0 is the forms-based equivalent of Maximizer. When ACT! opens, it presents a file and edit menu typical of Windows applications, an icon toolbar, and its basic document appears as a fully formatted form rather than a spreadsheet. The form contains 36 fields and is available in five versions from the Layout option in the View menu. It also contains data on the Company/Client and the primary contact. An additional form, the contact form available in three versions, contains supplementary data on the primary contact plus two more contacts associated with the client. Multiple copies of the contact form are available, if needed. The F6 key can be used to switch between the Company and Contact forms. The two forms make one complete record.
All field titles in the forms can be changed by simply selecting the field name, pressing the right mouse button and changing the name. In addition, field attributes such as data type can be changed. Many of the fields can be set to fill either automatically or from pop-up menus activated by pressing the right mouse button, eliminating the need for repetitive typing and data entry.
You can activate many of ACT!'s functions by selecting one of the 14 icons on the icon bar. These include--
* making and scheduling telephone calls (automatically logs calls into a history file);
* scheduling meetings;
* making notes;
* writing letters;
* displaying daily, weekly, and monthly appointment calendars;
* displaying task list; and
* displaying phone list.
In addition you can assign custom icons to your own macros.
ACT! can fax mail-merged documents with Delirina's WinFax Pro. ACT! allows you to group contacts such as bankers or golfers and save them for use when faxing or E-mailing documents to all members of the group.
ACT! for Windows uses standard dBASE compatible file structures. Its Windows features include pre-defined Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) macros to link to other Windows applications such as WordPerfect for Windows, Lotus 1-2-3, and Word for Windows.
Scheduling. A major function of a contact manager is to control scheduling of appointments and telephone calls. ACT! has an excellent capacity for handling this function. All you have to do is click on a schedule icon (daily, weekly, or monthly), select the time slot, and enter the data. You can also schedule activities without specifying the time.
The drag & drop capability provides a convenient way to reschedule items or to convert them from a specified to unspecified time slot. Alarms and snooze features are provided.
Scheduled tasks or activities do not have to be related to specific contacts. This allows you to not only schedule activities with specific contacts, but also such mundane activities as picking up the dog.
Searching. ACT! provides straight forward and extensive search capabilities. It is possible to group lookups by carefully selecting keywords and using Boolean operators. The items selected become a subset of the main database that can be worked on until the entire database is selected again. The searching capability also includes a query-by-form search that provides searching by multiple fields. Specialized search criteria can be served to a custom menu.
Each transaction is automatically date-stamped and logged into a history file. Telephone calls are not only logged, but their duration can be automatically recorded. The use of the telephone log, however, is limited since it not possible to view all the telephone calls for a given period of time. Calls can only be viewed when associated with specific contacts.
Word Processing. ACT!'s extensive word-processing capabilities are almost on a par with most independent word processors. Its capacity is enhanced by a spell checker, formatting tools and style-sheet capability. In addition, ACT! integrates with stand-alone Windows word processors.
Evaluation. ACT! is a very powerful CM. It is relatively easy to use, although the learning curve is a bit steep because of its many features.
Day-Timer Organizer 1.0
Day-Timer is a PIM rather than a CM. It provides many of the features found in a CM, and others that CMs lack. It is the program I use because of its ability to handle repetitive tasks, a feature available on a more limited basis in the other two packages.
When Day-Timer opens, it presents the file and edit menu typical of Windows applications that also contains some specialized function buttons such as
* daily, weekly, and monthly calendars;
* add, modify, and delete items buttons; and
* print and autodial (for making telephone calls).
Day-Timer provides the user with the following forms:
* Address book,
* Notes, and
* Messages (network version only).
Any of the above can be assigned to specific individuals (assignees) and categories. Categories may be used to represent a project, status, or anything you choose including short messages. The menu bar allows you to search by assignees or categories. It also provides a Boolean-based key word search, and a date-scan search.
Scheduling. Clicking on the schedule icon on the menu bar brings up a form that contains the date, beginning and ending times, the assignee and category pop-up menus, a pop-up alarm time, advance notice (from none to three years), an option to prevent the item from being deleted after 60 days from the scheduled date, and a free-form text section.
Any scheduled item can be for a specified date, multiple days, or on recurring dates. Multi-day items start at one specified date and end at another (useful for trips and vacations). Recurring items can be set up in many patterns including--
* weekly or biweekly,
* quarterly (the program allows you to specify a start date of the quarter for fiscal year companies), and
The recurring-item entry allows you to set the starting and ending dates so that the recurring item will not occur outside these dates. When a recurring item has been set up, any one item or all of the recurring items can be modified or deleted. Modification or deletion of an item in a recurring group does not affect the remaining items in that group. The other packages do not provide this flexibility.
Tasks. The task screen is very similar to the schedule screen. Instead of beginning and ending times, it substitutes a priority categorization and a stopwatch to accumulate the time expended. A pop-up list of priorities is provided.
Addresses. A straightforward name and address template has the usual information found in address books, including a provision for six telephone numbers and a section for notes. It also contains the "assign" to and "category" fields, and a place for a follow-up date.
Notes. The Notes screen can be used for the usual things. Each note can be assigned to a person and categorized. It can also have a follow-up date. In the network version, access rights can be controlled. The network version also can notify other network users when messages are added or changed.
Searching. The button bar contains five buttons that can be used to search the database. The search can be by--
* key word(s), and
TABULAR DATA OMITTED
The fifth key clears the search and returns to the full database. In addition, the search menu provides for a search by priority.
"Assign to" and "Categories." Assign to and categories can be added, modified, or deleted, as required.
Planners. The three planners (daily, weekly, and monthly) are the primary tools available in Day Timer. These are supported by the scheduler that shows graphically the time allotted for scheduled items and the persons attending. This is accomplished by two separate sets of bar graphs. You can use click and drag to change meeting dates and times. Clicking on the person involved brings up the supporting details.
The daily planner is subdivided into four sections: Scheduled Items, To- Do List, Upcoming (if you used the Advance Notice function), and Overdue. You can shift from day to day by using the calendar attached to the planner. You can add, modify, or delete any of the items. You simply click on the item, or any group of contiguous items, and then click on the appropriate button to add, modify, delete, or indicate the items selected are completed. The weekly and monthly planners contain less data about each item. Any scheduled items appearing in the planners can be rescheduled by clicking and dragging.
The weekly planner shows all the items appearing in the daily planner except the upcoming items. The monthly calendar shows a single item for each day. Double clicking on a specific day will bring up all scheduled and to-do items for that day.
Other Features. Other features include mail merge directly to WordPerfect or AmiPro, automatic phone dialing and logging, faxing with Delrina's WinFax Pro, expense logging, E-mail, and the ability to operate on various networks.
Evaluation. The Day-Timer Organizer reports should be familiar to anyone who has used any of the Day-Timer diary systems. It is a very easy program to learn and use. In fact, I have used its predecessor (Instant Recall) for many years and have rarely encountered any problems. Unlike the two CMs, its learning curve is relatively short.
Paul D. Warner, PhD, LLM, CPA, is a professor of accounting at Hofstra University. He is a member of the AICPA and NYSSCPA and editor of The CPA & the Computer column of The CPA Journal He is a frequent contributor to professional journals.
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