Originating Author: G Berton Latamore
Pimlico Software (http://www.pimlicosoftware.com/), developer of Datebk6, is dropping hints of an immanent announcement of a port of its award winning, sophisticated personal information management (PIM) system to new platforms, which probably means the iPhone/Touch and possibly also the Blackberry.
Developed originally for the Apple Newton in the 1980s, it has been available solely on the Palm OS since the early 1990s. Recently, however, CESD promised members of the Datebk listserv on Yahoo that he would soon have an exciting announcement. Then Pimlico, his sole-proprietorship, sent out an update notice to registered users that said Pimlico has decided to develop software for “other platforms”. Given CESD's known preference for the Apple platform, the smart money is on a port to the iPhone platform, but the plural in the update notice raises the possibility that more than one port is in progress. If so, and given that CESD has consistently declined to compete directly with Microsoft on either the Windows desktop or Windows Mobile smart phone/PDA platforms, the fast-growing Blackberry market is the obvious other candidate, with Linux a third possibility.
So why should business users care about this? In a word, Datebk is the most sophisticated personal organizer available on any platform, including the desktop, and can integrate closely with Microsoft Outlook. Ports to the Blackberry and iPhone markets will move it into the center of the mobile computing market, where it can be very useful to business users who need that sophisticated organizational ability. And every penny of its $27.95 price goes to support Gorilla Haven (http://www.gorilla-haven.org/), a private foundation created by Datebk6 developer C.E.S. Dewer (CESD) to provide a “retirement home” for gorillas from zoos, circuses, and similar facilities that are too old or otherwise incapacitated to be on display.
Datebk6 is all about combining the four basic PDA/smart phone PIM applications: the appointment book, to do list, address book, and memo pad. It allows you to look at any two of these at a time in its day view, but much more than that, it allows you to link items between those applications. This is a basic feature that goes back to Datebk's original incarnation on the Newton, and it is a feature that Outlook cannot duplicate.
So, for instance, say you make an appointment with your doctor for an annual physical:
- You can tap the link button (an “L” with a diagonal pointer at the bottom right of the Datebk day screen) and link that appointment to the address of the doctor's office in your address book.
- You can note down questions you want to ask and any prescription medicines you are taking in memos and link those as well.
- If you have any specific tasks you need to complete, or reminders such as not eating before the appointment, you can put those in your to do list and link them to the appointment as well.
- Now you can look at that appointment and tap the link and access all that information instantly.
And you can link anything to anything. For instance, if you need to talk to someone you can put a task in your to do list to call him, and link it to his phone number and to a memo outlining what you need to talk about. This allows you to have the information you need at your fingertips at every meeting, phone call, and teleconference.
A list of all the advanced features of Datebk6 would go on for pages. Here are some of my favorites:
- Split screen display: In the single day view you can split the screen and have your tasks in one half and appointments in the other. Or you can have your tasks in the same half screen as your appointments and display your addresses or memos in the other half screen.
- Categories: You can organize all your appointments and tasks by categories. This allows you to create special views, so you can look at just your work appointments and tasks during on week days and personal ones in evenings and on weekends, give different priorities different backgrounds and type colors to make them stand out, and export specific categories to other applications or PDAs.
- Saved views: You can create special views of specific sets of categories and save them. For instance, you can have a view of your work appointments and tasks and another view of your personal ones. Then you can either switch between them manually or have Datebk6 automatically display your work view during your working hours and your personal view on weekends and evenings.
- Task prioritization and urgency: You can prioritize your tasks numerically (1-5) and by urgency (A-D). Then you can set the display to organize tasks either by priority (1A, 1B, etc.) or by urgency (A1, A2, etc.)
- Set alarms for tasks: I use this constantly to remind myself of tasks that need to be done at a certain time, including steps in a process being carried out by a remote computer or someone else in a work team.
- Repeating appointments and tasks: You can set tasks or appointments to repeat on set schedules such as every other week, the first Tuesday of November every other year, Mondays and Thursdays every week, once a year, or even irregular schedules. I have annual reminders set up to send birthday cards to friends. They are always amazed that I remember.
- Icons: You can attach icons to your appointments and tasks. This adds color to your displays and lets you search by icon to find, for instance, all the phone calls you need to make or all your medical appointments.
Datebk6 has many more of these features. And one of the really nice things is that none of this gets in your way. If you don't want saved views, for instance, you never need to worry about them.
Overall, it is one of the best thought out applications I have seen on any platform. And the best feature is the support. C.E.S. Dewer has an official group at Yahoo (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/pimlicodatebk/). This is a tremendous support resource. Post a question there and you will get answers from any of several power users, and if they cannot answer the question, CESD will. You can also suggest features you would like and see them turn up in the next release.
Action Item: Datebk has been marketed mostly to the consumer marketplace on the Palm. However, it has obvious applications in business, where personal and small team organization is vital. And it has the added benefit that it will create one virtual mobile PIM platform across several physical platforms, depending on what CESD announces. For companies that have users on several mobile platforms, this could help unify support for mobile PIM applications.