I can’t remember when I was so excited about a software product, and from now on I won’t have to. Contacts, tasks, appointments—soon I’ll be able to forget my own birthday because Organizer will handle all the memory chores. It even integrates well with those of you from the old school of pencil and paper. Automated features up the yang, which is not nearly as bad a thing as it sounds. Beats a stick in the eye.
Forget everything you know about Day-Runners, Day-Timers, Franklin Planners, TouchBase Pro, Now Up-to-Date and every other contact manager or daily planner you’ve ever used. Claris Organizer 2.0 at minimum complements them nicely, at most renders them obsolete. And all for $69.
But let’s say that I know next to nothing about all the aforementioned products (which is essentially true), and examine why I’ve once again deluded myself into thinking I’ve stumbled upon “the truth.”
In short, I can’t think of anything else I need the program to do, in terms of organizing my life, and I’m nothing if not a vocal proponent of stuff I think is cool which, as you may have noticed by now, includes me. Just imagine: A program that is all about me and my life. I ask you: What could be more ego-boosting than this?
Yeah, okay, maybe a personal web site.
Anyway, as a straight up contact manager, Organizer has all the traditional nifty functions: It’ll track your contact’s name, address, etc. Nothing spectacular there. You can view and sort the contact list by name, company, whatever. Ho-hum. The contact entry form also includes fields for an e-mail address and a web site; nice touches, but again there are at least a couple program out there that have the same thing. (These fields are hyperlinked, so a click on a web site address, for example, will launch Netscape Navigator and go to the appropriate site.)
The obligatory “custom” fields are there, too, but wait! What’s this? You can script the custom fields so that you can launch any Applescript-compatible program. This is in addition to the AppleScripts that are already set up to, say, select a contact and launch a letter in Claris Works. Hmm..that’s kind of cool…some real potential there, especially when you know some enterprising programmers are going to cook up some public domain Applescripts for Organizer and put them on the ‘net.
There’s another element that’s pretty fantastic as well. Because Organizer is also a planner, you can “attach” contacts to appointments, notes and tasks. You’re meeting contact John Doe for lunch on Tuesday? Organizer will scan your contact list so you can automatically attach John Doe to your appointment. Then, when you view a history of your meetings with John Doe, you’ll be able to see exactly what transpired the last time you met, and why you didn’t get the account, and why the boss is blaming you for the company’s bankruptcy. It’s all there. Organizer puts the information all together, so you’ll be ready when that subpoena arrives.
“All well and good,” you’re saying, “but what about life in the real world?” I showed Organizer to a salesman friend of mine who uses a traditional paper-based planning system. I think I may have talked him into a PowerBook on the basis of this piece of software alone. Since Organizer can print contacts, daily schedules, weekly schedules, monthly schedules, etc. in all popular paper-based planning system formats (you can even customize formats), it’s a perfect complement for someone who doesn’t have a PowerBook for travel but wants the high tech power of a computer organizer to help keep track of his or her contacts and scheduling.
If you do have a PowerBook, your office is now fully mobile with Claris Organizer 2.0. Since most of us type much faster than we write long-hand, Organizer’s Contacts and Notes features alone would make this a salesperson’s wet dream. Of course that would probably short-out the PowerBook, but ’nuff said about that line of metaphorical exploration.
Make no mistake: There is some serious computer power going on here. The “find” routine screams on my Mac IIci. I hesitate to say what it might do and a faster machine—you’d probably have smoke billowing out the air vents on anything running PowerPC. There’s nothing pokey about Organizer on my IIci, so I can only assume that on any machine that’s 68040 or better, the program would move along quite nicely.
Say you’ve got a contact who works for Apple Computer, Inc. (or who, ha ha, used to). By the time you’ve typed the first few letters, Organizer will probably have located the specific contact. You can work the same magic for names, phone numbers, zip codes…whatever you can think of. And because you can also search Notes, you can likely locate persons or events based on very fragmentary memory. What a boon to Alzheimer’s candidates like myself!
Now Organizer, at 2 megs, does not take much memory to run. But who wants to keep a program running the background all the time? Or who wants to keep “Bob Smith” waiting on hold while you launch your Organizer to try to figure out who Bob is? (“Where did I meet him? Sales meeting? Amway convention?”) The short answer is nobody.
So Claris did something quite ingenious. They created an “Instant Organizer” menu—available at all times—so that you can do a quick search of the Organizer database without spending the time to launch Organizer. You can even add new contacts, tasks, appointments or notes. Pretty slick.
The other thing that I simply must mention is that I’ve never seen a Help section as well-implemented as this one. Try to do something and more often than not the program will do it for you. Pro-active help (supposedly coming system-wide in System 8) is amazing.
Is there anything I dislike about Organizer? Well, it does have a single-user limitation. This isn’t software for a sales team, it’s software for a salesperson. So no combining multiple schedules from different users or stuff like that. It’s not really a fault—Organizer doesn’t claim to be a multi-user system—but some people will probably be unhappy anyway. (In fact, if Claris could release a group-ware Organizer product, I’ll bet they’d have a runaway corporate best-seller.)
It also might be nice to hold information about a married couple on a single card, but I suppose in this era of high divorce rates everyone ought to have a separate contact card. Since you can attach any contacts’ cards together, you can link couples (gay, bi-, straight—Organizer doesn’t care) together for easy reference anyhow. Or you can do what I’ve done and also use one of the custom fields to hold “spousal” information.
Based on less than one week’s use with just over 200 contacts in place, I’m willing to go out on a limb and state unequivocally that Claris Organizer 2.0 is worth remembering next time you’re looking to keep track of contacts and organize your life. It may be the last thing you have to remember in a long, long time.