Palm-Compatible PIMs

SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - Consultant 2.5.3 was a reliable PIM whose claim to fame was its synchronization with the Palm Inc. family of handheld organizers.

Alas, limited alarms and other flaws detracted from an otherwise solid application. In response to requests for robust multiuser support, Chronos LC has split Consultant into two separate products: an updated version, Personal Organizer 3.0.1; and Group Organizer 3.0.1, a server-based program that lets users share contact and schedule information over a network.

Personal Organizer 3.0.1 sports a number of useful under-the-hood enhancements.

For example, you no longer have to install a system extension to receive pop-up reminders; instead, a background application checks for alarms. Another program notifies you of the alarm and lets you dismiss or snooze it.

Unfortunately, Chronos hasn't remedied some of the deficiencies our last review mentioned. Notably, Personal Organizer still doesn't support timed to-do's: if you have to pick up the kids at exactly 4:30 p.m., for example, there's no simple way to put the task into your schedule. Personal Organizer's event-entry dialog box also makes you reach for your mouse far too often.

Despite a few start-up glitches, synchronization was fast and reliable on our system. However, Personal Organizer still insists on placing Palm to-do's on the current day rather than on the item's due date. Even if you have hundreds of completed tasks in your organizer, they all show up on the same day in your calendar.

Although Personal Organizer offers rudimentary multiuser support, only one person at a time has access to the data file. Group Organizer, in addition to providing all of Personal Organizer's functionality, uses a separate server application to let users simultaneously access contact and calendar data over an AppleTalk or TCP/IP network. However, we weren't able to set up our PowerBook G3 as a Group Organizer server without help from the company's technical-support staff, which responded promptly to our e-mailed inquiries.

One major drawback with the current implementation is that you must enable guest access and program linking on the remote computer, leaving the server vulnerable to tampering. We also found Personal Organizer's paradigm for controlling each user's file access a bit confusing.

Macworld's Buying Advice

It's gratifying that Chronos has continued to upgrade and support Personal Organizer, but Mac users looking for a stand-alone PIM can download 3Com's free MacPac 2.5. Personal Organizer also faces competition from the resurrected Now Contact/ Up-to-Date bundle, which Power On Software has updated to work with Mac OS 9. (Palm synchronization should be available later this year.) Still, if you need a Palm-compatible PIM right now and MacPac's feature set isn't rich enough, Personal Organizer is a good choice. Until Chronos makes some vital changes to Group Organizer's data-sharing protocol, however, we can't recommend it as a multiuser PIM.

Group Organizer 3.0.1

RATING: 2.5 mice

PROS: No system extensions; improved alarms.

CONS: Poor documentation; requires guest access to server.

COMPANY: Chronos (801/957-1774, http://www.chronosnet.com).

LIST PRICE: $100.

Personal Organizer 3.0.1

RATING: 3.5 mice

PROS: No system extensions; improved alarms.

CONS: No timed to-do's; Palm to-do's appear on current day.

COMPANY: Chronos (801/957-1774, http://www.chronosnet.com).

LIST PRICE: $60.

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