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Reviews

WebIS Pocket Informant v8.01

By Legacy February 15, 2008, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION

    We purchase Windows Mobile Phones and PDA’s for a variety of reasons. For many, Personal Information Management, or PIM, is the primary reason. This was true for me back when I purchased my first Pocket PC, the Compaq iPAQ 3765 back in 2001. It provided a way for me to keep my calendar, contacts and tasks organized nicely (especially since my handwriting is such a mess!). Over the years I have found that Pocket Outlook worked generally well for me, but recently, I’ve noticed the many shortfalls of the program. That’s where PIM replacements like Pocket Informant come in. The latest version 8 promises many improvements. Read on to see if the king stays on the throne!

WHAT’S HOT

   Pocket Informant 8 has added several new upgrades over the previous version, Pocket Informant 2007 (the full list can be found

here

):


  • Adds new Roles/Views/Features dialog during the initial setup, making customization of your views easier
  • Added support for Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone and Windows Mobile 6 Standard editions, allowing 100% one handed use
  • Adds Touch Mode, similar to HTC’s TouchFLO or Apple’s iPhone flick-scrolling features
  • Changed the default first day of the week from Monday to Sunday
  • Devices with scroll wheels/rockers are now supported for easier navigation
  • Sending SMS from the Contacts Summary/Preview is now supported
  • Today plug-in supports font size and appointment day options
  • Views picker now offers Custom View Picker on the right soft keys

SETUP

    Installing PI8 was straightforward on my AT&T Tilt after syncing through Windows Mobile Device Center.

   Pocket Informant 8 takes a little more space than Pocket Informant 2007 did, which used to be about 3.2 megabytes. According to WebIS, the CAB file is larger because of the new WebISUpdater application licensed from PhatWare is better and the extra 128 DPI resources it now supports. So the actual install size of the PI8 binaries is about the same as PI2007. Of course you get the obligatory end user license agreement screen.

Once you accept the EULA, installation only took a couple of minutes. You’ll also notice a secondary status bar as Pocket Informant unpacks several bitmaps for the icons.

PRODUCT FEATURES

    We have reviewed the previous iterations of Pocket Informant. This review is will focus on the updates that have been made since Pocket Informant 2007. If you’re interested, check out Stephen Skarlatos’ review of Pocket Informant 2007.

   When starting Pocket Informant 8 for the first time, it will bring you to a new screen to setup your usage role. After selecting "Yes", you can choose from several profiles, based on how you want to use the application. This is a nice touch as it quickly configures Pocket Informant 8 based on how you use a PIM. For example, if you are primarily appointment focused, it will only show you features that are focused on the calendaring capabilities. Also in this view, it gives you the ability to choose features that you want to use. If after setting up your role, you find that you don’t like your setup, you can change it any time.

    Once you have setup your role, Pocket Informant will bring you the week view. One of the newest changes to Week view is that Sunday is now the first day of the week, as opposed to Monday, like in the previous versions. WebIS has made this change due to the fact that 60% of their customer base is in the United States. The next change I noticed was the "Views" left softkey. In previous versions of Pocket Informant, you had a View Picker and a menu would pop up to choose which view you wanted to use. Now, the left softkey brings up an icon based picker.

   The views that are available in the view picker depends on the role chosen during the initial setup. The view shown above represents the Power User role and shows all the views available to the user. Here you can pick to view your calendar in either Agenda, Day/Week, Week, or Month view. You also have quick access to your Journal, Notes, Tasks, Contacts and Search tools. Smartphone/Standard Edition users will be happy to see that there are numbered shortcut keys for each view. This makes navigating through Pocket Informant extremely easy. From this view, users will have one stop access to all of their PIM tools.

  

   A new view added in Pocket Informant 8 is the Events view. This view allows you to track tasks or appointments and tells you how many days before they arrive. It’s great to track milestones on a project, days until a birthday/anniversary, or anything you need to know that is quickly coming up. The calendar Agenda, Day/Week, Week and Month views have not changed significantly from the previous versions of Pocket Informant.

    The task view in Pocket Informant 8 is much more robust than Pocket Outlook. You can organize your Task View by categories, which makes it easier to understand your To-Do list. The Task View also allows you to expand/collapse your categories for even easier viewing. Another function that Pocket Informant 8 adds are three new Task modes to match Franklin Covey Plan Plus for Outlook (PPO) 5.0. You will also get ActiveSync syncing capability with PPO and Pocket Informant. It will sync daily notes, completion percentages, priorities and projects to sync. Additionally, if you are familiar with the Franklin Covey method of organization, it will use the "ABC" prioritization as opposed the A-Z method that Pocket Informant utilizes. The one limitation Pocket Informant 8 has with the Franklin Covey is that the sync plug-in will work only with Windows Mobile 5 devices. Hopefully, WebIS will will provide an update for this. Fortunately, all of the Franklin Covey features will still work, it just will not sync up.

    The Today Screen plug-in shows can be set to show your appointments and tasks. The plug-in can be set to show one to severalt days worth of appointments, though it will require some scrolling. Tasks can be set to show those that are currently in progress or those that have started, those that are due in the current day or the next day or not at all. Each category of appointments or tasks can be shown with different colors so that it is easy for you to identify each item. Users also have the ability to change the font size for easier reading.

   The next significant change is in the contacts view. Displaying photos right next to your contact’s name is the default view now. In previous versions, you had to turn the photo feature on. Defaulting to this view also makes it easier to use Pocket Informant 8 with one hand. Clicking on the blue arrows next to each contact brings up another window with all of that contact’s phone numbers and/or email addresses. Picking one of the contact methods makes it the primary contact method in this view. Clicking the Dial Selected Number dials the number you have selected as primary. I wish though, that it you could send an email or dial contact directly from this mini window instead of having to actually go into the contact.

   Another new function is the Touch Mode. This gives HTC TouchFLO/Apple iPhone Flick-Scrolling like capability to Contacts view. In place of the scroll bar are all the letters of the alphabet arranged vertically. You can just tap on a letter and it will bring you to the first contact that starts with the letter selected.

   Pocket Informant takes this search ability one step better by giving users the ability to add a search bar across the top of the screen. You also have the option to have another ABC Tab Bar, similar to Pocket Outlook’s, across the top. Note that if you do not have the Search Bar enabled, Pocket Informant will not recognize any keyboard/SIP searches.

   The settings screen has also changed from Pocket Informant 2007. The main screen has been compressed to eliminate scrolling. Numeric shortcut keys have been added here as well to accommodate WM 5 Smartphone/WM6 Standard users. Some categories may have additional sub-categories, such as Calendar. Again, we see the elimination of scrolling through the sub-categories and again, the usage of numeric shortcuts. Bravo WebIS!!

Once you get to the category you want to customize, you have the ability to do a search on the item you want to modify, or you can just scroll through the available list.

HELP SUPPORT

    WebIS has a comprehensive support page on their website

.

The user manual is linkable and is about 80 pages long. The manual is available in PDF format.


SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    Pocket Informant 8 requires installation onto the device and not a storage card, as it will not run properly. Windows Mobile 5.0 and 6 Professional/Standard edition and Windows Mobile 2003/SE Pocket PC are supported. I have installed this on both my AT&T Tilt and AT&T 8525 and it ran without problems.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
I did not have any problems during installation or everyday use. While Pocket Informant 8 is a powerful tool, there are a couple of things I would like to see in the next version.

  • An interactive tutorial on how to use Pocket Informant, as Stephen Skarlatos has asked for in the past
  • The ability to dial or send an email to your contact after clicking on the blue arrow from the contact list

PURCHASING

   
You can purchase the full version of Pocket Informant 8 from the pocketnow.com Software Store for $29.95. A trial is available at that link. Current owners of Pocket Informant can upgrade. If you have purchased Pocket Informant 2007 after September 1, 2007, you are eligible for a free upgrade. Otherwise, the upgrade cost is $16.99.

PROS


  • Ability to setup based on intended use

  • Easy one-handed operation on both platforms
  • Access to Contacts, Calendar and Tasks is only two screen taps away
  • Highly customizable

CONS

  • Still does not support hours in tasks

  • Can seem daunting for first time users, but that feeling subsides after reading the manual

  • Needs interactive training material
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall


OVERALL IMPRESSION

    I had never considered a third party PIM application in the past because I had always thought that Pocket Outlook would handle all my needs. After spending a couple of weeks using Pocket Informant 8, my mind has been changed. At the basic level, the views that Pocket Informant 8 offers are far more robust than what Pocket Outlook has. I for one will continue to use this wonderful application. Current users will see notice the enhancements made to the interface truly make it a one handed experience. Pocket Informant 8 continues WebIS’ longstanding reputation of providing their users with powerful control over their daily lives. Another winner from WebIS!

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