Review – Key Suite from Chapura

by Reads (25,681)

I am a semi-long time user of PDAs. My first PDA was a Palm IIIxe that I bought in August of 2000 to replace all of my paper planners and notebooks. Then in May 2002 I bought an m515 because I wanted color and more expansion options. Then this April I sold the m515 and got a Zire71 (hi-res tempted me a bit much). In all of those times my Palm has been my Outlook-away-from-Outlook. I have used PocketMirror Standard and Professional and also Desktop-to-Go. When I saw that Dataviz released Beyond Contacts, I nearly jumped at the opportunity to try it. But I did not need the Today screen because I am already using Facer (Today screen plus application launcher from PocketCraft), so I just held off. When Key Suite was released it didn t have the Today screen but that didn t matter, it looked attractive enough so I jumped at the opportunity to review it.

Overview:
Key Suite (http://www.chapura.com/keysuite.php) is a set of four integrated applications designed to replace the standard Address Book, Date Book, ToDo, and Memo Pad applications. They do not build on the existing applications, but have their own databases which enable KeySuite s programs to handle more information and be more versatile. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the built-in apps and KeySuite’s, but it is exactly that similarness that has made me want to use Key Suite as my PIM (personal information manager).

System Requirements:
 Palm Desktop 4.0.1 or higher
 PalmOS 3.5 or higher
 At least 1.4MB free memory on handheld
 MS Outlook 2000 or higher
 Windows 98 or higher
 Windows-compatible personal computer
 16MB RAM (32MB recommended)
 2Mb disk space
 Windows NT/2000/XP users my have administrative rights to local machine in order to install software

KeySuite (like Beyond Contacts) supports not only the basic information that you would place into the regular PIM apps, but also most of the fields that you would find in Outlook. It links to both public and sub-folders in Outlook, supports more fields, multiple PCs, and contact linking. Contact linking is the most impressive of these in that you can link to a contact to a note to a task and have it appear on the Key Calendar screen. That makes it quite easy to keep track of people to call, or companies to bill, or just doing a group project with your classmates.

KeyContacts:
KeyContacts was the first of the KeySuite programs to be released. It is also the centerpiece. For me, KeyContacts has fully replaced the standard Address Book with little trouble. Here is a run down of some of its features over the standard Address Book.

 The ability to synchronize multiple folders within Outlook s Contacts folder;
 Synchronizes all the information that you could possibly use for a contact, including all phone numbers and addresses, multiple email addresses, birthdays, spouse s name, children s names, as well as four custom fields;
 For hi-res devices there are eight font choices that can be used to display the contact list, or a specific contact;
 The ability to add sub-categories within a larger category;
 The ability to link the contact to a calendar, to-do, or note;
 The ability to switch to any other of the KeySuite programs via a shortcut button at the bottom-left of the screen.

I did not find much about KeyContacts not to like. The larger categories that I have will not show up under and All listing, but rather they show up in separate categories like in Outlook. I also found that using the Quick Lookup feature isn t that quick. In the standard Address Book, the quick lookup function will ignore the letters if you do not have a contact listed under that letter. With KeyContacts, it will literally send you through every letter until you get to the letter that you want, which can be tedious. The good piece about KeyContact s Quick Lookup is that when you string together a set of letters, if those letters appear in any place in another contact, that contact will be listed as well. For me and my 400+ list, that brought back memories of a lot of people whom I have not called in a long time.

Basically, I found that I should have used KeyContacts before KeySuite came out. This program by itself is very powerful and more than enough for any person that is attached at the palm (pun intended) to Outlook.

KeyDates:

The second element that I played with was KeyDates. KeyDates is the DateBook replacement that does an excellent job at some things but not so good with other things. Like KeyContacts, it links to the other elements of KeySuite. When I first opened KeyDates I was unimpressed. It was just a DateBook screen with icons placed in different areas. Then came the poking around. I found in the preferences for KeyDates that you could view KeyTasks on the same screen with KeyDates. This made me look even harder at what KeyDates could accomplish for me.

Like the standard Address Book, KeyDates had the standard day, week and month views. Each day view could be customized to have a different background and text color than the to-do view (which makes it easier to see). Also similar to KeyContacts, there are eight font choices. This was the only place where I felt that there should have been one more option, to remove the lines that separated each event. When viewing the day view with a small font, the font choice is not legible enough unless the background is completely white. Other than that issue, the display was uncluttered and easy to navigate.

There was also the full gamut of options and details to add to a contact; including linking to a contact and note, setting the reoccurrence pattern, setting the location and the alarm.

Overall, KeyDates is a very familiar program to long-time PalmOS users; but gives all who want the flexibility of an Outlook-like solution an easy (and almost fully intuitive) means of achieving it.

KeyTasks:
KeyTasks quickly became my favorite element of KeySuite (mainly because I was able to view/edit KeyTasks while I was in KeyDates). If you have ever tried to use the Tasks in Outlook, then you know that for such a simple name, it does have the ability to do a whole lot. KeyTasks takes all of that Outlook power and places it into the simplicity of a PalmOS PDA.

At first glance, KeyTasks looks exactly like the built-in ToDo application. But that is where the similarities end. KeyTasks, like KeyContacts and KeyDates, extends on the built-in ToDo app s simplicity. You still are able to set an end date, but you can also set a start date (if you are like me and like to have projects going on). You can also act as if every task is a contracted assignment and log your hours-to-completion and billing information. This is in addition to being able to set an alarm, and if the task will reoccur at sometime in the future (very helpful for those student loan payments that I have coming up).

If there is any gripe that I have with KeyTasks is that dang font issue. Hi-res is supposed to be easier to read, but with those separator lines it makes you want to use the default font all the time (not exactly efficient when you have tasks that span three jobs).

I like KeyTasks a lot. For most people that will try (or buy) KeySuite, KeyTasks will make it worth it. It works better with the rest of KeySuite (not quite able to stand on its own like KeyContacts or KeyDates). But that s what makes it work.

KeyNotes:
KeyNotes was possibly the most unused by me, maybe because I instinctively use notes with contacts and tasks, or because KeyNotes competed with Wordsmith for my memo functions. As stated earlier, KeyNotes (like the rest of the KeySuite applications) does not use the built in databases, but creates its own. Though that makes for more space usage, more versatility is gained. This is true for all parts of KeySuite, except KeyNotes. KeyNotes is essentially a colored notepad (with a 24K limit instead of the Memo Pad s 4K). It looks and acts like the Notes application within Outlook (notes can be colored and linked to a contact, task, or calendar entry). But that is all that KeyNotes can do. The font problem is also present; and depending on the color of the note, that can be magnified or lowered.

 

In some ways I wish that KeyNotes was a better notepad. Maybe if it were more like the Journal in Outlook, then it would have been a better option. But as it stands, it just feels like it was thrown in there to complete the be like Outlook package.

Quick Comparison:
While reviewing KeySuite I was able to make a quick comparison to Beyond Contacts (its chief competition). Below are a few comments:

 Beyond Contacts and KeySuite both offer tight integration between the sub-applications. Beyond Contacts gets the edge for being more like Outlook and possibly easier to learn in this respect.
 On the down side, Beyond Contacts is more intimidating to the beginner/intermediate PalmOS user; finding how to use everything can be more work than what one could be willing to do.
 KeySuite is more colorful and you can change text, background, and highlight colors; whereas Beyond Contacts locks you into that default Outlook color theme (eww ugly)
 Beyond Contacts has a Today screen, which most any PDA user find useful. KeySuite gets a knock for this. And as of this writing, no Today-screen application is able to read the databases of either KeySuite or Beyond Contacts so that the information can be displayed within the Today program.

Bottom Line:
Overall, I really like KeySuite. Outside of the issue with readability with the small font and separator lines, this program is very well laid out. The integration with Outlook has made me a better user of Outlook because I now understand some of the more complex functions of Outlook (such as the billing and linking contacts to events and tasks). If KeyNotes were to take on more of an Outlook Journal function, then this would easily be the best Outlook solution for PalmOS devices. Granted, the $80 asking price is a bit steep for most people, but for what you are getting, it is quite much. If you already own PocketMirror and/or KeyContacts, there is a lower cost of entry ($25 off the regular price). You cannot go wrong with KeySuite. This is what we all want in out PDA, Outlook on the go. KeySuite delivers.

Pricing:
The cost of entry for KeySuite is $80 for new users, $25 less for PocketMirror Professional and KeyContacts owners (there is a special introductory offer of 49.95 for all users). It is steep, but you get a lot for the money. Maybe Chapura would be guilty of overcharging if they were Microsoft, but seeing that this is nearly the fully Outlook package, the cost is almost justified.

KeySuite is available for free trial and purchase form Handango [product link] for $49.95.

-By Antoine RJ Wright (d-roC) for BargainPDA.com

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