Review – Pocket Informant 4 for Pocket PC

by Reads (5,619)

Pocket Informant 4 is the most recent update to the widely popular PIM replacement program. While the basic design of the program hasn’t changed, it has undergone a down-to-the-roots upgrade and enhancement.

The changes are so numerous that the log of changes made to the program, normally 2 or 3 pages per version, is a full 11 pages for the PI4 upgrade. Given Pocket Informant’s full featuredness before, nothing can touch it now.

It’s impossible to describe all the features that Pocket Informant has. It’s not just a complete PIM replacement–it’s a word processor, sketchpad, alarm manager, and a dozen other things wrapped into one. Though the word ‘one’ is a little decieving–there are actually five major components to Pocket Informant. I still call it one, however, since almost everything is accessed through a lovely tabbed user interface that lets you bounce back and forth between all the functions. We’ll discuss the components individually, starting with:

AlarmNotes
Pocket Informant’s AlarmNotes is a replacement for the Notes recording/sketchpad application included with PPC2002. You can sketch, write, type, or dictate into a note, catagorize it, and set it to automatically trigger an alarm with fast and easy presets from 5 minutes up to 48 hours, or set an alarm for the minute of your choice. In addition to basic sketching and text, the program allows bold, italics, underlining, bullets, fonts, strikethough, text alignment, and most of all, one-touch date/time stamping.

If you’re one of those people who needs to jot down information or reminders, this program alone may be worth the $25. Even more so if you do note taking frequently, and/or tend to do it cryptically. (Guilty as charged–I have a piece of paper from 12 years ago on which I’d wrote C2Y=4 x 12 / 4^2, and I still don’t know if this is gibberish or the key to cold fusion.) People who design things should be particularly happy with this program, since you can choose between plain, ruled, and graph backgrounds, sketch out your most recent design idea, and timestamp it for ease of reference. The only thing I could possibly want to add to AlarmNotes is the option to automatically playback an audio-recorded note when the alarm goes off.

PICalender
The Calender replacement, like all of Pocket Informant, is designed to not waste a single pixel of screen space unneccessarily. By default all listed appointments are collapsed into a list, organized by day, so you can survey your schedule by scrolling down, or switching to a one, seven, or thirty one day view.

Weekends are color coded, appointments can be categorized, sorted, and filtered. Other controls let you change days, weeks, and even jump as much as six months with a couple taps. No complaints here–everything went smoothly, and I really like the collapsed multi-day view of appointments.

PIContacts
Contacts was the source of the only error issue I encountered in my use of Pocket Informant. For whatever reason, PI decided to file all my existing contacts under the number ‘3’. Your guess is as good as mine. Otherwise it worked well, providing a very complete repository for all the information. In addition to sorting, categorizing, and filtering options, you can also dial a phone straight from the contacts, by several different means.

You can dial via IR, USB, Bluetooth, serial, or even tell it to generate DTMF tones, allowing you to dial a landline with just your PPC’s speaker. Particularly cool if you need to dial long numbers, extensions, or enter phone codes, since you can program them into your contacts and dial in a couple taps. Space is supplied not only for normal contact information, but esoteric things like assistant’s name, childeren, and a complete ‘note’ area for anything you
couldn’t fit in elsewhere. Your own mobile Farleyfile.

PISearch
No PIM is complete without a search function. This one works fairly admirably, searching completely through all the PIM data. It does not however search through typed text in notes. This is it’s only failing, but it’s semi-significant. It’s unfortunate that when you need to find something in the notes, you have to dig for it manually. It devalues the easy datestamping somewhat, since you can’t easily put in a date and then find everything from that day. Perhaps in the next version?

PITasks
Features include support for alphabetic and/or numeric prioritization, in combination with high/medium/low, due dates, recurrance settings with highly customizable behavior, alarms, and the categorizing and filtering present in all the PI applications. No complaints–like the rest of PI, it works seamlessly.

There are any number of more subtle features of Pocket Informant that I haven’t time or space to comment on, like importing and exporting data as XML, or using the PocketPC’s system password to secure private entries. PI is rife with little things like this, no doubt one of the reasons for it’s popularity and steady following.

Pocket Informant is, in all truth, the real king of PocketPC PIM. The worst thing I can think of to say about PI is that it’s complicated. There’s a learning curve before you can use it to it’s full potential. Considering all you get though, this isn’t bad at all.

Granted, PI4 is not for everyone. People who just want to use basic PIM, notes, alarms and such are sure to be happier using the basic PocketPC applications. But for anything beyond vanilla address book use, you’d be hard pressed to find a reason not to use PI4.

Pros:
Exceptional PIM replacement
Very diverse feature set
Superb notetaker

Cons:
Medium learning curve

Bottom line:

For high-end information management on a PocketPC, you cannot beat Pocket Informant.

Pick up a trial version or purchase for $25 from Handango (product link).

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