A Personal Information Manager on an Installment Plan - Page 2

By Eric Grevstad
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Ticklers, E-Mails, and More
Version 8 tweaks the program's already impressive search capabilities, letting you specify whether to include all or only certain types of items as well as getting fancy with Boolean-expression, date-range, and other searches.

It also lets you tidy up the selector with dividing lines, launch and edit file attachments, and keep your Info Select data files to a manageable size by saving attachments separately.

It also continues the last couple of versions' progress toward handling more types of data and/or pretensions toward replacing more everyday applications. For instance, Info Select's word processor has gained more formatting options such as superscripts and subscripts and a first-line paragraph indent, in addition to its pretty good spelling checker and minimal thesaurus.

But it still lacks frills such as "curly" quotation marks and apostrophes and automatic correction (as opposed to mere flagging) of possible misspellings. And while it's nice to see a context-sensitive word-processing toolbar appear when you begin editing text, it's so inelegantly laid out that we got a font-size menu spanning the entire width of the editing window on our default XGA display.

If you're painstaking, you can create capable database forms with field types ranging from text, numeric, and date to combo-box menus of permissible values. Ditto for spreadsheet-style grids with limited formula-calculation functionality, though we wish version 8 had focused on providing more intuitive means of adding rows or columns instead of the option of creating an ugly, bare-bones bar chart of numeric values — even the simplest Microsoft Works spreadsheet kicks Info Select's butt.

Similarly, you can crop, resize, rotate, and adjust the contrast and brightness of images — and now use the mouse to annotate them with arrows or circles or draw ultra-rough sketches, as well as a text tool — but you won't mistake the PIM for an image editor, although the ability to apply different levels of quality-versus-file-size compression to an image is handy.

Example of Info Select 8 Reminder FunctionsInfo Select 8's calendar is more impressive, with Outlook import, support for events that span multiple days, and a positively encyclopedic range of alternatives to the usual pop-up alarms, such as launching an application, sending yourself an e-mail, or moving an item to the selector at a desired time. Don't want to forget your anniversary in June, but don't want to see it on screen until May? A new point-and-click toolbar makes it a snap to assign a tickler (right), or reminder X days hence — how many days depends on where you click the toolbar — to an item, hiding it in a special topic or folder till then if you like.

The program's e-mail client is also noticeably improved, with HTML mail support, limited but helpful manual spam filtering, and ample options for customizing the reception of and replies to particular deliveries (Info Select's term for topics containing messages from a specific person).

For example, you can flag mail from the boss with a to-do icon as soon as it arrives; do the same for messages from Mary Rollins only after four hours have passed; or specify a different salutation or signature for different correspondents. Version 8 also gives you the choice of seeing everyone's or just some folks' e-mail in a familiar column view — a sortable, customizable grid, rather than just as a stack of messages, in the selector.

Info Select 8 isn't perfect, isn't a must-have upgrade for owners of version 7 (though Info Select 5 or 6 diehards should strongly consider catching up), and its push for subscription pricing isn't our favorite software strategy. But it's the strongest evidence yet that there's more to life than Outlook.

< Back to Page 1: A PIM on an Installment Plan

Adapted from WinPlanet.com.

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This article was originally published on March 24, 2004
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