askSam Professional

GCN Lab review: Version 6.1 askSam Professional is a good database software program for novice and intermediate users who need to run simple database functions

GCN

Version 6.1 of askSAM is not the latest version of the software ' askSam 7 was still in the early stages of beta testing when this review began. However, 6.1 offers good features, including a new way for users to organize and navigate their information.

[IMGCAP(1)]Dynamic Folder View lets you place your information in folders and subfolders. Unlike most folder implementations, askSam Folders are displayed dynamically. Select a field in your database, and the software builds the folder view based on the contents of the field.

You can easily change the field that defines your folder and display your information organized in a different set of folders. This is a unique way to analyze your information and a cool approach to making databases easier to use.

For its high price tag of $395, askSam offers a lot of standard features, including the ability to organize documents into folders and subfolders, browse easily through your documents, and view your information from various perspectives.

Some of the larger databases' bells and whistles are lacking in askSam, particularly the look and feel of polished applications such as Access and FileMaker. It's good with the basics, though, such as customizing how the folder view is displayed and sorted and the ability to right-click to export, delete, e-mail and print.

Another feature that makes askSam a good basic database is its ability to save Web pages directly from Internet Explorer into askSam. You can save just the current Web page or the current page and linked pages. Such a feature usually comes with the organizational burden of remembering what each link is. However, askSam lets you enter a title, keywords and notes about the pages you save, making it easier to keep track of where you collect your data. This feature makes it easy to add Web information to a database, which can save a lot of copying and pasting.

The biggest issues we had with askSam concerned its interface, which lacks the modern look of its competitors. According to the makers of askSam, Version 7 will have a better interface, including a new Search Results window that provides an overview of your searches. In future versions, you'll be able to search your search results, sort columns with a click, select multiple documents with checkboxes or select all by clicking a column header. Right now, you can't even view your current search once the action is instigated.

Most of the new capabilities coming in askSam 7 are already available in other databases in this review. For example, the new Add to Folder option will let you select an existing folder or create a new folder and automatically add a document to that newly created folder. Microsoft products have had that feature for years.

Despite the interface shortcomings, Version 6.1 is still a good piece of software for novice and intermediate users who need to run simple database functions. We were put off by the steep $395 price tag for a new single-user copy of the software, but we warmed up to the idea of an upgrade to Version 6 from any previous version for $90. The $395 version includes all the features of Version 6 and adds programming and full-text indexing.

This is the version that merited the C- grade under the value category. It's just a little too expensive for what you get and not quite up-to-speed with its competitors.

Seaside Software, (800) 800-1997, www.asksam.com

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