Organizer puts planning in motion

As business card holders and daybooks have evolved into personal information
managers, Lotus Organizer is still a standout. Version 5.0 integrates the functions of its
paper-based forebears with Internet calendaring and scheduling. It has matured without
turning stodgy.

The interface, based on the familiar day planner metaphor, is transparent to anyone who
can page through a calendar, to-do list, directory or notepad. Organizer’s
call-scheduling component will dial phone numbers from a modem-equipped computer. Other
components will schedule recurring events and manage projects.

Organizer integrates its sections better than paper day planners and many other PIMs.
Contacts link to appointments or calls. Notepad entries link to files or uniform resource
locators and update each other automatically.

The Calendar section follows the Internet’s open iCalendar standard for setting up
meetings with people across networks regardless of their PIM software, so long as it
complies with iCal.

Organizer 5.0 also supports the vCard standard for importing contact information from
other vCard-compliant applications, as well as vCalendar, another Internet calendaring

The PIM can import Lightweight Directory Access Protocol entries into a contact
database—an excellent way to share information in departments with LDAP servers.

Buttressing the new functions, Organizer 5.0 can view as many as 15 calendars at one
time. Whether you’re scheduling a meeting with a dozen people up the hall or across
the country, you can see all their schedules.

The mix of flexibility and capability carries on through the Contacts section.
Organizer 5.0 allows each contact up to 20 telephone numbers, seven postal addresses, six
e-mail addresses, six Web pages and just about any other information you might care to

There are five different views for browsing contacts. One of the most helpful is the
contact history view, which lists every e-mail, Web page, document or phone call linked to
a contact. Many PIMs cannot handle such integration, or they make it very difficult.

A day planner view shows the entire day’s calendar, task list, contacts and
notepad entries. It’s easy to create new entries for the categories, all from the
same screen.

On the minus side, Organizer cannot manage e-mail messages or files. But it does work
with most mail packages so that a single click on a contact record will bring up a send
screen. And files can attach to Organizer records. Although you cannot manage files with
the PIM, you can put them where you need them most. It’s not a bad compromise.

Users of Lotus Organizer 97 Versions GS and 4.1 should know that Organizer 5.0 does not
natively support Notes and Domino group scheduling, as do the earlier versions. Lotus
Development Corp. plans an upgrade for Organizer to the new Notes 5.0 client. The company
has said it will continue group scheduling support for Organizer 97 GS and 4.1 until
demand has dropped off. Current Organizer users who are not taking advantage of group
scheduling likely will have no problem upgrading.

Organizer also lets you share your calendar, project planning or contact information
with any other user.

Users of Symantec Corp.’s Act 3.x, Starfish Software’s Sidekick 97 and 98,
Day-Timer Technologies’ Organizer 98, and Microsoft Outlook 97 and 98 also can import
PIM information into Organizer 5.0.

New and veteran users alike will appreciate Organizer’s print preview, which fills
a big hole for people who prefer to print out their PIM information. Organizer has always
been able to print in various day planner formats, but until now you were never quite sure
how they would turn out.

Organizer is an excellent choice for keeping a PC PIM synchronized with a handheld
device. It works with 3Com Corp.’s Palm handhelds, the IBM WorkPad and the Texas
Instruments Inc. Series 6960si. Lotus and other vendors sell synchronization solutions for
Microsoft Windows CE devices and the Psion and Rexx personal digital assistants.

Extras include Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0 and the Official Airline Guide Travel
Information System, which can make travel arrangements.

Though Organizer has always been one of the simplest PIMs to use, it had a reputation
for being underpowered. Version 5.0 is more robust and has a better interface. But it
falls short of being an e-mail client.

Many federal offices mandate which e-mail client their users must have. PIMs more often
are a personal decision; if your PIM doesn’t work the way you want, you won’t
bother with it. Organizer 5.0 makes it possible to keep your mandated e-mail package but
use Organizer to integrate e-mail with contacts or other records.  

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