GCN Lab Review: askSam Professional Version 7

Pros: Easy to use for basic features
Cons: Limited functions, expensive
Features: B-
Performance: B
Ease of Use: B+
Value: C-
Price: $395

The previous version of askSam, 6.1 introduced us to a new way for users to organize and navigate data. Dynamic Folder View let you place information in folders and subfolders. Unlike most folder implementations, askSam folders are displayed dynamically. You 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 the folder and display information organized in a different set of folders. This is a different way to analyze data and a cool approach to making databases more user-friendly.

In Version 7 of askSam, the developers added some of the bells and whistles of larger databases. However, the ability to analyze and examine spreadsheet data is far less robust than in Access and less user-friendly than in FileMaker. Aside from being able to run simple queries, there isn’t much else you can do using askSam.

However, one feature that makes askSam a good basic database is its ability to save Web pages directly from an Internet Explorer browser into askSam. This feature is expanded by the ability to save a current Web page, including an option to save linked pages. Typically, such a feature comes with the organizational burden of remembering what each link is, but askSam lets you enter a title, keywords and notes about the pages you save, making it easier to keep track of them. This feature can save a lot of wasted time copying and pasting.

The biggest issues we had with askSam start with the interface, which seems to lack the modern look of its competitors. According to the makers of askSam, the next version will address those issues. In future versions, you’ll be able to search within search results, sort columns by clicking on a column, select multiple documents with checkboxes or select all by clicking a column header. In this version, you can’t even view your current search after the action is instigated. That is a huge oversight, which makes the database less user-friendly.

Another trait askSam lacks is an easy way to view documents and folders. The new version will have a Folder Bar Tab for convenient access to commonly used file options. With that function, users will be able to quickly toggle among folders, attachments and document properties. You’ll also be able to view attachments with image thumbnails, edit document properties, and access commonly used tools for entry forms, reports and searches.

The other databases in the review offer most of the new capabilities in askSam 7. For example, the new Add to Folder option will allow you to select an existing folder or create a new folder and automatically add a new document to that folder. Microsoft products have had that feature for years.

Despite the capability issues that askSam 7 suffers from, it’s still a good piece of software for novice to intermediate users who need to run simple database functions. We did not like the $395 price tag for a new top-of-the-line single-user copy of the software. However, the $395 version includes all the features of Version 7 and adds programming and full-text indexing. This version merited a C- grade for value.

Seaside Software, 800-800-1997,

About the Authors

Carlos A. Soto is a former GCN Lab technology analyst.

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