Many people buy their Palms as an organiser. I bought mine as a toy, but I imagine I’m in the minority. And as such I’d never really considered a third-party organiser for my Palm, until the recent Agendus 8 Beta came out and I gave it a try. Iambic were then kind enough to supply a release copy (8.01) of the Agendus 77623 Professional edition for review (there's also a 1260 Standard edition available). And would I go back, even to the PalmOne improved Calendar and Contacts applications? Not on your nelly.
Agendus has always been known for its contact orientated views, and version 8 brings some new niceties and better integration with newer PalmOne devices. Additions include support for pictures, reworked dialogues for large screens, birthday and location support (for all devices), templates and improvements to background display. The Professional edition also adds multiple contacts per meeting, the ability to send messages from an alarm dialogue, some new display effects and support for third-party e-mail and SMS solutions (e.g. VersaMail). There’s also a desktop client available - Agendus for Windows (46070 Professional and 46071 Standard). I stuck with Outlook 2003, as I’m sure most users will – the default conduits continue to sync perfectly, as does PocketMirror XT.
Unlike the standard Palm offerings, Agendus presents a unified contact manager, calendar and tasks list, all accessible from an ever-present toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This works well while you remain within Agendus, but disappears, of course, if you use a third-party e-mail client. You can get around this by using Agendus Mail, although this doesn’t support the virtual graffiti of the T3. It does, however, support IMAP and SMS, so this is a good solution for those with square screens.
Several views are available via the toolbar. Firstly, a daily view, split between tasks and the calendar. This looks a little crowded at 320x320, but is great at 320x480. The weekly view offers a ‘Psionesque’ view, especially in landscape mode, and includes tasks with date assignments upon the appropriate day. The monthly view offers no surprises, but the quarterly view packs the tasks into the bottom right corner. This is a little cramped if you’ve a large task list, so they’ve also offered an ‘expanded’ view, where the tasks will fill the screen horizontally. Finally, they’ve added the standard ‘Today’ view popularised by the Pocket PC. It can be toggled to show today’s events, tomorrows or a multiple of other options, and it also shows all the outstanding tasks, but does not show extra information, such as unread e-mail or system status.
Following these are views for the other parts of the suit. There’s a tasks view, similar to the standard ToDo applications, although allowing icons, colours and association of contacts. This is followed by the contact view, the message (e-mail/SMS) shortcut and finally, a ‘New’ menu, presenting a menu of the various items that may be created.
The contacts view is especially good. Although the view’s modifications from the standard apps are minor, they make life much easier. Firstly, the view is tabulated by letter. Secondly, clicking upon the number of a contact brings up a miniature menu of all their contact numbers/e-mails. Likewise there’s a 'grouping' function – group the contacts by country, company, name or several other fields. And lastly, a menu exists to allow you to change the display of contacts from the standard ‘Last, First’ format to a variety of others.
Likewise, there are a few additions to contacts themselves. You can now add a photo, although this appears to be from the memory card only – there’s no Palm Photos/Media support. Likewise this supports the additions of PalmOne’s PIM suite – birthdays and multiple addresses. But the addition most likely to be appreciated by business people everywhere is the contact history. At last you can view all the areas a contact has been assigned to, something sorely missed in the default applications.
Meetings and tasks are also improved, firstly with the ability to assign a contact to each. With meetings you can go further and assign multiple attendees. This is accomplished via an elegant tabbed interface which nicely separates the data out. Where it does fall down a bit is the time selector – while you can drag the time slow around to set it (which is very nice), should you choose to manually edit it the dialogue is overly complicated in comparison to the default, attempting to fit everyone on one page without scrolling. It just looks crowded. But that’s the worst I can say about it. But to make up for that we have the ‘Vivid Agenda’ – a tool which automatically assigns icons when you create an object which a description matching the criteria. It’s a neat toy, and likely to be useful for those creating a multitude of tasks.
Tasks can also have contacts assigned, and gain the ability to have a photo attached, along with an icon. A decent selection of icons is supplied, however many (in the hi-resolution set) are still low resolution, which looks a wee bit shabby (although you can download many, many more via Iambic’s website). You can also add colours and set alarms, a nicety for users of older Palms.
Heavy users will be glad to see you can assign a different alarm for Tasks, Meetings and Calls. But what’s more likely to interest the standard user is the background feature (unless you’ve got a Zire72). This also supports pre-packaged backgrounds in RAM (for those without a memory card), and gives options to lighten and position the background (or to just use a plain colour, if you’re sensible). The look of this is vastly improved by a white outline around the black text, making it readable on a dark background (PalmOne could learn from this, as could Nokia). So you get aesthetics and readability.
And so - the verdict. This is a fantastic piece of software. However I’d be keen to see the freeform abilities of Sony’s CLIE Organiser, and freeform note integration would be a nice addition. But if you’re a contact orientated person and you use your Palm for it’s PIM functions then this is likely to be a great addition to your device. And, as with most Palm software, there’s a free trial available. It’ll certainly be staying on my device.