Tossing an appointment book into your briefcase may seem like the ultimate in convenience, but you're throwing away a lot of raw information -- email addresses, Web pages, related files -- that could be used to better advantage. To put your life in order, you need more than addresses and appointments. You need a PIM -- a personal information manager.
Your Need: Software that tracks all of your contacts, so you don't waste time on unnecessary call-backs -- or miss important leads.
Power Tool: GoldMine 3.2
GoldMine is best known for its sales and marketing tools. Its latest release is a full-fledged contact manager, featuring Internet email support, a spell-checker, and performance gains that enable it to work faster.
Like most PIMs, GoldMine includes To Do lists, an in-depth address book, and a flexible calendar that gives you daily, weekly, or monthly views. You can even enter recurring appointments so they're posted automatically on the appropriate day (e.g., stress management class every other Tuesday at 6 PM). If you get a little too involved in your work, GoldMine will prod you with a beep alarm for important meetings or conference calls. A bonus: you can transmit appointments and phone numbers from GoldMine (and ECCO Pro) to a Timex Data Link watch. Simply hold the Data Link up to the computer screen, and a series of "light flashes" sends the information to the watch.
Geek Factor: An email merge lets you send out a mass emailing with the push of a button.
Weak Factor: If you want to automatically synchronize your schedule from the road with your calendar back at the office, you'll need to spend another $295 on a software license for your company's server.
Coordinates: GoldMine 3.2 for Windows 95 and NT 4.0, $295. GoldMine Software Inc., 800-654-3526; http://www.goldminesw.com
Your Need: Software that manages your schedule -- and just about any other information that needs organizing.
Power Tool: ECCO Pro 4.0
Whereas GoldMine emphasizes contact management, ECCO Pro 4.0 is all about information management.
ECCO Pro's most salient ability? It lets you easily cross-link appointments, To Do lists, and names with any kind of relevant data. Can Susan's recent email help jump-start your upcoming meeting with that new client? Just click on the arrow in the upper right-hand corner and send the email to the appointment entry using ECCO's Shooter. When you come across the meeting entry several days later, click on a button and go directly to Susan's email message. The Shooter also lets you send Web addresses directly into its contact database. Other programs such as GoldMine offer similar features, but none is more elaborate -- or easier to use -- than ECCO Pro's setup.
Geek Factor: No matter how much information you want to cram onto your computer screen, ECCO Pro offers a clean, clear way to present it.
Weak Factor: The learning curve is steep. Set aside a day or two to master all of the features.
Coordinates: ECCO Pro 4.0, $139. NetManage Inc., 206-885-4272; http://www.netmanage.com
Your Need: Software that keeps things simple, and won't treat your life like an endless To Do list.
Power Tool: Magic Cap for Windows 95
Magic Cap is the ideal organizer-and-communications software for people who don't like organizer-and-communications software. It helps you take control of your real-world life, and much of your virtual life as well -- incorporating email, fax, and Internet connections. Based on a desktop metaphor, the graphic interface might at first seem a little sophomoric, but it works -- especially for those who don't want to learn a complex set of commands. It holds your hand throughout the entire process of setting up your email and address book, and it walks you down a virtual hallway when you need to change a preference or set up an email account on the Internet or a commercial service provider such as AOL.
Jettisoning your serious PIM in favor of Magic Cap does not mean losing all the data you've spent months keying in to Act or Lotus Organizer. Magic Cap will translate it into its own format, as well as exchange data with a dozen other programs.
Geek Factor: You can master email and electronic faxes with aplomb.
Weak Factor: Magic Cap's emphasis is on communications. You'll get the basic tools for staying organized, but not the extra features that come with ECCO Pro and GoldMine.
Coordinates: Magic Cap for Windows 95, $49.95. General Magic, 888-239-4824; http://www.genmagic.com
Your Need: Something to replace all those stray Post-its plastered on your computer monitor.
Power Tool: Post-it Software Notes 1.5
Post-it Software Notes puts a notepad dispenser on your screen, which lets you create a note any time you need to. Just remembered something about tomorrow's marketing meeting, but don't have time to file it in the right folder? Click a Post-it, type, and move on. Just wasted 30 minutes trying to find that piece of paper with the prospective client's phone number? The software enables you to do a text search to find the right mini-memo.
Geek Factor: If you're using Windows 95, you can attach electronic Post-its to documents and spreadsheets that you send to other people. They don't even need to have the software to read them.
Weak Factor: It isn't as simple as jotting down a note and sticking it to your desk lamp. Moving these digital squares around takes a little practice.
Coordinates: Post-it Software Notes 1.5, $24.95. 3M, 800-330-3966; http://www.mmm.com/psnotes