Computer Dating

Programs that keep track of day-to-day in-formation like appoint-ments and to-do lists often force users to con-form to a particular way of doing things, causing many to revert to their old paper-based systems. Pencil Me In from Sarrus Software takes a more flexible approach, blending the ease of using a real date book with electronic advantages such as automatic reminders, instant updating, and the ability to roll over to-do items to the next day.

Instead of entering events in a dialog box, you type directly into the date book itself, without having to worry about assigning an event type: Events are catalogued as either appointments or action items. While appointments are tied to a specific time and date, action items float from day to day until completed. You can also assign a due date, after which a detail will appear on a list of overdue items. Descriptions can be as long as you like, and rescheduling an appointment is as simple as dragging it to a new time slot. The flip side to this free-form approach, of course, is that it isn't possible to sort events by type or to prioritize items on your to-do list.

This combination of user control and computerized assistance is also apparent in the program's handling of scheduling conflicts. You are alerted to conflicts but given the option to override; the conflict can remain in the calendar. Alarms can alert you to an appointment (but not an action item) by message panel, e-mail, or sound of your choice, although Pencil Me In must be running and your calendar open in order for the alarms to function a major drawback. Sarrus should provide a background daemon that monitors alarm settings.

Pencil Me In's handling of work-group-scheduling tasks is less powerful than Adamation's What's Happening? (see "Office Manager in a Box," NeXTWORLD, Spring 1992), but for smaller workgroups it may suffice. Pencil Me In's approach takes into account the distance that may exist between individuals in a workgroup, either geographically or because of an organizational hierarchy. On-the-fly workgroups can be established by using e-mail to send appointments to other users. These appointments can be dragged into a user's calendar, with all settings and attributes intact.

The secret to Pencil Me In's success in providing groupware features is that all calendars are the same; a group calendar is simply a calendar that subscribes to several others, and your personal calendar becomes a shared calendar when you permit someone else in your workgroup to access it.

Pencil Me In has an excellent user interface, which looks just like a DayTimer-type address book, but Sarrus should go even further and allow you to personalize your calendars with different fonts, colors, and icons. A banner feature, for blocking out events that span more than one day, such as trade shows or vacations, would also be welcome. Lastly, you can customize the size of your printout, but the program lacks preset formats for standards like DayTimer, DayRunner, and Filofax, so you'll have to measure the pages first.

No computerized calendar will meet the needs of all users, but if you have moderate, relatively standard scheduling needs, you should make a date with Pencil Me In.

by Lee Sherman


Pencil Me In

3 & 1/2 Cubes

Easy-to-use personal scheduler that scales up for use by small workgroups. While more flexible than most, Pencil Me In could be improved by providing more personalization options like font selection, icons, or banners.

$300 per user

Sarrus Software, 777-C Woodside Rd. #101, Redwood City, CA 94051.

415/306-2495.