In a previous post on the increasing role of jump drives on productivity, -- aka memory sticks or flash drives -- several portable programs were listed. This is the first product review from that list. The first program to be reviewed, naturally, is EssentialPIM, an information manager that resembles a stripped-down Outlook.
Installation was extremely simple. Like all portable applications, it was a matter of unzipping/installing the program into a folder on the jump drive. Some portable programs make their own folder on the drive, but one must be created for EssentialPIM. If you purchase the Pro version, a registration key, in the form of a file, is emailed to the customer. Simply drop the file into the main Essential PIM folder with the rest of the files and the program recognizes it. The program immediately recognizes if other information managers are present on the computer and offers to import their data into EssentialPIM. That being done, the installation is complete.
- EPIM Today - This component is similar to Outlook Today. So similar, one could easily become confused that it was Outlook that was being viewed. The giveaway is the fact that EPIM does not have an email program.
- Schedule - The calendar component, again, resembles Outlook's calendar. The main difference is that colors, when applied to appointments, are gradients rather than solid and the appointment dialog is extremely stripped down, leaving only the essentials. Entering appointments is the same as in Outlook.
- To Do - Entering To Do's -- or Next Actions for those GTDers out there -- is very straightforward. Call up the dialog box and fill in the fields. One nice improvement in the paid "Pro" version is that Next Actions can be listed in a tree-hierarchy. One thing that I've begun doing is listing my major objectives as To Do's and putting projects and their Next Actions inside the objectives. This way I can see when my daily actions are truly linked to an important goal that I've set and I'm not looking busy but not moving toward my goals.
- Notes - A minimalistic notes system, more similar to Yahoo!'s notes. One can, however, add photos, links, and format the text. Again, call up the dialog box and write your note.
- Contacts - The ubiquitous contact list that allows one to save personal and business contact information, notes, and a picture.
The one feature from Outlook that I miss is the ability to simply type a Next Action into a field on the list view. On EPIM, one must always call up the dialogue box.
The "Pro" -- read paid -- edition allows multiple users to access the database, the linking of actual documents to contacts, appointments, and tasks, assigning tasks to others for tracking, advanced back-up features, sending items using the user's default email program, editing categories of events and tasks, and synchronization with a PocketPC or Smartphone.
Although it lacks an email component and the collaboration components of Outlook, for sheer portability, EPIM fits my needs just fine. I'm always near my computer at work or at home and they are always on, so I simply got tired of carrying my Palm around. Since I carry my jump drive everywhere anyway, the addition of EPIM lightened my load in what I carry during the day.
The cost of the Pro version was excessive, in my view. At $39 for the portable version and $29 for the standard version, I feel they are overpriced. I needed the features found in the paid version and GTDers will need it to be able to customize their categories for their different contexts. For most people, however, the free version will suffice nicely.