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In the past, Macintosh users who wanted to share contact and schedule information with 3Com’s Palm family of handheld organizers didn’t have many options. The original Palm desktop software for the Macintosh was abysmally slow, and Now Synchronize, which was supposed to let you exchange data between the Palm and Qualcomm’s Now Up-to-Date/Now Contact bundle, was limited and unreliable.
Now that 3Com has just released its Palm version of Claris Organizer (see review page 51) things should improve. However, while we were waiting for 3Com, an inexpensive Palm-compatible PIM – Chronos’s Consultant – has been quietly winning converts among the Mac Palm crowd. Consultant 2.5.3 gives you most of the bells and whistles you’d expect in a PIM, including a full-featured contact manager and a calendar that offers day, multiday, week, month, year, Gantt, and list views.
Consultant sports a colourful, albeit cluttered, interface. Alas, unlike Now Up-to-Date, Consultant doesn’t support timed to-do’s or zero-duration events, and entering event times is more cumbersome than it could be. On the plus side, automatic word completion and telephone-number formatting help save keystrokes, and you can book events by describing them in plain English; Consultant translates your requests into calendar items, complete with links to the appropriate contact.
If memory is tight, you might want to use the accompanying program called MiniConsultant to look up and enter contact or schedule data; it uses only half as much RAM as the main application (about 1MB). By clicking on icons in the Finder’s menu bar, you can also display telephone numbers for your favourite contacts or review the day’s events – even if neither program is running. Pop-up alarms notify you of upcoming events, but you can’t dismiss or snooze the alarms without having Consultant or MiniConsultant open.
To use Consultant’s Palm-synchronization feature, you’ll need to download the latest version of the Palm conduit-manager software from 3Com’s Web site. Data exchange between Consultant and my Palm III was generally reliable, and the online manual did a good job of explaining the rules that govern how individual fields are handled. The most glaring problem is that uncompleted to-do’s on the Palm always show up on the current day in your calendar, even if they’re due later.
Consultant 2.5.3 is a fairly good PIM in its own right. If you use a Palm organizer, download the demo version from Chronos’s Web site and give Consultant a try.