Power On Software’s Now Up-to-Date & Contact is a mature, powerful personal-information manager (PIM) that provides an excellent way to organize your time and information, whether you work alone or in a group. The PIM includes two applications: Now Up-to-Date is a full-featured calendar that lets you create appointments, to-do items, call reminders, and banners depicting events over multiple days; Now Contact keeps track of all your contact information, with custom fields and shared keywords and categories, and it links contacts with their respective appointments in Now Up-to-Date. And the program’s Contact and Calendar servers let users share and synchronize information over a local network or the Internet.
Newly OS X native, Now Up-to-Date & Contact 4.2.1 syncs with your Palm handheld devices, and it provides a more full-featured alternative to the calendar and contact-management capabilities in competing products, such as the single-user Microsoft Entourage X. For users of OS X, it’s an important, must-have upgrade. If you’re running OS 9, you should continue using version 4.0.
Like many developers, Power On has struggled to create equivalent functionality in its OS X and OS 9 editions, but because OS X lacks some of OS 9’s capabilities – due to its different architecture – Now Up-to-Date & Contact hasn’t quite hit the mark. However, version 4.2 is close to parity with its OS 9-compatible sibling.
The closing gap between the OSs is most apparent in the implementation of the program’s QuickDay and QuickContact utilities, which let you create and view appointments and contact information without opening Up-to-Date or Contact. In OS 9, these utilities were conveniently available in the menu bar, but in OS X, they’re also available as docklings – helper components that stay in OS X’s Dock and provide pop-up menus with information and commands. The OS 9 edition allowed users to create new events, contacts, or to-do items – without opening the PIM applications – using a third utility called QuickPad. In version 4.2, creating an item with QuickDay or QuickContact launches the applications and opens a new item window. This eliminates a step, but it also requires that you wait for the application to load before you can enter a new item.
A useful feature restored to version 4.2 is Grab-n-Go, which allows you to use contextual menus to create calendar entries and look up contact information from selected text in any other application.
But feature parity between the OSs is not quite complete: if you’ve used the OS 9 version, you may miss some conveniences not included in version 4.2, such as flashing reminder alerts in the menu bar, hot keys for creating new events or contacts in QuickDay or QuickContact, and telephone dialling.
Now Up-to-Date & Contact 4.2’s headline feature is native Palm synchronization in OS X. To synchronize your Palm device, you’ll need to have installed the Palm Desktop 4.0 package (free from Palm), which includes synchronization software – though you can trash the Palm Desktop application after installing Now Up-to-Date & Contact, as you’ll be using that PIM instead.
In our tests, synchronization mostly went well, though the Mac occasionally failed to connect with the Palm; when this happened, we had to disconnect the Palm cradle from the USB port and plug it back in before we could sync correctly. This was a bug in Palm’s software, not Power On’s. Apart from this glitch, data flowed smoothly between the Mac and the Palm.
Palm users will continue to be annoyed by Now’s inability to sync with the Palm Memo Pad application. Competing products – such as Chronos’s Group Organizer 4 and Palm Desktop 4.0 – allow you to create and synchronize notes, and it’s long past time for Power On to add this feature.
At press time, none of Handspring’s products supported Palm Desktop 4.0 software, and many users have reported that they encounter problems when syncing their Visors with Now Up-to-Date & Contact 4.2. Until Handspring releases its own OS X-native software, Power On recommends that you forgo an upgrade to version 4.2 and continue using version 4.0.3 and syncing in Classic mode.
For those who don’t have a Palm device, but do have an iPod, Power On offers NowPak, a free utility that transfers contact information from Now Contact to your iPod via FireWire. The information appears on the iPod, sorted alphabetically by either last or first name. Unlike data synchronized via Palm, data from Now Contact that travels to your iPod takes a one-way trip; there’s no way to make changes on the iPod and then synchronize them with Now Contact on your Mac. But NowPak is great if you want to carry your contacts along with your music.
One disappointment is the loss of the nifty Web Services in Now Contact. If you’re living in the US, you can select a person in your address book, then find a local restaurant, map, weather report or even satellite photographs. It is a bit gimmicky, and doesn’t always work even with US addresses, but we are missing out in the UK all the same. Surely it wouldn’t take much to add UK services that offer this stuff.
Now Up-to-Date & Contact 4.2.1 is almost equivalent to past versions running in OS 9 and earlier, so if you’re a Now user who has yet to make the jump to OS X, there’s one less reason to hesitate. If you want to sync your Palm with your PIM software, and especially if you need to share your calendar or contacts with other people, Now Up-to-Date & Contact 4.2.1 would have been the obvious choice. However, Apple has changed things with the announcement of iCal and iSync (see pages 65-66). When OS 10.2 is released, Apple’s iCal and Address Book will be a real alternative to Now Up-To-Date – for only £10 extra (including OS X 10.2).