We found two utility programs for adding an appointment calendar, to-do list and notes to the most common e-mail programs.
The cheapest is OEComplete, which works with Outlook Express and adds a calendar and appointment reminder. It’s US$25 from www.cellarstoneindia.com. There’s a free trial
version and you can get this either at the India site or from www.download.com. You can add hundreds of stick notes, and appointment reminders will pop up on your screen at the designated time and date no matter what else you’re working on.
OEComplete does the job, but it’s strictly basic. If you want more, you pay more, and what you get then is Barca, which is US$60 from www.pocosystems.com and quite impressive.
One big advantage of Barca is that it works with any e-mail collection program. It will even work with the hard-to-penetrate HotMail, AOL and Yahoo systems if you first download a program like Web2Pop, which is about US$20 from www.jmasoftware.com.
Along with an appointment calendar, Barca has a diary, to-do task planner, pop-up notes and e-mail filtering that removes spam. The spam filter uses Bayesian logic, named for Thomas Bayes, an English mathematician of the 18th century who developed a method for predicting events by probability theory. After repeated use, the Bayesian filter produces close to 99 per cent accuracy.
Barca also lets you do group mailings and set up group appointments. You can invite people to meetings or assign tasks and then do a group mailing to those involved. A “”show only”” bar lets you type in the kind of mail you want to look at right now, hiding, but not removing, the rest.
There are a dozen other features: a spell checker, templates for repetitive messages, “”auto-complete”” for automatically filling in addresses and other text, scripts for timed messages, etc. But the most important feature for many people will be “”threading.”” Threading provides a complete review of all messages back and forth between parties or on certain topics.
On the road again at www.AAAmaps.com or www.caa.ca. These Web sites for the American Automobile Association (AAA) and its Canadian counterpart (Canadian Automobile Association) has the best road maps we’ve found, better than mapquest.com or Microsoft’s Streets and Trips or DeLorme’s Street Atlas USA. The site has two sections: one for members and the other for everyone else. However, you can get AAA/CAA trip planning and maps and hotel and restaurant recommendations even if you’re not a member. The trip-planning tool covers 53,000 hotels and restaurants.
This was the only map service that directed us to downtown Chicago from Evanston, Ill., by driving there along Lake Michigan. This is not only the fastest but also the most scenic way to go. All other services took us inland and into heavy traffic.
At www.nobel.se: Web site of the Nobel Foundation. Try typing “”conflict map”” in the search window to see a map of the world’s hot spots; they’re in all the usual places. Interestingly, the spots are pretty much the same today as they were a hundred years ago. Geography is destiny, as many historians have observed. The maps show there are more conflict spots now then there ever have been, or maybe we just get more news now.
MORE NEWSGATOR NEWS
This could be called a correction, but it’s really more of an expansion. Last week we wrote about NewsGator, a search program for bringing you news and comments from blogs on any subject you choose. (“”Blogs”” are personal Web logs of commentary, sometimes valuable, sometimes not.)
We said it couldn’t find any news on major company names we tried, like General Electric, General Motors or Ford. It turns out the software can, but you have to be counterintuitive. If you click on “”search for feeds”” (news feeds), the obvious choice, you get nothing. You have to click on “”keyword search feeds.””
This is all fairly obscure and certain to confuse the ordinary user. The bottom line is we found the whole thing pretty techy and difficult to navigate. This is a problem with many programs, and we have talked about it before in the column; programmers take much for granted and seldom understand how a new user sees things. The number of programs we have seen that are difficult to navigate is legion, and includes works from major producers, like Microsoft and Adobe. It’s astonishing. On the plus side, NewsGator had good tech support. Web: www.newsgator.com.
Another corker from Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch, $20 for Windows, from www.nancydrewgames.com.
These mysteries are nonviolent and a lot of fun, especially for fans of the books. They’re aimed at the early teen years, but we find them challenging enough that we’ve never been able to get through one without help. Help is available in a “”strategy guide”” that can be purchased for an extra $9 when ordered with the game. Unless you’re a 12-year-old genius, get the strategy guide.
Meanwhile, back in the land of product placement … we have John Deere, American Farmer. John Deere makes tractors and other farm equipment, of course, so you could consider this the game equivalent of product placement in movies. Actually, this is a rising trend; expect to see a lot of it in computer games. The game has gotten mixed reviews. Some people hated it, but some loved it. How much do you want to be a farmer? Web: www.globalstarsoftware.com.