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Pocket Informant for Blackberry V. Agendus for Blackberry

Icons

PI icon top right, Agendus icon middle right

I recently received a Blackberry 8350i for work, and like Windows Mobile, the built in Contact Manager is inadequate.  There are separate modules for each function.  If you want to make an appointment you must open the calendar.  To view contacts you must open contacts.  These two suites I am reviewing combine all the functions into one program.  Open a contact and you can make an appointment, send an email, assign a task and so on.  So I am putting both Pocket Informant  for Blackberry v1.6 and Agendus for Blackberry v1.21 through a rigorous testing process.  Both have features that enhance contact management, though they go about it in very different ways.  And both versions are relatively new and will likely see enhancements and improvements in the months to come.

Agendus uses the built in databases to perform its duties.  Pocket Informant (PI) feels that the built in databases are too limiting, thus they have their own databases.  There are many other differences as well.  I will attempt to illustrate them in this head to head comparison.

Finding Contacts

A_find_contact PI_Contacts_alpha

Agendus: find contact                          PI: find contact

Both programs allow you to simply type the first letters of the company or contact.  But if you type an incorrect letter or want to search for a new contact, PI lets you simply press the back key to erase the entire name, and begin a new search.  Whereas Agendus forces you to hit the backspace key until each letter is erased. 

Point: PI.

Category Filter

 acats PI_choose_cat

Top left: Agendus choose category, top right: PI choose category

Both products let you easily choose contacts by category.  They both allow you to choose any number of categories as well, which is very convenient.  And both do so in very similar ways.  In the contacts screen just bring up a menu, choose categories, choose the categories you want displayed and off you go.  One problem I noticed concerns Agendus.  After you have chosen a category, you may want to start over and do a new search.  With PI you simply choose Clear Filter.  Agendus has the option to Show All (contacts).  But this does not work.  When you attempt to find a contact by spelling out the first few letters of their name or company you do not get the intended results.  It searches your contacts solely by the first letter you type in, rather than by all the letters you type in.  So if you search for a company that starts with WORLD, you get all the W’s.  You must go to a different view then return to the contacts view.  This needs to be addressed as it appears to be a programming error.

The categories you develop in Outlook should automatically transfer to these two suites, right?  That works fine in PI, but Agendus gave me a whole different set of categories.  I had to manually change them myself.  I thought I would then have to reassign each of my 700 contacts to categories, but at least, once I corrected the categories, they were automatically and correctly assigned to the contacts.  But why didn’t my Outlook categories automatically transfer to the BB?

Point: PI

Category Options

A_categories PI_categories

above left: Agendus categories and colors.  “Customers” is not an Outlook category.  above right: PI categories, colors and icons

Both products allow you to associate colors with categories, so for example, all doctors can be red, or all suppliers can be yellow.  But Pocket Informant goes a step further, allowing you to also associate icons with contacts and tasks.  Nice.  You can also choose icons to appear in the calendar, which makes it easy to spot the appointment types you have. 

Point: PI

Menus

A_goto_view A_choose_view PI_month_view

top left: Agendus menu, top middle: Agendus scroll-only menu, top right: PI menu

Both Agendus’ and PI’s menus pop up when you hit the Blackberry key.  You can then scroll to the desired item or type the first letter to jump to that item.  If more than one item begin with the same letter, just retype that letter until the desired item is highlighted.  But if you choose Go To view in Agendus, a new menu opens up and you must scroll to find the desired selection.  PI includes all its views in the main menu, thus you can simply type the first letter.  I find this much easier and more direct. 

Point: PI

Views

Agendus has many views: Today, Agenda, One Day, Week View Grid, Week View List, Month View, Task, Contact View Expanded, and Contact View Compact.

PI’s views include: Day, Week, Month, Contacts, and Tasks.

Point: Agendus

Calendars

A_day_view PI_day_view

top left: Agendus day view, top right: PI day view

Day View: Agendus’ Day View doesn’t allow you to scroll through the hours of the day, but it does allow you to scroll through any scheduled events for that day.  PI lets you scroll through all the hours regardless of any scheduled events.  I initially thought there was an error in Agendus, but I guess it makes sense that you can’t scroll unless you have scheduled items.  PI’s Day View shows your events at the top, and above that gives you a timeline which allows you to scroll to subsequent days.  Agendus features the date at the top and lets you change that date.

In PI, if you have an appointment in the evening, say 7pm, you must scroll all the way down to it.  If you go too fast it takes you to the next day.  Whereas Agendus will just show that appointment without any scrolling.  Hold on a sec, there is an option in PI’s Day View which solves this issue.  You can choose, when scrolling up/down, to NOT switch days.  Another option lets you switch to the previous or next day by scrolling right/left.  Now I’m happy.

The PI Day View is more colorful and interesting compared to the very plain Agendus Day View.  Plus PI shows icons.  The Agendus Day View shows any appointments that day with no scrolling necessary.  Tough call.

Point: Tie

Week View: PI has a straightforward Week View.  It’s easy to read and understand.  Sometimes simple is best.

awkgrid Capture17_12_34 PI_week_view

top left: Agendus week grid view, middle: Agendus week view, top right: PI week view

Agendus has two separate Week Views.  The Grid view is much like PI’s.    Week View LIst is oriented vertically and you must scroll through the days as the whole week does not appear on the screen at once.  Again, PI  shows icons and has the timeline on top to change weeks.

Point: Agendus

Month View: Agendus’ Month View is painfully plain.  The only indication, as far as I can tell, that an event is planned for a particular day, is that a date is both bold and underlined.  At least I thought that initially.  But I have found that that is not always the case.  I have an appointment on June 17 but the date is neither bolded nor underlined.  The 18th is bold and underlined, yet there is no event.  Huh?  If you do have an event, it shows in the detail pane at the bottom of the calendar. 

A_month_view PI_month_view2

top left: Agendus Month view (notice the 18th is bold and underlined but there are no events for the day), top right: PI month view

PI’s Month View is far more dynamic and colorful.  You can choose to show a mini-timeline within each date, or icons.  All appointments show at the bottom when that date is highlighted.  PI makes it very easy to see your schedule.

Point: PI

Today View: Agendus has a special view not found on PI.  It shows a summary of appointments, tasks, recent messages, Quote of the Day, Weather, and Day in History.  I really like this view.  The closest PI has is Agenda View.

A_agendus_view1 A_agendus_view2 A_agendus_view3

top: Agendus Today view as you scroll down from left to right

Point: Agendus

Tasks

Capture18_5_21 pitasks

top left: Agendus tasks, top right: PI tasks

PI allows you to make a new task from any screen, but if you choose a New Task when in a contact screen, then the contact is linked to the task, as you’d expect.  As you know, when you choose a category for the task it includes icons and colors.  You can make tasks timeless, or with a beginning and end date.  You can also include notes, priorities and make it recurring.  The Task View is simple to read and again, includes icons and colors.

Agendus’ Task View is pleasant to look at, though it doesn’t include. icons.  I personally like icons, but Outlook doesn’t use them, so they have limited value.  I suppose they are nice for the Blackberry because a limited amount of information appears on the screen and icons, like pictures, represent many words. 

It is now time for a major difference between the two programs.  PI allows you to make a New Task while a contact is open.  Agendus doesn’t.  You must go to Tasks View to do so.  I believe this is an inconvenience.  I would like to do many functions while a contact is open, and have it automatically link to that contact.

Point: PI

Customization: Options and Settings

Capture17_14_33

Here’s where PI excels.  Though PI has less views, each one is more customizable than those in Agendus.  I remember using PI for Windows Mobile and not understanding half the options, but with the Blackberry version it is much easier and useful.  I mentioned earlier, under Day View, that customization for PI really helped me.  While Agendus does allow you some customization, PI goes much further in every way.

Point: PI

Syncing

I don’t sync Over the Air (OTA), but from what I understand, Agendus allows this while PI does not.  This could be a major difference for many users.  I understand that PI is “working” on this issue.  I certainly would like that.

One other point.  I was just out of town on business and I wanted to see my notes about a certain customer.  Notes to me are very important.  I opened up PI and found that not all my notes synced.  I have not had this problem before and am hoping it is just an anomaly.  Agendus, however, did have my notes and the day was saved.  No matter how good a program is, if I can’t have access to my notes then it’s worthless.

Point: Agendus

Databases

I mentioned earlier that Agendus uses the built-in databases to sync contacts, appointments, tasks, etc, while PI has it’s own database.  Since PI uses it’s own database it cannot sync OTA, but it does allow more information to transfer between Outlook and the Blackberry.

According to a moderator in the PI forums, the reasons that PI uses it’s own database are described as:

There are several reasons for this.
First of all, we need some additional fields for storing data which BB PIM is not supporting (like categories in events if I’m not mistaken and task start date on some OS versions).
The second reason is performance. Directly accessing BB PIM records is extremely slow. So we should either build index of BB PIM data (like our competitors do) or make our own copy of BB PIM data (like we do). From performance point of view there is almost no difference: when we sync BB PIM data it takes 90% time to build the index and only 10% time to do the sync.
Overall we think our approach is more flexible
.”

There is a Contacts application built-in to the Blackberry.  I expected Agendus to be here, but was surprised it wasn’t.  After all, it uses the built-in databases, right?  Both Agendus and PI have their own icons and you can only access the apps and their information by opening them.

Point: Tie (I’m clueless on this one.  I can’t tell the difference.  Both provide the information I need)

Price

Agendus For Blackberry $19.95

Pocket Informant for Blackberry $19.95

Point: Tie

Support

PI has a whole forum dedicated to support.  All my questions get answered in a reasonable time.  They also have email support.  Agendus has a forum and email support as well, though I have not used it much.

Point: Tie

Miscellaneous

The Agendus activation code is not accepted.  I entered the number and it tells me I am in Trial mode.  The program works fine, but every time I open it I have to tell it I am continuing my trial.  A bit annoying.

Phone Functions (SMS, MMS, Direct Connect, Calling, PIN, email)

Capture17_27_57 Capture19_16_26

top left: Agendus contact options, top right: PI contact options

Sometimes I forget that the BB is actually a phone.  Mine also has Direct Connect.  PI, when a contact is open, allows you to call, SMS or email.  Unfortunately, my BB doesn’t do SMS, it only does MMS.  According to PI, some functions are not accessible by programmers, MMS and Direct Connect being two of them.  Curiously, when a contact is open in Agendus, you can only call them.  If you are in Contacts View and your contact is highlighted (but not open), you can call, SMS or email, but there are no options for MMS, direct connect or PIN.  Hmmmm.  Methinks BB should allow programmers access to all the phone functions.

Point: PI

Conclusion

I like both programs.  I lean towards PI because it is prettier, has more options, requires less button presses, is easier to use and is more customizable.  But when I needed it most, it failed me.  On my last trip the notes didn’t sync.  Maybe that’s my fault, I don’t know, nor can I see how it is.  That is the only time this happened, otherwise, PI has been quite good.  I’ll sync it again and see if it copies my notes over.  If it doesn’t, then it will be expunged from my BB.

I believe, if you add the points up, that PI won.  But don’t look at it that way.  You must weigh the various features according to YOUR needs.  You may feel OTA is extremely important; if that’s the case, then you must get Agendus.  If you like icons, go with PI.  Both have great support and free trial periods, so try before you buy.  Use this only as a guide and make your own conclusions.  Read their forums and see what people are saying. 

PI for Windows is on version 8.  It’s far more refined and feature rich than PI for BB.  Agendus was the top Palm Contact Manager, but is relatively new, as well, to BB.  So both programs have a way to go before they’re mature.  But both improve the user experience and I suggest you go with one or the other, rather than the native contact applications.  As for me, I haven’t made up my mind yet which I like best.  I think I’ll keep them both and see, over time, which grows on me.  I expect both programs to continually update and improve their offerings.

In my perfect little dream world, I’d like to be able to open a contact and perform any function the phone and contact managers are capable of and have those functions be logged to that contact and synced to Outlook.  So what I mean is, if I send a text to a contact, I’d like a record of it in the contact.  Same with emails, PINs, meetings, notes etc.  So if a customer tells me I never called back, texted, or contacted them, I need only look in my log on my phone or Outlook to find the record.  But I’m a dreamer, aren’t I?

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June 7, 2009 - Posted by | Blackberry, Reviews, Software

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