General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology & Practice Guide

Suite Deals on PIMs

If you have committed to moving your practice into the electronic age by using a PIM, you may not need to buy new software. All three productivity software suites—Corel WordPerfect Suite 7, Lotus SmartSuite 96 and Microsoft Office 97—include a PIM along with the standard fare of productivity application suites: word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software. For example, Lotus Organizer comes as part of SmartSuite 96. The "free" PIM offerings included in these office suites provide all of the basic features you need to organize your calendar and telephone numbers, but generally lack features that will allow you track your information in great detail.

Corel’s WordPerfect Suite 7 includes Sidekick 95, a PIM that closely approaches Organizer in its user interface and ease of use. Sidekick 95, created by Starfish Software (http://www.starfishsoftware.com), also offers users the ability to create multiple database files that could be used to create client lists, conflict databases, and the like. Sidekick’s calendar management is not as well implemented as Organizer though, so if your primary focus is on your calendar, Organizer still merits consideration for purchase even if you are a WordPerfect Suite 7 owner.

Microsoft’s Office 97 includes Outlook 97, which bills itself as a "desktop" information manager. Outlook offers the basic PIM features offered by Organizer, and integrates an e-mail component into the program as well. While the addition of e-mail makes sense in today’s connected world, Outlook 97’s implementation of various features is at times inelegant and confusing.

For example, Outlook 97 offers a journal to record telephone conversations and notes, but links the information to the date it was created rather than keeping all entries about a specific topic together. That said, Outlook 97 will do a workmanlike job of keeping your calendar and Rolodex up to date. The program also includes a nice sticky note feature that allows you to post an electronic sticky note on your screen to record random thoughts and information. Outlook 97 merits a look if you are a Microsoft Office owner, and may fit your needs if you do require too much flexibility in how you maintain your information.

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