Recently, my coworker Mike Walton and I were daydreaming about cool things we wish our Palms could do.

Mike said he’d really like to find a way to mark to-do items as recurring on a scheduled basis. For instance, every Monday, he has to check survey results from the site. So, every Monday, he’d like that item to appear on his to-do list and stay there until he checks it off.

I admitted that that would be good. But I’d settle for being able to set alarms on my to-do list and view it within my calendar. Too often, I create to-do items and completely forget about them.

Mike and I must have wished upon the same star: DateBk4 can handle both of our requests.

DateBk4 is a calendar that interacts with your address book, to-do list, and memos. In this review, I’ll explain this product’s most interesting features and how it could streamline your Palm use. (That is, unless you’re willing to read the 80-plus-page instruction manual to discover the full capacities of the program. Oh yeah, and you’ll need to free up at least 450 K of memory ROM.)

Program highlights
DateBk4’s customization options are too numerous to cover here. However, there are several key functions that make this product worthwhile.

The DateBk4 screen

Access to your to-do list and address book from your calendar. The primary reason I like DateBk4 is that it allows you to set up an adjustable split screen so you can view your to-do list or address book from within the calendar. I find this invaluable because I often create to-do items and forget about them because they’re in a separate program. Also, you can set an alarm for to-do items.

One caveat: If you have trouble reading your current calendar because the display is small, you’ll probably find DateBk4 even harder to read because it displays your to-do list within your calendar by splitting the screen or integrating it, depending on how you set your preferences.

Linking functions and logging calls. The biggest time-saving function offered by DateBk4 is its ability to link events.

How does this work? Let’s say you have a call with an important client at 3 p.m. and you must place the call. You create the appointment, and then click the Link icon. Link pulls up your address book, where you can click on an entry. Then, when it’s time for the call, you simply click the link from the appointment and it pulls up the phone number. You can also link to memos and to-do items.

But what if your client isn’t in? DateBk4 enables you to generate a time stamp and note stating whether you left a message, received no answer, or were told the client would call you back. (DateBk4 also allows you to create your own custom messages, which it remembers for future use.) If you’re buying for the enterprise, the sales staff will appreciate this feature.
Why not check out TechRepublic’s online auction section? You’ll find Palms, Visors, and accessories in the PDA and Handhelds area.
Call/Action items. DateBk4 can also create “call/action” items. When you use this option, the program again pulls up your address book. This time, when you choose an entry, it automatically records the name and contact information in your to-do list.

Floating events. Floating events function as to-do items in that they don’t disappear until marked complete, but they are associated with calendar dates and can be set to recur like appointments. You can also create exceptions to repeat events, allowing for the occasional change of plans.

Pressing “new” in DateBk4 gives you a host of options, including floating events.

More view options. DateBk4 offers six different ways to view your calendar, including a yearlong view, a list view with vertical scroll, and a view that allows you to see appointment details in three-day, one-week, or two-week increments. That last option, however, is too crowded to be useful unless you have very few appointments. Each of these views can also be customized. For instance, in the month view, you can choose which types of events you want to see:

  • Timed events
  • Untimed events
  • Daily repeating events
  • Category or time zone icons

Templates. If you have a particular type of appointment with settings that remain the same, DateBk4 allows you to save the appointment as a template, saving you the hassle of recreating it each time. You simply tap on a time, tap the ‘template’ icon at the bottom of the screen, and choose which template to insert.

You can save appointments as templates.

This is useful if you have several types of appointments that repeat with the same basic settings. For instance, you could create templates for doctors’ appointments, regular project briefings, and staff meetings.

DateBk allows you to create up to 100 templates.

Icons. You can associate one of 52 icons with appointments and to-do items. This enables you to quickly see what types of appointments you have when in the weekly and monthly views.

A sample of the icons included with DateBk4.

Bottom line
If you rely on your Palm daily to keep you on task and on time, then DateBk4 is definitely a product worth trying—if you’re willing to devote 450 KB of precious Palm memory to it.

While the basic DateBk4 features are the same as the Datebook delivered with the Palm OS, to truly reap the full benefits of the program, you should expect to spend about an hour reading through the documentation to learn about the specialized features. (Generally, I expect Palm applications to be so simple that I can sit down and use them instantly, so I have to note that I was frustrated when I had to download and actually read the documentation to use the program.)

Pimlico Software offers a free 45-day trial period for DateBk4. The software sells for $24.95. You can also purchase 100 copies of DateBk4 for $1,595.
If you have a favorite software package for the Palm, we’d like to hear about it. Send us your review of the product, and if we publish it, we’ll send you a TechRepublic T-shirt.