capsule review

Daylite 3.1

Marketcircle’s Daylite 3.1.1 has just enough project-management tools for general business projects. It has the familiar-looking panes of an e-mail client or calendar, and it is useful for managing tasks, appointments, and contacts—but it does more than a PIM (personal information manager).

Like Lotus Notes, the collaborative software, Daylite is designed to be the repository of information that people in a workgroup need to share, such as sales-call reports or project schedules. Daylite isn’t based on e-mail, though, as Lotus Notes is. (A beefed up version, Daylite Productivity Suite, has a mail integration module for creating tasks, contacts, and appointments within Apple Mail.)

Daylite is simple enough to be installed and customized by non-programmers. You can share Daylite databases (called Projects) among multiple people, or you can simply use Daylite on a single Mac (as we reviewed it).

Users can define a project’s phases and tasks and then assign people and other resources to the project and monitor its progress. One of Daylite’s most useful features is the ability to define recurring projects as Activity Sets. For example, you can define the standard steps required to create a quarterly report, and that Activity Set will generate due dates for each step automatically, based on either the finish or start date. Once you create an Activity Set, you can use it repeatedly.

The key to making Daylite work for you is linking—connecting all the individual items associated with a project so they can be seen in the same multipane window, or view. For example, if your “Design and build a new deck” project is open, and you open a Note window and paste in the URL for an online lumber catalog, then Daylite automatically links that note to your project. You can also drag and drop items to link them to Projects.

I found Daylite’s note-taking features a bit restrictive. It doesn’t let you simply start typing in any window or field. Also, I couldn’t drag and drop URLs or text snippets into the Notes view to create a new note. Marketcircle, the maker of Daylite, says this is by design, to prevent accidental entry of unwanted information.

Version 3 does, however, add more ways to modify or add information on the fly, including typing text into the Location field in the Appointments view and using contextual menus. These new contextual menus let you link an item or create a new one by right-clicking or Ctrl-clicking, which is handy if you’re a two-button mouse user. Some fields in Daylite are pull-down menus, and you have to add choices to these menus via the Preferences.

You’ll need to become a bit of a guru to get the most out of Daylite because it has so many customizable options—for example, you can specify what appears in the contextual menus, and it can be different for Notes, Tasks, or Appointments. You modify these through the extensive set of preferences. Also, generating reports is complex, although the Simple List Designer lets you set up basic print layouts and reports that can be used for things like daily appointment, to-do lists, and status reports. The Simple List Designer offers a dialog box with a list of fields that you can select to appear in your layout, a bit like the way the mail-merge wizard in Microsoft Word works. These simple reports are modifiable, giving beginners a way to learn how to work with reports. Marketcircle says it is developing a user guide for the full-fledged report engine, which will better explain how to create reports.

Macworld’s buying advice

Daylite 3.1.1 has better project-planning and -tracking tools than a typical PIM and includes the kinds of information workers in small offices need to track and share. Power users will like its ability to be customized, but may be put off by some interface quirks.

[ Rebecca Freed is a Bay Area-based freelance writer and editor. ]

Notes and Contacts can be linked to a Task or Project in Daylite 3, allowing you to see all the relevant information in one place. Double-clicking on an item allows you to see more detail and edit the item.
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