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The value of a group-scheduling package can be difficult to grasp -- until you're on the losing end of a double-booked conference room. Meetingmaker's self-titled Meetingmaker 7.1 promises to keep your calendar in order. This client/server-based program is designed to manage a variety of scheduling needs, from selecting meeting locations and borrowing a video projector to coordinating CEOs' and sales managers' appointment books.
Version 7.1 adds an OS X-based server and client, user-defined time zones, contact management, and real-time messaging to its existing features. The program continues to make group scheduling a snap, leaving you time to focus on your meetings' content.
This latest version of Meetingmaker Server runs on OS X, Linux, Solaris, and all current Windows-based PCs and servers. To test Meetingmaker's capabilities, we set up two servers (one running OS X and the other running Windows 2000) and OS 9, OS X, Windows, and Java clients. It took only a matter of minutes to install the application, create a server, and get it ready to add users. (Whether you're a novice or an expert, setting up a Meetingmaker server is a no-brainer.)
Before you can use Meetingmaker, you need to use the Meetingmaker Admin tool to create users, meeting locations, and resources -- such as video projectors and amplifiers. This management utility runs in all the same OSs. The company claims that the interface looks exactly the same on every platform; via the interface, you are able to manage a server running on Windows, Linux, Solaris, or OS X.
Creating new users was easy and intuitive, but using the Admin tool to create meeting locations and resources was confusing. For example, when we created a record for an overhead projector, we were required to provide a first and last name, as well as a sign-in name and password. The same was true when we created a new location. In either case, it would be logical if you could add a descriptive name and either a serial number or an asset ID to represent equipment and conference rooms.
When you generate either a new meeting location or a resource, the program offers the option of making it available only on a first-come, first-served basis. This proves to be one of Meetingmaker's more useful features, especially for large organizations that have several conference rooms or a lot of meeting-related equipment to manage. When this option is selected, it's impossible to double-book that resource during the scheduling process.
Meetingmaker says that one dedicated Meetingmaker server can handle as many as 2,000 registered users and around 500 simultaneous connections. In case you have more than 2,000 users or expect more simultaneous connections, Meetingmaker provides a software hub that connects two or more servers, allowing the data from those servers to be shared throughout your entire organization. But our tests by no means stretched the server's limits; our configuration consisted of only five registered users and five simultaneous connections.
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The Meetingmaker client comes in two flavors: as a standard application that runs in either OS 9, OS X, Solaris, Linux, or Windows, and as a Java client. Clients include a calendar; contact and to-do lists; and a new, integrated messaging system -- roughly similar to AOL Instant Messenger -- designed only to send messages to your fellow Meetingmaker users. The program also readily syncs your schedule and your contact list with any Palm-based device.
When we reviewed Meetingmaker a couple of years ago (4.0 mice. ; Reviews, January 2000), we noted that the user interface was fairly drab, and nothing has changed in that regard. No matter which platform you're working on, the Meetingmaker interface is quite sparse. That said, its simplicity makes the program easy to learn. Selecting a date range in any calendar window brings up a New Activity window where you enter meeting details and notes, add labels, and change the notification level for an appointment. You then click on the Invite Guests button, which lets you select meeting rooms, reserve other resources, and choose your attendees.
Using the OS X-native client, you select an individual or a resource -- both of which Meetingmaker refers to as Invitees. The program queries the server and tells you whether or not the Invitees are available during the time you've selected. In the event that any of your Invitees are unavailable, you can simply click on the Auto-Pick button for your Invitees' next open time slot; we found that this feature worked perfectly.
Rescheduling events with the program is also quite simple. You can drag your existing calendar event to a new date and time, or you can double-click on the event to change the date manually. As with newly created events, Meetingmaker checks everyone's schedule and notifies them of the meeting change.
The Java client is functionally the same as the OS X-native client, but it has a more modern look-and-feel. To use the Java client on the Mac, you'll need to run OS X 10.1 or later, and you'll need to run the Tomcat servlet on your Web server (for more information and a download, visit http://jakarta.apache .org/tomcat/). (Meetingmaker states that it has officially tested the Java server and client using SSL on NT and Solaris systems; but it says that, unofficially, the server and client work fine on OS X-based systems as well.)
One of Meetingmaker's new features should thrill users who regularly travel to different time zones -- you can now change your time zone when you sign in to the client application, and the program adjusts your schedule accordingly. This feature can keep your colleagues from scheduling meetings at less-than-optimal times, such as the middle of the night, if you happen to be halfway across the world.
You can also configure the client to forward meeting proposals and reminders to your cell phone or pager, and you have the option of turning these notifications off for specific times, such as evenings and weekends. Unfortunately, the client, not the server, takes care of these notifications, so you have to keep the Meetingmaker client application running on your Mac for this feature to work.
Printing calendars revealed a minor bug. If you have too many characters in a scheduled event's name, or if a word is too long, it gets broken up and is almost unreadable. This was especially true of multiday events printed when viewing the calendar a week at a time -- they overwrote one another from one day to the next and ended up looking like a thick black line across the top of the calendar.
Meetingmaker lacks import capabilities for contacts and to-do lists, unless you can sync them with your Palm device.
So if you want to include items that you have in an existing database, you must enter the information by hand. The same holds true for calendar events you may be storing in Microsoft Entourage or Power On Software's Now Up-to-Date & Contact.
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Meetingmaker 7.1's instant access to a range of calendaring information -- from a CEO's availability to when meeting rooms are open -- makes it an excellent scheduling package for any office environment. The program is especially useful for larger companies that need to manage not only their employees' meeting schedules but also the conference rooms and equipment that help those meetings run effectively.
Although it still needs a face-lift, better print and administration functions, and import capability, Meetingmaker 7.1's easy setup, cross-platform capacity, and nearly infinite scalability make it the perfect choice for all of your group-scheduling needs.
- Excellent schedule management and notification for individuals and assets across entire corporations
- Secure Java client for remote access
- Palm synchronization
- Client-side time-zone settings
- Remote notification requires that client be running
- Unrefined Admin tool
- Minor printing bug