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SOHO Organizer 5.5.2

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The Address Book and iCal programs included with Mac OS X are intuitive, easy-to-use personal productivity apps—but both emphasize “personal” over “productivity.” Business-oriented alternatives, such as Now Software’s Now Up-to-Date & Contact (   ) and Microsoft Entourage (part of the Office 2004 suite), let co-workers share calendars and contact lists, but they sacrifice the simplicity and familiarity of Apple’s built-in programs, as well as the tight integration with Mail, .Mac, and other system-wide resources. SOHO Organizer 5.5.2 aims at providing the best of both approaches. It equips iCal and Address Book with an enhanced server-based database that enables collaborative sharing of contacts and calendars, plus flexible linking of appointments and contacts with project-related files, notes, and other documents.

The SOHO Organizer suite from Chronos consists of three linked applications: SOHO Organizer, SOHO Notes, and SOHO Print Essentials. When you install them on your Mac, the programs share data with each other, as well as with Apple’s iCal and Address Book. All three programs share a database on your Mac, which backs itself up automatically and can be synchronized via .Mac. The suite’s real collaborative value comes into play when you set up one or more shared databases on your network—a fairly straightforward procedure that would be even simpler if the Organizer suite’s documentation explained how to open ports in the Mac OS X firewall. Once you’ve set up a database on a server Mac, you must establish an account (with read/write or read-only access privileges) for each user of Organizer and Notes.

A mobile user can take a shared account offline, which creates a copy of the server database on their hard drive and syncs its contents with the server when they log back in. This arrangement works well, but users who forget to take a shared database offline will have to wait for Organizer and Notes to time out their server requests before the programs can be used on the road.

The Organizer application actually combines two separate applications that previous versions of the suite included: SOHO Contacts and SOHO Calendars. The merged app creates an enhanced version of Apple’s Address Book, and has a very similar look-and-feel. It features a datebook-style appointment and task manager that links with iCal, but doesn’t fully replace it.

SOHO Notes is a group-sharing successor to Chronos’s highly regarded StickyBrain application (   ), a unique tool that lets you corral project-related information—contacts, appointments, to-dos, documents, reminder notes, images, even SMS (Short Message Service) text messages—into folders.

SOHO Organizer lets you browse and edit contacts in list and single-entry views, and it supports a greater number of fields than Address Book. It lets you link project files, keywords, calendar appointments, and other contacts to each entry and lets you establish relationship links between members of a club, employees of a particular company, or any other connection you choose.

The calendar function provides list- and single-day views of appointments and tasks. A view-selection pop-up promises Week and Month views as well, but choosing either of them reveals a “Coming Soon” page equipped with a button that launches iCal in week or month view. (The company says week and month views are in the works, but they could not be completed in time for inclusion in Organizer 5.5.2.)

SOHO Print Essentials is also provided with this bundle of applications, and it can be useful for generating form letters, post cards, address labels, or custom envelopes (including bar-coded ZIP codes) from lists in SOHO Contacts. Print Essentials supports a huge array of address-label types; however, its support for VHS tape and 3.5-inch diskette labels—but not CD and DVD labels—suggests that this program is overdue for an update.

Macworld’s buying advice

SOHO Organizer 5.5.2 overcomes spotty documentation and a clumsy calendar interface, providing useful shared calendars and contacts, contact-management features that elegantly extend Address Book’s capabilities, and versatile linking of project-related files and notes. It’s a good choice for small-business users who need a simple information-sharing tool, and it’s easy to learn for users already comfortable with iCal and Address Book.

[ Jim Akin is a technology writer and editor based in Minneapolis. ]

The Contacts component of SOHO Organizer emulates the look-and-feel of Apple’s Address Book, but lets you add keywords and link project files to contact entries.The Day view of SOHO Organizer provides a datebook-like view of your appointments and to-dos.
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