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Building an integrated PIM on a Mac. Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi,

I’m new here.
I recently migrated from Windows to Mac and I don’t think I will ever look back. Although…. a few things stunned me, most notably the lack of a good integrated PIM like Outlook. So I started a search and found a partial solution that I want to share with you.
First, a bit on my background. I’m a personal efficiency consultant, I help people to keep a grip on the myriads of emails, documents, delegated tasks, textings, appointments, meetings, plans, issues, hypes, insights, boss behavior and other things that define their professional life. It often also means teaching them to use Outlook as an integrated PIM instead of a cluttered email inbox and calendar. Yes… you can make good money out of that, you really can…. LOL.
So from that professional perspective I migrated to the Mac, to find separated native apps that left quite a few things to be desired or were just pathetic, like iCal’s task manager.
First, I searched the web for integrated PIM’s and found Entourage, Daylite and Contactizer Pro(CP). I checked them out, rejected the first two and went for CP. But although CP has decent task management functionality, it cannot create nested tasks, so breaking down abstract or complex things into actionables is just as cumbersome as in Outlook, that has the same problem. I therefore searched for a powerful task management program that can sync with CP like the superb Achieve Planner(AP) can do with Outlook (OL). I found OmniFocus for this and the OmniOutliner turned out to be a good alternative for Bonsai Desktop, the veteran outliner I used under Windows.

I then developed the following system.
In Apple Mail(AM), I installed the Letterbox plugin and created two accounts, Private and Work-related.
CP can sync seamlessly to the native Apple Sync database on the Mac and will also pick up email from AM. I set up CP to sync tasks and events and pick up my Work-related email only. CP’s own task system I use mainly for basic work- and contact-related stuff.
I use OF as follows:
• I do GTD-style collecting and planning all kinds of tasks, chores, etc. This can include using Send to OF in Mail.
• I break down more abstract jobs/projects/things into subtasks and actionables.
• I often create a list of things to do today, by assigning the context “Daylist” to them and using that context as a filter to sync “to iCal”. In reality, OF syncs with Apple Sync, as does iCal. And so does CP, so I get all OF actionables with the Daylist context nicely displayed in CP, the dashboard where everything comes together.
In OO I of course keep checklists of all sorts, but I also make breakdowns for projects of the “Maybe next year, maybe someday” variety. Keeps a lot of clutter out of OF.

Though certainly not as powerful as the AP/OL combination under Windows, this OF/CP/AM/OO system works well enough for me. For now.
I have some questions or feature requests:
• In my system, due dates sync perfectly, but start dates do not. Can that be remedied or is this a limitation of Apple Sync?
• I now use a special context as a criterium for syncing tasks between OF and Sync, so the task loses it’s original context. It would be more convenient to use something else as criterium for syncing, like the flag or an extra flag. Please add that simple extra functionality to OF.
• It would be great if OO items could be synced to OF not to the notes field of a “From OO” task, but as tasks under their own name.

Last edited by Diver T; 2010-01-08 at 05:43 AM..
 
I think the lack of a general PIM for Macs is partly philosophy. The general idea is to pull things apart, while making them work well with each other, rather than creating a big do-it-all program.
My experience is that the core OSX applications(Mail, iCal, addressbook etc) are good for keeping things in sync and getting data out, but when you are trying to get more data in, they hit their limits. The lack of start dates is a symptom of this.
Incidentally I am not sure what you describe as Apple Sync. I am guessing you mean MobileMe. The Core application do sync directly through mobileme with all their limits, OF can sync itself either via WiFi or for example iDisk, which would help preserve data across multiple machines.

To be honest i have never really seen the need for an integrated PIM. Switching applications is to me a bit like switching context. And the integration usually makes it unnecessary to switch until you are ready to. You can clip a task from safari or mail, as you know. Spotlight is pretty good at quickly finding things, and tools such as quicksilver and Google quick search can launch apps and perform actions, such as starting to write an email, pretty quickly from anywhere.
 
Thanks for your respons Linada,

Regarding the philosophy: I see.

On your experience, I understand. But frankly, apps like iCal and Addressbook are too simplistic in themselves when volume and/or complexitiy has to be handled.

About the Sync system I described, I don't mean MobileMe, which is a subscription service for external syncing. In OS X there seems to be a sort of go-between database that is used by apps (and iPhone) that sync with one another on a single Mac. I first found it described in the manual of one of the programs I tested, I think it was Daylite. That go-between also explains why I can sync OF and CP while iCal is not even running.

Regarding the need for an integrated PIM:
Check this very recent thread, it descibes one of the problems with separated apps quite nicely.

Furthermore, once you have intense email communication and zillions of processes and documents to handle, the way of working you advocate means a lot of clicking and switching between apps. Mistakes, failures and losses are just bound to happen, I have seen it so often. Outlook, CRM progs and document management systems are so popular for very good reasons.

Last edited by Brian; 2010-01-08 at 02:14 PM.. Reason: fix link
 
The services functionality and the address and calendar capabilities provided by the OS let you send data between apps without switching between apps. You switch to consume data, but don't switch to send data.

That said, the input interface to iCal stinks. You might check out BusyCal, which has been well received. It uses the shared OS calendar capabilities but provides a mostly better interface.

Cheers,

Curt
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Hmmm.... interesting.....

One of my friends showed me a new app on the iPhone called Pocket Informant. It attempts to combine a GTD to-do list program with a calendar view.

I see that the free Lite edition is available. They just yanked the paid version because there was some bug with users losing their calendars.

It looks like strong competition for OmniFocus (at least in the iPhone/iPod touch realm).
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilsonng View Post
It looks like strong competition for OmniFocus (at least in the iPhone/iPod touch realm).
I agree that Ken, et al. (product mgmt) might want to take a close look when reviewing features for next version of OF for iPhone (v1.7?)...

I downloaded the Lite version just now and at first glance, I especially like a lot of the thoughtful 'customizability' features they provide, like setting defaults for: due dates, for what gets displayed by app badge (red numbered display on app icon), calendar options galore: orientation, setup, cell styles, todos, event durations, alarm reminder time, work hours, etc.

I realize that OF doesn't 'do' calendars, but perhaps this app shows how much the integration of "task management with calendars" is a need (given they went and built their own calendar in order to do it)... or maybe not!?

They also ask which desktop apps and OSes one is using (like OmniFocus Mac), which "gives us some idea of platforms usage, sync partners to work with." Which is also interesting..., I think.

Silly name for the app, however (imo)... ;-)
 
 


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