Order, Order!

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Nov - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Nov - 2005
Order, Order!
Information overload is a part of life today and it's important to know how to deal with it. The more the people we know online and offline, the tougher it becomes to maintain their contact and correspondence information. A Personal Information Manager (PIM) is a must-have in today's hyper-connected world: it's something that lets you store all contact and schedule information, and in some cases even correspondence records, in one place. Gone are the days of carrying bulky Filofaxes or multiple phone books-the e-age of information management is in.

The Outlook Way
Of all the PIMs available-whether free or paid-Outlook is the best bet for all uses. If you have to work more out of office than on the field, Outlook is the most robust software of them all. It has enough scope to let you store as many contacts as you may know and then use them in the most effective manner possible.

Outlook lets you use your contacts for more than just reference. In fact, you can run the entire Outlook package from just the 'Contacts' section!

What are the essential pieces of information of a contact? Name, address, phone number, date of birth, work place, office contact details, anniversary date, duplicate contacts and then some notes. This, we would think, is the bare minimum. But how do you keep it up to date? More importantly, how does one use all this information? Sooner or later, there's enough that will make the labyrinth of data unnavigable.

Outlook takes care of all this and more thanks to the easy-to-navigate user interface that sorts all kinds of entries by name (or date). You can also navigate to all entries beginning with a particular letter at just the click of a button!

Outlook: The real Personal information Manager

Coming to the actual uses of a contact entry in Outlook, the question that needs to be asked is what all would you like to do. Sending e-mail, creating a reminder or scheduling a meeting is all just a click away.

Outlook allows users not merely to do everyday tasks, but also get interactive with e-mail. Take the example of voting on a subject: people need not be present physically, and can just click 'Yes' or 'No'-and a consensus can be had over e-mail. What's better is that this also ensures confidentiality and speed of response. The respondents could also add their  notes or reasons for their vote.

Synchronising your contacts too, is easier, as is taking a backup when migrating computers or just clearing up disk space. It's time to change your Outlook, eh?

Mobile PIM
If you happen to be an on-the-go professional who collects more phone numbers and visiting cards than you can remember, there are ways for you to organise your innumerable contacts.

With the changing times, we're used to noting down new phone numbers directly on our phones or PDAs. Often, we forget to include other vital information such as the company name, or why we have that number in the first place! It's good practice to include such info, because no amount of automation or technology can help you with information that it does not know!

Essential PIM : Would you like to import all Outlook info ?

Nicely laid out parts of the Essential PIM

If you are using a PDA phone (or even a smartphone), it is always recommended that you regularly back up all your phone data via Bluetooth, IR or a data cable. Almost all phones (and corresponding sync software) are capable of detecting changes to even a single field in data that is already present as backup.

This ensures that you don't have to worry about updated or changed contacts not being backed up.

Outlook And Mobile?
Now here's the interesting part. The data you already have in your Outlook, and data you've backed up from your phone, can work together and make your information management even more robust. How?

There are problems in synchronising your handheld directly with Outlook, but there is a way around this. Better still, this could be a one-time operation from Outlook by exporting your contacts as a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file. In the case of Nokia PC Suite, you can then export this file and have all your contacts sync with your handheld.

For devices by other manufacturers, the same may not hold true, and you may have to manually import (copy) contacts before synchronising. But hey, it's just once, and then, they're all in one place!

Third-Party PIMs
Freeware rules the world. Well, almost. So it's not surprising that there are freeware to counter the PIM problem as well. Another reason for using freeware is that it's legal, and you won't be using pirated versions of Outlook.

Take, for example, the 'Essential PIM'. It works well enough, and in fact, acts and looks just like Outlook. It has all the essentials Outlook has and upon installation, even offers to import all contacts and information (such as  tasks and schedules) from Outlook. The points it scores over Outlook are the colour interface and the fact that it's free.

The one thing missing here is the ability to send e-mail. But the point of using this is to avoid spending on the MS Office suite only for Outlook. Essential PIM, and Opera or the Mozilla suite for your e-mailing needs, is a great combo. And you still have all your information and schedules in one place.

Colour coding of various tasks makes it more navigable

Adding a new task to Essential PIM is as simple as using Outlook

Essential PIM is also a good option to just back up your Outlook contacts from time to time. We all know how prone Microsoft products are to crashes, and it's a good idea to have your backup in an interface that looks and behaves like Outlook does.

Despite these pitfalls, we will maintain that Outlook is the best because it's just what a PIM should be and do. The interoperability between its various functions, the robust mail client, and the way it works with other products from the MS Office suite is marvellous.

Know Outlook Better 
  • You can use MS Word as the default text editor in Outlook.
  • You can include a rich text signature that features characters in bold, italics, and different font sizes in Outlook.
  • Your Task List can also be shown on the Schedule Sheet and e-mailed as an assignment.
  • You can view and print out your Schedule Sheet in more ways than one to ensure you have an optimised view of your activities.
  • Colour coding on the calendar allows you to identify the task (Personal, Business, Birthday) at a glance. You can even share this with your team or assistant and mark whether you will be out of office or not.

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