People Book 3.5.1
Posted: 29-Jul-2001

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Author: Amar Sagoo Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Tom Leahey Class: UTILITY
     
$20   Download

People Book is a simple contact manager, built with REALBasic. It offers a few frills, but does the basics very well. It does away with a lot of excess to offer an elegant, single-windowed interface to manage your contacts. It does an excellent job supporting Mac-interface standards and thus was intuitive to interact with and flexible in it's data accessibility. It organizes your data along a simple construct of People, Groups, and Contacts, and provides a range of nice capabilities for working with that information.

Installation:
The install of People Book is as simple as uncompressing the StuffIt archive and dragging the resultant folder and it's contents to where ever you'd like it to reside on your hard disk. On initial activation, you'll need to create a People Book file to hold your current set of contacts info (you can have multiple), and then you're off. You are instantly able to create contact entries and info associations for them.

People Book uses a relatively friendly copy protection scheme - a delay at the startup splash screen. This allows for a thorough evaluation - as no features seemed to be disabled. I had full import/export capability in the program in evaluation mode.

Documentation:
Documentation was as simple as the application. It consists of three SimpleText files: info, help and history. I'm not sure more is required, as the application is very straightforward and intuitive to use. Kagi-based offline and online registration applications are included. Link files for the developer's email and homepage are also provided.

Operation:
I decided I'd use People Book to manage my contacts for the
MacMole contest that I'm currently involved with. I was able to create entries for each of the contestants, as well as the other important contest operations contacts. I could input multiple email addresses for some entries, sort and categorize my list, and store clues and notes that I've collected so far. The built-in search engine works well for locating key info, though you need to know which field might contain the info you're looking for (it has no global search). It's find-as-you-type interactivity was a pleasant surprise.

I tested it's Import/Export features and it's overall inter-application interaction capabilities extensively. I was impressed with it's offerings. The XML and comma-delimited text output was unexpected, but nice (I love XML's capabilities for data portability and applications interoperability). It only supports comma-delimited text files for input, but that's still pretty flexible. People Book also has a good set of options for printing your contact info, and it supports built-in Envelope and Label printing (very cool).

In one test, I tried to use it's Groups capability to select just the folks in my MacMole Contestants group. I was hoping to be able to invoke a bulk email operation, but couldn't find a menu option or other means to do so. In a fit of intuition I thought, let me drag the selected names over my email program's addressee windoid and see if it's smart enough to copy just the email addresses into it. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as I got just a weird each-field-as-email-address addressee list. Given all the other "works as you'd like it to" features of this application, I was a bit disappointed I couldn't use the Groups capability to bulk email a selected group. Maybe next version.

People Book also has a built-in phone dialing feature. It works by opening up a port to get a dial tone, and then sends the correct tone sequence for the person's/site's number. Since I'm on cable-modem, I've got no phone or modem connection for it to talk to. It would have been nice for it to have an option to do an audio-output variant of the phone dialing, as that would work in my situation.

The program provides a nice Minimize (Cmd-M) function, that enables you to leave it open discreetly in the background at all times while you work. It also supports drag-and-drop of Netscape Vcards for those who use them (in fact, it's bi-directional drag-and-drop capabilities are second to none).

Overall Comments:
I liked People Book's interface design and it's functionality. If I did not have more demanding contact management needs (syncing to 2 PalmOS devices, and tighter integration with my email software), I would consider switching to People Book. It's features are basic, but nicely thought out and powerful. I really liked it's XML and Tab-delimited data export options. Using the program was enjoyable. It's Mac OS interface features were cool and just right, and very characteristic of the Mac look and feel. This would be an ideal program to demonstrate to friends for the ooh's and ahh's of the Mac's elegance and simplicity.


Pros:

  • Compact, simple and relatively speedy access to contact essentials
  • Excellent import/export support - Tab-delimited, or XML
  • Great use of Apple desktop drag-and-drop, clippings, windoid controls, etc.
  • Uses System Internet settings for email, web launch capabilities
  • Nice built-in data search, and slice/dice capabilities
  • Excellent printing features


Cons:

  • No ability to directly use Groups to do a bulk email
  • No direct integration with other applications or PDAs, etc. (for this app's target audience this is not a con)
  • Somewhat rigid database structure (single freeform text address field, DOB field, 1 custom freeform text field)


Requirements:

  • MacOS 7.1 or higher
  • 68K or PPC
  • For email/web automation, Internet Config or MacOS 8.5 is required


Overall Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Mice