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FranklinCovey PlanPlus 2.0 for Microsoft Outlook review: FranklinCovey PlanPlus 2.0 for Microsoft Outlook

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The Good Enhances Outlook productivity tools; easy to use; numerous support options.

The Bad Task-management method sometimes restrictive; screens are not customizable.

The Bottom Line FranklinCovey PlanPlus brings the company's planning system to the desktop level and delivers management tools and organization to the busy individual.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Support 8

Review summary

Want to use FranklinCovey's well-known planning system but hate that giant notebook? FranklinCovey PlanPlus attempts to streamline the system by integrating with Microsoft Office Outlook. PlanPlus adds a host of productivity enhancements to Outlook, including an overall view of multiple screens (e-mail, calendar, tasks, and notes, among others). Its simple interface and improved task list are good news for business users who need to manage busy schedules without much fuss. Caveat emptor, however: PlanPlus's heavily structured approach to task management isn't for everyone. Also, you'll have to shell out about $100 for the package (or $49.95 to upgrade), and it works only with Microsoft Outlook 2000 or later--not with Outlook Express. If you can overlook these restrictions, PlanPlus is a powerful productivity tool for any busy worker's arsenal. FranklinCovey PlanPlus for Microsoft Outlook is painless and easy to install. Once you place the CD-ROM in your drive, you can choose to install the program on your hard drive or your Palm OS or Pocket PC device. Once installed, a new PlanPlus menu item appears in Microsoft Outlook alongside File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools, Actions, and Help. Outlook continues to operate in standard mode until you click a selection under the PlanPlus menu and launch the program.

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PlanPlus installs right into Outlook with its own toolbar for one-click access to the program's major features.

You can access all of the program's major screens (PlanPlus Today, PlanPlus Home, Weekly Planning, Goals, Compass, Mission/Values, and PowerNotes) through the PlanPlus menu or through a series of shortcuts on the program's toolbar. For example, if you have Outlook shortcuts displayed on the left side of your screen, you can use the same area for PlanPlus's shortcuts, although the software inexplicably omits a couple of screens (DailyNotes and Thought of the Day).

Getting out of PlanPlus isn't as easy. There's no single button to close it down and return to Outlook proper. You can always click your folder of Outlook shortcuts, and the other option is to select the View menu, then Go To, and finally one of the original Outlook screens (Calendar, Contacts, and so on).

To set up personal information, PlanPlus provides interactive wizards that offer minicourses in four of its productivity screens (Missions/Values, Weekly Compass, Goals, and Weekly Planning), complete with numerous full-color examples, walk-throughs, and training exercises. For example, the Goals Wizard takes you through the process of identifying goals, achieving them, and understanding team goals. Also, if at any time a concept confuses you, there's an excellent built-in help system, called Coach Me, that discusses a broad range of concepts, offers examples and tips, and furnishes links to further resources. While not as elaborate as the wizards, Coach Me is still a lot more detailed than your average FAQ.
PlanPlus provides a variety of useful tools, such as the Weekly Compass and Weekly Planning tools, that promote a highly structured, preplanned approach to the week's work. The software encourages you (through a series of screens with questions and blank fields) to follow the FranklinCovey planning methods--admittedly an acquired taste for some--to articulate a list of personal mission statements and overall goals, review relationships between tasks, and assign objectives. This type of hand-holding might seem daunting to a first-time user. To be fair, however, you can bypass any of these steps, and many FranklinCovey fans swear the process improves your time and activity management.

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PlanPlus walks you through a structured system of planning based on missions, goals, relationships, and tasks.

The PlanPlus Today screen provides an excellent summary of the day's activities, while the Home screen combines many standard Outlook elements. It displays a monthly calendar, daily tasks and notes, an adjustable appointment calendar (daily, weekly, and monthly), and either your Inbox or FranklinCovey's note-taking interface, PowerNotes. You can expand and contract the size of each pane and close them individually, but you can't move any elements around to create a customized screen. However, new to this version is the ability to drag and drop data from one area into another. For instance, we found it extremely easy to turn an e-mail message into a task.

The aforementioned PowerNotes is new to version 2.0 and lets you capture an image of an Excel spreadsheet, a Word document, or a Web image, then annotate it anywhere with bullet points, drawings, or text in any font size and color. PowerNotes offers functionality similar to Microsoft Paint, but it's easier to use for the specific purpose of note taking--perfect for, say, reminding yourself that you need to find information for a missing Excel field. Just capture the empty Excel field with the Virtual Printer, use the Ink tool to circle it in red, and add a note.

Upgraders will also find an enhanced task list with more functionality than the one in the previous version. Now, PlanPlus 2.0 lets you assign completion dates and priorities to daily tasks; save task histories; and employ status codes for completed, forwarded, deleted, delegated, and in-progress tasks. The addition of prioritizing daily tasks improves the precision of task management. We wish, however, that PlanPlus would let you nest tasks hierarchically.
There's no shortage of tech support for FranklinCovey PlanPlus. FranklinCovey's Web site includes a searchable knowledge base, e-mail support, unlimited live technician chat (Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT), and FAQs. We tried online chat support and received a prompt response from a courteous and knowledgeable technician. There is no link to the site from within PlanPlus, however.

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FranklinCovey offers several free support options for PlanPlus, such as the searchable online knowledge database.

Phone support is available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT. While FranklinCovey doesn't charge for first-time setup and installation calls, all other issues cost $19.95 per incident via a toll-free number.

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