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Electronic Assistant Professional 4.1 review:

Electronic Assistant Professional 4.1

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The Good Extensive selection of features, including a handy Agenda module; delivers decent value for the price.

The Bad Somewhat confusing interface; buggy.

The Bottom Line It's not as easy to use as FranklinCovey's planner, but Electronic Assistant offers solid if glitchy PIM functions at a reasonable price.

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CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

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Sometimes you just have to give a product points for effort. Hence, we give some to Electronic Assistant Professional, a multifeatured shareware PIM, for its numerous modules and extensive functionality, including contact lists, journals, schedulers, and to-do lists. With Electronic Assistant, you'll even find a module that lets you design your own database, along with an e-mail module and a variety of applets for backing up and eliminating duplicate entries. In other words, this application has the potential to be all things to all users. Unfortunately, its innovations are often confusing, and it suffers from several unpleasant glitches. For a less erratic PIM, consider the FranklinCovey planner. Sometimes you just have to give a product points for effort. Hence, we give some to Electronic Assistant Professional, a multifeatured shareware PIM, for its numerous modules and extensive functionality, including contact lists, journals, schedulers, and to-do lists. With Electronic Assistant, you'll even find a module that lets you design your own database, along with an e-mail module and a variety of applets for backing up and eliminating duplicate entries. In other words, this application has the potential to be all things to all users. Unfortunately, its innovations are often confusing, and it suffers from several unpleasant glitches. For a less erratic PIM, consider the FranklinCovey planner.

Various views
Electronic Assistant's standard, Windows-style interface is familiar and easy to navigate. In addition to its standard toolbars and drop-down menus, Electronic Assistant displays buttons that represent its modules along the left of the screen. These are divided into three categories: The Main module gives access to such features as the contact list and journal. Tools & Utilities manages handy functions such as backup, import and export, and password protection. Lastly, Add-Ons includes the ScheduleViewer, a useful little applet that offers immediate access to your main modules, and the Phoenix Converter, which converts a variety of measurements, such as pounds to kilograms. You'll also find a sync applet for Palm OS handhelds, but since it works only one way, changes made in Electronic Assistant will not show up on your Palm, this feature is useless.

Lost in translation
Each module contains from two to five windows, called Panels. Each one displays a different segment of your data. This is where Electronic Assistant gets tricky. New users should do a bit of exploration to make sure they have found each available panel in a module, since several are closed when you first fire up the modules. For example, the Agenda module offers a calendar, radio buttons showing the various times of the day, a chart that displays busy times, and a listing of the day's events, but it takes a bit of hunting to find them all.

Another problem with Electronic Assistant is linguistic: a number of its module names are just plain puzzling. For example, Electronic Assistant's Schedule module is apparently just for setting alarms, while its Agenda module is for creating appointments or Itineraries, as the program calls them. Other difficulties are simply old-fashioned bugs. When we typed some text into the Itinerary List panel of the Agenda module, for example, we got a description of the font in the Itinerary Detail panel.

Help on the way
Luckily, Electronic Assistant's online help is responsive; we got an answer to an e-mail question within 24 hours. You can also turn to both online and downloadable manuals and a discussion board. However, when we tried to access the discussion board, it was down.

Our final say on Electronic Assistant Professional? This ambitious app supplies competent PIM features, but it probably won't win over many Outlook customers. If you don't mind the product's confusing quirks and you want to try it, download the full version and use it for free for 30 days. Although FranklinCovey is our fave alternative PIM, for those who want to avoid Outlook and need to watch their pocketbooks, this $32 PIM is worth a try.

Take me back to the roundup!

Electronic Assistant offers several views of your information in each module. You can choose how large each panel is or close them altogether.

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