- Time & Chaos worked for us for a time. It’s inexpensive and requires less system overhead than Outlook. It also supports multiple users without requiring the use of a true server. There is a utility to allow synchronization with PDAs, as well, which we purchased and used. Unfortunately, its scheduling capabilities simply aren’t as good as Outlook’s. Also, it feels like a program that was written to be a single-user product, then had multiuser capabilities added on later. The multiuser features simply don’t work very well. There isn’t any way to enable access by a remote user (well, not that I could tell, without getting into something like a Citrix server). There’s also no way to assign tasks to another user or monitor their completion without going to that person’s data files.
- Microsoft Outlook
We actually used Outlook for a time, but couldn’t share data because we don’t run a Microsoft Exchange Server. Outlook does much of what we want as a standalone program, but isn’t groupware without a server. It really doesn’t do mail-merge very well when it comes time to do a batch of labels in MS Word (or it didn’t back in 2000). Also, recent versions apparently require Outlook Express in order to work properly, and I refuse to have OE on any of our machines due to the number of security issues associated with that program. Outlook alone isn’t as much of a security risk since we don’t have any mail services installed in it, but it doesn’t play well with other email programs, either.
- Okna Desktop Set
I’m not sure I can truly say we’ve evaluated this one. We’ve downloaded it, installed it, and spent far too much time trying to get our current data into it. Unfortunately, it chokes and dies halfway through importing any Outlook data file — including small dummy files we created just to see if our real file was simply too large. There are many things I like about Okna, but the import failures have been showstoppers so far. Emails to the company requesting assistance in resolving these issues have been unanswered. Looking through the program’s help files and the company’s web site, I don’t believe they provide support to registered users, either, which doesn’t give me much confidence that giving them our money is wise.
I had great hopes for this product when it started out — a standalone program, available free for download or mailed to you on a CD-ROM, that was designed for family use and interfaced with a the company’s web site. It was obviously advertiser supported, but that’s to be expected with free software. I used one of the earliest versions and was hoping it would be updated to be a multiuser program in the next version. Unfortunately, it is still single user, it has almost no import capability for anything but recipes, and it doesn’t export anything as far as I can tell.
Over the years, Act has been tailored more and more closely to suit the needs of the salesman. While that’s great for them, it means the program grows less and less useful to the rest of us. Unfortunately, it has also grown huge, and while we’ve been able to install it on our older PCs, it runs very slowly and we don’t really trust it. The complexity of the program does not make it ideal for families with children, either.
This program is mentioned here only because a couple of people have mentioned it when we’ve discussed groupware. I’m not even going to try this one, because it is and always has been a program for “customer relationship management.” While there’s some overlap between that and groupware, it does too much of what we don’t want and not enough of what we do want.
I used GroupWise many years ago, before Novell bought it. It was a marvelous program then, and just right for the small company for which I worked. It had the ability to do group scheduling via the calendar module, shared contacts, had customizable databases, and even had a handy instant messaging module (hey, I’d much rather type a note to the kids when they’re using the PC in the playroom than bellow at them). I can certainly see why Novell would buy the product, but I wish I could find a copy of that ancient version! I think one may need to run Netware to use it now, and I’m certainly not about to do that. If I’m wrong, I welcome anyone who can enlighten me to let me know.
- Lotus Notes
I’ve run Notes servers and supported Notes clients in the past at work. I refuse to deal with that mess at home.
Back to Family Groupware.