Author: Steve Kayner
Date: February 1993
Keywords: MACINTOSH SOFTWARE PROGRAM UTILITY REVIEW Smart Alarms
Text: Being the responsible and punctual individual that I am, failure to make an appointment or meet a deadline can be a crushing blow to my fragile sense of self-worth. Not that I have large numbers of things that must be attended to on a timely basis, but I can get distracted and forget the few items that I do have to deal with. That is why I have been scanning the horizons for simple scheduling and reminder software. Recently, a rather long windedly named package called Multi-User Appointment Diaries version 3.7 with Smart Alarms™ version 3.1 (MUADv3.7wSAv3.1) made its way into my clammy grasp. This version can be employed by up to four users on a Local Area Network (LAN). This version will work with distributed networks like TOPS™, and Appleshare¨ (under System 7), with dedicated file servers using Appleshare¨ under System 6, and with combination network server systems using Personal Network Server™, and allShare™. There are also single user, and 5-8 user versions of the Appointment Diaries. The press material that came with MUADv3.7wSAv3.1 indicates that this product has been around since 1986. This version looks like something that has undergone many refinements. The Smart Alarms™ DA is particularly intrigueing. Smart Alarms™ is one of those pop-up reminder apps, but more so. It is chock-full 'o useful features, and easy to set. To enter a reminder, you just select the DA from the Apple menu, and it is ready to accept the text portion of the reminder. There is a time, date and day section in the upper left corner of the dialog box, and when one of these is selected, a set of up and down arrows appears. Using the up and down arrows, or entering the data directly, sets the time for an alarm. Then you can choose to set an advance warning in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years. When I have a local appointment, I set the advance reminder for fifteen minutes. This gives me enough time to stop what I'm doing and get anywhere in town. Small town? You bet, and I wouldn't trade it for a whole bag of Reece's Pieces™. Naturally, there are settings for recurring events. These events can be by the minute, hour, weekly, monthly, yearly, and forever more. You can set alarms for the fourth Tuesday, or the next to the last Monday of each month (or any other days). I set these for User Group meetings which occur on the second Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then I set a five hour advance warning so the alarms pop up while I'm still at work. I also set an alarm that reminds me to make the weekly off-site backups (you are still making backups, aren't you?). Alarms can be accompanied by a variety of different sounds, depending what sounds are installed in the System. I prefer the sound of tires screaching across asphalt - gets my attention every time. Some applications don't like to be interrupted by alarms, and Smart Alarms has a feature that allows the user to name these applications. This keeps Smart Alarms from popping up until the named application has been closed. At the bottom of the Smart Alarms™ screen is a list of all the pending events. When a one-time event is announced, you can choose the "Thanks! I've dealt with it." button, which removes that item from the list, or postpone the reminder. There are three ways to postpone a reminder: 1) check the "Remind me again" selection and set the time interval, 2) hit the five-minute snooze button, or 3) set another alarm in the usual fashion. Recurring events are not removed from the list by using the "Thanks! I've dealt with it" button, but can be removed in the Set Reminders dialog box. The Set Reminders Dialog displays a status symbol (not BMW or Mercedes) on each message line with overdue or postponed reminders. The Reminder Dialog also lets you know when the first reminder was issued, and how far overdue the reminder is, if at all. Another handy feature is the Macro Reminder. This allows macros created using Quickeys™, Tempo™, MacroMaker™, or AutoMac™ to be triggered by the alarm. Those macro-maniacs out there in user-group land will appreciate this function. Imagine, you could set a macro alarm to go on-line every day and snag your e-mail, without touching a key. If your work is routine, you might be able to set up enough macro alarms so you don't have to come to work any more! Hmmm...That's worth looking into... The Appointment Diaries are linked to Smart Alarms through a menu command. The user can make an entry in the Diary, select the text, and then choose the Set Reminder command. The selected text then appears in the Reminder window of Smart Alarms, set for the correct date. If the selected text starts with a time using a colon separator, and am or pm, Smart Alarms is smart enough to set the reminder to the correct date and time. It even converts military time correctly without the am or pm designation. Multiple reminders can be set from one date by placing each entry on a new line in the diary, starting with the time of the appointment or reminder. This helps to minimize the time it takes to fill out diary entries and create reminders for them. It actually seems faster than using Smart Alarms by itself. The Appointment Diaries can be set to show the calendars two months or one week at a time. The months view shows dates for two months on the left side of the display, and a scrolling text box called the Note Page on the right. This is a seperate text field for each day in the calendar. The date that is selected in the calendar is shown with outlined text, and dates with note entries are shown as bold text. The year and months have dog-eared page corners that can be "flipped" to move around in time, and a click of the day bar at the top of the display brings you back to the current months. This would have astonished Jules Verne. The week view shows seven dates, and a Note Page for each date. There are two arrows that can be clikced for moving forward and backward one week at a time, and a click of the date bar brings you back to the present week. The window can be enlarged to show more of the text in each Note Page. When the calendar window was enlarged to a mid-size view, I found that some of the text in the Note Page was hidden behind the scroll bar. The only way to get it to display was to change the size of the display window, or pad the text with spaces at the scroll bar. This happens because the text wrappng in the Note Page doesn't follow changes in the window size very well. JAM is working on fixing this. An Auto Layout menu selection lets a user set up a formatted layout for the Note Page that will show up in every page that doesn't already have an entry. This feature also lets the user limit the Auto Layout to any given day of the week. The Multi-User Appointment Diaries lets you store all the diaries for the users of a network in a central folder. A glitch in the system makes it necessary to make the entire server hard disk accessible before the program will pull up the diaries from a folder on the desktop of the server. After this has been done, the sharing can be set back to its previous state. Using AppleShare with System 7.0, the remote user must be logged onto the server before he or she can access the shared diary folder, but the program does default to the correct diary for the user named in the network setup. There are menu selections and keyboard shortcuts for accessing other diaires. I found it useful to create an alias (using System 7) for the Diaries folder to speed up the access. More than one person can view the same Diary at the same time, although only the first person to open the file during that session has write privileges. The Save/Refresh button at the bottom of the Dairy page lets a user display changes to other s quickly, and can be used to gain write privileges when the first user has logged off the file. The Diaries also incorporate an Auto Save feature that does a save every two minutes. In the Multi-User version, new diaries can be created via a menu selection, and the manual suggests group uses such as conference room, or staff meeting scheduling. Printing from the Appointment Diaries brings up a modified Print dialog box with options for printing any number of days, weeks, or months. There is an option to skip empty days, with the auto layout omitted. Among the Appointment Diaries menu items is a simple Find function. It will search all the Note Pad entries for fragments, and is not case sensitive. Another menu item can be used to Import files saved as text into a Note Pad field. The version of Appointment Diaries reviewed here also included a utility called Diary Migration™. This can be used to save a diary to disk in text format, and to reduce the size of older, or highly exercised diary files. Diary Migration can also be used to exchange data between the Mac and Cambridge Z88 MacLite™, and Sharp Organizer devices. Smart Alarms version 3.1 and Appointment Diaries require System 7 and a Mac Plus, although version 3.0.6 will work with System 6.0.2 and higher. Version 3.1 is 32 bit clean, and works with virtual memory. The multi-user forms of the Appointment Diaries require networking software (obviously). JAM Software includes the Heap Tool utility for System 6.x users who encounter memory problems. The Appointment Diaries DA uses 20k of memory when active, and 45k of disk space the diaries it creates use more space, depending on how much is in them, and if Diary Migration is used to keep them slimmed down. The Smart Alarms DA uses 80k of memory, and 3k of disk space. There are also two extension components of Smart Alarms, which use 107k (the Alarm part) and the other varies with the messages that it contains.
Copyright © Feb., 1993 by Steve Kayner