Wednesday, June 5, 2013

[review] Pocket Informant for Android 3: Calendar and Task Management Beautifully Done

Ferris Bueller once counseled "Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  Fast forward 20 years and those of us that grew up with Ferris completely understand the truth to these words.  Several of us may go one step further, though, to advise that if we don't write down what we are supposed to do, where we are supposed to be and how to contact who we know, we will definitely miss out on some of the important parts of life.  That is where Pocket Informant - the Swiss army knife of personal information - comes into play.  All of these calendar entries, tasks, contacts and notes can be stored in Pocket Informant, allowing you to not only make sure you are where you need to be and do what needs to be done as well as ensuring that when you do have time to stop and look around, you can relax while doing so. 

In a way, I've grown alongside Pocket Informant.  Years ago as a Windows Mobile user, it wasn't long before my needs outgrew what the stock personal information management (PIM) apps that the operating system included.  I needed to be able to look at and organize my information - the calendar entries, tasks and contacts that were key to my life - in a way that I could tailor to my own particular needs.

At the time, I was comfortable using Pocket Informant on Windows Mobile, but it was not long before the world of Android knocked on everyone's door, including those of WebIS - the company behind Pocket Informant - and my own.  

In the early stages of Pocket Informant for Android - I think I was one of the first people to rush into Google Play to purchase a copy - the core functionality that we find included today was hashed out as the development team worked to ensure compatibility for all of the different devices and manufacturer tweaks out there (Samsung - I am looking at you!).  Over time, Pocket Informant for Android has grown in functionality and evolved in user interface and ease of use.

Core functionality obviously includes calendar management with multiple views to view your events as well as a plethora of options to tweak the user interface to meet your needs.  Syncing with Google Calendar was and still is there, as is the ability to record events on a calendar that is local to the phone.  Yep, you can have a calendar where the information is totally private - zero syncing to Google's calendar for those events.  

The tasks management features of Pocket Informant allow you to organize your items with as much or as little structure as you prefer.  You can simply enter a list of everything you need to do, or you can get into the finer points of the Getting Things Done (GTD) philosophy.  Having read a part of David Allen's book on the topic - I ran out of time, go figure, to finish it - I use a healthy dose of the GTD philosophy, sorting tasks into folders or projects, assigning contexts and statuses to each to ensure that I am at least trying to do what I can, when I can. Pocket Informant provides the ability to sync tasks with the online task management site as well as Google Tasks.  Just as there is a local calendar that does not sync, you can also maintain a task list that does not go anywhere other than on your phone.

Contacts management, also present, allows syncing with your Google contacts as well as managing a local address book.  Notice the trend there?  WebIS has done all everyone a favor by not forcing cloud based syncing on us unless you want it. 

Completely new to Pocket Informant for Android version 3 is the ability to keep notes within the structure of the program.  These notes can be kept local or synced with the note taking abilities of if you happen to use the service for this purpose as well as managing your tasks.

The user interface of version 3 of Pocket Informant has to be counted as a huge step forward for WebIS.  The old iteration of the interface was pleasant, with a professional feel, but the latest version is clean, flattened and modern, definitely drawing influence from Android's Holo guidelines, making it seem truly at home when using it on a newer Android phone or tablet.

Pocket Informant for Android is available via Google Play and the Amazon AppStore for those that prefer to shop there.  A trial version is available via Google Play as is an official widget, which requires a separate installation.

The Fine Print
Price:  $9.99
Current Version:  3.05.10076
Minimum OS:  Android 2.3+
Size:  2.5 MB     Compatibility:  Phone & Tablet