Jewish World Review March 14, 2003 / 10 Adar II 5763

Tablet Planner software a hit

By Mark Kellner | It's estimated that between five and six million people carry a paper-based Franklin Planner, the paper-based tool that lets you schedule your life, track your goals, keep up with contacts and so forth. Those users can be found in eighty-two of the Fortune 100 companies, more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies, and dozens of government agencies and non-profit groups.

After today, it's a mystery to me why anyone would want to do this ever again. That's because FranklinCovey (stet), the company behind the system, is releasing version 2.o of its "TabletPlanner" (stet) software, a $170 program that incorporates all the features of the paper Planner, links to Microsoft Outlook, and runs on a Tablet PC, allowing you to digitally "ink" entries and either index these or - voila! - translate them into electronic text.

Put another way, who needs paper?

That may seem like a bit of hyperbole, but think about it: Tablet PCs, the devices pioneered by Microsoft Corp. and now being sold by a number of hardware makers (Acer America, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP and Toshiba among them). The devices feature a version of Microsoft Windows XP that allows for pen input - using a special stylus - and FranklinCovey is taking full advantage of this to create a digital version of its popular paper product.

While Tablet PCs aren't as thin as a legal pad (in some cases), and certainly weigh more than paper, having built-in wireless communications, they are still lighter than my paper Franklin Planner, and yet can do a lot more. For besides running the TabletPlanner software, of course, the devices also run the full range of Microsoft Windows applications, and can work wirelessly in offices equipped with IEE 802.11b (and, now, 802.11g) networks.

The new TabletPlanner software, available today (March 11) for purchase and download from, offers number of advantages over the paper version. Like most daily planers, there's a page for tasks and appointments, and one for notes. In the paper version, you'd need to add pages to add notes; the TabletPlanner software lets you have an almost endless supply of note pages for any day, limited only by your PC's hard drive capacity. For those of us who use a day planner as a journal of important items, this is a vital feature.

Equally valuable is the way the "daily task list" is handled by the software. Assign a priority to your task - the most important is "A1," the least important, "C3," let's say - and you will see the software sort those tasks in order. Check one off the list, and a small line through it appears; gimmicky, perhaps, but also very satisfying.

You can enter, or edit, contacts and appointments using your handwriting and have the system "read" and translate your entry into computer-usable text, which in turn can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange-based systems. You can link an appointment to a contact or to-do item, and you can drag-and-drop a to-do into an appointment, which is a rather neat trick. The result: a more concrete, easy-to-follow record of your daily work, one which is tracked electronically, and which can be backed up and stored on a CD-ROM for future reference.

Another advantage found in the new software is the ability to import, index, highlight and store a variety of documents, including Adobe PDF files, for use as part of your daily work. These could be articles, policy manuals, price lists, what-have-you, but now they're accessible electronically and quickly.

Up till now, I've had to assemble my Franklin Planner with paper, ink and a seven-hole paper punch. What's more, it seems as if the "Monarch"-sized planner I prefer (8-1/2 by 11 inch page size) seems to be slipping away from the FranklinCovey product lineup. But no matter: the screen of the Tablet PC is comparable to a letter size sheet of paper (albeit a tad smaller), and one can print pages, if desired, on letter-sized paper.

While there will probably be further enhancements to the software -"sharpening the saw" is a FranklinCovey maxim - this is one application which not only is a really useful tool, but also demonstrates why the Tablet PC has a bright future, in my opinion.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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