There aren't too many things I'm looking for in life, but one of my continuing
quests is organization. Sadly, I'm far from being organized in the way I'd like.
But I keep trying, and the recent release of version 1.0 of Chandler, "The
Note-to-Self Organizer," is becoming part of my quest. I like the idea; the
performance could benefit from some slight tweaking, in my opinion.
Chandler and, yes, the name is described from the "Friends" character played by
Matt LeBlanc is intended to collect the scraps of daily life in one place:
e-mail, calendar appointments, notes and so forth. File them in a personal
information manager on the desktop and sync them to the Chandler "hub" online, free
of charge at this point, and then view on other Web-enabled computers or sync to
your home PC. The desktop client software is available for Windows, Mac and Linux
users, at www.chandlerproject.org.
In concept this isn't a bad idea, as mentioned. In operation, though it'll take some
getting used to for die-hard Microsoft Outlook fans. You can either view things from
a calendar-centered workspace or one built around a list of events and items. In the
list view, a third pane opens to show the contents of a given item, such as a
shopping list; you can also edit it there.
Integrating e-mail has been a bit of a greater challenge. I've been trying with an
IMAP (Internet Mail Application Protocol) implementation of my corporate e-mail and
it hasn't worked so far. If it did, e-mails could be a part of that "list" view and,
presumably, applied to dates present and future, where you drag a meeting invite to
a specific day and create an event.
Did I mention that all of this, so far, is free? Chandler is the brainchild of Lotus
Development founder Mitchell Kapor, whose Lotus 1-2-3 set the standard for
spreadsheets way back when, and who made a pile of money in the process. Now, Mr.
Kapor is turning his largesse to creating an open source information manager, and,
again, it's not a bad idea. Here's something that's truly cross-platform, relatively
elegant, and has room for expansion.
So why do I feel hinckey about it? Well, there are a bunch of reasons. One is no
seeming way to move this all onto a smartphone, though I suppose there are ways to
hack into it, such as syncing the Chandler Web-based "hub" to Apple's iCal and
praying it comes through on an iPhone. As to what BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and
Palm users would do, other than fire up a tiny Web browser, I have no clue.
Another concern is the e-mail thing. The Chandler Web site says the program will
only import new messages, and not ones already read. Ugh. Also, it'll only file and
index those e-mails created with Chandler, another "ugh," in my opinion. It would be
better to have the program import and index stuff from other mail applicaitons, and,
for that matter, address book programs. If you intend to have something be a catch
all, it would be good to have it, well, catch from everywhere possible.
But my final concern has less to do with Chandler and more to do with Microsoft. If
your enterprise (or government agency) is an "Exchange shop," by which your e-mail
and group calendaring are handled by Microsoft Exchange, good luck in getting the
latter into Chandler. Apparently Microsoft likes to keep Exchange calendars to
themselves, and will release same only via Outlook on the Web, and through client
programs such as Microsoft Entourage and, of course, Outlook.
That's their privilege, but it locks information away from users. So, Microsoft CEO
Steve Ballmer, "tear down this wall"!