Agenda Fusion 7 for Windows Mobile and Pocket PC Phone

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, June 2005
Published by: Developer One, Inc.
Requires: All Windows Mobile 2003 and 2003 Second Edition Pocket PC and Phone Edition, Pocket PC 2000/2002 and Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition
MSRP: US$29.95

Agenda Fusion 7 is designed to replace all of the embedded personal information management utilities supplied with the Pocket PC and Windows Mobile operating systems. With a versatile user interface that cleanly integrates with the operating system, Agenda Fusion provides a detailed and robust appointment scheduler, contact manager, a basic project manager, task manager, alarm utility, voice note recorder, backup utility and search module. I used Agenda Fusion 7 on a Compaq iPaq 3950 daily and exclusively for a little over two months.

The great benefit of using a Pocket PC PDA for all your daily work and scheduling is the integrated Today screen. Palm OS does not have such a thing, so for dedicated Palm OS users who move to Pocket PC, the Today screen is quite a revelation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Today screen pulls information out of schedulers, To-Do lists, appointment utilities and anything else you use. Today displays the items in chronological order on the Pocket PC desktop. That desktop is also where you'll find the Start menu and the New menu. Agenda Fusion can be configured to replace the Today screen with its own version (Fusion Today) and places all of its modules in the New menu so that with a single tap you can quickly set up new alarm notes, appointments, contacts, tasks and projects. Fusion appointments, alarms and tasks, etc., all show up automatically in the Fusion Today screen.

As with any new software toy, a period of adjustment was in order. It took me about two days to get used to Agenda Fusion's way of doing things. After that brief learning cycle (during which I was still making good use of Fusion Today, albeit somewhat slowly), I settled into an easy routine. The biggest help with adjustment is really the helpful and versatile way in which Agenda Fusion modules are organized. For example, it's possible to turn appointments into tasks (which then appear in the Fusion Task/To-Do list as well as Fusion Today) with a single tap. It's done by tapping & holding the appointment to call the pop-up context menu and then selecting the coversion function. In addition, almost any item created in Agenda Fusion can also be included in a Project list (see below).

The basic design of Agenda Fusion 7 is built around being able to call up different views of all the data you input. It's definitely a free-form sort of approach. You enter data—appointments, tasks, to-do, notes related to tasks, alarms, contacts—and quickly configure each data entry for time, date, relationship to existing entries and so on. After that, you can rely on Fusion Today to keep track of things, or alternatively view your data in an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly format, view contacts, notes, to-dos, tasks, etc. Adding additional information such as voice notes to individual entries is easy too (as long as your PDA has recording capabilities). Start the Fusion Voice Note utility and gab away. When you're done, you'll have a bunch of options including alarm settings and text notes which can be added to accompany the voice note file.

The most interesting new feature in Agenda Fusion 7 is the Project view. It's designed to help you create project lists using appointments, tasks, contacts and various documents. While it's not a heavy-duty project management tool by any definition, it's a very interesting approach to data management nonetheless. Once I got used to the idea that almost anything created with Agenda Fusion 7 could be included in a project list, I was more or less drawn to the concept. In fact, project-based scheduling works extremely well for people who need to track moderate amounts of project detail but who also don't have to participate in a lot of meetings. The project view mode in Agenda Fusion 7 may just make you abandon the sort of traditional, non-integrated scheduling that even companies such as Microsoft are struggling mightily to leave behind. There are a couple of other integrated schedulers on the market for Pocket PC devices, but Agenda Fusion is certainly one of the most powerful.

Cons: This baby takes some gettin' used to. I've never seen a personal information management program this detailed for the Pocket PC. As a matter of fact, the only place you're going to find something as powerful is likely to be running under Windows XP, Mac OS X or Linux and sucking up tons of RAM and 50MB of hard drive space. The help system is very detailed but lacks a full tutorial which walks users through the setup, creation of appointments and schedules, tasks, to-dos and notes, and which also clearly demonstrates how to switch between views of all the modules. Part of the problem I had grappling with the Agenda Fusion 7 user interface stemmed from the fact that I was completely brainwashed by the rather fine DateBk5 program for Palm OS. Making the huge shift from the versatile but singular design of DateBk5 to the modularity of Agenda Fusion 7 required a week of steady use on an iPaq 3950. The voice note utility is really handy, but attaching voice notes to agenda items is not intuitive.

Pros: If you live inside your Pocket PC, this is the software that will make you turn away from Pocket Outlook and the rest of the utilities built into the operating system. Appointments, Tasks, Notes and Contacts are handled by powerful Fusion modules which provide a tremendous degree of control and customization over every aspect of the information in your life and work. Setting up Projects which can contain notes, appointments, tasks and contacts is also a more or less unique feature in Agenda Fusion 7. The new Project View alone may be worth the purchase price of the program. The inclusion of a backup utility is brilliant—you'll never again have an excuse for losing valuable data. Recommended.

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