Agent 2000 v1.0

Reviewed by: Howard Carson
Published by: Vulcansoft, Ltd.
Requires: Windows 95 through XP, 32MB of RAM, Pentium 133MHz or higher, VGA video, sound card
MSRP: $79.95

Agent 2000 v1.0 is a collection of unified modules which form a complete Personal Information Manager (PIM). The modules include a graphical appointment manager, an address manager with auto-dialing and links to web, FTP and newsgroup sites, a task/to-do list creator and manager, alarms, built-in e-mail and spam filtering, a diary, a knowledge agent, biorhythm graph and compatibility chart, city distance and financial calculators, a measurement converter, custom wallpaper backgrounds, and much more.

We tested Agent 2000 on two different computers: a PII/350MHZ machine with 128MB of RAM running Windows 98, and a Dell Dimension XPS P166s with 64MB of RAM running Windows NT4 (SP4). Installation and operation on both machines was flawless - no lockups, no incompatibilities, and no instabilities.

Agent 2000 can't accommodate network or workgroup use, but still represents a viable alternative to Microsoft(R) Outlook. In fact, Outlook could benefit from several Agent 2000 features such as independent file linking, the Financial Calculator, City Distance, and Converter modules. Agent 2000's Appointment Agent gives you daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly graphical views, individual alarms for each appointment, as well as drag & drop support (you can drag & drop almost any data from one agent or module to another). The Task Agent offers lists of overdue, completed, daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, individual alarms for each task, and repeat settings. The Address Agent features autodialing of phone numbers, direct links to Web, FTP, and newsgroup sites, automatic reminders for upcoming birthdays, and a virtually unlimited number of contact items. The E-mail Agent includes built-in, multi-level Spam filtering, support for an unlimited number of mailboxes, and a voice-announced number of sent and received messages, and automatic detection of e-mail, WWW, FTP and newsgroup hyperlinks in memo- fields. You'll also find a Diary Agent, a Knowledge Agent for flexible storage of unrelated pieces of information (you can create a collection of folders in which to store data, to which you can point individual records and appointments). There's also a Biorhythm module, and Calculators for finances, measurements, and distances.

The program also has the ability to grow with the user's demands or level of expertise. A user may start by simply adding records to the address manager and later add links to digital photographs, sales reports, entire folders, or to a record in the appointment manager.

We liked the built-in support for HTML e-mail (although we could not get it to work with some e-mail pages - Andover News for example). HTML e-mail such as Outlook stationery worked just fine.

Cons: Reducing the width of the Biorhythm module can cause the bar graph text to become unreadable. It also happens in the Setup tab sheet of the Task Agent. This PIM needs the loving hand of a serious UI designer. Agent 2000 is fully functional and usable now, but it could be much, much better after the creation of a set of attractive and more intuitive module and agent interfaces. The Menu button in the agent windows should be renamed to Links and placed higher in the UI because it disappears every time the height of the windows is reduced to fit in another module dialog or agent window. The whole package could benefit greatly from some solid QA testing too. You can't import Outlook and other address databases in native formats; Agent 2000 will import text (TXT) and Comma-Separated Value (CSV) files only. If you've got a large address database and you decide to use Agent 2000, you've got to do a fair bit of preparatory work. Agent 2000 cannot track linked files (such as bitmaps) which are moved or deleted (the software should at least call up a file selector to help find the errant file).

Pros: Quick access to context sensitive menus in each module and agent via right-click. Well designed, basic drag & drop support (no OLE support though, so there's no drag & drop between apps). Although the biorhythm module is a bit distracting (contemporary business and personal pressures often don't 'care' whether you're in an 'up' or 'down' period), the other non-traditional modules are extremely useful and really don't exist in this particular combination in other products. We spent nearly a full hour playing with the Converter module (did you know that 300 tablespoons are equal to .001 cords of wood?) We're not sure if this is accurate or not, but we had a blast fooling around (it will convert anything to anything and it's blazingly fast). The appointment, task/to-do and address agents were easy to use, as were record linking and file linking, making Agent 2000 a better choice than many other PIMs. If you have no need for workgroup or group appointment scheduling and sharing across a network, or if you're a traveling salesperson (or anyone else who is on the road frequently on business), or if you've got a busy sales or individual meeting schedule, this PIM is worth a look.




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