- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2008

COLUMN:

There aren’t too many things I’m looking for in life, but one of my continuing quests is organization. I keep trying to get organized, 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, but the performance could benefit from some tweaking, in my opinion.

Chandler - and, yes, the name is derived from the “Friends” character played by Matthew Perry - 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 Message Access 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 largess to creating an open source information manager. Here’s something that’s truly cross-platform, relatively elegant, and has room for expansion.

So why do I feel hinky 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.

But my final concern has less to do with Chandler and more to do with Microsoft. If your enterprise 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, Steve Ballmer, “tear down this wall!”

E-mail: Mark Kellner.