- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

Franklin Covey Corp. recently introduced two new versions of its PlanPlus planning software. One is Microsoft Windows friendly, running within Outlook.

The other stands alone as a Web-based version, meaning those with Macs or Linux-based personal computers can run the program as well, via their Internet browsers.

I like both. The screen, and this is one Web site where it pays to have a large display handy, looks very much like the paper planner. There’s a daily task list on the left, appointments on the right, and on the bottom, a space for notes.

Entering tasks is easy. There was one display glitch when the text entry window wasn’t visible. I typed and hit the “enter” key, and, presto, the item appeared. One could then prioritize it according to the Franklin system: A1, B2 or whatever. Dragging and dropping tasks on screen changed their priority level as they moved up or down the list.

Appointments show up on screen as well as in a reminder line atop the home page. Again, this is good — if you haven’t cleared an appointment, then you can do so thanks to the reminder. Taking notes is also a positive feature. The note-taking window can shift to a contact list, a list of business opportunities, or an e-mail in box, although each of these requires setup.

This is where the online PlanPlus system departs most radically from paper: Behind the main screen is a “CRM,” or customer relationship management, application that tracks things such as a sales calls and how a process is progressing. A manager can aggregate the records of his team and find out how employees are doing.

There’s a cost for all this: $25 per month per person up to 10 people; between 11 and 49, it’s $22.50 each, and other price breaks are available for larger groups. If you are an individual user, I suspect you would need to be really dedicated to fork over $300 a year for the online service, unless you are in sales and can truly benefit from the contact and opportunity tracking.

That’s why I like the PlanPlus for Outlook software as much as I do. For one thing, most of us who use PCs already have Outlook in place. If not, a full-price copy is $95. Add to it the $99 cost of PlanPlus and you are still over $100 ahead of the online system, and you are running the software locally, which has an extra appeal for some users.

Layout and functions for appointments and tasks are similar to PlanPlus Online, with a key difference: It all sits within Outlook. That makes it easy to use the Outlook data you already have — contact list, e-mail in box and so on. By putting a FranklinCovey “front” on all this, users get the best of both worlds.

Two other features stand out: One is that PlanPlus for Outlook should work brilliantly with Tablet PCs, making handwritten annotations truly useful.

The other is the seamless incorporation of help texts, called the “Coach Me” section, which guides users through features such as PowerNotes, can include graphics, and are computer searchable.

Bottom line: If you are a FranklinCovey devotee, and if you have Windows and Outlook, run, don’t walk, to get this software, or go to www.franklincovey.com to order. Otherwise, PlanPlus Online offers a good Web-based start.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily on The Washington Times’ Web site, at https://www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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