Review: Pocket Informant for Android

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Smartphones are the perfect tool to use for both keeping on top of schedules and tracking things that must get done on time. The phone is always with the user, and the large screens commonly used on them can display a lot of personal information at once. While phones make good personal information managers (PIM), having the right app to handle the task is key to making it work well. Pocket Informant has recently been released in a public beta for the Android platform, and from a first look it might be the best app for handling personal time.

Pocket Informant (PI) has been around for a long time, and its longevity in the market is a testament to how good it handles PIM functions. It has been a long-time player on the Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and the iOS platforms. The introduction of the beta on the Android market makes PI available on the majority of smartphones on the market. The app is free while it is in beta.

I have been a PI user for years, on all of the supported platforms, and I was anxiously awaiting its appearance on Android. I installed it as soon as it appeared in the Android Market, and I have been using it heavily. The app has been working solidly for me even though it is a beta, although some users have reported problems to the developers.

PI consolidates all calendar and task functions in one place, and provides two advantages to users. The first benefit is demonstrated through the many ways to view PIM information. The program can display calendars in daily, weekly, monthly and agenda (list) views, and each of those have multiple options. The goal is to allow the user to view a lot of information in the manner that provides the best focus on what needs to get done. That ability to focus on what’s important is the second advantage to PI users.

I am not a practitioner of the Getting Things Done (GTD) method of time management, but those who are should note that PI has native support for the methodology. The GTD support is enabled with a setting in the app, and activates the use of locations, contexts and projects for task management.

The app is fully integrated with Google calendars, which requires no user configuration given Android’s native Google support. All Google calendars are visible in the PI displays, although the user can turn off any calendars as desired. Each calendar can appear in a different color, either the default Google calendar colors or user defined, making it easy to focus on particular information. Switching calendar views is done by selection on a tool bar at the bottom of the screen. The app supports both portrait and landscape orientations, with a smooth transition between the two.

Google tasks are not supported by PI due to the lack of an API by Google. The developers have chosen to provide sync support for online task manager Toodledo, and this support works well. I use Toodledo, and as I use PI on both Android and the iPad, all my tasks stay in sync everywhere.

This is an early version of PI for Android, and there are features missing that the developer promises for a future iteration of the app. Android has advanced the use of widgets by apps, but PI is lacking this ability in version 1.0. My experience with Pocket Informant over the years leaves me confident the Android version will evolve quickly, and will soon be one of the most-used apps on my smartphone.


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