Daylite 4, the new version of the Mac and iOS CRM solution from Marketcircle, gets its first major redesign in a long time. Daylite has a decade-long history with the Mac(s AAPL) as a powerful CRM tool that helps businesses keep track of customers, sales and related projects. The updated version is available starting Tuesday in the Mac App Store and iOS App Store, the company announced Tuesday in a blog post.
The interface has been completely rethought and the technology under the hood has been updated in significant ways. This release may well elicit polarizing opinions about the improvements and some disadvantages that come with this new approach.
I have been recommending Daylite to my business clients for a few years now as a CRM solution for Mac- and iOS-centric offices that works in many different fields ranging from sales, to event planning, to law offices. Daylite is particularly good at creating a rich history of your activity by linking contacts with other people and companies as well as the meetings you’ve held with them, notes, tasks, projects, sales opportunities and other pieces of information that give you a full picture of what is happening in your business.
Alykhan “AJ” Jetha, CEO of Marketcircle, said the company had ambitious goals for the new version. He told me in an interview:
We wanted to make it more intuitive, more approachable, more appealing to a wider audience, have less of a learning curve, to get a modern look and to set the foundation for the future. I think the biggest problem we solved was making the UI more understandable to novices. In the past you needed some training in order to get the most out of Daylite. Now, we think, one will not require so much training.
My own first impressions from working with the software over the last week or so is that Daylite 4 is faster and easier to use. More functionality is exposed directly in the interface so that tasks like linking, searching and filtering are greatly improved. Now that I rely more and more on cloud services like Google Apps and iCloud in my own daily activities, I am really pleased at how well Daylite 4 integrates with other services. New users will likely be drawn to the streamlined interface and the clever integration with native Mac and iOS apps. Long-time Daylite users will be delighted with some changes, but will be frustrated with the absence of some features from Daylite 3.x (the current version).
In my review below, I highlight what’s new in Daylite 4.
For those familiar with Daylite 3, the new version will feel like a radical departure. The interface is almost completely redone with a left-hand navigation panel that looks much closer to iTunes and iPhoto and should be more immediately familiar to Mac users.
A feature in Daylite for Mac that has been borrowed from the iOS version is a new Home screen that gives you a quick overview of your calendar events and upcoming tasks as well as projects and sales. It has taken me a few days to get used to checking this new screen, but I really appreciate the ability to see my immediate tasks at a glance.
Details are now exposed through “Slideovers” instead of opening new windows which means that more information is available in a single view. My experience is that this single view is faster because you don’t have to open a new window to edit details, and you can scroll to see all the fields instead of clicking through tabs in the details window. It’s really nice to see more information on one screen.
Tabs & Navigation
Tabs are still present in the interface, but now they work like tabs in Safari where you can have different sections of the app open on different tabs. Where I used to have one window open for my calendar and another for contacts or project details, I was able to set up a few tabs. I found the new approach to be a huge improvement. I used the favorites bar to add a few key sections like Contacts, Calendar, Home, Active Projects, Active Opportunities and Tasks. Once in favorites, you can jump to those “bookmarks” just like you would in Safari — Command-1 opens the first favorite, Command-2 the second, and so on. Control-Tab is used to cycle through tabs, again like Safari. The one feature from Safari that I missed was the ability to force Daylite to open a new tab when clicking a link somewhere else, like in Daylite Mail Assistant (which I will get to in a bit).
Under the Hood
Beyond the visual changes and the new interaction model for the UI, I asked Jetha about some of the rebuilt technology “under the hood” in Daylite 4. He said:
Some you will notice, others you will not. For example, many searches are now asynchronous meaning that the interface will not block when performing complex or long queries. We’ve also added automatic batching – just keep scrolling and content keeps coming in – no need to hit a “more” button. On the not visible front, we’ve migrated to NSDate from NSCalendarDate as per Apple’s request a few years back (which explains why many reports need to be manually converted). We’ve ARC’d the bulk of the app (ARC = Automatic Reference Counting) just to mention a few. Another huge one is the ability for Daylite Mail Assistant to work without having Daylite running.
Linking in Daylite 4 is available from a “link” button in almost every view. I am really enjoying the ease with which I can now link together appointments, notes, contacts, projects, etc. to create a full history of my interactions with different clients and partners. This was available before, but harder to use. New in Daylite 4 is the ability to link more types of objects together. Linking a note or a task to an appointment will win over many Daylite 3 customers.
Searching & Filtering
One of my favorite new features is the searching and filtering interface. Quick Find (Command-F) shows you results as you type, and Daylite 3 users will rejoice that they can create ad-hoc filters in list views on the fly. You set up multiple criteria for filters much like you would using the advanced search features in the Finder. If this is a saved search that you would use over and over, you can then save those filter criteria to a smartlist. Anyone familiar with the tedious process of creating smartlists, and the lack of ad-hoc filtering, in Daylite 3 will be thrilled with this new feature.
Tasks have been overhauled in Daylite 4 and there are probably too many features to cover here. Tasks can be linked to specific stages in project pipelines, either automatically or manually and tasks can now be linked to appointments, notes and emails. I found the task management in Daylite 3 a bit cumbersome, but I am slowly warming up to the flexibility of being able to link tasks more easily in Daylite 4.
Daylite contacts can now be shared via CardDAV. This allows you to publish your Daylite contact list to other apps like Address Book on the Mac and the native Contacts app on iOS devices. This solves the problem of being able to see caller ID information for incoming calls when the contact details are in Daylite. This is fantastic for iPhone users. More about the iOS integration in a minute.
Daylite can now display information (read-only) from subscribed calendars published by other services like iCloud or Google Apps. Even better, Daylite Server can publish your Daylite calendar as a CalDAV source so that you can access your calendar in other apps, including iCal for Mac and the native calendar on iOS devices. Private events show a busy block on your calendar and meeting invites can be accepted directly into your Daylite calendar in Mail.app, with the new Daylite Mail Assistant. There are some rough spots here as views with multiple users aren’t color-coded yet, but this is apparently coming in the next build.
Daylite Mail Assistant
Daylite Mail Assistant is a plugin for Mac mail that integrates your Daylite database with email. DMA replaces the previous DMI (Daylite Mail Integration) component and is another bright spot for Daylite 4. Linking items from email or creating new tasks and projects from email is easier than ever — I love the enhanced functionality so much, it almost makes email fun.
Daylite for iOS
Getting back to the CardDAV and CalDAV support in Daylite 4 mentioned above, Daylite for iOS is enhanced by the ability to interact with the native apps on iPhone and iPad devices. You can view and edit your calendar and your contact list with the native app, which means you can make Daylite your default calendar and use Siri voice commands to make appointments and look up contacts.
The biggest complaint before was that incoming calls wouldn’t display the person’s name unless you copied the contact information from Daylite to the Contacts app. Now, Contacts can access Daylite Server as a CardDAV source and display a contact name when they call your iPhone. This will be great for iPhone users that love the native apps. You will still need to use Daylite for iOS to link contacts and calendar events to projects or tasks and so on.
Daylite 4 is now available in the App Store, previous versions of the software were available directly from Marketcircle only. The release date for Daylite 4 was pushed up a bit in order to come in before the June 1 App Store sandboxing rules take effect. Any new apps submitted to the App Store after June 1 must fully comply with Apple’s sandboxing rules, which limit the privileges apps can request in accessing system resources. Because of the sophistication of Daylite’s different components that allows the Mac and iOS apps to sync information, Daylite 4 would have been significantly delayed by the extra engineering effort to fully sandbox the software.
Unfortunately, this means the release of Daylite 4 feels a bit rushed in spots, and a few features from Daylite 3 are just plain missing in this first release of Daylite 4. The new reporting system has fewer built-in reports, and custom reports from Daylite 3 will need to be rewritten for the new version’s (improved) reporting engine. Daylite Delivery and Daylite Connectors are missing at this time and Billings integration is not yet finished. Marketcircle has provided a more complete list on the Before You Upgrade page.
The missing features and reduced functionality will be where existing Daylite users might have trouble adopting this latest release. Daylite 4 solves a lot of problems, like the new integration with contacts and calendars on iOS. While many users may not miss anything from Daylite 3, some users may not be able to upgrade until the software can support their workflow, particularly where they rely on integration with Daylite Connectors for Billings, Filemaker Pro or other applications.
Jetha of Marketcircle acknowledges that some customers will have concerns about these changes:
Well, as with any big UI change, some folks that have been used to using it for a while will definitely ask “how do I do this now?” and may get frustrated. Some will adapt automatically and never look back. Also some of the more advanced features didn’t make it in. We’ll re-evaluate the need for those in the coming months.
As a result of the big changes, he says they will keep Daylite 3 around through the end of 2012 until all its features can be incorporated into Daylite 4.
While Daylite 4 and Daylite for iOS are both free downloads from the App Store, this only allows you to work with the demo database before purchasing a user license. To finish setting up the Daylite 4 system, you will be prompted to download the server component and purchase a user license to be activated in Daylite Server Admin. Each license for Daylite 4 includes all the functionality for Daylite, Daylite Mail Assistant, and Daylite for iOS on multiple iOS devices for a single active user. All licenses include email support from Marketcircle and free updates within the 4.x range. Check marketcircle.com for current pricing.
Daylite 4 is such a big update that it almost feels like a new program. That will be disorienting for some, but I found many of the changes to be more than welcome. I am concerned about the current lack of Connectors for Filemaker Pro and Billings as well as the need to rewrite custom reports. There are some other spots in the UI and corners of the app that feel unfinished, but I am hopeful that Marketcircle will quickly update the app now that they have gotten in under the wire before sandboxing is mandatory. On the plus side, I love the new UI, linking, DMA, and the iOS integration with native apps. That should appeal to a lot of people.
In short, if you depend on some of the missing features from Daylite 3, stay put for now. If you just bought recently, I would take advantage of the upgrade pricing and get started on the new version before you learn to miss those features. If you’re new to Daylite, you will find a powerful CRM tool that is a bit less polished than you would expect from a 4.0 release because of the rush to get it out before June 1.
If you have been used to paying separately for the Mac and iOS licenses, you will probably appreciate the new all-inclusive license. If you have a lot of users that are iOS-only, you may want to stick with Daylite 3 for a time before moving to a full cost license for each user.