By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
The idea that the best things in life are free must have come from someone without any money. Good stuff costs dough. We all know that.
But the second-best things in life (and in computer software) actually can be free. A great example is Digita, a personal information manager for Windows 95.
Personal information managers (PIMs) store telephone numbers, addresses, appointments and notes. The best ones—Microsoft Outlook, Time & Chaos and a half-dozen others—let you click on a name or address to dial the phone or launch your e-mail software or Web browser. Digita doesn't have that function, and that's a big drawback for many of us.
But that's the only weak point. Digita's interface—the way it looks and the way you work with it—is outstanding. I'm not exaggerating when I say the Digita interface is the best of any PIM you can buy.
And that's the good news. You can't buy Digita. It's free. The company that developed the software has decided to give it away.
I first mentioned Digita last year and created a link to the downloadable program on my Web site. At that time, the preview version was free, but it was nagware—software that sticks a message in your face every now and then telling you to register or pay money.
Digita is still nagware, but with a big difference. When you go to the Digita Web site at http://www.digita.com/ to download the program, you're asked to type in your name and address and a few other things. When you do that, you get a registration number. The first time you run the program, type that number into the nag screen and Digita will never ask you for it again.
The current version of Digita is slightly improved over the version I wrote about before. One of the improvements is an artificial intelligence system that knows how to change general entries for time and date into exact times and dates. Type "tomorrow" into a form for an appointment, and Digita will automatically fill in tomorrow's full date. Type "3 days" in the ending field for an event, and Digita will know enough to fill in the actual date, based on the starting date. (Those are just examples. Digita does a lot more, and the way it figures out times and dates is nothing short of amazing.)
Digita uses a Day-Timer-style address book—a "book" on the screen with pages you can "turn"—much the same as the Lotus Organizer software. You can hide small monthly calendars on the right or show them in any grouping. (You'd probably be able to see at least three months at once on an older display or on a new display that hasn't been set up for modern resolutions.) Days with appointments or noteworthy dates are highlighted at all times, something not even Outlook can do.
A bonus pack included in the download offers dozens of information packets that include birthdays of famous people, important dates, cooking tips, travel information and much more—you'll have to try them to see what I mean.
If you don't already have a PIM, pick up Digita and give it a try. If you already use a more powerful personal information manager, you might want to see what a perfectly designed interface looks like in this age of software sprawl. It won't cost a cent.