Putting the personal into personal information
by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First
published in Our Computer Player, December 1994
After a while, all the software that I see seems to
Take spreadsheets. Three main competitors... Lotus 1-2-3,
Microsoft Excel, Borland Quattro-Pro (recently purchased by
All run under Windows. All sport toolbars and menus.
All give you
3-d sheets, with tabs to switch pages. Right-click your mouse, and
each pops up a context-sensitive menu.
Sure, each tries to come up with a gimmick (oops... a
give it an edge, but by the next generation of upgrades, each of
its competitors does it too. A prime example of another of those
'90s buzzwords-- "convergence".
The Big-3 word processors: Ami-Pro, Word, and Word
also seem more similar than different.
Personal Information Managers, however, seem to have
resisted the trend towards homogenized software. You can have
quick and easy applications like Lotus Organizer, for example, which
your classic pen-and-paper day-timer. Or heavy-duty models like
Polaris PackRat or Commence, which are almost infinitely
configurable. Or the blankness of InfoSelect, letting a user
write notes to her or himself.
Word Perfect, in its attempt to break into the PIM
produced a unique product with a unique way of looking at
InfoCentral lets you organize people, companies,
numbers-- all sorts of information as either an object (person,
organization, event, etc.) or a connection (job, family
relationship, attender, etc.) between objects.
You create an outline, with objects tied together by
connections. You can simply drag and drop from object to object
to create connections. You can rapidly switch views-- from a world
organized with me in the center, to a world with my boss in the
center. Simply 'hoist' that object to the top, and watch the
outline re-organize itself. InfoCentral understands that many
symmetrical. If Kate is my daughter, then I am her father.
Sounds complicated, but it's not really. When the
entered, you can quickly switch from seeing what events I'm
scheduled to attend to who's scheduled to attend a single event,
or what's scheduled to be discussed.
You can easily connect outside documents and
want to send a letter to a contact? InfoCentral opens up your
choice of word processor, and automatically enters their name
and address, along with today's date. And keeps track of the letter
as correspondance to that person on a particular subject.
For many users, it can easily become the program on
computer that ties together all their applications and documents.
InfoCentral comes on four disks, taking up to about 9
drive space. It features minimal documentation-- a humble 60
page manual and a quick-start card; the rest is in the Help file
on your drive. Still, that's enough to get you started.
There's a calendar view, where all your events show up
scene that resembles Lotus's much more limited Organizer. And to
get you started quickly, Word Perfect provides four ready made
information bases (iBases in InfoCentral-speak)... one each with
contact information for the computer industry, consumer
resources (stereo, electric guitar manufacturers, etc), travel
information, and wines (no, BC wines are not included).
A host of templates let you jump start entering your
information. Automobiles, cd collecting, contact management,
gardening, home record-keeping, wedding planning, stamp
collecting and more are pre-organized as InfoCentral templates.
Word Perfect would even like you to track your fantasy sports
team with this product.
With its unique style of operation, InfoCentral will
everybody's taste. However, in this era of clone-software, Word
Perfect is to be applauded for coming out with a product that
does it its own way. If you're looking for a way to use your
computer to organize your business or personal life, this is
worth a look.
(Note from the year
2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review.
A decade or so later, I've gotten a series of emails from fans
hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to
a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software
since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone
looking for copies of older software to check at eBay
or at OldSoftware.com.If you
check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)