Putting the personal into personal information managers

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, December 1994

After a while, all the software that I see seems to look alike.
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 feature) to
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 Perfect
also seem more similar than different.

Personal Information Managers, however, seem to have steadfastly
resisted the trend towards homogenized software. You can have
quick and easy applications like Lotus Organizer, for example, which resembles
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 market, has
produced a unique product with a unique way of looking at

InfoCentral lets you organize people, companies, events, phone
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 relationships are
symmetrical. If Kate is my daughter, then I am her father.

Sounds complicated, but it's not really. When the data's
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 programs...
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 their
computer that ties together all their applications and documents.

InfoCentral comes on four disks, taking up to about 9 megs of
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 in a
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 own
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 not suit
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)

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan