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What We’ve Already Tried

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  • Time & Chaos worked for us for a time. It’s inex­pen­sive and requires less sys­tem over­head than Out­look. It also sup­ports mul­ti­ple users with­out requir­ing the use of a true serv­er. There is a util­i­ty to allow syn­chro­niza­tion with PDAs, as well, which we pur­chased and used. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, its sched­ul­ing capa­bil­i­ties sim­ply aren’t as good as Out­look’s. Also, it feels like a pro­gram that was writ­ten to be a sin­gle-user prod­uct, then had multi­user capa­bil­i­ties added on lat­er. The multi­user fea­tures sim­ply don’t work very well. There isn’t any way to enable access by a remote user (well, not that I could tell, with­out get­ting into some­thing like a Cit­rix serv­er). There’s also no way to assign tasks to anoth­er user or mon­i­tor their com­ple­tion with­out going to that per­son­’s data files.
  • Microsoft Out­look
    We actu­al­ly used Out­look for a time, but could­n’t share data because we don’t run a Microsoft Exchange Serv­er. Out­look does much of what we want as a stand­alone pro­gram, but isn’t group­ware with­out a serv­er. It real­ly does­n’t do mail-merge very well when it comes time to do a batch of labels in MS Word (or it did­n’t back in 2000). Also, recent ver­sions appar­ent­ly require Out­look Express in order to work prop­er­ly, and I refuse to have OE on any of our machines due to the num­ber of secu­ri­ty issues asso­ci­at­ed with that pro­gram. Out­look alone isn’t as much of a secu­ri­ty risk since we don’t have any mail ser­vices installed in it, but it does­n’t play well with oth­er email pro­grams, either.
  • Okna Desk­top Set
    I’m not sure I can tru­ly say we’ve eval­u­at­ed this one. We’ve down­loaded it, installed it, and spent far too much time try­ing to get our cur­rent data into it. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it chokes and dies halfway through import­ing any Out­look data file — includ­ing small dum­my files we cre­at­ed just to see if our real file was sim­ply too large. There are many things I like about Okna, but the import fail­ures have been show­stop­pers so far. Emails to the com­pa­ny request­ing assis­tance in resolv­ing these issues have been unan­swered. Look­ing through the pro­gram’s help files and the com­pa­ny’s web site, I don’t believe they pro­vide sup­port to reg­is­tered users, either, which does­n’t give me much con­fi­dence that giv­ing them our mon­ey is wise.
  • Fam­i­ly­Time
    I had great hopes for this prod­uct when it start­ed out — a stand­alone pro­gram, avail­able free for down­load or mailed to you on a CD-ROM, that was designed for fam­i­ly use and inter­faced with a the com­pa­ny’s web site. It was obvi­ous­ly adver­tis­er sup­port­ed, but that’s to be expect­ed with free soft­ware. I used one of the ear­li­est ver­sions and was hop­ing it would be updat­ed to be a multi­user pro­gram in the next ver­sion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is still sin­gle user, it has almost no import capa­bil­i­ty for any­thing but recipes, and it does­n’t export any­thing as far as I can tell.
  • Act
    Over the years, Act has been tai­lored more and more close­ly to suit the needs of the sales­man. While that’s great for them, it means the pro­gram grows less and less use­ful to the rest of us. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it has also grown huge, and while we’ve been able to install it on our old­er PCs, it runs very slow­ly and we don’t real­ly trust it. The com­plex­i­ty of the pro­gram does not make it ide­al for fam­i­lies with chil­dren, either.
  • Gold­Mine
    This pro­gram is men­tioned here only because a cou­ple of peo­ple have men­tioned it when we’ve dis­cussed group­ware. I’m not even going to try this one, because it is and always has been a pro­gram for “cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment.” While there’s some over­lap between that and group­ware, it does too much of what we don’t want and not enough of what we do want.
  • Group­Wise
    I used Group­Wise many years ago, before Nov­ell bought it. It was a mar­velous pro­gram then, and just right for the small com­pa­ny for which I worked. It had the abil­i­ty to do group sched­ul­ing via the cal­en­dar mod­ule, shared con­tacts, had cus­tomiz­able data­bas­es, and even had a handy instant mes­sag­ing mod­ule (hey, I’d much rather type a note to the kids when they’re using the PC in the play­room than bel­low at them). I can cer­tain­ly see why Nov­ell would buy the prod­uct, but I wish I could find a copy of that ancient ver­sion! I think one may need to run Net­ware to use it now, and I’m cer­tain­ly not about to do that. If I’m wrong, I wel­come any­one who can enlight­en me to let me know.
  • Lotus Notes
    I’ve run Notes servers and sup­port­ed Notes clients in the past at work. I refuse to deal with that mess at home.

Back to Fam­i­ly Group­ware.

Pho­to by Zan on Unsplash


  1. Ronney Dore

    Have you use ever­note? Is that an appli­ca­tion, note take soft­ware, that you world rec­om­mend? I like the way it looks and its fea­tures but don’t under­stand why any­one who want to pay for the extra cost.

    • Cynthia Armistead

      Yes, I have used and like Ever­note, but I’m not a sub­scriber. It does­n’t have the fea­tures that I think a fam­i­ly group­ware solu­tion would require, and I haven’t per­son­al­ly found it use­ful enough to pay for an indi­vid­ual subscription.

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