Review: Agenda 1.0
Price: $15 shareware
Requirements: Mac with 68020 or faster, System 7.1 or later, SuperCard Player, microphone.
Personal Information Managers (PIMs) are good for keeping track of large quantities of information, such as phone numbers, appointments, to do lists, and so on. While some people are happy to keep track of this information on their computers, there are other people who just want a simple calendar to keep track of things. For these people, Agenda could be just the right program.
Agenda is a small application that does one thing—it displays a calendar and lets you record audio messages and associate them with dates. Designed with iMac in mind, Agenda is currently available in four colors: Blueberry, Strawberry, Orange, and Lime. Two more colors will be released in the next few weeks. Unlike some programs that let you switch colors from the menu bar, there are separate versions of the Agenda application for each color. Each hue must be downloaded separately. Fortunately though, the colors share the same data files, so when you record a message using one color of Agenda, it will be listed if you launch a different color.
Recording is fairly simple; click and hold on the date for which you want to record a message. When the recording icon appears, speak your message. Releasing the mouse button ends the recording. Click on the date to hear its message, and option-click to delete the message.
There are two things I wish Agenda included in terms of these messages. After recording a reminder, you must remember to play it back at the appropriate time. It would be nice if you could choose to have a message played at a specific time automatically. Second, a purge reminder command would be useful. Each audio reminder takes up hard drive space, and the only way to reclaim this space is to delete the messages by hand.
Agenda’s iMac-like design does present a few problems. First is the power button near the bottom. When you first launch Agenda, the calendar is not displayed. To display the calendar, you need to “switch on” Agenda, either by clicking the power button or selecting On/Off from the Power menu. Only after doing this is the calendar displayed. By this thinking, it would seem like “switching off” Agenda would hide the calendar, but in reality this quits the program entirely. This is an example of a piece of software pretending that it is actually hardware. Turning a program “off” should quit the program. Launching the program, however, should be enough to turn it “on.”
The hardware-type interface introduces other problems. First, the only menu created by Agenda is the Power menu, containing the On/Off command. By rights, this should be the File menu, since Off quits the program. Secondly, this could confuse novice users, who might naturally think that this command controlled their computer (hardware) as opposed to Agenda itself. Finally, the On/Off option has a keyboard shortcut of Command-Q, used for both turning Agenda “on” and “off.” This is the first time I have seen Command-Q assigned to anything except Quit in a Mac-only or Mac-first program, although I have seen it in a few poor-quality PC ports.
Function-wise, Agenda does exactly what it claims to do. It is a small calendar that lets you record reminders for certain dates. It offers no frills to expand on that functionality. Yes, it comes in several colors, but each color is its own application. Finally, the idea that an effective hardware design makes an effective software design is once again debunked—it didn’t work with QuickTime 4 or Sherlock 2, and it doesn’t work with Agenda. As an experienced Mac user, I find it annoying to use a program that goes against the way most other programs work. Were I a novice, though, I imagine that it would be quite difficult to understand why something that works one way in most programs works another way in this particular program. If the interface were cleaner, Agenda would have a higher rating. As it stands right now, it receives a rating of Good.
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