How Blackberry saved me from Outlook

I’m a fan of open source stuff. I prefer to MS Word (interface reasons). I prefer Gimp to photoshop (financial reasons). I prefer notepad++ to notepad (though I do use closed source PsPad alot.) I love Drupal. I dig Cygwin. I don’t think I could function without Firefox, and Inkscape has come in useful on more than one occasion.

I post my sermons and studies here on my blog because I believe in openness. And I subscribe to the philosophy behind “freely you have received freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) With all of that said, I nearly caved in to using Microsoft Outlook. {gasp!}

I used Outlook before, I purchased it a few years back as Outlook 2003 because it came with PowerPoint which I needed to use at church. The (closed source) software program we use for controlling our projection system won’t work with other formats and sometimes the PPT files spit out by weren’t exactly what I designed from within Impress.

When I did use Outlook I was frustrated because it was so bloated and slow. The PST file crashed on occasion and it caused weird replication issues on the occasional sync with my Palm device. Eventually the PST ate itself alive and took my data with it. That was before I was… shall I say intense in regards to backups.

So when my computer last died and I rebuilt it, I took the opportunity to switch to Palm desktop. But here’s the rub. I can’t replicate my data with Google calendar – Goosync and others just don’t work no matter how I try. And for various reasons I “need” multi-point calendar access.

With Palm Desktop I couldn’t replicate my data with Plaxo – what started out as a platform for global synchronization has turned into another facebook wannabe. Yuck. Using Palm, I can’t keep multiple calendars in sync across my own computer and my wife’s for example. I can’t I can’t I can’t. Palm Desktop wouldn’t cut it.

So being the opensource fan that I am, I attempted to switch to Evolution. It’s been billed as an Outlook killer and it did have everything Outlook had plus newsgroups! But I was almost crying tears of blood by the time I gave up trying to make it sync with my Treo.

I switched to Chandler for a few brief days and tried really hard to make it work. I used Funambol, and tweaked with sync4j, I played with settings, labored on configs… and I gave up.

I contemplated switching way back to my now ancient Lotus Organizer 5.1 which did come with a Palm synchronization ability out of the box. But it only did calendar and not email (though it would helpfully load another email program for me.) Plus Organizer had my absolute favorite calendar view of all time the Linear calendar view which they called “Planner”! Man was it helpful! Alas for people who like good closed source software, Organizer is all but unsupported by IBM who apparently hated the Lotus brand they bought – as well as it’s customers.

I used Lotus Notes years ago as well around the R5 era. I’m sure they’ve made strides since then but the experience left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I can’t drum up the desire to actually try it out again.

I even considered further delay and returning to an active role at developing their Groupware client. At one point I had been asked (offlist) to be the project lead but I didn’t want to invest the time. I guess for now I still don’t.

So looking across the vast wasteland of Personal Information Managers I saw only one who’s ability to actually inter-operate with multiple online calendars (a needed feature for me) was finally beginning to outweigh my desire to stick with open standards.

But what if I could describe the perfect PIM for me from the ground up? What would it look like?
For starters I’d be able to get email,newsgroups,rss and whatever is about to come around the corner in terms of information through the web. I’d be able to keep tasklists/todo’s, gant charts, timelines, journals and calendars. And all of the information would be present and available on multiple platforms when I wanted it.

It MUST synchronize data with my current device (and any future device I may or may not get). This is a show stopper for me.

I must be able to share calendaring data with my wife and kids and church so that they and I can make appointments for each other. This should be easy as in opening a form and typing “Reminder: Theresa, dentist on September 14th 1pm” and the natural language processing would create a reminder entry in my calendar and another entry in her calendar. No questions asked no problems.

I want to be able to see my calender in multiple formats and I want to be able to create new formats without being a programmer.

Well I can’t have all of that just yet but thankfully I’ve finally found the ease of calendaring I’ve always craved. I’ve gotten a Blackberry Curve 8900. I’ve got it set to sync automatically over the air with my Google Calendar. I’ve got shared calendaring set up with my church, my wife and my kids. Anyone with access can see my free/busy time. Any email sent to me can be simply added to my calendar for an appointment. All of my communications, emails, social networks, txt messages, phone calls all come to through my Blackberry. I finally understand why our current President wanted to keep his.

Now that I’ve added a Bible to my Blackberry it has everything I need to help me get it done. Now if only it would pour me a cup of coffee.
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