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It’s All in the Translation
It's All in the Translation
- XTNDConnect PC
- TWW Notes
Handheld devices are, in a perfect world, simplicity itself. Hook yours
up to a synchronizing cord, press a button, and you're done in moments,
with all your information from Outlook updated onto you're the
handheld. But life is not a perfect world. There actually are human
beings who don't use Outlook. (Shocking, I know, but true.)
your Personal Information Manager (PIM) is IBM Lotus Organizer, for
example, one of the better-known third-party PIMs, you're in for
trouble. Out of luck is a better phrase, because it's impossible to
transfer material directly from it (or many other PIMs) to a handheld.
So, what to do?
conduits. These are programs that step between your PIM and handheld.
In essence, they translate the information so that each can read the
other. And then, life as you know can finally go on.
upgrade of XTNDConnect PC comes with several new features largely
focused on making it more user-friendly, along with support additions,
such as for photos (though only for Microsoft Outlook), added device
compatibility and up to 11 languages. For most people, however, it's
the usability issues that will be the centerpiece.
installs very easily, asking several preference questions during set-up
— most notably what device and PIM you want synched. But of course
everything is configurable after installation.
The program is full of settings to
configure, though XTNDConnect PC does its best to make most clear and
easy to use, with an improved "GUI" (that's Graphical User Interface,
the snazzy word for how the screen looks). Without question, some
choices will be confusing, but generally the more bewildering are those
which only power users will want to dive into.
Starting out, you
simply check off which items you want to sync — Contacts, Calendar,
Tasks and Notes. This latter (in the case of Lotus Organizer, which I
used to test here) is a significant improvement in 6.0. This is the
Notepad section of Organizer and wasn't available in an earlier 5.0
version of XTNDConnect PC, the program's biggest downside at that time.
That's no longer the case.
The Options tab includes a one-way sync
(which overwrites the handheld only) or two-way (which transfers
material back-and-forth). The handling of this is an example of one of
the improvements for clarity that exists in the upgrade. Easy choices
are laid out, telling you precisely what actions will be taken.
caveat: you have to individually select your choice for each item (ie,
Contacts, Calendar and so on), rather than a single click that will
cover the full synchronization. On the downside, though very easy, this
requires several extra steps and can get overlooked. On the upside, it
gives users full control over each item, should you happen to want some
synched one-way, and others two-way.
For people who have multiple PIMs,
XTNDConnect PC now allows for creating more than one profile, and will
allow you to pick-and-chose what you wanted synched between them all.
Also, with version 6.0 you can make your handheld your main PIM-data
device, rather than your home desktop or office computer.
determine how you'd like data to be handled — for instance, rather
than synching your entire Calendar or just the current day, you can set
a range and synchronize material that starts two weeks before the
current date through the following 26 weeks. The screen uses clear
descriptions in actual English, not in Computer Geekspeak. You're also
now given the choice of how you'd like deletions handled, which allows
for added protection.
With any translator conduit, you have to
"map" or link up the fields on the handheld device with those of the
PIM software you're syncing from (in this case, as mentioned, Lotus
Organizer). With some conduits, this can be an utterly bewildering
process, since what the conduit calls a field (ie, Business Address)
can be different from how the PIM handles the same thing (for example,
just Address). XTNDConnect does an incredibly smooth job of this,
making the process almost hands-off. Indeed, surprisingly, the links
with Lotus Organizer were perfect, requiring no changes. I added one
field, but that was for a personal preference.
creating new linked fields is generally easy. Editing is be done with
drag-and-dropping, which worked like a breeze. Oddly, though, when I
tried this using the Edit button, it was bewildering. This turned out
to be because the Edit button does a completely different kind of field
editing than drag-and-dropping. Also, although the Create button worked
easily, it wasn't apparent at first that you have to click the "Clear"
button to remove an existing link before then creating a new link.)
When you launch XTNDConnect PC for the
first time, it does a Full Synchronization, though after that it only
syncs material that's been changed, making the process extremely fast.
You can always force a Full Synchronization at any time, though, if you
Since the initial set-up of conduits has the potential of
being confusing, there's a reasonable chance you'll need the Help files
at first to explain a few options. XTNDConnect PC handles Help material
much better than most program. Not only are there normal entries, but a
very user-friendly "chart" in a separate menu bar walks you through
using the software, step-by-step — and from whatever point you step
in. (In other words, it doesn't necessarily start at Step One, but
rather whatever Help item you look up, the "chart" will appear at that
exact place.) This chart also serves as an excellent tutorial, starting
with its "Welcome" screen. Although several explanations weren't as
clear as one would wish — for instance, an illustration didn't match
the description — most were.
I had some odd glitches when I first ran
a synchronization. The program froze up halfway through — although it
appeared to still be running. I waited a long while before the reality
became clear. And that, in turn, froze my handheld. But after manually
shutting things down and trying again, everything ran fine. One other
oddity: in the To Do's data that got transferred to my handheld, there
bizarrely were three ancient items, from years ago. I simply deleted
them, and everything has continued to run perfectly ever since.
was also one other small problem, with an easy workaround, that
concerned synching with AutoSynchronize selected. This turned out to be
a bug in the software, which the company set to resolve in their next
maintenance release. Their tech department handled everything expertly,
and it was good to see the software's Log feature put to good use in
resolving the issue.)
Over all, XTNDConnect is very easy to
set-up and use. And of course once it's configured, you can forget
about it completely, as synching is automatic. It's extremely fast,
handles complicated field mapping easily, and happily now includes the
Notepad field for Lotus Organizer.
There are a few downsides to
the program. Most notably, a handful of items are still unsupported
from Lotus Organizer. Most are minor, though of interest — for
instance, in the Address Book, it doesn't support middle names or
initials, though that might be a result of the handheld hardware
configuration. It also won't support Lotus Organizer's Planner (which
schedules blocks of times) and Anniversary sections. And if you set up
any user-defined fields, XTNDConnect doesn't appear to support all of
them. Nothing hugely significant, but worth noting,
line is that XTNDConnect PC 6.0 is a very good program, solidly
improved from before, and with many excellent attributes. Ease and
simplicity high among them.
Soon to a Search Page Near You. Until now, if you wanted to search in
Google, you had to pick between which topic (or what Google calls,
"Silos") you wanted — for instance, Web, Videos and Pictures searches
had to be done individually. Google has now announced a Universal
Search page, which should be appearing very soon, if it hasn't already.
The initial Universal Search page is scheduled to cover Web, Books,
Local Search, Images, News, and Video, all integrated into search
results. Other content sources will eventually follow.
The Writers Guild of America, East neither implicitly nor explicitly
endorses opinions or attitudes expressed in this article.
Copyright 2007, Robert J. Elisberg. All rights reserved.
has written about computers for such publications as C/NET, PC Games,
CD-ROM Today, Yahoo! Internet Life, E! Online and Hollywood
Screenwriter. He also wrote a regular technology column for WGA.org
Online and the Television Academy Online. A screenwriter, he served for
five years as a member of the WGA, west website editorial board and
Editorial Advisory Committee.