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Using Ecco in Conjunction with the HP 95LX

Using ECCO in Conjunction with the HP 95LX

By Steve Eckman

[About the Author: Steve works in Project Management at Wyeth-Ayerst, a major pharmaceutical company, specializing in Women's Health Care projects. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son (and HP 95- LX). His CompuServe address is [75100,122].]

ECCO is NetManage's (formerly Arabesque Software) highly regarded Personal Information Manager (PIM) designed to run in a PC-environment under Windows. An extremely powerful program, ECCO gives you great flexibility over how you can organize and present your information. ECCO is offered in two forms: ECCO Pro (the package I use), and ECCO Simplicity (a simpler to use product with fewer features and with less ability to customize).

But, you might say, a traditional PIM calendar and phonebook application come built-in on the HP 95LX and 100/200LX. So why use ECCO? Here is an HP 95LX user's attempt to answer that question.

What's So Great About ECCO?

  1. 1. More powerful scheduling features -- I never believed in electronic calendars until I bought the HP 95LX. With it's portability and built-in PIM software, it finally made sense to start entering my appointments and To-Do's electronically, rather than by pencil.

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Unfortunately, the 95LX has only a limited ability to handle some types of recurring events. For example, if you have a staff meeting every other week, you have to enter each appointment manually on the 95LX. ECCO lets you enter the meeting once and move or delete any exceptions later. Likewise, you have to enter recurring To-Do's manually on the 95LX, or enter it as a recurring appointment. ECCO lets you enter the To-Do once and have it recur as often as you like.
  1. 2. More powerful reporting capabilities -- My boss wanted a nice-looking print-out of my appointments for the current month -- something my HP 95LX alone couldn't handle. I even researched several report-writer options available on the CompuServe HPHAND forum. ECCO beats them all, providing attractive monthly, weekly, and daily calendar printouts as well as handsome phone books.
  2. 3. Outlining feature -- ECCO also provides a powerful outlining feature that lets you do more than just plan and organize your To-Do's and appointments. The outlining feature helps you keep all the information about a topic in one place. The handy "Shooter" feature lets you cut and paste information from any Windows application to ECCO, or from one Windows application to another.
  3. 4. A more powerful phone book -- I'm lucky that my needs for an electronic phone book are modest. As a project manager, I deal mainly with 200 or so people, mostly inside my company. But sales people and others with large contact lists must face the limitations of the 95LX by either splitting up the phone book into smaller ones (maybe linked through 95Buddy), moving into another package, such as Act!, or upgrading to the 100/200LX.

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ECCO can help deal with extensive phonebook needs. It provides you with data translation and interchange through IntelliLink (IL) software. Arabesque provides IntelliLink free to registered users who return the postcard packaged with ECCO. (This free software provides translation for 95LX PIMs. The version for the HP 100/200LX must be ordered from IntelliLink for $69.95). IntelliLink allows you to move Phone Book information easily from the HP Palmtop to ECCO. (See next article for more information on using IntelliLink.)

ECCO has many more data fields in its phone book than in the 95LX's. Because of this you need to enter your information consistently in the 95LX so that when IntelliLink translates it, it can place it properly into ECCO's phone book. For example, the 95LX PHONE application has one Address field with eight lines where users place street address, city, state, zip, and other information like contact date, products or information requested, follow up needed, etc. You can have IntelliLink map each of the Address field's eight lines, or specific portions of a specific line, to a separate ECCO field. But you have to enter the information in PHONE consistently (e.g. Address field line 1 always gets the street address, the first 10 characters in line two always get the city name, line 4 is always reserved for a fax number, etc.). Otherwise, important information can get mapped to the wrong field when IntelliLink translates the file to ECCO format, requiring further work to clean up the ECCO phone book after file translation and transfer.

This approach forces you to be more consistent in the way you enter phone book information. However, the extra discipline pays off in the ability to transfer data smoothly between the Palmtop and ECCO. In addition, an orderly phone book makes it easier to find vital information.

Using ECCO with my HP 95LX

I keep my calendar in ECCO on my laptop because of ECCO's powerful scheduling and reporting features and because I spend the majority of my time at my desk. I avoid entering appointments into my Palmtop, using it instead as a portable calendar viewer. I use the ABKTool to enhance my 95LX Phone Book display. One of the most useful features of ABKTool is the "Only" key, allowing me to view only those appointments and To-Do's for a particular category, for example a specific Project Team.

ABKTool Augments Appointment Book: Graphic

 I also like the ABKTool-added ability to view all the appointments and To-Do's for a day on the same page.

View Whole Day's ToDo's with ABKTool: Graphic

 Once a week, I transfer my calendar from ECCO to the HP 95LX using IntelliLink. The transfer takes about two minutes. My calendar doesn't change radically during the week, so this frequency works for me. Obviously, your needs may dictate that you transfer data more frequently. When I am away from my desk, I enter new appointment information in Notepad on the 95LX, and transfer it manually to ECCO when I get back to the office.

Why not enter new appointments and changes on the 95LX? I'm too cautious! I use ECCO for more than just appointments and To- Do's. I might have some random notes about a particular meeting or appointment as well as follow-up items associated with it in ECCO. I am concerned that if I modify appointments or To-Do's on the Palmtop, the changes might not find their way back into the proper location in ECCO and the entire data structure might get fouled up.

I haven't had the time to thoroughly test IntelliLink's ability to properly reconcile new or changed appointments. I would like to try, but since the current system meets my needs, I haven't gotten around to it.

ECCO and IntelliLink a good combination

ECCO works well for me and the addition of IntelliLink lets me translate and transfer my ECCO calendar and phone book to my HP Palmtop. However, even though IntelliLink goes a long way towards bridging the gap between the two, I recognize that there will always be limitations working with different PIMs on multiple platforms. Still, for those whose base of operations is a desktop or notebook PC, ECCO offers a powerful alternative to the Palmtop PIMs and IntelliLink gives you a way to integrate the use of ECCO and the HP Palmtop.

iPhone Life magazine


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