Capturing the imagination..

I have mentioned the need for a killer application which will revitalize Windows. Well, back in 1992, there was just such an animal, and it was one of the first Windows programs which captured the imagination of home computer users. I am talking about a personal information manager made by a small British software company called Threadz. It was given the look of a File-o-fax, you may know it better as Lotus Organizer, and it still holds the title of being the best selling PC program ever, I think.

Essentially, it was a database in a very neat, easy to use package. It is certainly the best looking PIM ever, and was easy to customize. It came to me as part of the Lotus Smartsuite office suite, but was also available as a standalone program too. Apart from looks and customization, it had one handy feature. There were two icons on the taskbar, one a chain link and the other a broken link.Lotus_Organizer_5_0

The chain link enabled the user to link information from one page to information on any other page. In this way, one could link an address in the address book section to information held on another page in the form of a note, and also to a calendar event, maybe a birthday or anniversary perhaps.

Anything which had been linked to a page being viewed appeared as a small tab. This made the address section really useful in that you could link names of business’ or family and easily switch from one section to another or even within a section. This function has never been bettered in anything which followed it.

If it was that good, why are we not all using it? In the words of Steve Ballmer, “Developers, developers, developers”, or should I say ‘lack of developers’. It was a great standalone program, as were all of the constituent parts of Smartsuite. Unfortunately, integration between the applications was not a strong suit. Apart from Lotus 123, all of the Smartsuite applications were bought in, and Lotus made little effort to do anything but leave them much as they were at the time of purchase. In fact, the only part which did get a work over was AmiPro, a frame based word processor which was dropped in favour of WordPro.

Just for the record, WordPerfect Suite suffered the same fate. While Microsoft were busy buying bits and creating their own stuff for use as a properly integrated office production suite, its competition were sitting on the individual success of one or two elements.

I still have the installation media for Lotus Organizer and I would use it if it were not for the application which killed off all other PIMs. MS Outlook has never looked as cute, it lacks some of the features which made Organizer such a pleasure to use, and it is not quite as easy to use either. What Outlook does have is integration, not only with its other Office elements, but also with the web. For instance, names and addresses shown in White and Yellow Pages can be instantly entered into Outlook with just one click.

Personally, I think that we may never see a killer application like Lotus Organizer again, in which case Lotus Organizer will always be ‘numerous uno’. Maybe that is how it should always be. It captured the imagination of many, and was no doubt responsible for showcasing what a computer could do well way back in 1992. Long live Lotus Organizer, the worlds most favorite application of all time.

And now for the small print..

Though the image of Lotus Organizer as used in this blog entry is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws because:

  1. The image is used as the primary means of visual identification of the article topic.
  2. The use of the cover will not affect the value of the software. A screenshot cannot be used to pirate the software.
  3. The image shows only the default (blank document) interface of the software, and only the Home screen
  4. It is not replaceable with an uncopyrighted or freely copyrighted image of comparable educational value.

One thought on “Capturing the imagination..

  1. I tried to use Lotus products… I really tried. I am so not a fan of MS stuff. Having said that, Lotus products whether made in-house or purchased all have a cheap plasticy look about them. And anyone that has used AmiPro or Notes will know that difficult-to-use is a synonym for Lotus Corp. I wish there was real competition out there for MS… unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to come from IBM/Lotus

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