VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org
|By Isaac Leung © January 2002|
Relish is the PIM offering from Sundial Systems, a long time OS/2 software house.
I'm going to admit to a bias right off the bat here. Relish comes with all the basics
I'd expect of a good and proper program, and that's rare nowadays. First of all,
there's that thick paper manual. Yeah, that's right. A real, honest-to-goodness
stack of paper. All professionally done up in a nice book. I'll take a paper book
any day! Next, in the manner of all good software (OS/2 or not), I paid more for
less, in a manner of speaking. The entire program came on 2 floppies. That's no
misprint, you can count 'em on your thumbs. It wouldn't be so amazing, except that
Relish isn't exactly a lightweight when it comes to features. (And if you think
that's a good trick, you ought to try their Mesa spreadsheet...)
So, with all that on first impressions, how's Relish stack up as a PIM? Well,
it's a great time organizer. Yes, that's right, I said time organizer,
because that is its real strength and focus. As a PIM (Personal Information
Manager), it falls short in a few places.
Relish comes with its own installation routine. Simple, nice looking, easy to understand. It requires 2.5MB of disk space and you can install it just about anywhere you wish. Once complete, it creates a folder with Relish itself, and a sub-folder full of Buns (more on that later)!
That's it. That's the main screen, though not quite by default. (I've already modified it so as not to affront your senses). The first thing that struck me was "Gosh, somebody hit Relish with an ugly virus!". Yeah, colours are personal, but I think everyone is in agreement that the default colours that come with Relish rank somewhat less than pretty. Maybe that's all part of Sundial's plot, make it so horrid looking that it forces you to start customizing.
Then, the next thing you realize is that it's a properly done up OS/2 program
with regards to customization. You can drag 'n drop colours and fonts till the cows
come home, in whatever garish scheme you desire. Virtually every different patch
of colour you see in the screenshot can be customized. That includes the background
colour for each individual button. The buttons on the button bar are also
completely customizable, you can add or remove as you wish, or even create custom
actions. Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time playing around with this!
Which was, of course, before I realized that in a particularly interesting design,
one doesn't usually spend much time in the main screen. The meat of the program
is in the Buns. ;-) (These of course, you can also completely customize, each with
its own unique fonts and colours as well). Relish comes with a bunch of standard
Buns, but it also has a template for you to create your own Buns.
There's a floating calendar and "Note palette", which is available
in the main screen as well as whenever you open up a Bun. At the bottom of the main
screen is a status line. Clicking on a button or Note palette item will show a brief
Scheduling something can be accomplished several ways. You can use the top menu
bar, right click on an item, or simply drag 'n drop an item from the Note Palette
on to the Calendar, the time line or the main screen.
You can, of course, perform this with the main screen. But you can also present the information in a "Monthly Bun", "Weekly Bun" or "Daily Bun", which I've shown below. It's the same information, but in a different more compact format.
Scheduling items is really easy, as mentioned above, there are multiple ways to do this, but I like to drag 'n drop an item onto a time. Any way you choose, this brings up a dialog window for you enter the details of an appointment.
You can use your mouse to drag and select the start/end time of the meeting. Or optionally, you can enter the time in the fields. I have to admit, I found this a bit odd and a bit of a hassle...that is, until I realized how powerful it is! In the screenshot above, note the detailed start time (because that's where I drag 'n dropped it). I thought (wrongly) "What?? I have to type in all that? What a bother!", but the best part is that you don't, because Relish is relatively clever. Notice for the end time, I've just entered the number "4". As soon as I leave that field, Relish can figure out "Aha! He must really mean 4pm the same day." And it automatically fills in the details. Type in "Fri" and it will figure out that it means Friday the next day, and therefore it must be an all day event, and it will simply list the start and days, not the hour. It's just as clever when it comes to the alarm time. It will figure out that the alarm time should occur before the start time and adjust accordingly. (In fact, it won't allow you to finish the dialog if your information doesn't make sense...like having your alarm after the event).
The "Lookup" button brings up your phone book. Simply click on a contact,
and it will automatically fill in the fields with the person's name and location.
"Features" button allows you to further customize the item your are scheduling.
There is a wealth of options, including the ability to alter the type of alarm (detailed,
summary, sound only, etc) or the repetition (if any), which is quite flexible. You
can schedule a repeated event forever, until a certain date, weekly, monthly, etc.
or some custom, odd repetition scheme. Likely enough to satisfy almost any situation.
Other options include the ability to assign a category (or "group") to
the item, add a note (or "memo") to the item or even change the type of
the item (e.g. from a meeting to a to-do item).
In what seems like a common feature to all these OS/2 PIM's, there is also a
schedulable item to run a program at a certain time. So yup, I guess you could schedule
nightly backups of your data if you wish with Relish. Another item which you can
schedule is a "Task" or to-do item. It differs slightly from the other
items in that you can assign a priority to tasks. (And you can assign any priority
Relish has the capability to look for free time. You can specify how large a
free time block you need. However, it seems a bit less useful than it otherwise
might be because it only looks for free time during one day. It seems a bit redundant,
because that information is usually readily viewable in at least the Daily view.
I mean, what if I need to look for a free 3 weeks to schedule my holiday? Of course,
you can always just schedule for whatever time you want. Relish will indicate which
tasks, if any, are in conflict, but it will let you overbook if you wish!
The Phone Book meets the most basic functions, and that's about it. In fact, of all the PIM's in this review, surprisingly, Relish probably has the weakest Phone/Address of them all.
That's it. That's all you get. The Phone Book Bun presents the information in a different view, but it's otherwise the same information. Just name, phone number and maybe a bit of miscellaneous information. While it might be enough for home users, it's seriously lacking for business use, as there are often a lot more pieces of information one needs to keep about a client. All this information can be put into the "memo" of each entry, but that's a lot clumsier than what the other PIM's offer. I mean, it doesn't even have a dedicated entry for e-mail! (The rumour mill has it that it might be up for a good update in the next version of Relish. Or maybe not. We'll see...)
Relish Web and Relish Net
I didn't get Relish Web or Relish Net, but it's an add-on to Relish that allows you to publish your schedule automatically to a web page or do group scheduling. It also has the ability to reserve resources when you schedule an item. "Resources" would be items such as meeting rooms, slide projectors, etc. This is a very useful feature which I wish our corporate PIM (start with an "O") had, but doesn't. I've also heard rumours that all these features will be rolled up into the next version of Relish. That is, of course, just hearsay...
Nobody gets away clean, not even Relish, for I am a very picky man indeed! I've already ranted about the Phone book, so on to other things. One very odd thing I noticed. The reminders seem to be snoozed as a group and not individually. You can see this in the "Status" line of the Daily Bun screenshot above. I might want to delay a task, but I would still want to be reminded of a meeting following that! Changing the snooze option of one appears to change it for all items. Very annoying, and very limiting! That is...until I realized I was pressing the wrong button! What was first a gripe, is in fact a very handy feature. For example, I might be in the middle of a presentation on my laptop with my clients, I certainly would not want a pop up reminding me to pick up lingerie for the mistress! (Not that I have one)! No, the proper button to press is "Defer", which will just snooze one reminder. This global snooze, once I realized it, is in fact quite useful and is something pretty unique to Relish.
Now a real complaint, I've said this about Organizer and I'll say it about Relish!
Something that should be pushed should look like a button, because that's
what users expect! First, there's the timeline which you can drag and stretch. Well,
it ought to look like it's stretchable and movable (like a scroll bar, for example)!
Now go back and look at the screenshots again. Look in the bottom right corner.
See the 3 symbols? Those are actually clickable, to move back/forward or the middle
item is to "default". It either brings you back to today, or if you're
setting an alarm, it auto-sets a suitable alarm time or whatever default is appropriate
in the circumstance. Geeze, make it look like buttons! How do I know they're not
status indicators, or just decoration? It doesn't cost anything to make it look
click-able, does it?
A small bug I encountered with my system, which is a clean Convenience Pack installation
of the Warp client, is that the Bun template never got created. What I did find
out in the process was just how quick and responsive Sundial's tech support is!
A first response within a few hours of some things to check and try and by the next
day, they had at least verified the bug and began delving into it. That kind of
support not something any of the other PIM's (including Outlook) can claim,
and in my mind, it's worth more than a few dollars. (I had the same experience with
Sundial's Mesa. Within a few days, not only was the bug identified, I got a new,
'personal' rebuild of Mesa which fixed the bug).
Last is a minor gripe, that is the lack of a good "notepad" feature.
This one is a bit debatable, as one should probably keep your notes in a document
(text file, Word Pro or IBM Works or whatever), but given that IBM Works, Organizer
and arguably StarSchedule have this feature and it's supposed to be a personal information
manager, it's a bit of an oversight. Plus, I really like the feature, now that I've
been exposed to it! Suppose I'm in a meeting that I've scheduled with Relish, maybe
I want to take a note about that meeting. "Had a chat with Mr. Bush today.
He agreed to our deal...", I think the PIM would be a logical place to put
Also missing is even just rudimentary password protection, which is present in
both IBMWorks and Organizer. (To be fair, Relish isn't the only one without this).
Suppose my computer is stolen? Those bastards should at least have to work to get
at my data!
Relish is an excellent time management application and it has a lot of useful features. Light on your computer resources, it's stable, fast and pure OS/2 right down to the way it works. For the price, it has some weak points even when stacked up against IBM Works as an information manager. However, it is backed up by a solid, responsive company and the rest of its strong time management features, top-notch documentation and customizability and quality of the code are enough to make it worth your consideration. You can count on Sundial to do their best to fix bugs and issue new versions when they're ready. As with all the other PIM's, except Organizer, there's a free, fully functioning (but time limited) version, so why not give it a spin?