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> Review :: PhatNotes Professional, Rating 4.5 out of 5
Slacker
post Apr 21 2006, 03:11 PM
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PhatNotes Professional Edition
By PhatWare Corporation
MGN Rating -

Rating Legend

1 star: Find something else; save your money
2 star: Below average; not recommended
3 star: Average; performs as advertised but not inspiring
4 star: Good; worth the money
5 star: Great; best of its kind on the market

Review by Slacker
Review Date / April 14th, 2006

Note: Screen captures are created with Pocket Controller-Professional by Soti, Inc.

Before I start this review I must confess: I am not an electronic note taker. I am forbidden from bringing my T-Mobile MDA into my workplace so I do not rely on it daily to keep me out of trouble. I do, however, use the crap out of Post-It notes. Without those little stickies I would get fired in a week! The problem with Post-Its is that they get lost, put up somewhere, stuck to the wrong memo, or just plain thrown away before the information they contain is no longer needed. You can't back them up, sync them with your desktop or anything else to provide you some continuity plan. So on one hand they are the greatest things since sliced bread, and on the other they are a disaster just waiting for a chance to make a public appearance. What is a geek to do?

PhatNotes is an electronic notes management system for Windows Mobile (and yes, even Palm) devices. Here is what PhatWare has to say about PhatNotes Professional:

QUOTE
PhatNotes Professional Edition is an award-winning notes organizer for Microsoft Windows-powered Pocket PCs, Desktop PCs and Palm OS powered mobile devices. PhatNotes allows users to create notes and organize them by type, subject, creation and modification date. PhatNotes provides powerful text search, document security, and email capabilities. Interface to the Contacts Database enables quick access to email addresses and contact information.

The new release of PhatNotes Professional Edition offers many new features including rich text editing and formatting, file attachments, hyperlinks between notes, multiple notes database support with tree-like views, hierarchical notes organizer, integration with PhatPad, customizable views, user reminders, a spell checker, HTML export capability with support for customized templates, and more.

PhatNotes Professional Edition allows synchronization of notes located in multiple database, links between notes, file attachments and hierarchy of databases between Windows Powered mobile devices and desktop PCs. PhatNotes Professional Edition also supports Palm OS powered mobile devices. More screen shots.

In order to ensure full compatibility with the newest Windows Powered Pocket PC devices, PhatNotes has been tested and certified with the Designed for Microsoft Windows Mobile logo.

Compare PhatNotes Professional with other editions of PhatNotes.

Benefits and Features
  • Organize your notes - by clicking on the column header buttons you can sort notes by creation date, modification date, subject and type.
  • Compatibility - export and import notes as text files or transfer data to and from other applications using copy and paste.
  • Efficiency - small size of the program and compressed database leaves plenty of storage space.
  • Privacy - protect notes from unauthorized access with a password.
  • Simple User Interface - intuitive user interface allows you to start using PhatNotes right away.
  • Email capability - send email messages directly from the Note Editor by clicking on the Send Mail button.
  • Customizable Views - provides a wide range of modifiable look and feel settings.
  • Advanced Filters and Text Search - allows a user to search one or more notes databases for a specific text or a regular expression, and filter by text, creation, modification, authoring dates, color, and priority.
  • ActiveSync support allows synchronization of multiple notes databases with the desktop PC.
  • Microsoft Outlook Support import or export Microsoft Outlook notes and email messages.
  • Hierarchical Notes Organizer - allows a user to group notes by creation or modification dates, type, color, and priority.
  • Hyperlinks between Notes - allows a user to create links and cross references notes.
  • File Attachments - up to 32 files can be linked to a note.
  • Database Tree View - optional database view provides easy access to multiple notes databases.
  • Spell Checker - now includes full version of PhatSpell Spell Checker with the English dictionary (dictionaries for other supported languages can be downloaded from PhatWare web site free of charge).
  • Today screen add-on - provides an easy access to PhatNotes application recently modified notes directly from the Pocket PC today screen.
  • Authoring date - a new editable date field.
  • Customizable Toolbars - choose from the selection of over 30 buttons.
  • Text Formatting - text formatting is now supported on Pocket PCs.
  • Pocket PC 2003SE Compatible - supports full-VGA/screen rotation features.
  • Windows Mobile 5.0 Compatible - supports Pocket PC 2005 devices screenshots
  • PhatPad support - PhatNotes provides direct access to PhatPad, which allows a user to attach handwritten notes in just two taps.
  • Palm OS support - allows to synchronize multiple notes database with Palm OS powered mobile devices.
* PhatNotes Professional Edition synchronizes with PhatNotes desktop module and does not synchronize directly with Microsoft Outlook. Use PhatNotes Standard Edition to synchronize notes directly with Microsoft Outlook.


That is a pretty long list of features. But how do they work and what do they mean? Lets take a look!

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First lets talk about how PhatNotes works. The professional version which this review is of features both a desktop and Pocket PC component, and the two synchronize their information. PhatNotes stores notes in databases. You can have as many databases as you want, but only one is required. Each database can hold as many notes as you want, but only databases that actually have notes in them will be synchronized with the Pocket PC. Synchronization happens using an additional module in ActiveSync for PhatNotes. And like the other ActiveSync components you can select how PhatNotes should sync and handle descrepencies.

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One note about the synchronization is that you can not make database changes while connected to the Pocket PC device. So if you want to add/rename/delete a database PhatNotes will ask you if you want to exit ActiveSync. The correct answer is yes. Once you finish PhatNotes will restart ActiveSync again.

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MGN readers familiar with my reviews know that I typically show all capabilities of an application. With Phat Notes that simply is not possible. The users manual for PhatNotes is currently 147 pages and can be found here. If you want that much detail R.T.F.M. (read the fun manual). laugh.gif What I am going to do is touch on some of the more outstanding capabilities of the application and the basic functions of both the Pocket PC and desktop components.

The Pocket PC application is pretty simple to use (as is the desktop). You initially see all notes in the current database. You can add/empty/rename/delete databases from here and lots of other functions in addition to reading/modifying/deleting/adding new notes. Below are screens of the main menu functions as well as the initial notes listing.

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As you can see, this is not a simple notes application, and we haven't even looked at a note yet! Lets open the note and see what we see. Pretty simple note right? Lets turn on the format bar:

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Now you have some formatting options like BOLD and ITALICS, justification options for left, center and right, date/time stamps and one cool feature, adding sound clips like voice memos!

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You can attach pretty much anything to a note including images, other documents, etc. Again, this is not just a note taking application but more of a complete pocket document management system.

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Of course you have some of the standard options for sending notes around by email, iR, etc, importing and exporting, changing the look of how the notes listing is ordered or filtered and other cosmetic options. Notes can have reminders, can be associated with a contacts, tasks or appointments from your Pocket Outlook contacts list, task list or calendar. PhatNotes simply ties into every part of the Pocket PC experience.

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That is an over simplified, very quick look at what is really a powerhouse Pocket PC application. Seriously, if you are in need of a notes application read the manual. Do not rely on this review to show you every capability of PhatNotes. I would be here for weeks trying to complete the review because there is just so much capability in this application.

But wait! There's More! There is also a desktop piece of this puzzle, which offers All of the same features as the Pocket PC portion plus a few more. More formatting options, email options, and of course the availability of a full-sized keyboard and mouse. It also supports cool features like drag and drop and cut and paste for note creation and attachments. So you don't even have to use PhatNotes to create new Phat Notes. And every note is synchronized between the desktop and Pocket PC over ActiveSync so whether you are in the office or on the go you will always have your notes system with you.

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Again, this is a very superficial look at a powerhouse application. If you haven't heard me yet hear me now: if you are at all interested in this application do yourself a favor and read the manual. This review is not a comprehensive look at every capability.

When I started this review I emphasized how I don't use electronic notes because of work restrictions on electronic gadgets. And if you notice the the screenshots do not offer a long list of notes. As I used this application I found myself forgetting about the review and working on my own document management, resulting in a database of notes I did not really want to advertise. I started out not really interested in using this product beyond the review but ended up with a large database of documents that I now take with me everywhere, and it has already saved me a lot of time and effort in dealing with clients because I have my documents with me everywhere I go. The more I use the application the more I realize how lost I have been without a system like this and I wonder how I ever kept my clients when every time they asked me for something I had to tell them I would email or fax it to them later. But no more! How impressed do you think they are when I whip out my MDA and email them the scanned PDF of the ratified contract right then? Talk about enabling my business.

I really did not run into any problems using PhatNotes except for one: learning curve. The manual is 147 pages long. That is a LOT of instruction for a lot of capability. I still have not tried out every feature of PhatNotes and it may be some time before I become a PhatNotes Sensei. But I am a 100% PhatNotes believer and plan on keeping PhatNotes in my toolbox for a long time to come.

One feature I wish PhatNotes supported was using hand writing on notes for things like highlighting or circling important information, drawing diagrams and pictures, etc. If PhatNotes had this feature it would be absolutely perfect. According to the manual this feature is supported if you purchase PhatPad. Unfortunately the two applications together are close to $100. I asked the PhatWare representative about the possibility of including the digital ink piece in PhatNotes and got this response:

QUOTE
Regarding the PhatPad/PhatNotes integration: PhatNotes has existed since 1997, while PhatPad was first released in 2003. Originally PhatPad was just a test application for PhatWare Ink control, but it quickly it became very popular application and we received several requests from PhatPad PhatNotes users to integrate both applications. Since the applications were originally developed by different teams, they were not designed to integrate with each other. In the current version we implemented the only possible integration of the 2 separate applications. We are, however, considering adding inking support for PhatNotes 5, while PhatPad will still exist as a separate application.


Ok, are you interested now? Check out the free trial and see if you are not as impressed. It won't cost you anything but time, and if you are like me it will be time well spent. Or just save yourself the trouble and go ahead and buy your copy now!


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Jim Cleek (Slacker)
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The Undude
post Apr 23 2006, 09:33 PM
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Cool review. Slacker, what do you think are the most important things for a person to look for in a product like this?


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