Two group scheduling packages, Campbell Services Inc.'s OnTime Enterprise 4.0 for Windows NT and Microsystems Software Inc.'s CaLANdar 4.0, include revamped interfaces that will help employees make their way through a maze of meetings.
The updated applications, released last month, also make it easy for remote users to check their schedules via the World Wide Web and come with PIM (personal information manager) functions. OnTime makes much more extensive use of the Web than CaLANdar, and CaLANdar includes more PIM functions.
OnTime is a stronger product in general because it supports 32-bit operating systems. CaLANdar remains a 16-bit application, but Microsystems officials said a 32-bit version is in the works.
The two products also are quite different in their method of operation. OnTime runs as a client/server application that uses direct links among servers to synchronize schedules, and the new version for Windows NT runs as a service under NT. CaLANdar, by contrast, is a store-and-forward system that uses E-mail to connect several CaLANdar servers and runs under Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 3.x and DOS.
Unfortunately for those already using earlier NetWare-based versions of OnTime, Campbell deferred updating the NetWare-based system in favor of coming out with this new edition for Windows NT, which uses TCP/IP as the protocol between client and server rather than supporting Novell Inc.'s IPX.
Those using versions of OnTime for NetWare and Banyan Systems Inc.'s VINES will have to wait for an interim release, 4.1, which Campbell expects to ship in the first quarter of next year.
Windows NT users, meanwhile, will want to watch for PC Week Labs' upcoming review of another scheduling product for NT, ON Technology Corp.'s MeetingMaker XP 4.0. The update is slated to be released later this month.
Interfaces are looking up
Both CaLANdar's and OnTime's new interfaces are appealing, with OnTime in particular proving much easier to use in PC Week Labs' tests. Some of OnTime's features, such as in-place editing, also are found in some competing packages, including Microsoft Corp.'s Schedule+ for Windows 95.
OnTime's new interface reduces the amount of navigation needed to set up meetings. When we wanted to schedule a meeting, we could either click on a tool bar icon or start typing directly into the on-screen calendar display.
All the elements we needed were conveniently displayed in a series of tabbed folders. We could quickly select people to invite, search to find out when they were free to attend and display a list of those who had confirmed their attendance or declined to attend.
CaLANdar's interface isn't quite as sophisticated in appearance as OnTime's, but it provides the same functions. Like OnTime, CaLANdar gave us a choice of weekly, monthly and daily views of our calendar. And although CaLANdar doesn't have tabbed folders, it provides a series of icons that let us construct a guest list by choosing the attendees.
Both OnTime 4.0 and CaLANdar gave us the option of selecting a meeting time or letting the scheduling system suggest one by perusing the availability of those we wanted to invite. In both packages, we also could move appointments to a new time and date simply by dragging them from their original location and dropping them on a new date.
Both packages also made it easy to distribute materials before a meeting, including agendas and notes. OnTime went even further, letting us include URL links to Web pages that might be relevant for meeting participants.
OnTime had slightly stronger editing tools. Its in-place editing feature let us modify the details of a meeting without having to open up the entire appointment. With CaLANdar, we had to open an appointment to make any changes to its description.
OnTime also can spread some tasks over several days without associating them with a specific time. This could come in handy when users want their schedule to include a placeholder or reminder of an event, such as a trade show, without making an actual appointment.
CaLANdar's support for this kind of special appointment is far less elegant. The reminder took up a strip of the screen for the entire day rather than occupying one line at the top of the screen, as is the case with OnTime.
Administrators will have both compliments and complaints about the management aspects of OnTime 4.0, whereas probably no one will complain about the dramatic improvements to CaLANdar's administrative utilities.
OnTime's new interface for these utilities made the NT version much easier to administer remotely than the NetWare edition was. But we were unable to import lists of names and addresses from external E-mail and network directories into OnTime 4.0, something that can be done in CaLANdar.
With OnTime, we instead had to enter each user name and password when creating user accounts on the OnTime system. Company officials said the next upgrade will let administrators populate the OnTime user list from external directories.
Microsystems' Windows-based administrator utility eliminates the DOS-based management tools in previous versions of CaLANdar. It also has an unusual interface that resembles a notebook and that let us move quickly between configuring individual user calendars and making systemwide changes.
Both Campbell and Microsystems give users remote access to their schedules from the Web, but Campbell has the edge here: Campbell pioneered this Web access in earlier OnTime releases, in which users could view their schedules via the Web but could not change them. With Version 4.0, companies have the option of buying a Web Edition component (for $1,500 per Web server) that gives users read/write access to their calendars.
In PC Week Labs' tests of the new release, we accessed our OnTime account from a Netscape Communications Corp. Navigator browser and could add calendar entries and tasks as well as check our schedule.
OnTime 4.0 also includes a Web Calendar Publisher (for no extra charge) that let us create a calendar without writing any HTML code and quickly publish it on the Web. We linked this public calendar to a Web page with its own URL and dynamically maintained the calendar data from inside OnTime.
Microsystems, by contrast, is where Campbell was a year ago when it comes to giving users access to their schedules over the Web. CaLANdar's Web View gave us access to our personal schedule but only let us view it; we could not create new appointments or tasks.
CaLANdar has a large selection of group productivity tools and PIM features, including a telephone message-taking system, real-time chat and a group contact management system. It also lets people sign in and out, allowing others to know where they can be reached if they leave the office.
Campbell's OnTime has almost no comparable PIM features, except for a corporate address book.
OnTime Enterprise 4.0 varies in price from $56 per user for 100 users to $40 per user for more than 5,000 users.
CaLANdar systems are sold in 10-, 20- and 50-user packages; prices start at $495 for a 10-user package on a LAN system and $595 for a 10-user package on a mail-enabled WAN system. Those already using CaLANdar can upgrade to Version 4.0 for $4 per user plus $200 per server.
Senior Analyst Matt Kramer can be contacted at email@example.com.
CORPORATE BUYERS' ADVISORY
OnTime Enterprise 4.0 for Windows NT
Campbell Services Inc.
Well-organized user interface; good remote-access capabilities via the Web.
Not available as an upgrade for earlier versions of product, which run on NetWare and VINES; cannot import user names and addresses from network directory.
Microsystems Software Inc.
Strong basic scheduling and personal information management features.
Remains a 16-bit application; time-consuming procedure for modifying appointments; schedules cannot be changed via the Web.
OnTime Enterprise 4.0 for Windows NT from Campbell Services is a good choice for organizations looking to implement NT-based client/server scheduling, especially if two-way Web links with remote users is essential. Although Microsystems' CaLANdar 4.0 delivers less via the Web, its combination of scheduling and more extensive personal information management tools makes it a more comprehensive package.
Scheduling standard remains on to-do list
Vendors of scheduling software are trying once again to settle on common standards that let information be exchanged between competing scheduling packages.
The current standards effort, taking place under the auspices of the Internet Engineering Task Force, calls for the IETF's calendar group to develop MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension) data types for scheduling information.
The IETF group's deliberations are the latest in a series of efforts to achieve interoperability in this area. Other attempts have included the X.400 API Association's Calendaring and Scheduling API, the MHS Alliance Calendaring and Scheduling Interoperability Protocol and the Versit vCalendar format. With so much work already done, the IETF estimates it will complete its work by the middle of next year.
The first thing the IETF group is doing is developing a standard format for calendar events and to-do items, so that appointments and tasks can be exchanged as MIME attachments and received using a World Wide Web browser or an E-mail client. If the recipient has a MIME-compliant scheduling package, the Web browser or E-mail client could be configured to send the appointment to the scheduling application.
The group also is working on a peer-to-peer protocol that would establish real-time gateways between scheduling systems connected via TCP/IP. For example, when a user on one system wanted to make an appointment with someone on another system or see when that person had free time, the two scheduling systems could talk to each other. -- M.K.