Wednesday, March 15, 2006

iSync, iCal and Address Book are still awful

I usually have more than 100 To Do items, and I have 750 contacts, so it was probably a mistake to use toy demo software like the free software Apple provides with OS X.

When I got my iBook this summer, I liked the printouts you could make with iCal. It was buggy, though, especially the To Do items, which are apparently an afterthought. If you use the keyboard shortcut to start the To Do item, you have to press Enter at the end of the text. Otherwise, when you click on the panel where you enter the date, the text disappears. I know this, but still maanged to do it accidentally. This was frustrating a few times--I type in To Do items so the computer can remember them for me. I have finished a list only to find a few items that reverted to "New To Do" instead of what I typed. I completely forgot what it was I was trying to remember.

That was bad enough, but I plodded on, hoping with each new tweak to OS X, Apple might improve the UI for To Dos. I even bought an iPod, which would be my new PDA, containing my calendar, my To Dos, and my contacts. When I discovered that the iPod calendar was useless because the only order you can have it sort on is alphabetical. Can you think of a more useless sort order than alphabetical? Any other possible sort would be an improvement: order I entered it, date due, priority, calendar it's associated with.

I tried writing an AppleScript script to sort the To Dos in an iPod note, but AppleScript doesn't really have date parsing and string handling. I could have used Perl, but I wanted a one-button approach to get my To Dos synchronized.

So I went to paper, printing out my To Do list on a legal size printout every few days. It was a pain to do the data entry on the iBook to keep everything current.

So I am back to a Palm, a Palm TX. It is a great little device. It has WiFi, which I first thought was superfluous, but it lets me check the weather forecast before I'm out of bed, so I like it.

The Palm has exposed even more flaws with iCal and Address Book.

First, iCal. The first time after I synced it with the Palm, iCal crashed when I tried to print, never to recover. So I decided to use Palm Desktop for my Calendar and To Dos, and removed iSync from that loop. iSync doesn't really make it easy to figure out how to do this, but at least I have a degree in Computer Science. I still find it hard to believe that people without CS degrees get more benefit from computers than the time they waste.

I kept iSync in the loop for my contacts, since I liked having the addresses available in mail, and thought it would be useful to use my iPod to look people up in a pinch.

Yesterday, Address Book decided to crash. Upon recovery, I had no contacts. So syncing with the Palm erased all my contacts.

Fortunately, I had a backup, so I've only lost two weeks of phone number updates and about a dozen people from work who I hadn't added yet.

I tried all kinds of methods of tracking my contacts, calendar, and to do, but I am back to the Palm, which is the only thing that I have managed to stick with for more than a month, and I guess I am up to about seven years now with it. It should be fine as soon as I take all the buggy toy demo beta Apple crud out of the loop. It's nice to have my brain back.

Note: All my Apple software is up-to-the-minute: OS X Tiger, my iPod nano update, iSync, everything.