Shareware PIM Versatile but Difficult

SAN FRANCISCO (03/08/2000) - German software company MdeSoft has added password protection and other features to the latest version of its personal information manager, but unfortunately the product isn't any easier to use.

MDE InfoHandler 6.0 is a PIM in the truest sense of the term: You can use it to handle addresses, appointments, CD collections, or even random bits of trivia.

But it's effective only if you're willing to thoroughly learn it--not an easy process. You can download a free, fully functional trial version that will work for 60 days. Registration costs $47.

InfoHandler data files, called InfoBases, are like very powerful stacks of index cards (called InfoRecords), which you can write on and arrange in whatever order you wish. You can store an InfoRecord in multiple categories, group categories together, and add links to other files or Web pages, and build mini-applications around them.

In addition to allowing you to password-protect your InfoBases, Version 6.0 has added multiuser capabilities: You can select which users have access to what parts of a file. The upgrade also has improved the AutoCategorize feature, which assigns InfoRecords to categories based on content searches, making it work with linked external files. And after InfoHandler has helped you organize your life, a new "InfoBase Manager" helps you organize InfoHandler.

MdeSoft claims that the PIM is good for anyone from "scientists, journalists, students, and authors who must handle voluminous material resulting from investigations and research" to "hobbyists wanting to administer collections of whatever." But that's only true if your hobby is tackling difficult information systems.

You don't just install InfoHandler and get up and running. This program has a very long learning curve. There's a static, text-only tutorial to help you get going, but it doesn't get you very far, and it involves wading through sentences like: "As their names are intended to suggest the InfoCategoryLists are used for assigning Categories to the 'active Info' while the InfobaseCategoryLists are used for selecting Categories to act as a filter for the displayed InfoRecords at the InfoList top right."

Even the sample files pose more problems than they answer. InfoHandler comes with an ambitious CD collection database, with lists of genres, composers, performers, and so on. But don't plan on seeing a list of Mozart recordings unless you've got some time to figure out how.