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What Can PIM Software do for You?
If you've been working on a way to increase your productivity; keep better track of contacts, appointments, and tasks; and generally improve the way you get work done, you might want to look into obtaining PIM software. If you're unsure as to what PIM software is, PIM stands for "personal information manager." This means that when you use such software, you are managing all of your personal information in one place.
Now, PIM software is only as good as the information you put into it, so if you are going to invest your resources into using it (in this case, the PIM software is free), make sure that you use it to its fullest extent. Enter your contacts' information into the software, and be sure to ensure that the information you have for each contact is correct and current. Be sure that every appointment is scheduled in your software. Make sure you track your tasks. Getting into the habit of writing things down will help you in the long run to be much more productive and efficient.
This list of the 10 best free PIM software packages not only describes each PIM software and what it does, but it also will let you know whether it's the best PIM software for you.
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1. Google Calendar and Contacts
If you already use GMail, why not take advantage of Google's built-in PIM? Google Calendar and Google Contacts allow you to extract key information directly from your email and your web experience. You can color-code calendar entries, add contacts to appointments and auto-send notifications of meetings, and track your tasks.
Set events as public or private, invite contacts to meetings, find available times, and manage calendars for not only yourself but also clients, family members, and projects. Gmail stores your contact addresses and you can enter additional information. Plugins for Google's PIM functions such as Remember the Milk improve the functionality of the system.
Pros: You can access your PIM information anywhere at any time; add-ins help customize Google's apps to your needs.
Cons: Google Calendar and contacts do not offer more advanced functions for sorting tasks and contacts should you want them.
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2. Thunderbird and Add-Ons
Thunderbird, by the same people who brought you Mozilla Firefox, is a great free resource for managing your email, RSS feeds, contacts, calendar, and tasks - if you are willing to also download the Thunderbird add ins such as Lightning. The program is similar to Microsoft Outlook in that it allows you to do many of the things Outlook allows you to do. If you are used to, and enjoy this format for a PIM, then Thunderbird can provide for your needs. Thunderbird's capabilities are more advanced than those of Google Calendar's, but still not quite so advanced as Microsoft Outlook's capabilities.
Pros: Easy to use, comparable to MS Outlook, customizable.
Cons: In order to get full PIM capabilities, you'll need to download add-ins.
Screenshot courtesy of Pranav Thadeshwar
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Kurlo is software that allows multiple users to track PIM information on a single device. Additionally, you can install the program onto a Flash drive. This is a great option for individuals with multiple computers (i.e. a desktop and a laptop) so that your PIM information will always be with you.
The program also allows you to create address labels from your address lists, keep personal and organization contacts separate, and customize events. You can even use Kurlo on your MP3 player, making it a very convenient tool for staying organized.
Pros: Kurlo's portability is an outstanding feature that makes it a great option for individuals who want to be able to use their PIM anywhere.
Cons: I had a difficult time installing Kurlo onto both of my computers. I'm not sure if this was due to a compatibility issue between my software and the program or a bug in the current version of the program.
Screenshot courtesy of Kurlo.com
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4. Open Contacts
Open Contacts is a program that allows you to be the master of your contacts list. Not only can you create an unlimited number of data entries tracking contacts using Open Contacts, but you can also create relationships between contracts, categorize contacts, search your contacts, and link up with Skype.
Additionally, you can import and export your contacts to and from MS Outlook, Thunderbird, Eudora, your smartphone or PDA or more. This program can also support multiple users. This program is portable, and it allows for users to take their information wherever they need to.
Pros: Open Contacts is outstanding in both its portability and its search-ability functions.Detailed personal contact fields mean that you will always know how to get hold of anyone in your directory
Cons: Open Contacts is basically an address book. If you need more functionality, you will want a more robust program. Open Contacts needs to be run with a calendar and email client software in order to be truly useful as a PIM.
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Spicebird is an open source option making the best free PIM software list. This program looks a lot like Thunderbird, but unlike Thunderbird, in order to get a fully-functioning PIM software program, all you need to do is download Spicebird. The creators of Spicebird do a really nice job of providing user support when it's needed, but most of the time, the program is easy to use, especially if you are already familiar with programs like Thunderbird and MS Outlook.
Pros: Spicebird offers a familiar interface for those who like software with a user interface similar to Outlook or Thunderbird; the program is a fully functioning open source option.
Cons: Spicebird had no cons that I found while using it. It comes down to personal preference as to whether you would like to use this program or not.
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6. Pegasus Mail
Pegasus Mail makes an outstanding PIM solution for those needing multiple language capabilities. This program allows users to view their tasks in English, German, French, or Italian interfaces. If you work with global clients (or if one of these languages is your first language) then Pegasus Mail has a solution for you.
In addition to being available in multiple languages, Pegasus Mail allows you to create mail merges in order to construct form letters to prospective clients or former customers. Another outstanding feature of Pegasus Mail is its email encryption features, offering users more secure sending options.
Pros: Pegasus mail is secure, multi-lingual, and includes templates and form letter creation options.
Cons: Pegasus mail is not the easiest or most intuitive PIM that you could use.
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Dragonfly is not only beneficial (and I'll get to the great features of this program momentarily), but it also looks great. Dragonfly is unique. While you won't find a mail client associated with Dragonfly, you will find other awesome tools. With Dragonfly, you get a calendar, a task manager, a project tracker, an address book, a notepad for phone conversations, a general notepad, a journal, a daily wrap-up form, and a memory tracker.
This is a great program for students, independent professionals, and individuals working on long-term projects such as memoirs or collections of poetry. You can glance at what you did over the course of the previous month.
Pros: Dragonfly can be a great program for those who need a little help to get up and go, and for those with light project management needs. The daily wrap-up form is a great tool for individuals who like to write a brief entry on what they accomplished over the course of the day.
Cons: Dragonfly doesn't include an email client, so users who prefer to have everything in one place will be disappointed. Also, while Dragonfly is free to download and use, over time unless you register the program for $20.00, the creators state that you will lose functionality; it is not truly freeware, but the program is useful enough to have been included in this list of the best PIM software programs.
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Chandler is an open source program that functions much like a notebook. With Chandler, you can keep all of your important information in one place. This program acknowledges that a to-do list might contain many more elements than simply "to-do" and "done." This program lets you take information from a variety of "inboxes," manage that information, process and define any of your steps, and then create projects.
If you're familiar with David Allen's Getting Things Done, this will sound very familiar to you. Chandler is also a collaborative program, so that multiple users can input what needs to be done on various projects, define tasks, and delegate activities.
Pros: Chandler offers a lot of functionality for a free program. The program allows users to perform a wide variety of processes in capturing what needs to get done and it has an email client.
Cons: The email component of Chandler only works with IMAP email, so if you use a POP server, you won't be able to get mail in Chandler.
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9. Personal Effectiveness Tool (PET)
Chemuturi Consultants have put together Personal Effectiveness Tool (PET) (www.chemuturi.com/petdtls.html) to help you manage your goals and your tasks. PET allows you to outline your daily tasks, track your contact information and time obligations, track anniversaries and birthdays, track your finances, personal health, and manage your vehicle information. This program is an all-in-one tool for ensuring you stay on track with your goals and is outstanding for individuals needing light PIM functions.
Pros: You can track multiple items in the way you would track them in a standard pen and paper planner - including health information and vehicle maintenance. The interface is simple to use. This is an excellent program for those just getting started with PIM software use.
Cons: There is no email client, so you will still need a separate program for this if you wish to use PET.
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Finally, while Pimero is not a free PIM program in its full version, you cannot have a list of the best PIM software programs without including it. Pimero is an outstanding Outlook alternative (and in some ways is better than MS Outlook). This program allows you to tab through your PIM functions including mail, calendar, tasks, and even social networking.
One of the most useful parts of this helpful program is the fact that Pimero allows for users to easily keep track of their social networks. This program also allows users to create contacts from signatures, chat with contacts, and use Skype to get in touch with contacts. Pimero offers a free 30 day trial and a limited free edition for you to work with. The full version of Pimero starts at $68.00 for the standard edition.
Pros: Pimero is a fully functioning PIM program with multiple capabilities for fully managing your personal items, contacts, email, tasks, and appointments.
Cons: If you want all the bells and whistles Pimero has to offer, you will need to pay for at least the standard edition.