Friday, January 23, 2009

What the iPhone needs is Gorilla Haven’s DateBk6

DateBk6 is ugly, eccentric, and complex.

I miss it terribly. The iPhone’s Calendar is pretty and swooshy, but, as a tool, it’s pretty pathetic. It’s one of the reasons I don’t sing the praises of the iPhone. (My lack of praise is probably fully responsible for weakening iPhone sales.)

Give me an ugly jackhammer like the PalmOS DateBk6 any day …

Pimlico Software - DateBk6

When was the last time that you missed buying a birthday present because there was no ADVANCE warning of an event? Or missed a task because your tasks were not integrated with your calendar? Or spent more than two taps inserting a commonly used event for which DateBk6 has a built-in template? Or needed to look at a week-at-a-glance with the TEXT listed of your appointments? Or wanted to use color on your Palm handheld to emphasize important events? Or wanted to keep your spouse's or co-worker's calendar on your palm - but visibly separate from your own? Or have DateBk6 time-zone aware so that alarms and events are properly keyed to the correct timezone? Or wanted to recover an event that you accidentally just deleted? Or link an event or ToDo to an address book entry and automatically log to it? Or put an alarm on a ToDo? Or handle events that span midnight? Or.....? DateBk6 handles all of these tasks and more. No wonder it is one of the most popular Palm programs ever written…

…Best of all, the proceeds from this product go towards wildlife conservation and the Dewar's Gorilla Haven project in the North Georgia Mountains

Of course nobody would seriously consider porting DateBk6 to the iPhone.

What a developer might do is to make a deal with Pimlico. Work with the engineer (singular I think) to reverse engineer DateBk6. Understand what it does and why it does it. Then build a true iPhone app with a similar set of ideas, but have it sync to Google Calendar and Contacts (maybe sync notes/tasks to Evernote).

Yeah, in theory Apple could produce a good solution and take this niche away but, really, there’s no sign they’ll ever do this. Waiting for Apple to open up their Calendar APIs is waiting for Godot.

So screw Apple.

I’d pay $100 if it worked.

Update 12/23/2010: It's not on the iPhone, but Pimlical for Android has been released.


Aaron said...

I totally agree. I have used Datebk beginning at the 4 version right up to now. I have an IPhone and use it for almost everything EXCEPT my datebook. For that, I still lug around my old Treo 755 and use only the Datebk 6 application. I would pay a bunch (at least the $100 you offered and likely more) for something like it on the IPhone. Perhaps Pocket Informant from Webis will come close. It's due out soon.
Aaron Glauberg, D.V.M.
New Jersey

John Gordon said...

I really do think Apple is suffering from lack of geek praise for the iPhone, and our lack of praise is directly related to Apple locking us in to grossly inadequate productivity solutions.

Thanks for the Pocket Informant tip. I will be watching for it!

*flower* said...

I have the same issue. Is a functional calendar too much to ask for?
With Palm discontinuing handhelds and DateBk not available for the iPhone, I'm running out of options.

Aaron said...

Webis announced yesterday that Pocket Informant has been released to Apple. On their website was the following post:

Posted by Alex Kac - CEO/Founder, Yesterday, 10:34 PM in iPhone

And there it goes. Its off to Apple! I will be sending out notices to everyone who signed up shortly. The Lite version will be uploaded to Apple once 1.00 gets accepted. The reasoning is that if Apple finds anything to reject us for (a button they don't like or something), I don't want to have to have an issue with the Lite version. Lite will be free, but limited to one week's worth of appointments and 10 tasks.

Hopefully it will hit the App Store soon.


Aaron said...

if you have not yet noticed, Webis has released the 1.0 version of Pocket Informant for the IPhone. Although there are a few bugs and it can be a bit slow at times, it appears to be a terrific start on a really useful PI app. the developers already have a 1.01 version ready to be released which will resolve some of these early concerns. In any case, check it out! I think you will find it to be well worth the introductory price.

Andrea said...

I liked PI at first, but it's so buggy that I am almost fed up enough to carry a paper calendar. Stupidly I just sold my Treo last week, but I shouldve kept it for DateBk. PI has tons of promise, but I would wait for a few updates to be released before you buy it. It is extremely slow, and not all of my data is syncing consistently enough to be reliable.I've only had it for a week so I'll have to see how it flushes out.

Aaron said...

Pocket Informant is now at the 1.01 version and it's much better (faster and with many fewer bugs) than 1.0. The developers are very responsive to user concerns (see their forum section at their website) and have a 1.02 near completion. Consider it! I have finally given up my Treo and Datebk and am pleased with PI synced to Google Calendar. I have 6 different calendars and all work well between the two. Check it out and post your opinion.

Aaron said...

Pocket Informant is now at the 1.01 version and it's much better (faster and with many fewer bugs) than 1.0. The developers are very responsive to user concerns (see their forum section at their website) and have a 1.02 near completion. Consider it! I have finally given up my Treo and Datebk and am pleased with PI synced to Google Calendar. I have 6 different calendars and all work well between the two. Check it out and post your opinion.

Hans (personal) said...

I totally agree. Everything, including sync targets (Gcal and Evernote).

Would like to add more "open" export /microformat publishing options like ical and vcard, opml etc.

I really want an iPhone, and love LifeBalance for task management but I need a decent calendar and my 18+ years with DateBk have spoiled me for life. :)

Aaron said...

The 1.02 update of Pocket Informant is out as of yesterday and it continues to improve an already useful PIM. It's quicker, looks better, has more features and syncs well with Google, Outlook and Mac calendars. Getting closer to the Datebk standard with each update.


S said...

Right on! I'd pay $100. Maybe more. It's been hellish fiddling with all the "solutions" to get my DateBk6 material to iPhone, and I've given up on most of the rich functionality. Just going to sync with Google Calendar for now.

Anonymous said...

I hope the developer of Datbook is watching. I too would pay a lot for a datebook version on iphone.
I have used other agenda/calendar apps on pocket PC's and I did not find them to come even marginally close to the functionality / usefullness of Datebook, so I have little hope of those being ported to my iphone and being as helpful as Datebook.

John Gordon said...

I suspect the GH 'team' (was one person at one time) would be more interested in the Pre or the Android -- the iPhone is not a PIM-friendly platform because Apple has marked so much of that territory "off limits".

DateBk is a rich source of ideas -- and a rich source of prior art for anyone needing to fight patent claims. (In many cases the author of DateBk would merit patent protection for truly original work.)

Hans (personal) said...

In order for the current incarnation of DB (Pimlical) to work on the iPhone, Apple would need to change several major policies:

No support for Java

Apps are not allowed to "duplicate functionality" (read: improve or otherwise compete with) any built-in features (like contacts and calendar)

Apps are not allowed access to the native data stores of the built-in software.

Reverse-engineering those data structures is not allowed.

I think Apple is very unlikely to change their mind about these issues, their attitude is obviously the antithesis of open.

Therefore if having an open platform is important to you, don't buy an iPhone. If you really want an iPhone, give up on DateBook or carry a legacy Palm just to maintain your PIM data.

You might not like it, you might think it's not smart from a long-term strategic or even immediate marketing POV, but that's the way it is, but I think their platform is successful enough that public pressure won't help.

John Gordon said...

I agree with Hans (are you connected to Pimlico?). Barring a dramatic and unlikely change of heart, the iPhone is hostile grounds for a lot of innovation -- including productivity and PIM apps.

There's much more hope on the Android platform, and maybe the Pre (though Palm/Sprint's open commitment feels unproven to me).

John Gordon said...

I agree with Hans (are you connected to Pimlico?). Barring a dramatic and unlikely change of heart, the iPhone is hostile grounds for a lot of innovation -- including productivity and PIM apps.

There's much more hope on the Android platform, and maybe the Pre (though Palm/Sprint's open commitment feels unproven to me).

Hans (personal) said...

No connection, just follow the Pimlical list. Pre platform will probably lag well behind others. Here's the official word:

"Because it is written to be a cross-platform application, it will soon appear for Mac’s and Linux desktops and later this year will also start rolling out as handheld versions for most all handhelds currently on the market. Blackberry, Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile are targeted platforms. iPhone may follow if Apple changes its policies on third party libraries such as Adobe Flash Player, Sun’s JVM, etc. The new Palm Pre is still a question mark as very little technical information is available on it at this time."

amaha said...

It's a shame that iphone has nothing to offer savvy datebk calendar users. The calendar built in cale ndar software is at best worthless. The best calendars out ot the "50k" aps for the iphone offered are Informant and Saisuke. Saisuke being the taller one, both are knee high dwarfs compared to the giant called Datebk6. Most frustrating handicap is apple's limitation on preventing these softwares to control the alarms. If one accepts that limitation and settles to using the iphone clock alarm for reminding calendar items, the next frustrating thing is the limitations with the functionalities of the softwares like the inablities to place journal entries, irregularly repeating schedules, templates, flexibilities with colors, contact integration/link, etc ... My hope is that Apple will, sooner or later, recognize these limitations that severily limit the functionality of the iphone and impliment changes that will make it more useful ... i, for one, am sincerely considering to return to my 755p for I miss my datebk6

Aaron said...

The most recent release of Pocket Informant (1.11) addresses some of these concerns. Although many are restrictions place by Apple, Webis (the developer) has done a pretty good job in getting around several of them. Further development of Informant is continuing and it will improve which each version. As a former Datebk user for a decade, I too miss it however, if one has an IPhone, Informant is the best alternative for now.

Suzanna said...

I've used DateBook for 8 years or more, using it almost as journaling... I have at least 20K entries in it. I have an iPhone for everything else but the calendar. Still using my Clie UX50 just for the datebook, but the battery is discharging in 10 minutes, so it's not much of a practical use now... But I just love DateBook!!!

Anonymous said...

Praise The Lord!

Waiting and still looking for that good calendar app for the iPhone! Geesh! Doesn't anyone out there want my money?

S said...

After posting a comment, I eventually went with Pocket Informant. I think it's the closest we're going to get to DateBk6's functionality, and it does other things DateBk6 never did (sync over the air, for example).

I'm pretty happy with it so far, and some of my continuing concerns are supposedly addressed in the forthcoming 1.2 release. Some of them aren't addressable at all, because they're issues with Apple's APIs and their various restrictions. Snooze alarms! Snooze alarms! Curse you, Apple. I used to run my life with DateBk alarms and variable snooze. To hell with Push.

One of the biggest adjustments was going to the cloud with my personal data - I'm using Google Calendar and Toodledo - but I've resigned myself to that as the way of the future, and it does offer a number of benefits.

I recommend that DateBk fans try out PI and see if it helps cure their withdrawal symptoms. The developers seem responsive and are actively working on improvements, and they've got a site where you can vote for the features that are most important to you. A lot of ex-DateBk people have posted ideas (including me).

Sonic Boom said...

I also agree with uniqueness of DateBk. Nothing else even comes close and is the ONLY reason I still use my Treo.

The PROBEM with PI on the iPhone is it doesn't sync with Outlook! I was completey surprised it doesn't and only realized this after buying it! What do I do with all my future (and past) DateBk/Outlook entries???
Is there a work around (other than google calendar)?

Chris Rust said...

I've picked up this discussion rather late, I had persevered with my old Tungsten T5 despite the crashes, mainly because of Datebook. I had to change eventually because my employer uses MS Exchange and my job requires me to synchronise my diary with Exchange, which is a good thing in almost every way but the Palm couldn't cope with it reliably.

My iPod Touch is seamlessly integrated with Exchange but the pathetic calendar and no integration with Tasks means that I feel as though I'm back in the Stone Age. It's confirmed my view that Apple is a deeply fascist organisation who make their money mainly from exploiting gullible teenagers and so-called "creatives" who are scared of technology.

Erica said...

Still using my Tungsten T3 and clinging to Datebook. Pimlico says a cross platform mobile app is in the pipeline, but I've been waiting on that promise almost 2 years. This software is a decade old. Why isn't there anything as efficient in all that time. Has anyone tried Agendus from Iambic. I've heard it is similar but the functionality seems different on every platform.

knoxvillejeff said...

I sorely miss DateBk on my Touch. Having two places to check for appts and todos is crummy. I'm stunned at how simplistic the Touch's built-in calendar is. I used DateBk and HandyShopper on my Palm religiously. Now I'm lost without an adequate replacement for them - and I've tried/bought several.

Andrés said...

I also use DateBk6 and I can't live without it. Than't why I still use my Palm Centro, and because of snooze!!!

I can't understand how can Apple develop a smartphone where you can't create a calendar entry al 17:38, it has to be at 17:35 or 17:40, but my train leaves at 17:38!!!

I tried a Palm Pre but when I realized that the Classic still didn't support at first the sync, I returned it and still work with my Centro.

I'm usin PamOS, an OS which has several years, which is old but I can't understand how it hasn't been beated!a

datebk tragic said...

I was very interested to find this blog as I am another desperate datebk6 user. I am clinging onto my dying centro which has 9 years of events on it which I don't want to lose. It has become incredibly slow and cumbersome and I went as far as buying a palm pre from an unsupported country and it has dissapointed me greatly.

Is Pocket Informant still the best substitute? I had a look at the Lite version which seems OK. Is there anything else out there to look at?

Software developers heed my call - I would pay HEAPS for a datebk6 android version!!!

S said...

I can't speak to the Android version, but I'm quite satisfied with PI for the iPhone now that I've been using it nearly a year. The developers are active, responsive on their forums, and even use a system of weighted voting for feature requests. It's not DateBk, but it's very good. It does some things better than DateBk (even aside from over-the-air sync, without which I couldn't operate these days). Well worth the price, which I don't say lightly.

John Gordon said...

In terms of saving data, DateBk famously used the native Palm calendar, and extended it by embedding codes in comments. So if you can save the calendar you can get most of what you want.

What platform are you on now - OS X or XP or Windows 7?

Some markspace missing sync products include a "migration assistant" that supports migration from Palm.

Quito B said...

Ditto. Datebk6 is so flexible and offers little friction when quickly inputting my events and to-dos. My Treo 755p is still my only device, mostly because I can't get over the calender app of the iPhone or Android. WHY do they both subscribe to the "slot machine" date and time picker method?? I find it's very tedious, takes longer than necessary, and requires too much concentration compared to the keypad/direct numerical entry method of Datebk6 on the Treo.

datebk tragic said...

Hi John,
I'm using Windows (Vista). What migration assistant products can you recommend for me? I would be eternally grateful!!

Shira said...

Found this post, while still living in the dark ages. Anyone have a link or code to refer me to purchase datebk6 ?


Anonymous said... - but though I dearly loved DateBk, I can't recommend it today. It's chained to a dying/dead platform, and the author has shown no interest in porting it to iPhone, Android, or anything else. It doesn't sync over the air with anything.

CESDewar said...

The Android Version has been released: Yes, it's an early release, but so far early feedback has been positive (quotes from forum posts below).

CESD, Pimlico Software, Inc.
. . .
This has been mentioned in a couple of threads, but definitely deserves a thread of its own. Good news for anyone looking for a serious diary app.
This calendar program is already a big improvement over all of the other Android calendar programs I've tried.
CESD beautiful job... at last I can leave the trusty treo.
The resulting Android Pimlical is running beautifully and is already vastly superior to the [Other Calendar] beta that I've been using as a stopgap.

John Gordon said...

Great! thanks for the tip!

MikeG Propper said...

I just got an iPhone 4 after Verizon released it. I'm still in the 14-day period during which I can return it, and I'm hustling to find ANYthing that resembles DateBk6. Now that Pimlical is available for Android, has anyone had experience with it on Android?

And one other level of interest: anyone have experience with Android, Pimlical, and Mac OS X?


danalee said...

John, I can't thank you enough for this blog thread. I found you by googling "what is the best datebook app for iphone" and there you were. I, too, am a long-term Palm user (I'm using my fourth Palm device) and a huge fan of Datebook. But, with my purchase of an iPad 2, I'm looking for something to replace Datebook...which, apparently, nothing does. Sounds like Pocket Informant is the closest, so I'll look into that. Again, many thanks for this thread! Cheers.