"Absolutely free, powerful PIM"
EssentialPIM is a small information manager produced by Astonsoft for the purpose of organizing and simplifying your workflow. This productivity application sports a large number of features which allow the user to gather, store, encrypt, and maintain a large amount of information in a small and relatively simple layout. The EssentialPIM website provides this software for three platforms: PC, iOS, and Android. This review is concerned with the PC version.
Installation is quick and simple; a standard installation wizard is employed with a standard End User License Agreement to accept, a choice of installation directory, and options for icon placement in the start menu, on the desktop, etc. This process is ad-free and does not attempt installation of any accompanying software or toolbars.
The first time you open EssentialPIM you are given the option to choose preferred language; this occurs only once. After this, the main window opens. The primary interface for EssentialPIM is clean but cluttered, organized into panels each presenting the user with a large host of options. The large number of possibilities may be an obstacle to the less computer-savvy and might turn off those who are searching for simple, streamlined software, but the layout of the tools themselves is straightforward. A standard top toolbar complements the array of tabs that compose EssentialPIM’s primary interface: switching to a new tab produces a new set of features and abilities.
EssentialPIM provides a plethora of features for managing and organizing information and for controlling scheduling. The main tab, EPIM Today, provides an overview of pertinent upcoming information including calendar events for the next few days, a to-do list, email messages, and more.
EPIM has tabs for its calendar, to-do list, notes, contacts, email integration, password storage, and deleted content. Switching each of these tabs changes the actions available to you, which appear in a panel in the upper right hand corner. Additionally, a right-click context menu makes it easy to conduct tasks without moving all around the screen.
Many of the tabs are similar in appearance and usage; once you have become familiar with the general system, there are few surprises. Additionally, the notes tab provides a rich-text editor to enhance note taking.
One advantage of the EPIM system is that it treats each session as one whole package, which can not only be saved as one file, but also allows integration of all the features listed above.
EPIM contains a surprising number of small additional features which enhance usability. Among these are task marking by completion, priority, or category, and establishing a hierarchical structure for organizing your notes.
Many of EPIM’s abilities would seem more trouble than they’re worth were it not for three of EPIM’s best supporting features: importing, exporting, and synchronizing. Using the various imports, you can bring all of your information from various other applications into EPIM as a central location. Synchronization is likewise a great boon, allowing EPIM to keep up to date alongside many other common applications so that you could, for instance, add email contacts into Microsoft Outlook and have that change reflected in EPIM, or vice versa. There is also a synchronization setup wizard that can streamline the process of coordinating your use of EPIM and other applications.
A number of options allow you to customize your experience, and to a limited extent you can resize and rearrange the elements within the tabs.
Though EPIM is a rich and fairly powerful tool, its abilities come at the cost of possessing a cluttered appearance. As mentioned, if you are looking for a lightweight application, look elsewhere. And disappointingly, despite EPIM’s many features, none is particularly more useful or more powerful than in many other applications, so it might seem extraneous to use EPIM. This is especially true since to make the most of the application, you must make it your home base, per se, by importing contacts and calendar information, if any, and setting up your email accounts so EPIM can interact with the email server and display the resulting information.
The advantage of the import and export abilities are offset by the limited number of sources accepted for import, meaning that it may be difficult to switch to EPIM if you are not using iCal or a limited number of other applications. Some of the import and export options, and many of those in synchronization, are only available in the “Pro” version of EPIM, limiting the possibility to truly add EPIM alongside your repertoire of organizational and workplace software.
Small advertisements, mostly related to other content by the creators of EssentialPIM, appear on the upper right hand corner of the display. These are of minor inconvenience.
Agenda MSD is one thoroughly competitive alternative – it is packed with even more features than EPIM, including financial management, but the interface is exceptionally crowded and may go overboard where EPIM strikes a balance between abilities and conciseness.
eXpress Sticky Organizer is one alternative which offers sported-up versions of the sticky notes found on many operating systems. eXpress has fewer features than EPIM, but is cleaner and easier to use, and does allow the user to separate items off into separate sticky notes which act as independent concerns.
More standard software such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar are also possible alternatives. Though each of this sort of software maintains a focus on one element of organization – Outlook for email, Google Calendar for event planning – these applications do provide a number of features which can substitute for EPIM's, without ever resorting to third-party software.
The individual attributes which EPIM offers are neither terribly unique nor especially powerful. However, EPIM does pull together all its disparate elements and tools into an attractive albeit busy workspace which, after some familiarizing has been done, can be a very useful and efficient organizer.
For overall productivity at some small sacrifice in ease of use, I would give EssentialPIM 4 out of 5 stars.
Requirements: 32 MB RAM
What's new in this version: Synchronization of custom recurring patterns for tasks with Android EPIM Starred labels for emails will now be correctly synchronized across other mail clients Event invites from Outlook should now be correctly handled in mail Drag and copy (holding Ctrl-key) of events now works as expected
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