An Ode to Ecco Pro

As we begin the rollout of DejaOffice PC CRM, some of the pioneers of small business Contact managers are on my mind.

A caller this week mentioned Ecco Pro, which was a very popular program back in the mid 1990s.

Ecco Pro as I recall was built on a foundation of an outline manager. Originally it was only an outliner. As it grew, there was a Contacts, Calendar, Task and Notes application. Originally published by Arabesque software, the company got purchased by NetManage in Seattle.

I don’t recall that it was very expensive at the time. Maybe $99 or $59 or something like that. I never used it. At the time we were working primarily with TeleMagic (DOS) and GoldMine (DOS). Both TeleMagic and GoldMine used dBase II format files, an so it was easy to make add-on products. Ecco had a proprietary file format.

By 1997 Ecco Pro had about a million users. Inexplicably, NetManage closed down the entire program. There were rumors for years that someone would buy it, but no on ever did. Ecco died a corporate death; sold to a company that did not know what they had.

Douglas P. Rice has a great writeup about being hired by NetManage just before the big fccollapse.  We don’t often think about how software was sold before the internet was commonly used, and it’s funny to read that they did not ship product updates online.

More resources:

James Kendrick – Memory Lane – Ecco Pro

Wikipedia – Ecco Pro

EccoMAGIC – EccoMagic Forums

A decade after Ecco went off the market, the Ecco User’s Group approached CompanionLink to write a sync to Phones at that time (BlackBerry, Pocket PC).  I was staunchly against it. First, there is no API. Second, the user base could not grow; only shrink. The CompanionLink Meme is to provide free telephone technical support to our customers. Some call this foolish, but I feel that many people need the help from time to time. But I don’t want to get caught getting unlimited phone calls for an unsupported product.

For those that wanted Ecco Pro to be a Contact Manager, we finally have a new product for you. DejaOffice PC CRM Standalone will handle Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes, and synchronize them easily to Android and iPhone. At $49.95 we hope it can be a worthy successor to this industry pioneer.

 

New Outlook app is great for email, but not the full “Outlook” experience yet

This is a live document and we will update as we learn more about the new Outlook app.

Summary; TLDR

  • Hit: supports popular cloud email services and file storage
  • Hit: beautiful email UI for email, customizable swipe settings
  • Hit: intelligent “snooze” feature on email
  • Miss: does not support all business IMAP accounts like desktop Outlook does
    • February 16 app update adds support for generic IMAP accounts
  • Miss: no support for Outlook Contacts, Tasks, Notes
  • Miss: no Category support for PIM organization
  • Miss: major security hole by storing email credentials and data in a temporary server

The new Outlook app, a fruition of Microsoft’s acquisition of Acompli, brings renewed hope for Outlook users. The fresh UI and robust compatibility with the popular email services rightfully warrants the 4-star review Microsoft is currently earning. Contrast that to the 2.5-star showing of Microsoft’s prior horse in the race, the app regrettably known as OWA for iPhone.

However, the “Outlook” portion of the name of the app is a bit over-reaching. There are two main reasons for this.

  1. Outlook on the desktop does email, contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, and categories.  The Outlook app does email and calendar. Perhaps the rest is coming in short order.
  2. Outlook on the desktop allows you set up any IMAP or POP account. The Outlook app only allows EAS, Outlook.com, Google, Yahoo, and iCloud accounts. The rest of the business world that uses a private email provider with their desktop Outlook isn’t invited to the dance hosted by the new Outlook app. (Update 2/2015: an app update now allows you to add generic IMAP email accounts.)

no-imap2

outlook-no-imap

Hits

Email never felt this good. Acompli’s reputation prior to their acquisition was for a sexy email client that could blend all of your popular emails services into one app. Multi-account support works beautifully, and their Focused vs. All filters to put an emphasis on email productivity by showing important email and hiding newsletters and other repetitive communications for later viewing. Also, the ability to swipe to Schedule an email to reappear in the Inbox in a few hours or a time of your choosing lets you quickly consolidate your morning inbox so you address only important emails. A very nifty feature!

Misses

Security is the big hole for the Outlook app, as discovered by Rene Winkelmeyer. The hole has always existed when the code base was owned by Acompli. The ire is that people expected Microsoft to fix this security hole before releasing under the Outlook brand.

In short, email account credentials and data are stored on Microsoft’s servers for a “temporary” time frame. This allows the Outlook app to do fancy things like snooze email. However, it also means your email and potentially other PIM information like appointments and recent contacts are privy to Microsoft. I sense an ulcer developing for folks who care about corporate security, HIPAA, and other initiatives aimed at protecting our data.

The app also doesn’t match features found in desktop Outlook.

Contacts make a guest appearance through the limited functionality of the People section in the app. Instead of a real contact list, you are given a list of recently used email addresses. There is no contact manager that holds your records, and you cannot add/update contacts, address, and phone numbers from your device. This is likely due to the fact that email services like Google and Yahoo are not EAS servers. They rely on IMAP, whose protocol isn’t fundamentally designed to handle PIM info like Contact details. EAS, on the other hand, was designed for this. It’s surprising that even EAS accounts in the new Outlook app doesn’t handle Contacts.

Outlook Tasks do not exist. Many business users rely on a task list to coordinate their priorities or implement productivity systems like Getting Things Done or Franklin Covey. Without a task list, users of this Outlook app cannot manage their priorities on the go.

Outlook Notes also don’t make an appearance.

The must-have Outlook Category feature does not exist. Desktop Outlook users rely on categories to organize their daily agenda by appointment type. Without this, business and personal appointments are indistinguishable in the calendar view.

Outlook app on Android

People who rely on Microsoft Outlook to manage their business life and clients are often dismayed at the poor Outlook-integration options available for Android devices. If you have an Exchange Server, integration of contact and calendar is easy. You are still stuck with Notes and Tasks.  If you are a small business and working with a standalone version of Outlook, then you are really stuck because there is no Outlook app for Android.

There are disjoint tools available on Google Play that handle one kind of data really well – such as a great calendar app or a reliable tasks app.  However, business people don’t want to juggle between contacts, tasks, notes, and calendar apps built by different vendors. They want a single Outlook app for Android that allows data to work intuitively together, so calendar appointments and notes are linked to people in their contact list; category colors match up between PC Outlook and Outlook on Android; and notes on clients made on their Android sync up nicely to Outlook on their PC. This type of workflow matches their use of Outlook on the PC.

DejaOffice is best Outlook app for Android

DejaOffice CRM is an app suite built to replicate standalone Outlook on Android devices. It does everything that Outlook supports – multiple calendar, categories, reminders, contacts, notes, journal entries, and multiple task lists with priorities.  It doesn’t do email; that is still handled by your Android’s email client.

The app is a free download from Google Play. It comes with a tablet-mode setting for dual-pane views that utilize the larger screen space.

Advanced Outlook features are now available on Android

Here’s a list of some advanced features that DejaOffice supports that power Outlook users will appreciate.

  1. Link contacts to calendar appointments, tasks, notes, and journal.
  2. Color categories that match Outlook on your PC.
  3. Sort contact list by File As setting in Outlook.
  4. Group by Company
  5. Search by any Outlook field – contacts, contact notes, address, phone number, email address, etc.
  6. Day, week, month, list, and year views with recurring patterns that match Outlook
  7. Task list with priorities that match Outlook (High, Medium, Low). You can also use other styles like Franklin Covey, Getting Things Done, Take Back Your Life, and Palm Desktop.