Notion: Newtons List Manager
©Copyright 1994 David MacNeill
One of the most common and useful functions of a personal digital assistant like the Newton MessagePad is keeping track of lists. To-do lists, expense lists, phone logs, gift lists, frequent flyer numbers, and credit card lists are all good candidates for keeping with you at all times. The problem with keeping these on a Newton is having all your lists scattered about in various folders, making them hard to locate. Another problem is the lack of a easy list editor in the built-in ROM applications, except for the to-do portion of Dates.
What I want is a sleek and fast tool that is designed to handle my lists. I want it available at the tap of an icon. And I want it now.
So I called Eidetic up in Bend, Oregon and asked them for a copy of Notion 1.1, the best-selling Newton list manager. Ive been using it daily for over two months now for listing everything from groceries to lyric ideas. Bottom line: I like it.
Over 100 list templates
Notion comes with more than 100 pre-designed lists you can modify or use as they are. These list templates include over 30 business lists including expenses, phone logs, project management lists, and a trade show calendar. The 20 or so leisure time lists include collections, vacation itineraries (a contradiction in terms,) a workout log, and a wine list. There are 30 personal lists include guest lists, gift lists, and stock trades. 20 reference lists include bank accounts, frequent flyer, and other useful lists.
All these lists can be filed exported and communicated in various ways. For example, you can select items from one of your lists, then print or fax them, or email them to someone. You can even beam them to another Newton that has Notion installed.
Notion List Designer
Cant find a list template that meets your needs? Use the Notion List Designer to create your own. Notion List Designer is an optional module that allows you to create Notion lists. It features a Claris FileMaker Pro-like editing environment that is similar to FilePad from Healthcare communications (see my review in the June 1994 issue of Mac Monthly.) You can include up to 15 data fields in the following data types: name, address, phone number, plain text, number, currency, date, time, 1-5, A-E, enumerated, and boolean (yes/no.) Sound tough? It isnt. You just drag and drop the field icons into place on your screen exactly as you wish them to appear in your final list. Save it and you are ready to use your new list.
Once you have your lists chosen, using Notion is a breeze. List items are entered into a dialog box of sorts with text entry shortcuts such as editable poplists. Items in a list can have a screen size text "sticky note" attached to them for additional information that wont fit in the item field. A single tap can sort on any of field, and your can export you lists to the Notepad so they can be transferred to your Mac with the Newton Connection Kit.
Notion installs a small icon at the bottom of your Newton MessagePad screen that you can use to launch the program, saving your stylus a trip to the Extras drawer. When you tap this icon it presents a poplist of your favorite lists for you to select. Notion also features a minimize button to temporarily hide your list. Once minimized, you can use other tools in your Extras drawer or launch any built-in application. Tapping the launch icon brings Notion back to the screen instantly.
A short list of problems
Using Notion this way reduces the amount of available memory for other applications, and may in some cases prevent you from running an application. On my MessagePad 110 with a half-full 2MB memory card installed, I have occasional difficulty printing a list from within Notion, so I usually quit the program and print from the Out Box in the Extras drawer. My friend with a MessagePad 100 has lots of out-of-memory problems when running Notion, though to be fair, he has a ton of commercial and shareware software on his Newton that may be eating up heap space. Presumably, the new 2MB MessagePad 120 will be a better Notion machine. For now, I recommend using Notion on a MessagePad 110, or a MessagePad 100 that is relatively lean and mean.
Notion 1.1 is available wherever Newtons are sold for US$59.95, though Notion List Designer can be ordered directly from Eidetic Inc. for US$19.95. Contact Eidetic at 503-383-0679 or StarCore at 800-708-STAR for more information.
David MacNeill is a teacher for the IconoClass, a Macintosh, Windows, Internet, and Newton training center in Sacramento, 916-565-3535. He can be reached on eWorld at davemacneill, or on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.