Friday, February 22, 2008

Review: qOrganizer 3.1


Welcome to a new section of my blog. While working with personal habits and productivity we use a lot of tools. Some of these are software tools. There is a vast array of different software for different platforms that are supposed to help our productivity, but how good are they really? I will occasionally bring up a software title here and express my experience with and opinions of it. Since I am an avid Linux (specifically Ubuntu) user most of the software I review will be found on that platform. If you havent already given Linux a try I suggest you do. The days of it being a complicated system fit only for computer nerds are long gone and who knows, It might just prove to be what you have been looking for. (If you are going to try out linux I suggest you get one of the more user friendly distributions such as Ubuntu, Mandriva or PCLinuxOS, though the last one doesnt have a lot of support) Now onto the review:

qOrganizer 3.1
qOrganizer is a simple little lightweight program that has a lot of promise but isnt really there yet. Despite it being version 3.1 it has a few glaring omissions that make it not reach up to its full potential. But I'll get to that in a second.

1. Installation
Like most Ubuntu software install is a basic click and run affair. It can be found using the Add/Remove programs option in the main meny, if however you want the latest version you need to get online and look for it. The latest version can be had at the project website. However the website isnt very userfriendly and might put of the not so tech savy. Lucky for us it can also be found over at getdeb.net. Download the file, doubleclick and click install. Couldn't be simpler.

2. Features - or lack thereof

Calender view
If you are running Ubuntu you will find qOrganize under Application > Productivity. When starting the application you are greeted by the calender. This view (as can be seen in the included image) includes a basic monthly calender view, an event list and a journalpage. Its simple enough to use. You pick a date in the calender and then type in any scheduled events that day and add any notes necessary on the journal page. Now here is my first and most major beef with this program: Thats all you can do in that view. I like to have my calendar constantly accessible, which is why I use an online calendar (specifically Google Calendar.) Most calendar applications will allow you to automatically synchronize with various online calendars, not qOrganize. The events are of the extremely simple type. So forget about recurring events and multiday events. The journalpage does however redeem the calender a little as I haven't found any good equivalents in any of the software I have previously used.

To-do list
The to-do list view if fairly simple and straight forward. You type in your task, deadline, priority and how far along you are. The procentual gaude of progress is decidedly more flexible then the usual checkbox, but its clear that the person who developed it isnt familiar with the action centric way of doing things. The gauge is better fitted for the project level, and that brings me to my next complaint: What about categories? There is no way to asign tasks to categories (or projects if you will) this makes any to do list become a mess as there is no way to sort your tasks by location or project. And again exporting or importing to and from an external source such as an online list or a PDA is impossible. There is, in the settings, a way to synchronize with an FTP server, but if you don't have one of those you are SOL.

Timetable
The timetable view is my first clue as to what kind of people have been developing this software and for what market segment. What you have is a fairly standard 5 day school schedule. My guess is that this is where all recurring events go. In their defence you can add and take away any columns you like and reformat it into any kind of table you need. Still, the lack of any ability to download a weekly schedule from a centralized location tells me that this software is not geared towards the enterprise or even the college student. For someone in juniour high or high school on the other hand, it might fit the bill.

Booklet
This view is sort of a tell all. Here the student can keep track of all his absences and marks. I dont think any further treatment is necessary for our purposes.

Other Features
For being such an incredibly simple piece of software it decides to become very advanced when it comes to storing the info you add. It gives you re options of Text files, MySQL and SQLite databases. I'm guessing that if your school does have a central database accessible by FTP then these options might come in handy, but for the lone user wanting to keep track of things in his/her own life this feature is fairly useless. There is no help feature but then again I didnt come across anything that was even remotely complicated (other then the posibility of using databases and FTP)

Summary
As you might have guessed I initially had high hopes for this application. It looked like it might do a good job but it dissapointed me on every count. Any shortcoming it has might have been mitigated if it would have had a plugin interface but it does not. You might say that with this software what you see is what you get, literally. There is no depth in functionality at all. So unless you are a highschool student looking for a way to keep track of your classes you might as well move along. The only redeeming feature is the journalpage, which other programs could do well to take after. I give qOrganize 3.1 a score of 2 out of 5.

3 comments:

Wendy said...

I just had 2 students give presentations on this linux/ubuntu stuff just today...I'd never heard of it before.

balazsbela said...

Hello.
I am Balázs Béla.You guessed, the author of qOrganizer.

First of all I would like to thank you for your objective review.
You pointed out quite a lot.

First of all I am 18 year old, and yes a high school student.
As you pointed out qOrganizer is a highschool student's way to keep track of courses.

Just a few comments.
First of all the website of the project is: http://qorganizer.sourceforge.net/

The one you linked is the sourceforge project page.
Here you can find a fairly detailed user manual.

Synchronizing with other applications (or devices) is beyond qOrganizer's scope.Unless someone points me to a nice iCal handling library I can use in my project.

The to-do list is not meant for recurring events, it's meant for deadlines of projects that take more than a few days.In my point of view using categories in it would be unnecessary clutter (since it's meant for school projects anyway).

"what kind of people have been developing"
There are no more developers, just me.
There are translators and testers, but only I write code.

qOrganizer was developed durring the summer of 2007, during my free time (I didn't have much, I have a life and I was also working).
I have virtually 0 time for it during school (I take it really seriously).
I was happy to integrate the number of features I did.Of course I have my plans: cleaning it up,adding new features,making things easier.
I also admire your intuition, because I was planning a plugin system for it.

"The timetable view is my first clue as to what kind of people have been developing this software and for what market segment."

First of all it's free and open source.
If there is no money involved there is no market segment.I don't plan for world domination.It's not aimed towards enterprise use.I simply needed this for myself and thought I would share it with everyone who needs it.That's all.
So I guess you rated it a bit unfairly, because you didn't consider it's usefulness from the point of view of the people to whom it was aimed for.

I will be working on it this summer too so feel free to check back to the site in autumn.
But considering that I have limited free time and I'm only trying my wings in coding, don't expect too much.This is my learning project.

Thank you very much for your constructive criticism.Be sure to read the FAQ page on the website.

I truly wish that you will find the tool that suits you.(If not, you can always write your own :) )
Have a nice day.

PS: My English isn't the best, and I didn't take the time to reread what I wrote for grammatical coherence.Feel free to correct my mistakes.
Thank you.

btw:my blog,
http://balazsbela.blogspot.com/

balazsbela said...

Whooops, maybe I shouldn't use first of all that much.
Unless it's really first.
Sorry :)