Moving from Outlook (Exchange) to eM Client (Google)

For the last 14 years I’ve used Microsoft Outlook to manage my life. Last week, with some trepidation I moved to Google (Gmail, calendar, and contacts) and something else for tasks (I’ve not quite settled on it, although Todoist is currently a very strong contender). I thought it may be useful for others in a similar situation to document my experience.

Over the years I have used Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2003, 2007, and most recently 2010. I have synchronised it with various Psion handheld computers, with Windows Mobile, and I’ve used it for the last four years with a hosted instance of Microsoft Exchange 2010 from the excellent, UK-based Simply Mail Solutions.

ActiveSync kept sinking

I moved to Exchange in 2010 mainly because I was having issues synchronising my Windows Mobile phone via ActiveSync with two PCs: home and work (below). Synchronisation didn’t always work successfully and I had no end of problems: duplicated, missing or deleted content. Enough was enough, so I looked at the options.

Workflow for using ActiveSync with two instances of Outlook

Workflow for using ActiveSync with two instances of Outlook. I found this caused all sorts of problems when using the phone as the ‘golden copy’.

Move to Exchange

At that point, in 2010, I considered moving to Gmail but Windows Mobile 6 didn’t support Google data particularly well and I had no real need to share my data with anyone else but myself. My main concern was synchronising data between devices not between people.

So I research the options and in the end I moved to an Exchange 2010 account rented from Simply Mail Solutions. It cost me around £70 per year, plus my domain name. But I felt that cost was worth the expense when set against lost time and frustration due to synchronisation failures.

Synchronisation with Exchange Server 2010

Synchronisation with Exchange Server 2010

With this model everything was synchronising with the Exchange server in the cloud. It was fast, it was efficient, and I never once had an issue with duplicated or missing content. I could add a task on my phone during my walk to work and when I got to the office it was already there on my PC. It felt like magic.

When I moved away from Windows Phone a few years ago and bought a Google Nexus 4 it had support for Exchange under its “Corporate” account settings. So, again, there was no need to move. If it ain’t broke…

Why move to Google, then?

What has changed recently though is that now I do need to share my data with (my wife) Jane. To add another user to Exchange was going to be expensive and unnecessarily complex, particularly when you factor in which domain names we use and that Jane was already using Google mail. The logical conclusion was for me to move to Google.

eM Client for mail, calendar and contacts

One of my hesitations about moving lock, stock and barrel to Google was that I’m not particularly fond of the standard Gmail or Google Contacts interface; Google Calendar is okay; Google Tasks is terrible.

As I said, I’ve used Outlook for a long time. It’s become very familiar and some of the workflow processes have depended on features exclusive to Outlook. I would need to find something else, as Outlook’s support for Google doesn’t extend much beyond IMAP support for Gmail. If you want to synchronise your Google Calendar with Outlook you can forget it: it’s a clunky business at best, and impossible at worst.

Calendar view in eM Client, showing different colours for shared calendars

Calendar view in eM Client, showing different colours for shared calendars

Someone I follow on Twitter mentioned eM Client which claims to be the best email client for Windows. I gave it a go, trialled it alongside Outlook for just a week and decided that although it lacks a few features that I really like about Outlook this was perfect for my needs. I will write a more complete review of eM Client in a later post.

Something else for tasks

Like Outlook I like that everything is together: email, calendar and contacts. I decided not to use the tasks as support for Google Tasks isn’t great even on Android.

For a week I trialled Wunderlist, which is one of Lifehacker‘s favourite to do apps. I’d tried it before but after a week I still wasn’t convinced: I wanted to use their Windows 7 client but it simply wouldn’t synchronise with the Android app, plus the Android widget was clunky. So I gave up.

Todoist—simple and clean-looking task application

Todoist—simple and clean-looking task application

That’s when I stumbled on Todoist, which I really like. The Android app is clean and simple, the Windows app just works, it synchronises really quickly, and the widget is perfect for my needs—it does what I need, and works the way that I want it to.

I expect that I will stick with Todoist for the near future.

How to move from Outlook to Google

Moving from Exchange to Google was fairly straight forward: mildly complex but not complicated. Here’s what I did:

  1. Synchronise Outlook calendar and contacts data with Google using demo version of Sync2. It allowed me to copy all my data from Exchange to Google Calendar and Contacts with no restrictions.
  2. Add Gmail account to Outlook as an IMAP email account, then copy (or move) emails from Exchange/Outlook account to Gmail.
  3. With everything moved over and essentially backed-up to Google, change MX records in my domain name DNS. Basically, this tells all email to go to my web hosting company (Heart Internet) rather than my Exchange server (hosted by Simply Mail Solutions). The DNS took about 4-6 hours to update.
  4. Create a forward for my email address so that it all gets passed on to Gmail. I did this within my Heart Internet control panel.
  5. Install eM Client and add my Google account. All my data, email, calendar, and contacts is then synchronised with eM Client.

The nervous bit was waiting for the DNS to update, as you need to set the MX (mail) records correctly otherwise it doesn’t work. But as soon as my gareth@garethjmsaunders.co.uk emails started trickling into my Gmail account I knew that everything was fine.

What now?

So far I’ve been using this set up for a couple of weeks and I’m really appreciating having only one place to check email; I’m loving that Jane and I can see each other’s calendars so easily.

I think this is going to work. I wish I’d discovered eM Client and Todoist before now.

Why I love Windows 8 (but don’t have 8.1 yet)

Update to Windows 8.1 for free on the Windows 8 app store... or so they say

Update to Windows 8.1 for free on the Windows 8 app store… or so they say

On Thursday Microsoft released Windows 8.1 into the wild. Hmmm… there be dragons!

The upgrade hasn’t gone particularly smoothly for a lot of people (including me) judging by this thread (“Couldn’t update to Windows 8.1 – 0xC1900101 – 0x40017″) on the official Microsoft Community Windows forum and this article (“Windows 8.1 launch weekend plagued by some show-stopping installation issues”) on PC World.com.

The Windows RT upgrade (for Surface tablets) was removed from the app store until they could figure out what was going on. Microsoft released a “recovery image” yesterday to try to address the issue. Time will tell if it has worked, I can’t see past the search engine results noise of it having been removed.

The Windows 8.1 upgrade disappeared from my Windows 8 store for a day or two as well, but re-appeared last night. I’m still not going to try to upgrade again until I know for sure that it will work.

Windows 8

Windows 8.1 was meant to address some of the criticisms of the original Windows 8 release, particularly the removal of the Windows start button and that Windows 8 boots to the new Modern/Metro UI start screen, rather than to the desktop.

I have to say that I have been a huge fan of Windows 8 since the beta. I had the beta installed on my laptop right until the RTM edition was launched. Since then I’ve defended Windows 8 to everyone and anyone.

Windows 8 has been, by far, the fastest, most stable, most secure version of Windows I’ve used (since my standalone, not-connected-to-the-internet version of Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in the mid-90s). My desktop PC boots up and is working within about 20-30 seconds. Compare that with my Windows 7 Dell beast of a PC at work which can take about 10 minutes to start up and become fully responsive.

Start button

As for those two criticisms about the lack of start button and not booting directly to the desktop, well Start8 from Stardock (USD $4.99) addresses both those issues.

Start8 gives me back my start button and Windows 7-like start menu

Start8 gives me back my start button and Windows 7-like start menu

Firmly ticked is the configuration option in Start8 that reads “Automatically go to the Desktop when I sign in“.

I rarely use any of the Metro UI applications (occasionally TV Catch-up, the Steam tile app, and a couple of games with the boys) so it makes sense for me to jump straight to the desktop. This application saves me a click.

To be honest I installed Start8 mostly to make the PC more accessible to my wife Jane, who uses it occasionally. I didn’t want her to have to bother with the convoluted Windows 8 nonsense of Win+C > Settings > Power > Shut down, or Win+C > Settings > Control Panel to access the Control Panel. I reality though, I use those features most.

Start screen

I also have to confess that I really like the Windows 8 start screen. My grumble about the traditional Start menu in XP, Vista, 7 is that it’s a mess. It lists everything that is installed and gives everything equal status.

The Windows 8 start screen allows me to customise it for my own needs, my own priorities.

And if I want to see everything: Win + Q takes me there.

I can pin to the taskbar those applications that I use most frequently, the rest I can pin to the start screen and arrange into named groups. It’s so easy my four year old boys can use it.

The Windows 8 start screen on my PC.

The Windows 8 start screen on my desktop PC.

I used another paid-for application from Startdock to customize the background of my start screen: Decor8 (USD $4.99).

A desktop-centric Windows 8 PC

This gives me the best of both worlds: the speed and stability of Windows 8 coupled with the desktop-centric focus of Windows 7.

In each version of Windows that I’ve used I’ve tweaked it and wrestled with its user-interface to give me the experience that works for me. With Windows 3.11 I used Calmira, in Windows 98 it was power toys and TweakUI, in XP I created my own toolbars. Why should this operating system be any different? Surely that’s one of the beauties of Windows.

I really don’t understand these grumbles of “I hate Windows 8 and the Modern/Metro UI!” To be honest, I don’t notice the juxtaposition of desktop vs Modern/Metro UI much. I ignore most of it. I don’t have a touch screen, I have all the Windows desktop applications that I need and only occasionally dabble with the odd Modern/Metro app. And Start8 and Decor8 allow me to quickly tweak the rest

Windows 8.1

And so back to Windows 8.1. I would rather like to upgrade sometime soon.

I tried it on Friday.

It all seemed to be going well until the second boot when it halted the screen that Windows 8 shows when it’s booting up. The little spinner just kept on spinning… for about 30 minutes. So I rebooted the PC… and it did the same until it quickly flashed up a blue screen of death (BSOD) and about 10 minutes later returned me to Windows 8 and a message similar to this one but with error code 0xC1900101 – 0x40017.

Couldn't update to Windows 8.1

Couldn’t update to Windows 8.1

I’ve been closely following, and contributing to the thread on the Microsoft Community. People have had limited success it would appear with certain workarounds working for some but not others: uninstall graphics card drivers, uninstall SteelSeries Engine software, unplug everything, etc.

I have a SteelSeries mouse. I could uninstall it and try the upgrade again, but do you know what? It’s 2013. Why should I have to? Modern operating systems should just work and upgrade without any kind of hardcore hardware geekery.

I’m going to wait until either Microsoft have figured out a way for the operating system to work around or quietly remove incompatible device drivers or until Steel Series have made their drivers compatible with Windows 8.1. Which in my opinion they should have done by now.

Windows 8.1 was code-named “Blue”. It looks like they omitted “…Screen of Death” at the end of it.

Disappointing, and at a time when Microsoft is fighting to stay relevant this seems to me to be a terrible blow to its reputation. As I said, I’ve been almost evangelical about the stability and reliability of Windows 8. I’m not at all confident about upgrading to 8.1 now. That’s not a good thing.

The trial continues…

PowerMockup – create wireframes using Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerMockup website

PowerMockup

When designing (or redesigning) websites I tend to follow a five stage process:

  1. Gather / discover
  2. Structure
  3. Design
  4. Build and test
  5. Launch and maintenance

During the second stage (structure) I will focus largely on two aspects of the website’s structure: the overall site hierarchy and the structure of each of the pages, what are traditionally called ‘wireframes’.

Site structure

To design the site structure, for years, I’ve used mind maps and my mind mapping application of choice is Mindjet MindManager.

I love MindManager, and each version just gets better than the last. An important thing for me is that the software interface doesn’t get in the way of capturing and organising the information. It’s packed with subtle but powerful features such as keyboard shortcuts and the ability to drag information from web pages and Windows Explorer directories).

Page structure and wireframes

When it comes to designing page-level structures I pretty much always start by drawing wireframes using a good old fashioned pencil and pad of paper.

Wireframes are visual guides that present a skeleton or framework for the information on the page. They are concerned more with where information and design elements should sit rather than how they look.

If you think of it in terms of architecture, the building blueprint will show you that the kitchen needs a window between the wall cupboards, and in front of the sink, but it won’t tell you what colour or make they are.

As I said, I usually start all my wireframe diagrams with a pencil and pad, but occasionally I want something that I can save, edit and share with others via email.

Until now I’ve usually used either Balsamiq or Mockingbird, both of which have limited, free accounts. But recently I’ve been trying out PowerMockup.

PowerMockup

PowerMockup is a wireframing tool that integrates with Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 or 2010. It is essentially a library of PowerPoint shapes offering

  • 89 fully-editable user-interface (UI) elements
  • 104 wireframe icons
PowerMockup stencil library elements

Examples of some of the PowerMockup stencil library elements

And it is as simple to use as finding the element you want to use and dragging it onto your PowerPoint slide. The UI elements and icons can all be resized, and recoloured too which provides a great deal of flexibility.

Page size

Also, remember, although you are working in Microsoft PowerPoint which, by default, is set up for a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio screen you can adjust the page setup for any screen size and aspect ratio. That way you are not limited to only designing for ‘above the fold’.

Example

As a quick example, I mocked-up the PowerMockup website homepage using PowerMockup in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010:

Wireframe of the PowerMockup  website using PowerMockup

Wireframe of the PowerMockup website using PowerMockup

My experience

Intuitive

I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised using PowerMockup. Because it integrates with Microsoft PowerPoint I didn’t have to learn a whole new application: it was very intuitive to use.

Design

I really like the design of the elements too. My main criticisms of both Balsamiq and Mockingbird is that their UI elements have quite a sketchy, cartoony feel to them; particularly Balsamiq.

In contrast the UI elements in PowerMockup are clean, unfussy and unobtrusive. While Balsamiq and to a lesser extent Mockingbird’s UI elements have a Comic Sans feel to them, PowerMockup’s UI elements feel more like something classical like Helvetica.

Price

PowerMockup costs US $39.95 (approx. £25 GBP) for a single-user license, although obviously you also need a licensed copy of Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 or 2010.

The cheapest, standalone version that I can find, Home and Student, will cost you £75.00 GPB on Amazon UK), so you’re talking about a total cost of around £100 for one user.

If you already own a copy of PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, however, then you’re laughing and you may even qualify for a free license.

There are also two team licenses available: 5 users for US $119.95 (approx. £74 GBP), and 10 users for US $199.90 (approx. £123 GBP).

Conclusion

I’ve been genuinely very impressed with PowerMockup. What is not to like? It has a very extensive, very attractive, and very usable collection of UI elements and icons, and most importantly it’s really simple to use.

What might be nice is if someone could throw together a number of PowerPoint template files (with sensible background grids) to emulate the most common page dimensions, e.g. Blueprint CSS’s 950px width, 960 Grid System’s 960px width, plus some responsive-style tablet and mobile templates. Coupled with PowerMockup these could be a very useful, very affordable combination for small design studios and individuals.

I can definitely see myself using PowerMockup on the next design project I need to work on.

Finding the right keyboard – how I settled on the Logitech K750

What keyboard and mouse do you use, is it the one that came bundled with your PC? The last couple of PCs I ordered I made a point of making sure they didn’t include a cheap, budget keyboard. Instead I ordered my own.

Recently I’ve been on the hunt for a replacement for what has long been my standard, trusty keyboard, the Microsoft Digital Media Pro.

Microsoft Digital Media Pro

Microsoft Intellitype Digital Media Pro keyboard

Microsoft Digital Media Pro keyboard

For the decade or more I’ve used various Microsoft keyboards, for the last six years or so my keyboard of choice has been the Microsoft Digital Media Pro. It was a great keyboard: comfortable to use, solid and highly customisable

As you can see from the image above, the Digital Media Pro has lots of extra buttons:

  • Volume buttons (volume up, volume down, mute)
  • Zoom slider
  • Four media keys (play/pause, stop, previous track, next track)
  • Five My Favorites (sic) keys for launching your favourite applications
  • Hot keys (My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, Mail, Web/Home, Messenger, Calculator, Log Off, Sleep)
  • F-Lock key (toggles F1-F12 between standard function keys and predefined actions, e.g. Help, Undo, Redo, New, Fwd, Open, Close, Reply, Send, Spell, Save, Print)

In practice I always remapped the Calculator hot key to open My Documents as it was the closest reconfigurable key to my mouse; the shortest distance for my right hand to move.

I rarely if ever used the zoom slider, and since upgrading to Windows 7 I stopped using the My Favourites, as you can achieve something similar by holding down the Windows key and tapping a number (Win+1 will open the first application pinned to your taskbar, Win+2 opens the second, etc.). Similarly, I rarely used any of the other hot keys.

In the end I realised that the only extra keys that I used regularly were the four media keys.

And after six years of constant use I was beginning to get very sore fingers after typing with it, not to mention prolonged bouts of RSI.

It was time to get a new keyboard, both at home and at work. I like to use exactly the same keyboard in both locations so that I don’t have to think about where my fingers should go.

Logitech Media Keyboard K200

I spent a few weeks researching what kind of keyboard I should buy, investigating the options, and weighing up the pros and cons. USB or PS/2? wireless or wired? mechanical or membrane?

In the end my fingers were getting so painful I just ordered a really cheap Logitech Media Keyboard K200 as a stopgap. It cost me about £9.99 GBP.

Logitech K200 keyboard

Logitech K200 UK Media keyboard

The K200 is a full-size, 105-key keyboard with four media keys, and four hot keys. For a keyboard so cheap I was quite surprised by how comfortable it was to type on.

What let it down for me, however, was how flexible it was. When the adjustable legs were flipped out the whole keyboard bent in the middle whenever I typed on it.

As a temporary solution, however, it was perfect and within a few days my fingers were no longer hurting and the RSI was calming down. Time to find something more permanent, though.

Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360

I first spotted the Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360 in a gear review in .net magazine (issue 224, February 2012). The verdict of the review was “we found this to be a very comfortable keyboard to use, and — as wireless keyboards go — it’s well worth checking out”.

Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360

Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360

The K360 comes in five designs, which makes a change from the standard grey, black or silver offerings from most keyboard manufacturers:

  • Fingerprint flowers
  • Victorian wallpaper
  • Indigo scroll
  • Purple pebbles
  • Emea grey/black

I wanted something simple and and non-distracting, so I ordered the black one from Amazon for £19.99 GBP.

The K360 uses Logitech’s Unifying receiver, a small USB dongle that plugs into the PC and which can be paired with up to six devices (keyboards and mice). I discovered pretty quickly that this needs to be plugged into a the PC itself and not into a USB hub. I multi-boot my PC and the USB hub wasn’t available during the power-on test so the keyboard was still unresponsive when it reached the boot menu. Plugging the Unifying receiver into the USB port on the front of my PC tower, however, fixed that.

As far as the keyboard itself goes, it has the feel of a very nice laptop keyboard, with its low profile and ‘Scrabble tile’-like keys. The keys themselves are good sizes and very easy to use. The travel is very short so you don’t need to use much pressure to type with, which was great for my wrists.

You can lay the keyboard itself flat on the desk, or flick out two little legs to raise up the keys a little. I found that arrangement more comfortable and meant that the keys were all easily reachable without having to move my hands too much.

I did find, however, that overall the keyboard did feel to be a little smaller than standard and my fingers did begin to cramp up after a few hours typing.

And with it being a compact keyboard, like a laptop, the position of the ‘editing block’ keys had also been moved: the arrow keys, insert, delete, home, end, page up and page down keys, as well as the print screen, scroll lock and pause/break keys.

That was the thing that I found most frustrating and which led me to looking for something else. For years my fingers have just known where to go to grab a screenshot, or move the cursor to the end of the line. With this keyboard I couldn’t just get on with typing, it slowed me down, it forced me to think about the device, it forced me to keep looking down to locate the keys.

I gave myself a couple of weeks working with it to see how quickly I could adapt, and to be fair, by the end of the fortnight I was feel much more comfortable with the keyboard. I was able to locate the moved-keys more quickly but it still didn’t feel natural.

What I did find very useful, however, were the media keys (previous track, play/pause, next track) and the volume keys (volume up, volume down, mute). I liked that the K360 didn’t have lots of extra keys cluttering up the design (like the Microsoft Digital Media Pro), but I did find those six extra hardware keys very handy indeed.

In short, though, overall the keyboard’s compact layout got in the way of my typing, and that’s not a particularly efficient way to work. I needed to find something else.

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750

That was when I opened the latest copy of .net magazine (issue 227, May 2012) and spotted a review for the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750.

The review itself wasn’t exactly glowing, “spending over £60 on a keyboard that’s nothing special design-wise seems crazy to us, but it’s your call” but it looked exactly what I wanted.

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750

I ordered one from Amazon for £49.98.

Another keyboard?!” said Jane as I unboxed it. “What are you like?”

The K750 paired very quickly with my existing Logitech Unifying receiver and I was good to go.

It has a similar low profile to the K360 but is wider. It has more of a feel of a full-size keyboard and before long my fingers were finding the ‘editing block’ keys again (insert, delete, home, end, page up and page down) without my having to look down at the keyboard. Perfect!

The keys themselves are a little different to those of the K360: they are slightly dimpled which makes them feel surprisingly comfortable to type on. Your fingers sit easily in the hollow of the keys. Logitech calls this “hand happiness”: “Treat your hands right with keys that feel good and make every keystroke comfortable, fluid and whisper-quiet.” And they are right.

There is only one additional hardware key on this keyboard, to the right of the Pause/Break key. Press it and one of two LEDs lights up, next to a happy face or a sad face, to indicate whether the keyboard’s built-in solar panels are receiving enough light to top-up the rechargeable batteries. Logitech claim that even in total darkness the batteries would last for three months. Perhaps not long enough for Gollum to write his memoirs but certainly enough to get you through the night on a long coding or writing spree.

In the absence of additional keys the functions keys double up via the help of a Function (Fn) key sitting between Alt Gr and Ctrl to the right of the spacebar:

  • F1 – Web/Home
  • F2 – Mail
  • F3 – Search
  • F4 – Calculator
  • F5 – Media player
  • F6 – Previous track
  • F7 – Play/Pause
  • F8 – Next track
  • F9 – Mute
  • F10 – Volume down
  • F11 – Volume up
  • F12 – Sleep
  • Print Screen – Windows context menu

Typically, I regularly use the media and volume keys, and have once reached for Fn+F4 to launch the calculator. Thankfully these additional, and mostly extraneous options, are unobtrusive. I really wouldn’t have missed them if they had not been available, but I guess these days such media keys almost come as standard as though providing a solid, comfortable and highly usable keyboard isn’t enough.

At last! This is the keyboard for me.

Download Microsoft Money 2005 for free

ms-money-2005-02-homepage

I’ve been using Microsoft Money to manage my personal finances (such as they are) since about 1996. Today I upgraded to the last version that was produced for the UK by Microsoft: Microsoft Money 2005 (version 14.0.120.1105); in contrast the US edition went on until version 17.

I used the 16-bit Microsoft Money version 3.0 for Windows 3.1 for about seven years, until I upgraded to Windows XP in 2003. I then moved to Money 2004 and had all but given up hope that I could obtain the last localised UK edition (2005) until I discovered this afternoon that Microsoft now make it available for free download (see below for links).

Import RBS transactions

I’m a Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) customer and they still make all my statements available for download in Microsoft Money format (.ofx) which I can then import and track, which is really helpful.

Bills and deposits

I’ve set up in Money all my regular bills and deposits (e.g. mortgage payment, direct debits, salary) and so I can see what bills are still to go out, and when I’m next due to be paid. It really keeps me on top of all our accounts; we currently have about 11 accounts including credit cards and the boys’ Rainbow Savings accounts.

Categories

One of the most useful functions I find is the ability to categorise payments and deposits which is great for setting a budget, and tracking just exactly where our money has gone.

This month, for example, I can see that we’ve spent £242.34 on food, £253.76 on fuel (!!) and withdrawn a total of £150 from cash machines (including supermarket cashback facilities).

I found the reports a little buggy in Money 2004, in 2005 they are much improved.

Upgrade

The upgrade I found painless. I backed-up my Money 2004 (.mny) file, uninstalled Money 2004 and installed Money 2005 its the default location. On the first run I opened my existing Money file which 2005 ably and promptly upgraded and I was good to go.

The competition

Since Microsoft have halted development I have been tempted to move to another application but to be honest, this does what I need it to, and I can’t really justify the expense or hassle of moving to another, unfamiliar application.

I tried a demo of Accountz. I uninstalled it within a couple of hours. Personal taste: I just didn’t like it. It didn’t feel as polished an application as even Money 3.0. I’m probably doing it a huge disservice, but it just wasn’t for me.

The only other option, really, is Quicken which looks great and there seems to be a version for just about everybody. Obviously, RBS also offer downloads in Quicken format so it could be a viable option. The most basic versions, Quicken Starter Edition 2012 costs US $29.99 (approx. £19.41), next up is Quicken Deluxe 2012 which costs a very reasonable US $59.99 (approx. GPB £38.85) but that’s thirty-eight quid that I don’t have at the moment.

Conclusion

I’m happy with Microsoft Money, I’ve been using for years, I’m familiar with it, I trust it and it really keeps me on top of my finances.

You can download the localised US and UK versions here:

Every Time Zone

Every Time Zone

An idea for an Outlook add-in

A few years ago I emailed the kind people at Sperry Software with an idea for an Outlook add-in.  It was a simple idea: an add-on for my Contacts that told me what time it was in their city.

If I’m planning on phoning my cousin Zack in San Francisco, for example I want to know if I’m going to be waking him up or keeping him from going to bed. But at the moment that information isn’t available in Microsoft Outlook, even version 2010.

Which seemed to me a bit crazy because in my Contact record for him I’ve already specified that he lives in the United States of America, and the San Francisco bit of the California region of the United States of America.  That really should be enough information for Outlook to work out that he’s currently 8 hours behind.

I got an email back from the president of Sperry Software thanking me for such a useful and simple idea.  He said that they’d start work on it after they’d upgraded their current add-ins from Outlook 2003 to 2007 and that I’d get a free copy of it once it was completed.

Disappointingly, I never heard another word from them about it.

I now use Google and ‘Every Time Zone’

Instead, I now use two solutions.

The first is good old Google.  If you type the word “time” plus a place name into Google, e.g. time san francisco it will show you the current time in that city.

Entering "time san francisco" into Google shows the current time there

The other tool is Every Time Zone: a web page that lists 12 different time zones with a movable bar that allows me to plan when to contact someone in another time zone.

What time will it be in Tokyo when it’s 4pm in London? Move the bar… it’ll be 1am. How about New York at the same time?  Easy 11am.

I’d still like something integrated, by default preferably, into Outlook. That would be a very welcome addition.

Update

What I didn’t mention yesterday was that in Outlook 2010 you can switch on a parallel timezone in the Calendar, which does help:

Showing San Francisco and UK times side by side

But you don’t want to have to switch between different time zones all the time, which is why I thought that integrating it into the Contacts was a neat idea.