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Don’t go there. Don’t even try it.

Daylite 3 by Marketcircle

At first sight, this was exactly what I had been looking for: a business productivity tool that ties all of Apple’s built-in applications together into one big nice lump of interconnectivity, adding a good measure of its own cleverness into the bargain. Daylite talks to iCal and Adressbook via Apple’s Sync Services and to Mail via its own DMI interface, meaning that cross-synchronisation to your iPhone is a breeze. E-mails can be tracked in Mail and tasks, new opportunities or events created from messages or the menubar on the fly (Daylite needs to be running in the background while you are in a different application, however).

Project management of the advanced sort is carried out from within Daylite’s eye-pleasing main interface, where you can literally assign anything to anything – people to organisations, tasks to teams, opportunities to events, appointments to projects, and any other combination of the above. This allows for very comprehensive tracking of where your project or business is heading. On the basis of all this information, it comes as no surprise that Daylite also allows for some basic forecasting and a fair amount of reporting. Despite this, the GUI never seems cluttered. The next action or task for any of your collaborators (or indeed, yourself) is always clearly displayed right inside the corresponding contact card; if you need to look further than that go to the tasks module and use any of the “smart views” that resemble your “smart playlists” in iTunes. The calendars, contacts and notes modules work in a similar way.

A nice extra is a feature that allows you to create and track opportunities until they turn into full projects. I also like Marketcircle’s distinction between an “event” (a thing that will take a whole day, such as for example a shoot, a performance or me trying to explain to Rudolph why we need this software) and an “appointment” (a thing that has a fixed start and end time like a pitch to Rudolph’s sheikh friends). In principle, the distinction between “individual contacts” and “organisation contacts” is also a good idea. However, in practice this is not yet fully integrated with Addressbook, as importing Addressbook’s company contacts (i.e. those that only have a business name, but no named individual in them) will result in lots of rather ugly “no name” cards in Daylite.

So, despite some minor issues this could be a great tool if it weren’t, alas, for one major drawback: Daylite keeps its tasks to itself with the same dogged determination that we have come to expect from Entourage. Similar to Entourage, it is also backed by a database – in this case, an OpenBase format which is at least an improvement from Microsoft. However, there is no way you can get your tasks out of this thing and into your iPhone or mobile device, never mind the other way. Another point is that you will have to work with Apple Mail when using Daylite, as other e-mail clients are currently not supported. This seems a somewhat strange decision on behalf of the developers: anyone who has ever used Thunderbird or, dare I say it, even Entourage’s mail module with any satisfaction will not take kindly to Apple Mail’s notorious bugginess. Why create a powerful tool for professionals like Daylite and hook it up with a mail client for five-year-olds that regularly crashes?

One thing could have swayed my opinion in the end, though, and that is Daylite’s beautiful “pipeline” feature. This is a visualisation of the different development stages of a project:

It looks awesome and will certainly impress Rudolph’s sponsor sheikhs. Unfortunately, that’s all it will ever do – and even that only if the sheikhs don’t ask too many questions. There is no way you can assign tasks to the different stages, which makes the pipeline pretty useless as a planning tool in my eyes. And even if you could, your tasks would be sitting neatly in Daylite where nobody would ever see them again. Unless of course you share the whole Daylite database online. This feature is built in, but if you need to collaborate over any distance outside the reach of your Bonjour network, this means you need to start saving up for your own web server now.

Or actually, no you don’t. Having and maintaining your own server is a thing of the past for small businesses, creatives and freelancers these days – this has been “web 1.0″ history certainly ever since the guys from Futurelab came up with their complete remote server and weboffice solution in the early nougthies. So rather than saving up for your server, save about £130.00 and do not buy Daylite. (Yet! Marketcircle seem to be having plans for the 2009 Macworld – watch out for “Daylite Touch“.)

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