Reminders Done Right with John Cody's Alerts!

By Mike Temporale on Monday, June 13, 2005



Product Category: Alarm / Reminder / Timer
Manufacturer: Omnisoft
Where to Buy: Omnisoft Website (28 Day unlockable trial available)
Price: $9.95 USD
System Requirements: Windows Mobile Smartphone 2002/2003 with 1MB of free space

Pros:
  • Shortcuts make creating new reminders quick and easy;
  • Reminders can use the default action settings or be customized;
  • Save favourite reminders in history for easy access and setup.
Cons:
  • Alerts! main page requires horizontal scrolling;
Summary:
There's a new alarm/reminder app in town, John Cody's Alerts! Pro, claiming to be easy to use, yet powerful and feature rich with 3 different types of reminders: Countdown, Date/Time, and Event based. Is Alerts! really any good? Read on for the full review!
Where To Start?


Figure 1 - Alerts! adds a folder to your Start Menu with lots of choices for you.

Alerts! was designed to make it quick and easy to create a new reminder or timer. In order to achieve this, Alerts! doesn't have just one entry in your start menu. Instead, in your start menu you will find a folder that contains 6 different items and at first glance this can be a little overwhelming. These are here to help improve the speed and ease of creating and managing your reminders. The first item - John Cody's Alerts! - is the main application. Items 2, 3, and 4 are all shortcuts to creating a new reminder. These will bypass launching the main application and take you directly to the screen for creating a new Alert!. If you add these to your speed dial, creating a new reminder will be just a single key press away! Whether or not you are creating an Alert! from the shortcuts or from the main application, you'll end up in the same screen. Number 5 - Overdue Alerts - launches a handy little window that will display all of the overdue Alerts! and allow you to snooze or dismiss them as you see fit. The last item in the folder is your typical Read-Me file, to assist you in getting familiar with your new application. However, I strongly suggest you read this review instead. Mr. Green

Inside Alerts!


Figure 2 - The main application screen of Alerts! showing all of the reminders in the system. From here you can create and manage all of your reminders and default settings.

When you launch the main Alerts! application, you will be presented with a screen similar to figure 2, listing off all your Alerts!. However, it won't be exactly the same. For starters, you shouldn't see my personal Alerts!, Wink as well, I have customized my screen a little by turning off the column headers, and using the small display font. My biggest complaint with Alerts! is the horizontal scrolling on this screen. I hate having to scroll left and right to read things on my Smartphone. However, this is a tough and unique situation, because there's a lot of information to display about each reminder and not much space to do it in. In order to totally get rid of the horizontal scroll, there would have to be big changes like splitting a reminder across multiple lines or something. Which ends up creating more problems when you try to read and view a large amount of reminders. It is possible to eliminate the scrolling if you use the smallest display font, but that's really small, and I find it a little too hard to read. Figure 3 shows how much horizontal scrolling there is if you use the small display font setting. It's not something that would prevent me from using Alerts!. It's just awkward. Perhaps a display option that changes the date format or hides it all together would be the best solution.


Figure 3 - Unfortunately, the main screen requires some horizontal scrolling. As this image shows, it's not a lot, but it's still a bit of a pain.


Figure 4 - The screen on the left shows all the different options available from the Menu soft key on the Alerts! main page. By selecting View (#5) you are presented with all the different sorting and filtering options displayed in the image on the right.

In case you end up creating a large number of Alerts!, you can sort this list by name, date/time, or type. As well, you can also filter the list based on the Alert! type like Countdown, Event, or Date/Time. Making it really easy to find a given reminder. You may never use this, but you should know the feature is there, and what it does. I speak from first hand experience on this one. I accidentally disabled showing of Data/Time based Alerts! and I must have spent the next hour entering and re-entering a Date/Time Alert only to watch it disappear after I save it. When I finally fixed my error, I had more than a couple copies of my reminder to delete. Embarassed

Creating A New Alert


Figure 5 - Notice all the similarities when creating a new reminder. On the left is the new Date/Time reminder and on the right is the new Countdown reminder.

Regardless of the type of reminder you are creating, they all look and feel very much the same. This makes creating a new reminder very easy because once you've created one type, you're pretty much familiar with all of the different types. What makes this even easier is that there are minimal fields to enter. If you skip over the title field, it will automatically generate a title for you. The date/time are automatically populated with the current date and time making it very easy for you to enter data. The default action for each alert can be defined in the options menu. So you only need to change the values when you're creating an extra special reminder.


Figure 6 - The new Event reminder shares many fields with the other reminders we've seen in Figure 5

Most of the fields are self-explanatory. However, there are a couple fields that I think we should stop and talk about. The first of which is the Alert Memory field. This has just two options, Save Me in History, and Don't Remember Me. If you choose to have the reminder added to memory, the next time you are creating a reminder, you can simply push the action button on the title field and select your previously saved reminder. All the settings will be restored into the new reminder that you are creating. Now if that isn't quick and easy creation, then I don't know what is. Smile

The next field I want to touch on is Default Alert Action. This field dictates what the reminder should do will do when it runs. You can choose from the standard Sound, Vibrate then Sound, Vibrate and Sound, and various other combinations of the two. On top of those, you can tell Alerts! to force a sound to be played. By default, Alerts! will always obey the phones current profile. So if you're phone is in silent mode, the reminder will not make a sound. It would just vibrate. By telling Alerts! to force sound it will ignore your active profile and fire off an audible alert. Since I put my phone in Silent mode over night, but I still want to use Alerts! as my alarm clock, this is a must have feature for me.

But wait, there's more. You can also set the Default Alert Action as Send SMS Text Message. Which means, you can setup a reminder to fire off a text message when it activates and you can pull the recipients number from your contacts list! Ok, this doesn't add any speed or make creating a new reminder any faster, but it is pretty cool. Mr. Green

Yet Another Homescreen Plugin
Almost every Smartphone application seems to have a homescreen plugin. So why not add one more, right? Wrong. Alerts! doesn't offer a homescreen plugin. I know what you're thinking, it would be really nice to see information on your next reminder on the homescreen, and you can. Just not using your typical plugin. You can setup Alerts! to create a Shadow Appointment in your calendar. Not only will this show on your homescreen, but it will also show up in your desktops Outlook calendar the next time you sync. Giving you the ability to see your upcoming Alerts! on your phone and desktop, without adding any extra memory hogging plugins.

Sounding Off


Figure 7 - Bright and eye-catching, when your reminder goes off, there is little chance that it won't be noticed.

Ease of use and the ability to quickly and easily create a new reminder is only half the battle. If the program fails to run and notify you at the scheduled time, then what good is it? Thankfully, Alerts! doesn't disappoint in this area. For starters, Alerts! doesn't need to be running to wake up and notify you. So you don't have to worry about leaving the application running in the background. As Figure 7 shows, Alerts! is eye catching, making it hard to visually miss a notification. Of course, you might not be looking at the screen, so hopefully you've selected the best action for that alarm to ensure you hear it. Alerts! also sports an Auto-Unlock feature that will make sure you can easily snooze that 5:00am wake up call without having to fumble around with a locked keypad.

Of all the Countdown, Event, and Date/Time Alerts! I have created, Alerts! has always run successfully and preformed exactly as expected. I may have slept through them a couple of times, but that's another issue all together. Wink Maybe the next version could add a feature that sends a small electric shock over a specially designed USB cable that's attached to the recipients arm. Then we'll see if I can sleep through it! Wink

Conclusion
John Cody's Alerts! is loaded with more features than I could fit into this review. Features like recording your own alert sound, setting reminders relative to other time zones, pre-alerts, context sensitive help, and much more, really help to make this easy-to-use tool extremely powerful and customizable. If you have tried to use the built-in alarm functions of your Smartphone, then I'm sure you'll appreciate the design and functionality that Alerts! offers. It has quickly become a must-have application for me.

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