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TUAW review: Daylite 3.9, Daylite Server, and Daylite Touch

Marketcircle's Daylite is a popular business productivity management application for the Mac platform, and it was recently updated to version 3.9. While this sounds like it might have been just another version upgrade, it was actually a major update to Daylite. Coinciding with the release of Daylite 3.9, Marketcircle also released Daylite Server and Daylite Touch, two new components that bring the power of Daylite to the iPhone and iPod touch platforms.

We'll be talking with Marketcircle CEO Alykhan Jetha (AKA A.J.) this Sunday, April 19th, at 10 PM EDT on the TUAW Talkcast, so be sure to listen in and bring any questions that you'd like to ask A.J. about Daylite.
Daylite 3.9
As I mentioned in the intro, this is a huge update to Daylite. In the past, Marketcircle used OpenBase as the underlying database engine for the application. With Daylite 3.9, they've moved to PostgreSQL, another open-source object-relational database management system. The change has made Daylite much faster and responsive.

The application (US$189 per license, including Daylite Mail Integration) can be downloaded and used for free for 30 days if you're curious. According to a recent blog entry by Marketcircle's CEO Alykhan Jetha, the company has set download and sales records since the release of Daylite 3.9.

If you're not familiar with the application, think of it as a single place to see all of your information about contacts, organizations, groups, projects, tasks, calendars, opportunities, appointments, and notes. Everything can be linked to everything else. In my business as an Apple Consultant, I use Daylite to not only keep track of my clients, but every conversation I've had with them. For projects that I'm involved with, I can look at every phase and assign myself or others tasks, then follow up on the status of each task whether I'm doing it or have delegated it to someone else.

Marketcircle makes a number of project templates available for free. Some of the industries they've made templates for include software development, film & video, real estate, sales, law, and recruiting. All of these templates can be customized for your particular unique workflow.

The Daylite Mail Integration piece, included as part of the Daylite Productivity Suite, is an indispensable part of my work. Any email that is sent to one of my clients is captured in Daylite as an activity, so I can see every email that I've ever sent to a client without searching through Mail.app -- instead, I just call up the client's information, click on Activity, and I have a nice, sorted list of every email.

The great thing about Daylite is that you only need to go to one application to see all of this information. The only complaint I often hear from my clients is that they feel that Daylite has a steep learning curve. After hands-on training with the clients, I make sure that they watch the Daylite video tutorials for reinforcement of the messages.

There is only one other app that I consider to be similar to Daylite, and that is Contactizer Pro (US$119) from Objective Decision. Having used both, I feel that Daylite has the edge in terms of usability, speed and stability, as well as utility for large (up to 50 people) workgroups.

If there is any gripe I personally have about Daylite, it has to do with syncing. Like many applications that use Sync Services to link themselves to Apple's built-in programs such as Address Book and iCal, it's way too easy to have Daylite repeating calendar events replicate themselves multiple times. I'm not sure about you, but I really don't need to have 50 tasks telling me when Thanksgiving is. While I know this isn't entirely the fault of Marketcircle's developers, I wish that Daylite had a better way of handling duplicate repeating calendar events than just going through them one at a time to delete them.

Daylite can also be integrated with Marketcircle's Billings application, XSilva's Lightspeed POS system, FileMaker Pro, and MoneyWorks.

Daylite Server
In the past, if you wanted to run Daylite for a workgroup, you installed Daylite on a Mac or Xserve, then had other Macs on the network log into the "server" Daylite machine. Now there's a dedicated server application for Daylite, which is used either when using Daylite in a workgroup or when using Daylite Touch (see next section of this post) to use an iPhone to synchronize remotely with Daylite.

As a consultant who has set up Daylite in a number of multi-user environments, I find Daylite Server and its administrative tools to be a tremendous improvement over the previous method of sharing the database with a workgroup. Server Admin includes a license manager, a way to set up external access for laptops and iPhones, and database backup scheduling. One of the more powerful tools is the ability to wipe the Daylite database on lost or stolen iPhones or laptops so that sensitive information is not compromised.

For organizations that have been using Daylite for a while and wish to upgrade to version 3.9, there are detailed instructions available on how to migrate data from an older version. It's not an overwhelming task, but people should definitely read the instructions before moving ahead with the migration.

Daylite Touch
The crown jewel in the Daylite lineup is the new Daylite Touch app for iPhone and iPod touch. Daylite Touch is an outstanding example of how to include a huge amount of functionality in an iPhone app without making the user interface difficult to use.
At the bottom of the home screen for Daylite Touch are five buttons:
  • Home -- shows any current notications, appointments and meetings for the next two days, and a button for settings. A gray arrow points at the next event on your calendar, making it impossible to miss the next item on the list.
  • Objectives -- this is where you can enter or track any projects that have been created to achieve some objective. For each project, there's a process pipeline consisting of a number of steps. Each step has tasks, appointments, or notes associated with it, and these items can be delegated to other Daylite users in your organization.
  • Contacts -- This is where your contacts and organizations are listed. For each contact, you can list the traditional information that you normally put into your Address Book, but you can also create new tasks, appointments, or notes that are linked to the person or organization. As with the traditional iPhone Contacts app, a single tap provides the capability to send a text message, email, or call someone.
  • Calendar -- The calendar displays your appointments and meetings in one of three different views. The first is a simple list view, showing the current date at the top of the list. Each entry has a colored dot next to it denoting the category in which the entry belongs (work, home, etc...). There are also day views (showing one day in detail at a time), and a month view that displays the month at a glance as well as the current day events. The
  • Tasks -- If you're a GTD fan, this is the screen you'll use the most. You have an Inbox for tasks that you've just created, lists of completed and uncompleted tasks (or tasks that need to be done "someday"), and ways to categorizing and delegating tasks.
I know one Apple Consultant in the Denver area who relies heavily on this app to run his business. He can assign work tasks to his staff, check completion of work, and look at schedules for all of his staff, all from his iPhone. I've been using Daylite Touch with Daylite 3.9 and Daylite Server for several weeks now and have been very impressed with the ease of syncing to my office Mac. To sync Daylite Touch to a Mac, you need to host your Daylite database on the new Daylite Server.

The only negative with Daylite Touch, and the one sore point with many Daylite owners, is that the app is quite expensive. Looking at Daylite Touch in the App Store (click opens iTunes), you'd probably think that this is insane, since the app is shown as a free download. But in order to sync Daylite Touch with Daylite Server, you need to purchase a US$49.99 annual license for each iPhone. In defense of Marketcircle, I often point out that this is only about 14¢ a day for an impressive application.

Conclusion
Daylite is a powerful and flexible application for individual users or companies, providing integration of all of the data that's required to run a business. It's in a class by itself -- there's literally nothing that can come close to the productivity tools that are built into Daylite, Daylite Server, and Daylite Touch.

For more screenshots of Daylite, Daylite Server, and Daylite Touch in action, check out the gallery below. Be sure to join us this coming Sunday night, April 19th, for the TUAW Talkcast with special guest Alykhan Jetha, CEO of Marketcircle.

In the interest of full disclosure, please note that the author is a Daylite Certified Partner.

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