Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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August 2004, Week 2 -- Adding a Calendar to Your Email





   We found two utility programs for adding an appointment calendar, to-do list and notes to the most common email programs.

   The cheapest is "OE Complete," which works with Outlook Express and adds a calendar and appointment reminder. It's $25 from There's a free trial version and you can get this either at the India site or from You can add hundreds of sticky notes and appointment reminders will pop up on your screen at the designated time and date no matter what else you're working on.



   OE Complete does the job, but it's strictly basic. If you want more, you pay more, and what you get then is "Barca," which is $60 from and quite impressive.

   One big advantage of Barca is that it works with any email collection program. It will even work with the hard to penetrate HotMail, AOL and Yahoo systems if you first download a program like "Web2Pop," which is $19 from

   Along with an appointment calendar, Barca has a diary, to-do task planner, pop-up notes and email filtering that removes spam. The spam filter uses Bayesian logic, named for Thomas Bayes, an English mathematician of the 18th century who developed a method for predicting events by probability theory. After repeated use, the Bayesian filter produces close to 99 percent accuracy.


   Barca also lets you do group mailings and set up group appointments. Invite people to meetings or assign tasks and then do a group mailing to those involved. A "show only" bar lets you type in the kind of mail you want to look at right now, hiding, but not removing, the rest.


   There are a dozen other features: a spell checker, templates for repetitive messages, "auto-complete" for automatically filling in addresses and other text, scripts for timed messages, etc. But the most important feature for many people will be "threading." Threading provides a complete review of all messages back and forth between parties or on certain topics.




--  This is a web site for the American Automobile Association (AAA) and they have the best road maps we've found, better than, or Microsoft's "Streets and Trips" or DeLorme's "Street Atlas USA." The site has two sections: one for AAA members and the other for everyone else.. However, you can get AAA trip planning and maps and hotel and restaurant recommendations even if you're not a AAA member. The trip planning tool covers 53,000 hotels and restaurants.


This was the only map service that directed us to downtown Chicago from Evanston, Illinois, by driving there along Lake Michigan. This is not only the fastest but also the most scenic way to go. All other services took us inland and into heavy traffic.

 Conflict Map

--  Web site of the Nobel Prize Committee. Try typing "conflict map" in the search window to see a map of the world's hot spots; they're in all the usual places. Interestingly, the spots are pretty much the same today as they were a hundred years ago. Geography is destiny as many historians have observed. The maps show there are more conflict spots now then there ever have been, or maybe we just get more news now.


More NewsGator News


   This could be called a correction but it's really more of an expansion. Last week we wrote about NewsGator, a search program for bringing you news and comments from blogs on any subject you choose. ("Blogs" are personal web logs of commentary, sometimes valuable, sometimes not.)


   We said it couldn't find any news on major company names we tried, like General Electric, General Motors or Ford. It turns out the software can but you have to be counter intuitive. If you click on "search for feeds" (news feeds), the obvious choice, you get nothing. You have to click on "keyword search feeds."


   This is all fairly obscure and certain to confuse the ordinary user. The bottom line is we found the whole thing pretty techy and difficult to navigate. This is a problem with many programs and we have talked about it before in the column; programmers take much for granted and seldom understand how a new user sees things. The number of programs we have seen that are difficult to navigate would be legion, and include works from major producers, like Microsoft and Adobe. It's astonishing. On the plus side, NewsGator had good tech support. Web:


That's Entertainment

Shadow Ranch

   Another corker from Nancy Drew: "The Secret of Shadow Ranch," $20 for Windows, from

   These mysteries are nonviolent and a lot of fun, especially for fans of the books. They're aimed at the early teen years but we find them challenging enough that we've never been able to get through one without help. Help is available in a "strategy guide" that can be purchased for an extra $9 when ordered with the game. Unless you're a 12-year-old genius, get the strategy guide.

  Meanwhile, back in the land of product placement ... We have "John Deere, American Farmer." John Deere makes tractors and other farm equipment, of course, so you could consider this the game equivalent of product placement in movies. Actually, this is a rising trend; expect to see a lot of it in computer games. An old stock market quip is "nothing runs like a Deere," at least when earnings are up. As for the game, it's mixed reviews. Some people hated it, but some loved it. How much do you want to be a farmer? Web:


NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at and Joy Schwabach at