Do you need a paid replacement for Address Book and iCal? Maybe.
Apple haters love to claim that we’re paying a premium for little more than pretty hardware. But we all know how dim-witted that statement truly is—for starters, Apple makes tons of great software too. Case in point: The Address Book and iCal combo is a one-two productivity punch, and the two apps work so well—and are so tightly integrated—that getting us to drop $100 for a third-party contact manager and calendar is a bit of a long shot. But Chronos’ SOHO Organizer 9 sweetens the pot with some tricks that Apple’s offerings can’t match and adds an information manager and a handy app for printing envelopes and other business documents.
SOHO Organizer is actually a suite of three applications. The bundle’s namesake app is a mash-up of Address Book and iCal, while SOHO Notes is for recording, storing, and organizing digital information like notes, receipts, serial numbers, and images. A third application, SOHO Print Essentials, quickly creates hard-copy stuff like address labels, envelopes, and letterhead, drawing from information stored in the other two products.
SOHO Notes offers an iTunes-style library for your notes, images, and PDFs. Scads of metadata leave you no excuse for losing something.
SOHO Organizer easily ingested our contacts and events from Address Book and iCal with little fuss. All the calendar and contact basics are covered, and Organizer bests Apple’s apps in several ways. To begin with, Organizer handles syncing external accounts with ease, even while iCal sometimes balks. Event editing is simpler too. Unlike iCal’s click twice and then once more scenario, a simple double-click takes you from your Organizer calendar into editing mode. Our favorite feature is Desktop Calendar, which layers a list of upcoming calendar events on your Desktop—a genius idea if ever there was one.
Contact management in SOHO Organizer includes similarly cool flourishes. Clicking a link in a contact record instantly retrieves emails to and from the selected contact, as well as calendar events, text messages, and calls initiated from within the application’s phone dialer feature. It’s cool, though we found it a little curious that references to contacts in SOHO Notes do not automatically appear. Use the phone dialer to initiate calls via Skype, mobile phone via Bluetooth, or even by analog modem (if you’ve got one of those collecting dust somewhere). Unfortunately, Skype integration was frustrating. It took a visit to Chronos’s support site and some trial and error to get it configured correctly.
SOHO Notes is the second major component in the set—a place for keeping scraps of digital information. Notes handles text, images, PDFs, or entire files of any type. Anything you can print can be added as a PDF straight to SOHO Notes via an option in OS X’s print dialog. And if it’s something you have to see (or hear)
to believe, built-in recording uses your Mac’s iSight camera to create photo, video, or audio notes. SOHO Notes offers rich metadata options, including color coding, flags, and tags for customizable organization, and the Attachments panel quickly links to other items in SOHO Notes’ library.
The suite’s feature set is extensive, but we found a few rough edges in an otherwise polished product. When we trashed a few calendars from our Google account, for example, we had to delete and reenter the account in SOHO Organizer before it would pick up the changes. And while the documentation is okay, it feels a bit shallow when it comes to things like troubleshooting Skype configuration. Those stumbles were mitigated by exemplary technical support, however. Our inquiries received thoughtful and complete answers the same day.
The bottom line. For many people, Apple’s standard apps get the job done. But if you’re itching for a bit more, SOHO’s extras can be well worth the extra cash.
SOHO Organizer 9 Productivity Suite
Easy integration with built-in apps and web-based services. Better calendar experience than iCal. Useful note-taking features. Lots of printing options.
Superficial documentation. Occasional slowness. Setup can be frustrating.