Ilium Software's ListPro 5 reviewed!

So many things to get accomplished, and so little time. How will I ever keep it all straight, much less get it all done? I probably won't, but at least I can still try. I admit that making a list does help, but what's the best way to do that? A notebook (I mean like a binder with paper)? A notebook is good, but can't remind you when you forget something. How about your computer (calendar or tasks app)? It can't alert you when it's turned off. Oh, and you can't carry your PC with you into the grocery store (you UMPC freaks don't count). In Windows Mobile however, you can do lists a number of ways, and drag the darn things around with you everywhere. Some ways are admittedly better than others. You can use the built-in tasks, for instance, or create a simple spreadsheet using Excel Mobile (for long lists requiring calculations), but navigating and data entry can be a pain. You might even go as far as creating a database on your PC and a custom application on your handheld, and...uh, okay whatever... What if you just had a tool that brought all these aspects together, and made it simple to manage from both your PC and handheld (and kept the 2 synced up). I've really been kicking the tires on version 5 of ListPro over the last 2 weeks. Read on for the rest of the review, and there's even something free for the system administrator types out there at the end. I used ListPro to ingest the whole Technet Script Center database of scripts into some handy lists for your WM device (some 2000+ great code snippets and list items). You will never be without your favorite network monitoring script again...

I recommend you take advantage of using both handheld and desktop versions of ListPro. Large lists are much harder to work with on the small device display, even with a dedicated list tool. ListPro's record entry view takes the pain out of editing them, but navigating can still be cumbersome especially during the early creation phase. Also, many lists do have database and spreadsheet counterparts which you may want to export or import data from/to, so I highly recommend the desktop tool as the go-between. ListPro installed to both my computer and handheld without complaint. The initial setup requires you to turn on file syncing (it was turned off in my case), and includes a quick-start tutorial that is helpful.

Using List Pro

Ah, August is a time of hot summer breezes and the sound of geek judges in air-conditioned basements bent over their handhelds madly tapping away for our annual software awards (I have also enlisted again this year, to my wife's chagrin). The first list I imported was my judging spreadsheet, and right away put it to good use. Like I said, I don't always have my computer with me, but am almost never without my handheld. I was able to quickly import my judges sheet into a ListPro list to judge on the run, as it were. When I would return to the office/home and cradle my device, ListPro did the sync thang, and my desktop judging sheet was all updated. I then cut/pasted the updated rows from my list into the spreadsheet in order to run the more advanced calculations the judging sheet requires (ListPro is not up to advanced math yet, although will do simple addition and time calculations). More on importing later, but I wanted to point out how cool it was to have the desktop integration in there to get data from the handheld list quickly back to my computer.

Enough with all the flibbity-flube about moving of data, and importing stuff! You say you just want to make a darn simple list and keep track of it?! Okay, fair enough, Sheesh! Some people... ListPro will provide you with enough starter templates for almost anything you want to tally up or track. The free List Exchange site has gobs of lists covering everything from the layout of TCP frames to French wine. The first list they provide you (called My Lists.clf--the list files use a ".clf" extension) is a set of lists linking to the freebies and providing help and examples. These examples are included all inside, well, a list of course. Great way to get people used to the tool, in my opinion. Creating a new list is as simple as selecting new, name your list, pick your template (templates also feature list types from the popular Getting Things Done), add and tweak some fields, and start banging in your data. I did have a small issue when ListPro informed me that it could not locate my templates file. Help indicated it was available from the web-site, so I downloaded it, and was good to go...

New List

Picking a template

Adding Fields

Set Alarms

My Project...ain't it purty?

Great, now you got some data in there! Now what? Well, track and tweak your darn lists, and here's how. First, if your list includes a Date column, you can set an alarm to warn you when list items are overdue. If it doesn't, you can easily add one. Link columns give you ready access to external lists, files, pictures, e-mail or phone numbers with a tap of the stylus. Add checkmark fields to your list for simple yes/no decision notation and even select a custom icon (flags, thumbs up/down, etc.). Note high priority list items using color-coded highlights. ListPro gives you a ton of options. You can also use word or phrase filters to cull your list results down and even perform finds on lists, but do not expect sophisticated results. The find is much like the simple find in every other MS document editor, except it does give you the option of expanding your search to other lists. The templates can guide you to list nirvana, but the help and examples are more than enough to get you headed in the right direction. In large lists, a smarter search capability is almost a requirement.

List Pro 5 Features:
* Customize each item's Notes Pane however you want. Format the text, insert images, and link to live web pages
* Share lists, post them on websites, or turn lists into news feeds with our HTML and RSS/XML export options
* Send lists and images to your Windows Mobile device instantly with one-click List Publishing
* Get the most out of all your lists - make any columns you want, and use ListPro's alarms, indenting, outlining, and item highlighting options
* Make your lists easily and get organized fast with our shopping list functions, built-in templates, and any of our free List Exchange lists

Importing List Data

Probably the easiest way to get a large amount of data into a list and ready for inspection is via the import feature. ListPro allows you to do this very easily using plain text or delimited files. It also provides you with a convenient option to ignore the first row of the file if it contains column headers. One of the easiest ways from days of yore for moving data around from one proprietary database/program to another is comma-delimited or separated values (.csv). Excel, Access, SQL, heck almost anything (any decent program that is) that saves data in tables of a relational manner usually offers the data owner the option of exporting all of it straight out to a flat text file. Good for you too, because some proprietary structures can lock your data up inside that stove-pipe. Get too much data in there, and it will be very painful to get it out and migrate it (even with CSV options). ListPro allows you to import, and export large amounts of data, but there's a catch, so don't go running down the hall to tell the Oracle guys you want all of last year's financials dumped to your Pocket PC. Space remember? Yeah well, guess what? This ListPro thing is really well, a database-like application. Databases size restraints are tricky due to the fact that they must use space whether data is in there or not (call it overhead), and especially ones that run on limited mobile platforms. So, your lists cannot exceed 3MB, and my script database with literally 2000 plus records in it came in at around 2.5MB plus, but remember the fields have extra overhead (even with nothing in them). My imports kept failing as a result of the size limitation. The Ilium software technical guru suggested I try reducing the size a bit. I eventually broke it into chunks to get it squeezed into multiple lists, and then used the desktops drag and drop navigation to move them into a heirarchal structure of lists under separate folders. The list pro linking feature allowed me to maintain hotlinks to the do-it-yourself script database paths for the scripts that can be generated using the kit (have to check out the MS Technet Script Center for details on that, oh and download my list here). This process wasn't without some pain, but I must say that the cut/copy and paste features in the desktop version made it much less so.

Exporting List Data

Like with importing, it's also great to be able to export your data no doubt. Which you can do with ListPro. Exporting will allow you to easily move data from your lists to delimited formats or other ListPro files, but here ListPro surprises again (for a mobile tool anyway). How about exporting to HTML or XML (RSS feedable/readable)? Yep, you can do that, and then post them to the web! I hate to grouse, but the web page ListPro produced of my script list was pretty bare bones. It also didn't give much in the way of advanced web formatting options, other than to either use or not use the default style sheet. It still produced a decent tableized page with my data though. An un-documented feature that I must pass on is the fact that you can create your own stylesheet, and put it in the appropriate HTMLStyles or XMLStyles folder in the ListPro program folder. There is a default template there to help you, and it's important to note that an XSLT template is required, so you can't just create a CSS file to control the way the HTML output looks, for example.

ListPro is a tool I will really use to expand my organizational skills. The main reason I like it is that it runs on both handheld and desktop and allows for easy syncronization and publishing from both. The ability to cut and paste fields/rows/columns or import data from Office apps doesn't hurt at all. I recommend this tool for users who have a need to keep their lists regularly updated, and are looking for more list report generation capability, as well as a good alerting feature. The templates and list wizards make getting new lists built a snap. List Pro runs on Windows Mobile (all flavors back to CE4.2), Palm OS 4.0 and higher, XP or Vista. To learn more, visit Ilium Software and download a trial, or simply purchase the software at our VIP Store (members get 15% off...requires login).

Free List Download
To download the list of 2000+ free MS Technet scripts to do everything from remotely managing Windows servers and desktops to querying SQL, AD, and a ton of other useful things on your home or work networks, go to my download site here, or to the ListPro list exchange here (may take a bit longer for my list to get updated in the list exchange). The list exchange has a ton of other great computer-related lists as well. Enjoy!

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