Apple gave us iLife; now I want ‘iPIM’ integrating Mail, iCal and Address Book

This past January, at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Steve Jobs introduced iLife. More a concept than a single piece of software, iLife integrates four of what Apple calls its “digital lifestyle” applications: iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, and iDVD. Mac OS X users can download three of the four applications for free and they’ll all work together seamlessly. iDVD is available pre-installed on Macintosh models with DVD-burning SuperDrives. Users can now use music from their iTunes library in their iMovies, iPhoto images are available within iMovie, and iMovie media can be added from within iDVD; you get the idea. As Jobs said in the press release, “iLife does for our digital lifestyle what Microsoft Office did for office productivity – they all work together.”

The iLife concept works very well, but now Apple needs to do something for this former Microsoft Entourage user. In Entourage, Microsoft’s Personal Information Manager (PIM) for the Mac, email, calendars, and addresses all are available within one application. Currently, in Mac OS X, users have Mail for email, Address Book for addresses, and iCal for calendars, but all are independent applications. There is some minor integration; clicking Address while composing a message in Mail brings up your addresses without having to launch the Address Book application, but to do real editing of the addresses, users have to switch to the Address Book application itself.

After using iLife, this switching from application to application to work with email, calendars, and addresses becomes somewhat painful.

Now, the way I run Mac OS X, with all commonly used applications always running, Command-Tabbing through the dock to access each in the foreground, you’d think that would be easy enough. But, I’d really like to have my iCal calendars immediately accessible while still in the Mail application.

Apple would do well by its users to create “iPIM,” integrating iCal, Mail and Address Book (and perhaps iChat) in much the same way they’ve done with iLife. I’d really like to be able to edit my Address Book and my iCal calendars in Mail, and send email while checking out my iCal calendar.

I don’t know; maybe I’m not doing things right or I’ve been spoiled by my previous Entourage use and I’m brain-locked into the PIM concept? Am I wrong to wish Apple would meld iCal, Mail, Address Book, and maybe even iChat into something integrated like iLife?

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

31 Comments

  1. I have had the same thought myself. The commmand-tab method has some serious flaws and I often end up thrashing around because I inadvertantly bring the wrong program to the front. A simple (in theory) app that would be a single container for the individual Apple apps that make up the functionality of an integrated PIM would seem to be all that was necessary.

    I would think that because you would be starting with the functional apps already made and just creating an application that kind of consolidates things that it might be an easy task for a competent shareware or freeware developer to come up with. Karelia or Omni spring to mind.

    I say easy knowing that I could very well be wrong and for whatever reasons it could be a nightmare to actually develop. I’m not a developer by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve done enough to know that ‘simple’ conceptually doesn’t mean easy to execute. Still, I think it bears looking into as there seems to be a gap here that might be profitably filled by an enterprising developer.

  2. I don’t know the answer, but it’s too disjointed now with separate Mail, iCal, etc. I prefer Entourage’s way, but I hate Entourage’s maker, so…

    Come on, Apple, fix this and beef up Mail, iCal, and iChat while you’re at it!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with Steve on the concept of iPIM. I’d also argue that iChat messaging should also be integrated. Anyone interested in this type of product should submit feedback to Apple. They do seem to listen to feedback about their products and the more people making the same request should get their attention.

  4. NOOOOO!!!!!!!!! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    I have many complaints about iCal, Address Book, and iSync, but overall I feel they are good programs. I like that Mail pulls up my Address Book entries, but also allows me to enter new addresses independently that aren’t entered into my address book.

    But I don’t understand the need for integration. I want a good calendar program to manage my calendar. I want a good email program to send and receive email. I want a good address book to store phone numbers, street addresses, etc. The only interaction I need is that my mail program can read email addresses from the address book. My calendar should be able to link to birthdays and anniversaries from my Address Book. But the company making the best calendar program might not be the same company that makes the best email program. And I want that flexibility.

    But what possible relation is there between my email program and my address book?

    I think Apple is off to a good start by adding some “cross-linking” between the apps, but too much integration is a bad thing. I like the analogy of a TV/VCR/DVD combo. I would MUCH prefer a good TV, a good VCR, and a good DVD player to a single unit combination of the three. This way I can easily record one show, while watching a movie, or another tv channel. I have the flexibility to use each unit as _I_ choose, not as the manufacturer chooses.

    The key is COMPATIBILITY. And Apple is off to a decent start by using standard formats for data storage for these apps (mbox for email, vcal for calendars, a limited ability to use vcs for contacts). This gives me the power to use my data as _I_ want, which is important.

    Flexibility, not a requirement, to integrate is important with these apps – if I so choose, I can easily use Mail, Address Book, and Palm Desktop for my calendar. If these pieces are integrated too tightly, that flexibility will be lost.

    And then I might as well run Windoze.

  5. This is exactly my thoughts as an Entourage user. I use it b/c perhaps I’m spoiled using Outlook at work. I believe someone can link these apps all together somehow before Apple does. Maybe Apple is working on it, perhaps Apple is creating a more powerful suite for us. Who knows. Entourage is nice but it does crash alot I notice now. I use iPodIt to sync with my iPod as well, so if I switched I would be losing that feature too. Decisions, decisions!

  6. Fletcher says:

    “But what possible relation is there between my email program and my address book?”

    A huge relation, Fletcher.

    In this day and age, people communicate with each other fluidly in various ways: snail mail, telephone, fax, email and even chat. Entourage’s great concept of FULL email/PIM integration suports this reality, as all data is stored within one app and one database, with your entire history of communication linked and co-ordinated. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that no other PIM maker has embraced this concept, born out of M$ Outlook way back when.

    Also, a do-it-all app really cuts down on Dock clutter.

    Credit where it’s due, Microsoft has got it right this time.

  7. I just don’t know. I thought an early statement about the suite of separate apps was that instead of creating one huge honkin’ @ss piece of bloatware with a gillion options and settings, we would have these smaller, discrete apps that do their own thing and bring up the new app when needed. IMHO, smaller, faster apps… I like it the way it is. I don’t want it to behave like an MS app.

  8. You actually have this available with 3rd party programs. Besides Entourage there is also Personal/Group Organizer from Chronos and I am sure there are others. Why must it say Apple? I like the separate address book since it allows other programs to access it and use it. It is integrated along with being separate. So many times I just want to access the address book to look up something and don’t need the calendar, email, or anything else. That is why I like Safari or Camino browsers instead of Netscape or Mozilla. I don’t want to check email, read news or chat online. I just want to surf the web.

    Another example of integration is AppleWorks. Why is MS Office the rule? Apple’s use of integration here maybe hurting the program.

    I have iLife and view them the same as Mail, iCal, iSync and Address Book. Separate programs that work together. iLife acts the same now.

  9. I expect the next version of Mail.app will have improved interoperability with iCal and AddressBook, and perhaps iChat. The following are obvious enhancements:

    – Better handling of iCalendar/vCalendar attachments: should be displayed as an iCal event that can be dragged onto iCal or double clicked to open iCal. The plain text alternative should also be displayed.

    – iCal can mail out meeting announcments when scheduled.

    – Drag iCal events onto email window.

    – Mail will display images of senders from AddressBook. Currently Mail displays images of .Mac senders, or from ~/Library/Images/People

    – Open chat session with email sender and/or all recipients.

    – Integrated Keychain/AddressBook/Mail handling of PKI.

    All of that is pure speculation, of course.

  10. Once upon a time, people looked to the OS to provide consistent “services” such as storage, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if Mail, AddressBook, iCal, etc., were just handy interfaces to databases that any developer could access? This gives Apple free advertising — “My ZoomPIM automatically integrates all the MacOSX capabilities!” while giving users choice. Apple could focus most of its efforts on core features (Metadata for files, anybody?) and we’d get MORE rockin’ software!

  11. Most of times you find you must group/update/reorganize a set of addresses just while you are dealing with your mail and discovering those needs. We should have full address book maintainance capabilities in Mail.app (its addresses palette is painful: I liked it better when Mail.app invoked Address Book).

    Also, AddressBook.App is useless when you must enter a large list of address data. There should be some sort of Filemaker-ish column view for sorting and editing.

    I favour the idea of having some sort of Apple-standardized personal data databases (address books, bookmarks, iTunes lists, etc.) so that other vendors’ apps can access and give us ways of not only using them but editing them.

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