Article written: March, 2004 Download a copy of this article in zipped EPOC Word format here:
Craig Murphy wrote an excellent review of iContacts on Foxpop in December 2002 - see here: http://archive.foxpop.com/12_02/pages/icontacts.htm. At that time, it was the only serious direct challenger for the Contacts program built in to EPOC. Shortly after this however, DreamConnect was published and became the 2nd potential Contacts replacement for EPOC machines.
I was initially tempted to write a iContacts v's DreamConnect comparitive review. However, Craig's review of iContacts would make some of it redundant and so instead I've decided to concentrate on DreamConnect and make reference as appropriate to Craig's review.
What's in a name?:
Or rather, what were the author(s)/publishers smoking when they 'dreamed up' DreamConnect as the application name?!? Certainly not an intuitive or obvious Contacts replacement program name methinks! Presumably linked to the name of the software house - DreamSpring - but as DreamConnect was their first published program, it's not clear which came first... Name aside however, this little program does what it's supposed to and does it both well and elegantly.
Installation is via the standard SIS file - although the standard file on DreamSpring's web site is v1.30 and you need to also download an upgrade to get it to the current v1.32. The program works on the revo/revo+/mako, 5mx/5mxpro, Series 7, and netBook. I haven't specifically checked for Osaris or Series 5 compatibility but I doubt that they are supported since it's designed to replace Contacts which is an ER5 application.
One nice feature of the program that becomes immediately apparent is that it takes over the Contacts silkscreen button on your machine so that DreamConnect is launched by it instead of Contacts.
Why replace Contacts?...
... when Contacts is such a capable program? A good question and probably the main reason why there wasn't such a replacement program for a long time. In my particular case, it was speed. I have over 2000 contacts on my day-to-day machine (a netBook) and even with its 190MHz processor, it could take it up to 5 or 6 seconds to find a single-occurrence name. Working in a sales type environment as I do, I'm constantly looking up people's contact details - and I wanted to try and grab some of those seconds back! Another reason was ease of lookup. It may seem pernickety but when you enter a name into Contacts to look up, you have to press the Enter key afterwards. DreamConnect has a quick lookup feature called Quick Jump which works very similarly to the Quickfind feature in Tomeraider. You simply start typing the name and the program starts searching as you type the letters. Chances are that before you've typed the last letter in the name, it's already found the contact you were looking for.
In fact, my one main criticism of the program is that the Quick Jump feature doesn't have a reset timeout on it. Once you've typed in the letters you need to find your contact, you then have to press Escape to reset the lookup. With Tomeraider, the program times out after a user preset number of seconds so that you don't need to do this. This would be a simple feature for the author(s) to add and would - in my opinion - enhance the user experience (although of course it could be an optional feature).
Features and customisability:
Like iContacts, DreamConnect works and integrates with your existing Contacts database; importing the file on launch. Personally, I always left/leave my Contacts file open on my machine even when I'm not using it - purely for speed of launch. With EPOC's legendary stability, file corruption just isn't an issue (although a healthy backup regime is always recommended!). And even on my netBook, opening the 2000+ database in Contacts took some 10 seconds or so. Both iContacts and DreamConnect take longer than this however when they import the contacts database for the first time. After it's been done for the first time, iContacts opens almost instantly. DreamConnect however, takes about 35 seconds to open my 2000+ contacts database every time I fire it up from scratch on my netBook! Fortunately this isn't an issue for me because - as I said - I normally leave the file open on my machine. Also, if your contacts database isn't compressed when you do the initial import, DreamConnect compresses the file incrementally as it imports it. I guess the logic behind this for smaller machines is that it stops the contacts database temporarily growing very large, keeping it to a manageable size instead. That's fine but it does so at the expense of time. With the 1500+ contacts I happened to have on my revo when I tested the program on it, it took in excess of half an hour!
Like iContacts, DreamConnect allows a lot of customisation of views. You can choose to order your contacts in 9 different ways:-
Both iContacts and DreamConnect can handle categories but both do it in completely different ways. iContacts let you set up folders for separate 'iContacts' entries and hence these can be organised by category (or any way you prefer). The problem with this is that none of these new 'iContacts' are kept or synchronised with the standard contacts database. I prefer the way in which DreamConnect does things; it maintains it's own invisible file of category information which gets associated with the standard contact information as though it was all in one database - so the user is unaware that there's anything 'extra' being done. Of course, neither of the programs can synchronise this category information with MS Outlook's categories (probably the nearest desktop equivalent - and perhaps the inspiration for the feature) since the information isn't synchronised by PsiWin. However in the case of DreamConnect, it's easy to apply the categories since you can search for string types in the database and apply the category to the entries found.
With the exception of my slight criticism of the Quick Jump feature and (potentially) the database loading times, I think DreamConnect is an excellent program with almost instantaneous contact search times. I was sufficiently impressed with it that I bought a copy (the ultimate test!) and the current low US Dollar exchange rate made the $28 price tag almost bearable too!
Rating: 4½ stars out of 5.
Article written: March, 2004
Download a copy of this article in zipped EPOC Word format here:
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