Shadow Plan

by PocketGoddess on December 12, 2001

Shadow Plan is still the “new kid” because it is a relatively new Palm OS application that has only recently come out with a desktop companion program, which is one of my personal requirements for a program of this nature. What exactly is Shadow Plan? It’s an outliner, a checklist program, a project manager, and a linker program, all rolled into one. Your needs determine exactly how you use it. Thankfully though the developer is strongly devoted to ease of use, so Shadow Plan can be as simple or as complex as you require.

In order to get started, you’ll need to download the program from its web site, double click on the Windows installer that appears on your desktop, and then perform a HotSync to complete the installation. Shadow is rather hard to describe because it is such a powerful and flexible program. At its heart, it is an outliner that allows you to create multiple lists to keep track of things. But it is also a linker, in that any item in those lists can be linked to an address, a to do item, or a meeting in your datebook. Color support and filters are in there too, along with a whole host of other features. But that doesn’t mean that Shadow is hard to use. When you download the application and install the file to your handheld, you’ll also get a full instruction manual that shows you how everything works. There’s a desktop application available as well, but this article will focus on the Palm OS application as the desktop is a new release that is still under development.

Using Shadow is as simple as tapping on the left-hand button at the bottom of the screen and typing in your first item. Each subsequent item can either be at the same level as the first or “nest” underneath, depending on which button you tap at the bottom of the screen. The icon that looks like a little sheet of paper takes you to the Item Details screen, where you can enter in the due date, the priority, and assign a link to the item. You also have the choice of bolding the item to make it stand out more clearly in your list, or even of changing the color. That’s a great help to those of us who are color oriented and already have a device with a color screen.

One of the things that really stands out in Shadow is the customizable views. You can choose whether or not you want to show each item’s priority, the due date, a task progress meter, and a box that allows you to do a quick to do link without going into the link manager screen. Even better, if you have a large list of items to manage, it is possible to very quickly filter the list based on several different pre-defined sets of criteria (such as checked, unchecked, etc.) or highlight certain items based on their due (or overdue!) date. You can even “zoom” to a particular level to get a bird-eye view of what’s really going on. See those three little checkboxes at the top right-hand side of the screen? You’re going to be using them a lot. If you select an item and tap on the V at the top, you’ll get a pop-up list that allows you to zoom either to the selection or inside, along with a few other choices. Zooming makes dealing with heavily “nested” lists much easier, and you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

And that’s not all– another one of my favorite features is the multi-clip ability. Sometimes you need to reorganize an entire list or project. While Shadow does have drag-n-drop features and some handy shortcut arrows at the bottom of the screen, they won’t really work if you’re changing your entire organizational scheme. This is when you tap on the little C at the top right hand side of the screen and use the multiclip function. First you tap the item you want to cut, then tap on the popup menu at the top of the screen. Do that for each item that you want to select, pick the spot where you want them, and voila: just tap the C again to get the choice of pasting the items as parents (a new top-level category) or as children of the current selection. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. And the ability to move large numbers of items around as needed is incredibly useful.

I used to use Bonsai from Natara Software an awful lot, and I still like that program–but it just can’t compare to the power and flexibility of Shadow Plan. If you have any need at all for a listing program, an outliner, or a simple project manager, you need to try Shadow Plan. I personally use it for everything from keeping my Christmas plans in order (gifts, cards, party invitations, etc.) to tracking the books I want to read and movies I want to see, my personal and professional projects, and my grocery shopping list. It’s incredibly useful and feature-packed, but incredibly easy to use.

And since Jeff’s thought of everything else, it can also import your lists from Bonsai or BrainForest so you won’t have to do any extra work. Speaking of Jeff, you’ll also be happy to know that he is one of the hardest-working, most involved developers that I have ever seen. In the unlikely event that you ever find a bug in Shadow, drop Jeff a note or write to the ShadowPlan disscussion group at Yahoo. It will probably get fixed almost before you hit “send” in your email client. Well, maybe not quite that fast, but I think you get the idea. Even better, Jeff believes that great software shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. You can purchase Shadow Plan for $12.50 at his web site and pick up the desktop version for only $10 more, but you’ll save a little bit if you buy them together for $19.99. The desktop is pretty basic right now, but Jeff is planning some grand surprises for us. And upgrades will always be free to registered users.

PocketGoddess rating for ShadowPlan: 5 out of 5

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