Ilium Software Week: ListPro

by PocketGoddess on April 28, 2006

I have to start this review with a confession: I was pretty biased against ListPro at first, because I thought it was rather simplistic compared to ShadowPlan, the uber-outliner that I’ve been using on Palm OS devices for the last several years. I didn’t think it would turn out to be all that powerful/useful at first, but now I must admit that I’ve turned into a ListPro fan. It doesn’t stack up feature-for-feature with ShadowPlan–while they’re both outliners I think that each application has a different focus and unique strengths. The main advantage for me is the fact that ListPro is multi-platform on the handheld side, working with Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices, while ShadowPlan is multi-platform on the desktop side with applications for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Installation and use of ListPro on both the handheld and the desktop is simple and straightforward, as is actually using the program on either platform. Simple wizards and tutorials take you through the process of creating new files and new lists, meaning that you don’t even have to consult the manual if you don’t want to. I would suggest however that before you start you spend a bit of time figuring out exactly how you want to organize your information, because that will make it much easier in the long run to get exactly what you want out of ListPro. I’ll make reference here to ShadowPlan, because that’s the handheld application with which I’m the most familiar. ShadowPlan allows you to create as many lists as you like, and organize them by categories, but each one is a separate file. With ListPro, you start out with one main file called “My Lists” and you can put ALL of your information into that one file, or else you can break things up across several different files. If your needs are rather simple, such as a grocery list, packing list, etc. you may find that one file will do everything you need, especially since the lists within that file can be grouped into folders for quick reference.

If your needs are more advanced/complicated, like mine, you may need to take a different approach. I could be called a “list addict” because that’s the way I tend to run my life– I make lists of everything from things to do to the books/movies/games I own, packing lists, shopping lists, and anything else you may think of that could potentially be organized in a list. I found that it was smarter to use several different files, so that I could then have several different lists of books within my one Books file. I started out with lists that were organized the same way as I had done them in ShadowPlan, sorted into lists by category and then by title, because I made one crucial mistake–I didn’t realize that ListPro could also function as a rather fully-featured database application. This is due to the fact that I have control over which columns are used in each list, so I can easily set up simple databases that can include title, author, publisher, ISBN, notes, etc. That’s why I suggest that you spend a little bit of time figuring out how best to organize your data before you jump in–it may take a little bit longer, but the results can definitely be worth it.

ListPro List Example ListPro Database Example

Once you’ve decided how to do things, you can get to work. ListPro doesn’t have all that much in the way of data import, but I found that simply cutting and pasting from a plain text file worked very well. I exported my data from ShadowPlan into plain text, then used Notepad to edit it as necessary. ListPro didn’t recognize that the tabs in the text file were meant to show the indention level of each item, but it was easy enough to select multiple items and use the buttons on the toolbar to indent them to the right level. It was also easy to reorganize and clean things up with full drag and drop support (on both the desktop and the handheld). Other features of the desktop application include the ability to password protect individual files, an import wizard (that pulls information from other ListPro files) and an export wizard that can output data in tab delimited, indented, or CSV format.

On the handheld, ListPro is quite dense with functionality, but you won’t find any of it getting in the way unless you dig for it. When you first start ListPro, you will either see a list of files or it will open the last file you were working on, which can be a nice timesaver (especially if you’re taking inventory on a a collection and want to start where you left off). To enter a list, tap on it and you’ll see the column header at the top, the list items below, and the menu button on the bottom right corner. Columns can be reordered and resized at any time, and ListPro also supports landscape view if your device has that option. Much of the power of ListPro is in the fact that you can choose any columns you like from a nice selection of options such as yes/no, string, number, category, checkbox, date, and simple text. You can add and delete columns, and you can also choose not to display a column and not delete the information it contains by unchecking the checkbox next to it as opposed to actually deleting the column entirely. That’s a great feature for when you want to narrow down the view but don’t want to sacrifice extra detail in your lists. You can make your choices in the List Properties menu if you chose to create a quick list instead of going through the New List Wizard.

ListPro List Properties ListPro Preferences ListPro Alarms

The menu has an almost dizzying array of features and choices, but they’re all nicely arranged in submenus so they’re not overwhelming. You can create a new item to add to your list, find a particular word in this list or across all lists in the file, or use the Edit menu to cut/copy/paste, delete checked items, or reset the list (which is perfect for shopping and packing lists). The View menu gives you a very good amount of control over what you see on the screen, which is especially important on relatively small handheld screens. You can turn the notes pane on or off, show the status bar and selection bar, apply filters, and expand or collapse your entire list with a single tap. The filter feature deserves a closer look, as it is extremely powerful. When you turn it on, a header row is added to the top of the screen; tap in any column to set up a filter on any screen, or on any value in a category list. Set up a filter and you’ll only see matching entries, which is a great way to drill down to a specific set of entries in a long list, such as fantasy/sci fi books, as you see in the screenshot. You can also simply tap and hold on a particular word in a column and select AutoFilter to immediately filter on that word or category. ShadowPlan has a more powerful filtering system, but it’s harder to use.

ListPro Menu ListPro View Menu

You can also choose different sorting options that are very similar to those found in Microsoft Excel, or you can just tap on a column header to do a quick ascending sort on that field. ListPro also does some basic calculations, which is very handy if you’ve entered prices into a shopping list. Other tools allow you to import or export items to other ListPro lists or files, or “flatten” the outline so that you can see everything in one glance without having to expand and collapse items in a hierarchy. The tools menu is also where access the Category Values screen, where you can add or delete any categories or other “pick list” items such as book or music categories, your employees if you’re using ListPro for delegated to dos, etc.

ListPro Category Values

ListPro does a great many things, and does all of them very well. While it isn’t perfect, it’s so close that I feel it still deserves a “Perfect 10″ award. Some of the enhancements I would like to see in future versions include the ability to to do “mass” changes on several items at a time, perhaps by checking each item’s checkbox, making the change to a certain column, and having that change propagate to every item that is checked. It would also be nice to have a bit more control over the font size and format of individual items in each list, though I must admit that may add more confusion than function. It is possible to highlight individual list items, but the color choices are rather limited.

You can get ListPro for $19.95 or the Professional version that includes the Windows desktop application for $29.95. I strongly suggest the Professional version because the syncing is completely seamless, meaning that you’ll likely want to do most of your data entry on the desktop instead of on the handheld. For more information, a free trial, or to purchase a full license, visit the Ilium Software web site.

A Perfect 10!

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