If you like your life laid out in black and white (or even color), there's a software publisher somewhere who has your number.
Appointment programs, calendars, schedulers and other time organizers have long been among the most popular personal software titles.
Some people use these programs primarily to keep track of personal events, such as meetings, appointments, birthdays and the like. Others use them to publish calendars of events for their office, school or club.
If you're primarily interested in calendars that look good in print, the new Calendar Creator Plus for Windows from Power Up Software will do the job -- and then some.
The latest release of this old favorite, which runs on IBM-compatible computers under the Microsoft Windows operating environment, is the King Kong of calendar programs. It will let you organize and print an astonishing variety of yearly, monthly, weekly and daily calendars, complete with graphics. If you have a laser printer or a good ink jet, the final output will look like it came from a publishing house.
You can produce standard full-page calendars, complete with graphics, or small, pocket-sized planners to carry around.
The program will merge multiple event lists that you create, and even combine them with predefined lists of holidays and famous birthdays.
Like most Windows programs ported over from their DOS counterparts for the first time, Calendar Creator Plus requires some computing horsepower -- a relatively fast 80386 microprocessor for decent performance.
I don't know exactly why this is; my guess is that programmers working in the Windows environment for the first time haven't yet learned how to tweak their software for maximum performance. You'll also need up to 8 megabytes of hard disk space.
When the program starts up, you'll see a split screen showing a standard monthly calendar on one side and a blank event list on the other. This is basically a metaphor for how the program works. There's a data base to manage the events you want to track and a formatter that displays them. You can switch instantly from a full-page calendar view to a full-page event list. Fortunately, the two are tightly integrated for seamless operation.
Adding a single event is easy. Just point to any day on the calendar, click the mouse button, and fill in a form with the name of the event and, optionally, the starting and ending time. By clicking on a button, you can easily change from month to month or year to year.
But that's only half the fun. You can adjust the typeface, font, alignment and color of each event, and even select a picture from a gallery of 250 pieces of clip art.
You can enter recurring events such as birthdays, which always fall on a particular day, or regularly scheduled events, such as meetings that occur on the first Tuesday of every month.
By dragging a mouse cursor along a small picture of a calendar, it's easy to display events that span several days or even weeks. You can repeat the name of the event in every calendar block, or draw a box across the bottom of the calendar that spans the duration of the event.
Calendar Creator Plus offers a variety of formats for displaying any type of event. For example, the birthday format keeps track of how old the subject is. If John Smith was born on Jan. 19, 1960, the 1992 calendar will display "John Smith 32nd Birthday" on the appropriate day.
Fortunately, as you get older, you can turn this off by switching to another format, or just forget the birthday altogether.
One of the program's niftiest features is its ability to merge and display multiple event lists. For example, you can set up separate lists of family birthdays, car pool assignments, business appointments and Little League baseball games. In the office, you can display the schedules of multiple employees. Just tell Calendar Creator to open each list and all the events will be displayed in the proper order.
To spice things up, Power Up provides 20 prepared event lists, ranging from the birthdays of presidents and actors to famous quotes and Brazilian national holidays. The presidents' file includes little sketches of each chief executive, which you can display or hide at your pleasure. If you've always wanted your personal calendar to display Millard Fillmore's birthday (Jan. 7, 1800) or Luxembourg Independence Day (June 23), you can do it now.
The program will also import files from earlier versions of Calendar Creator, and convert lists prepared using dBASE, Lotus 1-2-3 or any word processor that can save a standard text file.
If there are too many events for a particular calendar block, the screen displays an overflow button. By clicking on it, you can decide how to handle the events that won't fit. You can reduce the type size, eliminate graphics or delete the events you don't want. You can tell the program to ignore the overflow or print the extra events on a separate page.
The well-drawn clip art is in the Windows Metafile format, which means pictures can be scaled up or down without losing quality. To add a piece of clip art, you just click on a "Power Album" button, which displays the artwork in a photo album. You can also import any graphic stored in one of six common formats. Pictures can be displayed in calendar boxes and at the top of your calendar.
All told, I don't think I've ever seen a program that offered so many options. They can be bewildering at first, but the 230-page manual explains them clearly. In fact, other than the speed issue, my main complaint about Calendar Creator Plus is that it's so much fun to fool around with that you'll wind up wasting your time instead of managing it.
Calendar Creator Plus is available for both IBM and Macintosh computers, with a list price of $69.95. For information, contact Power Up Software, 2929 Campus Drive, San Mateo, Calif. 94403.
(Michael J. Himowitz is a columnist for The Baltimore Sun.)