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Review: AirSet Aims To Organize

The latest beta version of this online service offers small groups the ability to create and track schedules, contacts, and discussions.
Every since I gave up my trusty (and overstuffed) Day-Timer personal organizer, I've been searching for the Perfect PIM. PIMs, also known as personal information managers, are meant to help you track appointments, contacts, tasks, and other day-to-day info. The most commonly used PIM today is Microsoft's Outlook -- in fact, it's practically the only PIM in use today, since it succeeded in pretty much swallowing up most of the competing PIMs that used to be available.


Those few PIMs that are still around are trying to exist by working with Office rather than competing against it.

Those few PIMs that are still around are trying to exist by working with Office rather than competing against it. AirSet is one of these. The online service, which is currently in beta, offers an Internet-based calendar, contact list, task list application for individuals and groups.

On the surface, AirSet doesn't offer the individual user much more than the basics. After registering, users have access to the kind of simplistic PIM that has been offered as freeware for years now -- you can schedule your appointments, including alarms; access a list of contact information; and track your tasks. The personal blog is a nice touch, as is a Web list on which you can keep your favorite URLs, but all in all, it's nothing that you can't get elsewhere.

Here's The Real, Collaborative Deal
However, that is not the selling point of AirSet's service. The real value in the service offering is the ability to easily share information with groups of coworkers, friends, and relatives, giving individuals and small businesses the kind of collaborative scheduling and messaging power that, until recently, was available mostly to network administrators.

The software makes it relatively easy to set up groups. You start by simply naming your new group and sending out invitations to anyone you want included. Each group then has access to its own set of AirSet tools.


Airset allows group administrators to determine a variety of user rights. (Click on image to expand.)
You can, for example, have a calendar for your mobile employees, which shows each worker's schedule. That means that if you want to schedule a conference call with the mobile group, you create the appointment on the calendar -- each member of the group is sent an invitation and can then RSVP. You can also send an invitation to somebody outside the group. The contact list will keep everyone up to date on common contacts, while the blog enables the group to hold threaded discussions online.

If you also use AirSet to keep your personal calendar, both your personal and group appointments will appear on your personal schedule. However, this doesn't go quite far enough -- for example, if a member of your group schedules a meeting that overlaps an appointment on your personal calendar, nobody is notified of the conflict.

I was impressed by the flexibility of setting access rights to the various parts of the group database. You begin with four preset "roles" -- including Organizer, Project Leader, Team Member, and Public -- each of which have different rights distributions for the various parts of the database. The rights of each role can be changed, and new roles with new rights combinations can be created. That means you can set whether the user can view, create, or edit the entries in the any of the group's AirSet areas.

Since AirStep recognizes that most people will be using its service in conjunction with another calendar program, it allows you to synchronize your contacts and calendar with Outlook. Don't use Outlook? Well, you can manually import information from a .CSV file -- not a perfect solution, but helpful nonetheless.

Mobile phone users can receive SMS text notifications of reminders, group message, and schedule summaries. In addition, the company plans to release a mobile client that will support the calendar, contacts, and list features on Java and Brew enabled handsets.

Now that people are sharing music, photos, and opinions on the Web, it makes sense that they'll want to share schedules as well. AirStep is at least the first step toward making that process easier.


AirSet [Beta]
Airena, Inc.
www.airset.com
Price: Free
Summary: The latest beta of AirSet offers basic but useful PIM features for family and small business groups.
Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing