The guy in the coffeehouse with the sleek new laptop, the girl in the home office down the street who always seems to be in front of her computer -- they can't just be playing Solitaire and other games, can they? Read on and I'll let you peek over the shoulder of a computer jock and take a look into his hard drive.
Allow me to introduce Nick Kozloski, the APD national sales manager for Makita Corp. He was chosen because I've known him for a few years and we've traded computer problems quite a few times; he is in the window coverings trade, and has been for a long time; and he typifies the road warrior with his use of technology. There are many times while he's traveling that he must keep on top of business even though he's on the other side of the country from his office.
Before we go too far, let me explain what Kozloski does as his job. He makes sure your local supplier of drapery hardware has enough of those cool, automatic drapery openers that allow home owners to pick up a remote and draw the draperies from across the room. (In my opinion, the more remotes around the house the better.)
Kozloski's company supplies him with a nice, new laptop, but he has outgrown that unit and has put his own money into buying an even more powerful one.
Here's what he has on his computer, the short list:
PIM Act 2.0 WinFax Pro 7.0 Microsoft Word 6 Microsoft Excel 5 Microsoft PowerPoint AOL AT&T Worldnett & Netscape
For those who are not sure about what's on the short list, here's the breakdown:
Syntec's Act 2.0 -- this is a PIM (more on that later).
WinFax Pro 7.0 -- this program allows the user to send a fax (one or a few of them) to one (or many) of the names on a list in the PIM right from the laptop. It makes faxing less taxing.
Microsoft Word 6 -- seemingly the word processor of choice. You can have it spell check words as you write. It even has a built-in grammar checker for those of us not sure if our participle is unintentionally dangling.
Excel 5 -- a spreadsheet. Work the numbers any way you like and build graphs to illustrate what's going on and use them for presentations to others.
PowerPoint -- allows the user to make a kind of slide presentation on your computer. Add those graphs created in Excel and some illustrations to train, report or sell right from your computer.
America Online -- the largest commercial service providing not only World Wide Web access, but a great wealth of its own content.
AT&T Worldnett with Netscape -- basically just an on ramp, allowing the user a way to get e-mail and access to the Internet. These last two programs represent ways to hook up your computer to the rest of the world.
Of course there are other programs hiding on Kozloski's hard drive, but the seven listed above are the ones he uses most. All of these programs are running under Windows '95.
Managing his staff and schedule could take a lot of time. These tools help Kozloski get his work done. He figures he uses the computer about 30 hours per week, but it saves him another 30 hours if he had to do all the work by hand.
Let's focus on the one program that really ties it all together, the PIM.
Remember those schedule books that were so hot in the '80s and still in use today in which you would keep all your telephone numbers, addresses, schedule for the next year and every business card, receipt and note you could stuff into the pockets? For the most part, a computer can handle that job better and faster.
The programs that do that are called PIMs for Personal Information Managers. Good name, too, because these programs can cross reference information like crazy. When you have an appointment with someone you can just drag that person's name into the time slot of the day you get together. Doing this not only allows you to see the name of who you are meeting with, but you also can review the notes you made the last time you met.
Think of it. You met with the Joneses more than six months ago, and now they not only want to get together, but they want to start decorating right after the meeting. How fast can you get up to speed?
Most good PIMs work the way you do. No need to copy things over and try to remember where you keep all the information. Names can be searched for by any bit of information you can think of such as a telephone number, or maybe just the city or state. These programs remind you of upcoming dates and can act as a journal of what you did. Alarms can be set as a reminder for meetings, and they can specify notes that are needed.
Nick uses Syntec's Act and swears by it. I use NetManager's EccoPro and equally love it. It seems that once you get hooked on one you stay with it. I've used mine for more than fours years and have upgraded continually (presently I'm one upgrade behind).
As a photojournalist, my laptop is rarely more than a few feet away from me. Other than the usual stuff (database of telephone numbers and related information), I keep information on exposure, film and alarms indicating deadlines for this article.
But to make you really envious, I have written most of this article in a coffeehouse by the ocean. Nothing allows for the free flow of my writing better than getting away from the distraction of my office -- not that a table on the sidewalk in a beach town in Southern California is without its distractions. The laptop allows me to manage which distractions I chose to enjoy.
Rob Garbarini is a free lance photojournalist based in Southern California. He can be reached at RGarbarini@aol.com. In future articles, Garbarini will discuss some of the many programs that are available for business use, and software specifically for the window coverings professional.