I've finally settled on a set of Palm-based organization programs. As mentioned before, I'm using Life Balance for managing my to-do lists. It's kind of an odd program, and it still needs some work, but the basic concept is wonderfully simple. You use its outline view to define goals ("earn a living," "spend time with family and friends") and then fill in details under the goals. For example, I have a number of ongoing and upcoming projects at work, plus infrastructure things like "fill out timesheet." Each branch of this tree has an importance attached to it, so you can say things like "this sub-tree is very important to its parent" or "this sub-tree isn't very important at all." The cool part is that Life Balance can then take this outline and sort it into a simple linear to-do list, showing the most important things at the top. It's not 100% perfect, but with a small bit of tuning, it's usefully close. It knows how to handle deadlines, so tasks bubble up the list as the deadline gets closer, and it can handle recurring to-do items. Rather uniquely, it tries to balance the priorities of your different goals, so if you're getting tons of items completed on your work list, it can bump up the priority of non-work items in an attempt to remind you to be a more balanced person, if that's what you desire.

The story behind Life Balance is kind of interesting--apparently the author was a VAX sysadmin, and wrote the program in an attempt to regain control of her life while on-call for work. I can certainly sympathize. Apparently I'm not the only one--there have been several positive reviews of Life Balance released recently.

Life Balance runs on Windows and the Mac, as well as on the Palm. Each piece is licensed separately. It seems to sync well on the Mac. There are rumors of a PocketPC version appearing at some point.

For managing my calendar, I've replaced the Palm's DateBook with Agendus. It's a comprehensive calendar/to-do/contact-management app that is aimed more towards sales types then programmers, but it does a really nice job of displaying upcoming events. I used to lust after the PocketPC "Today" screen, but Agendus more then fills that gap with a zillion different ways to view calendar and to-do items. You can view days one at a time, one or two weeks at a time in a grid, list, or graphical free/busy block view, a month at a time, quarterly, view lists of upcoming events 1/2/7/14/30 days in the future, view isolated lists of to-do items or have them integrated into the calendar view, plus a few others that I'm missing. It supports small fonts at least on PalmOS 5 and Clies running PalmOS 4. I really like the way it looks, and the ability to use small fonts means that you can see a lot of detail on the screen at a time.

Plus, since Life Balance can sync its sorted to-do list with the Palm's native to-do database, you can view Life Balance items with deadlines on Agendus's calendar and mark them complete directly from Agendus. The two programs integrate beautifully together.

I'm happy with the two programs, but I have a couple things that I'd like to see improved, mostly in Life Balance. First and foremost, it really needs to be updated with the ability to use smaller fonts on the Palm. It's hard to tell what's going on in the outline view because the text is so big that you can only see a handful of lines at a time. Entertainingly, the Mac desktop version suffers from the same basic problem--it has so much window-dressing that it's hard to see your whole outline at once. Both of these need to be fixed soon.

All in all, though, I'm happy with both programs and bought both of them.