AGENDA FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
This file is intended to provide brief answers to many starter questions. Members of the Agenda forum welcome contributions and questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question or a dumb person only a nagging doubt despite the popular belief engendered by a current series of computer books. This file was drafted by Gary Oliver and submitted for comment on 3 November 1994.
Agenda application file damage
Current version of Agenda
Agenda in other environments & platforms Installing agenda
Books & articles about Agenda
"After life" of Agenda
Support for Agenda
Exporting application formats
Agenda on CompuServe
Q What will Agenda do for me?
A Agenda will help you in two ways. First it's an information management tool. It's a repository for the random pieces of information which you want to keep but aren't exactly sure why or how you will use them. This allows you can classify and link the bit and pieces together; then later when you are ready to make use of them you can add the amount of structure that you think is right. Second Agenda is a personal assistant. Contrasted with the first example, Agenda enables you to make highly organised arrangements based on dates and times and involving events and activities. This paradoxical continuum of use makes Agenda indispensable.
Q How is Agenda going to help me?
A Agenda has powerful capabilities in four areas. First pieces of information can be allocated to "containers". You determine the names of these containers. Second you can link different containers.Third you can link the different containers and different pieces of information about different topics. Third, you can create custom, named views by selecting containers and pieces of information. Fourth there is no delay by undertaking detailed design of the table, form or report found in typical databases or having to make connections between pieces of data. Consequently you can immediately begin to give shape to an idea that you have as soon as you turn to Agenda.
Q What are the basics of Agenda?
A So far we have described Agenda as comprising pieces of information, containers, views or reports and links or connections. Formally Agenda calls pieces of information "Items". Larger blocks of information are termed Notes. Containers are "Categories". Views or reports are called Views. Links or connections are the assignments of Items to Categories. When you look at a typical Agenda screen, Items appear on the far left. In the remaining columns across the page are Categories. Horizontally down the page can also be Categories. Categories can be moved around or selected to follow particular sort orders. Typically the easy way out when starting a new application is to begin with the Items. Categories can be added when you have a need to understand more about the data that you have collected.
Q Are the Notes in Agenda related to do the product Lotus Notes?
A No. Although they use the same terminology, it is coincidental, there is no connection between the Item or Category Notes in Agenda and Lotus Notes the product.
Q What are some of the things that make Agenda unique?
One unique feature of Agenda is to hold a single copy of an Item but to be able to have it appear in more than one Category. Another unique feature revolves around the many ways of causing an Item to appear in a Category. One way is via things that they have in common. These things are known as inheritance. For example Kelton an employee in Sales department specialises in selling Agenda books. Felicity in Marketing publicises Computer Application Education. We then have the capability of linking Charley to Computer Application Education to take just one of the links. By the way if no-one calls her Felicity we can use her nickname, Flick, instead. We can also manage those links in a negative way by excluding some pieces of information based on excluding a container. Another way of making links is to translate some of the text in pieces of information into dates and times (eg tomorrow; next friday evening). These textual capabilities can be further are extended. You can define abbreviations, words and phrases to be matched (eg Greatful Dead; Gdead). If you have the need, pieces of information can be further processed (eg if a piece of information mentions Warp it can be allocated to the OS/2 container as well as being put in the high priority container. This very flexible way of manipulating information is available to you at any time.
Q Why isn't a free form database like Ask Sam better than Agenda?
A A free form database allows you to search for text in many different ways and will give you details of the occurrences. This is valuable for finding instances of a word or phrase and many complex definitions can be used to pinpoint the matches. Agenda takes this idea further by allowing you to construct permanent Views containing the search criteria. The main difference between the two is that Agenda requires long slabs of text to be broken into smaller units either as Items or Notes to use the Agenda terminology. It is interesting to compare Agenda with other text based search products such as Ize (marketed by PerSoft but no longer available). Ize also required word processing documents which were its input to be broken into smaller units.
Q Why isn't one of the dedicated time management software products better than Agenda?
Several dedicated time management products offer better customisation than Agenda in screen displays and printing of time based goals and tasks and are preferable to Agenda if this is the criteria. On the other hand many time management companies now propound the philosophy of bringing personal and work goals together. This overlaying of economic needs, societal and familial needs ??? means that the architecture of traditional time management software is inadequate. Consequently when a wider horizon is used, the broader approach offered by Agenda is far more beneficial.
Q What windows software from other companies is like Agenda?
A Many Agenda users have tried products such as Ecco, Commence, Pack Rat and many have returned to Agenda citing the lack of "Agenda-like" features. Ecco has an add in to provide in our opinion a poor subset of the features and implementation of those features provided by Agenda.
Q Is Lotus Notes the big brother to Agenda?
A No they are completely separate product streams. What Notes provides is a database for almost anything which is exchanged ("replicated") on other computers. This means that it is superior to Agenda in the range and size of information capsules that it stores. Notes provides none of the features described in FAQ "How is Agenda going to help me?". There are no indications that any of these features will be provided in Notes.
Q How should I use Agenda? I know some people who use it say you should stay in it all day. Other people say open it from time to time and work with printed copies.
A There is no right answer. Some people prefer to keep an application continually open and treat it as their home base. It then becomes their central data repository. This approach is rather true to one of the aims of Agenda as a place to file random scraps of data keeping you desk and pockets free of loose papers. Some people regard applications as special purpose tools. They have many applications on their hard disk, each of which is dedicated to particular functions. There is no right way to use Agenda. The choice between these approaches is partly based on how easily you can switch between Agenda and other programs; how much hard disk space you have for other programs now that Windows programs are so bloated, and whether you find it productive to learn many programs.
Q What benefits do Agenda users say they get using the Planner application or something similar?
Allowing for differences of opinion and individual needs, users of the PLANNER.AG application have identified two big benefits. First is the ability to create hierarchies. This can be expressed in a top down way by saying they can create almost unlimited subsets of detail. These subsets themselves can be applied to the many different activities that someone who is time conscious will want to better manage. A second benefit is the likelihood that nothing will be forgotten. Some people express this as losing track of commitments. In some cases this is because data entry is so complex. In other cases the data entry has to be mentally processed first to reduce it to a form capable of being input. Agenda has no such restrictions.
Q What types of people use Agenda?
A Agenda is used by many different people in many different ways. Agenda can be used to narrow down choices to a manageable number or cast your net over a wide ranging set of information. The starter applications provided with version 2 have a wide user base. Many people in small and large businesses use Agenda as an activities planner (starter template), project management tool and employee resource (starter template) tool. Sales people from all kinds of industries and services have used the contacts (starter template) application. Some specialised applications are used by lawyers. People in medicine, writers and scientists have described applications they have developed.
Q I've heard Agenda is complex and difficult so it is suited for techie types?
A Agenda is used by ordinary mortals! The complexity and difficulty that people describe originates in two ways. First and most fundamentally, lack of awareness that the default state of Agenda is "full power". When a new application is begun all the features of Agenda are immediately in operation. Second the lack of information on how to use the Agenda features to build an application or extend the capability of an existing application. In other words Agenda's power and unfamiliarity produce surprising and typically unwelcome results sooner or later. The Agenda User manual and most books are poor at describing what to do overcome any set backs. As a result many users misleadingly thought they had to abandon all the work they had put into an application and start afresh. In fact Agenda is like most computer programs. Mastering a handful of techniques is adequate for 80% of your work needs with Agenda. CompuServe help is always available for the troublesome 20% if you encounter them.
Q What is the best way to learn Agenda?
A This is a difficult question to answer as individuals are different. Generally we recommend working with the starter applications and trying to see how they can be related to your needs. If you find you need something different we suggest you make a start and post any queries that arise along the way.
Q Where can i find the latest version of the PLANNER.AG application?
A The version that shipped with Agenda version 2 was subsequently amended as some people found their copy as shipped was damaged. You should run the checker utility against it with the /f parameter to ensure PLANNER.AG is free from damage. A file in the library contains the latest version of planner (AGUTIL.EXE). The file is self extracting.
Q I would like to see some other applications that people have developed, where should I look for them?
A Go to the library in the technical library section 7 (Agenda & Magellan) and you can see a description of the applications, macros and other user contributed software as well as background information.
AGENDA APPLICATION FILE DAMAGE
Q What preventive actions can I take to minimise damage running Agenda?
A This topic gets considerable discussion in the Agenda forum on CompuServe. There are several strategies you can consider. First, ensure you have the latest update. See the FAQ below "How do I know I have the latest version?". The simplest option is move to OS/2 version 2.11 or later. In the MS DOS environment, ensuring the settings for the expanded memory manager in the CONFIG.SYS produce a stable system is the secret together with ensuring Agenda has expanded memory available to it. Try to avoid multi tasking software eg DesqView. At all costs avoid task swappers of all kinds. Recognise that in Windows many of the underlying MS DOS shortcomings can be magnified so file damage is inevitable in the long run. A prudent Agenda user makes backups for every significant change to the application. It is also essential to run the checker utility frequently on your application files with the .AG extension. Remember to also run the checker utility on your backups when you make them to ensure the backups themselves are free from damage.
Q Is making a template under the [F10],[f]ile menu of any use?
A It has many uses. Since it allows you to keep an undamaged version of the Views and Categories of an application this can work to your advantage. For example, you can import your structured file from a damaged application created by the DB2STF utility. Alternately you can use the template as the basis for other applications by modifying Views and Category hierarchy instead of having to start from scratch.
Q Are there any activities which may facilitate damage?
A There are three major contributors to damage which warrant a vigilant approach as they can generate file corruption. The remedial action described below should always be completed immediately after the risk action. First watch out for program faults and disruptions of any kind if you are using MS DOS or Windows as these can cause damage to the file in memory, so you should stop and check your file. Second you should consider switching in and out of Agenda as a risk action unless you use OS/2. Third you should be careful of a couple of activities within Agenda itself. One risk action is discarding a large number of items for any reason. If you do, save the file and quit. To quote Alex Todd "Saving the file seems to have the effect of organising things from Agenda's standpoint, thereby preventing confusion that often leads to damaged files. After reloading the file, though not necessary, it is usually a good idea to use Agenda's Compress feature." Another risk action is large scale manipulation of links particularly discarding Categories. The previous advice again applies.
Q If I receive a damaged file message, can I ignore it?
A If the DMGD! indicator appears in the top right of your screen you will be unable to continue working. If the checker utility reports "File is damaged" you can continue working but you should not! Take action to save any text Items or ideas you were going to impart to Agenda and take recovery action.
Q What damaged file recovery action can I take?
A You have three options. You can revert to an earlier and hopefully undamaged version. You can run the checker to confirm the damage. If you have any doubt, transfer the application file and the checker utility to another PC and run the check there. If you have no alternative but to salvage from the damaged file, export the file using the DB2STF utility and start another file.
Q Where can I get Agenda version 1?
A We don't recommend running version 1 or its subsequent fix version 1.01. Both are dwarfed by the features and power of version 2.
Q Where can I get version 2?
A Alex Todd on this forum can provide copies. Mail him at ID 71311,1737.
CURRENT VERSION OF AGENDA
Q Is running the latest version of Agenda essential?
A Yes, don't boot without it! Many problems were solved in the first and second updates known as "A" and "B". These included disappearing dates; disappearing totals; problems parsing relative times and dates in words;
Q How can I tell I am running the latest version of Agenda 2?
A You can tell you have the latest version of Agenda 2 by checking the date and size of the file A.EKE. Its size should be 677,282 bytes and the date should be on or after 24 March 1991.
Q I find this update "A" and "B" talk confusing. Why is it called version or release 2?
We may never find out why Lotus didn't follow their normal numbering system of ".01" and call the releases 2.01 and 2.02. This is why we emphasise checking the size of your A.EXE file and its dates. As many forum members have pointed out, the opening screen of Agenda continues to display version 2 no matter what the date and size of A.EXE is loaded.
AGENDA IN OTHER ENVIRONMENTS & PLATFORMS
Q Where is the Windows version of Agenda?
A Regrettably Lotus Development terminated Agenda while version 2.1 was being developed. They released the product called Organizer bought from the United Kingdom company Threadz. Although Lotus called Organizer release 1, Threadz had released three versions before Lotus purchased it. Organizer uses the diary metaphor. Apart from importing some aspects of the planner application it is unlike Agenda.
Q Can I run Agenda on my HP Palmtop
A Yes many people run Agenda on their Palmtops (Hewlett Packard, models 95, 100 and 200). Although you can run Agenda from the C: drive, we recommend a PCMCIA card (SRAM or Flash RAM) to hold both program and application files. You need only the following two files: A.EKE Essential program file AGENDA.RI Essential resource information file Total disk space for these files is about 820 Kb uncompressed or 560 using Stacker. Of course you must allow for your applications (.AG files). Based on using PLANNER.AG allow say 125 Kb uncompressed, or 70 Kb using Stacker) In addition you must allow about 100 Kb for the temporary files used while Agenda is running. Therefore you should provide a minimum of 1,060 Kb uncompressed disk space. If you are using Stacker you can reduce the total disk space to about 740 Kb but you must then add the disk space required by Stacker itself. For other tasks you need additional files: AGENDA.EKE Print engine for Agenda AG_CHK.EKE Database checker utility AG_CHK.RI Database checker utility resource file These supplementary files require an additional 61 Kb of uncompressed disk space or 43 Kb if Stacker is used. Q Can I run Agenda on my notebook? A Yes, see the FAQ Can I run Agenda on my HP palmtop. Q Can I run Agenda on my Mac? A You should be able to run with SoftPC or its high end alter ego, SoftPC Professional which emulates a 286 on a Mac. Kevin Grantham replied to a query stating that one of the original systems guys on the Agenda team preferred to use a Mac used the SoftPC Professional product to run Agenda. Settings need to provide the conventional MS DOS environment such as files, stacks, conventional memory and disk space as well as cater for the known requirements of the .ENV and .TMP files. Q Is Agenda available for OS/2?
A Version 1 of Agenda was released as an OS/2 specific product. The update was not released for OS/2 (version 1.01) nor were any subsequent versions released for OS/2 although a version 2 for OS/2 was announced.
Q Can I run the DOS version of Agenda in OS/2?
A Yes. Many members of the forum including the writer (who uses version 2.11) have found OS/2 to be the preferred environment.
Q I have seen Agenda on other machines but it seems different; why is that so?
A Lotus Agenda is our favourite product. Some other vendors have used the product name Agenda for a completely different product with none of the distinguishing features of Lotus Agenda.
Q I want the full installation. Is my installation complete?
A It is likely that you may have overlooked installing the Lotus Metro accessories. Check whether there is the separate Metro subdirectory called \METRO by default. t should contain the Metro files including METRO.EXE. To install Lotus Metro you need to insert the Accessories diskette in your floppy drive and start the install by typing "MINSTALL".
BOOKS & ARTICLES ABOUT AGENDA
Q What books are available to help me on Lotus Agenda?
A As the books previously published are out of print you will need to check bookshops for old shelf copies or remainders. You should be aware that the Agenda books would be classified in the beginner to intermediate. Gary Oliver has a new book coming out and is willing to provide pre-release copies. Contact him on ID 100236,1462.
Q Are there any other helpful articles like this one?
A Yes there is a marvellous article by an Agenda user and writer, Jim Fallows in the library in the technical library section 7 (Agenda & Magellan).
Q Were there any magazines which covered Lotus Agenda?
There were two magazines. Lauren and Robert Flast (ID 72170-17) produced a monthly magazine from 1989 to 1992 called "Coming to Order". The Lotus Magazine produced by Lotus Development until 1992(?) and then absorbed as a supplement in PC World (USA edition) for Lotus magazine subscribers contained articles on Lotus Agenda version 1 and 2.
Q Are there any technical or "insider" articles on Lotus Agenda?
A Yes, we know of at least one article. Mitch Kapor, one of its designers had an article published in Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) in the mid 1980's but I have lost the reference.
"AFTER LIFE" OF AGENDA
Q Should I be bothered using a dead product?
A That depends upon what you mean. If you are concerned that there will be further versions of Agenda you are in the happy position of being able to take it for what it is. If you are concerned that Agenda is "less than a program" because it has been terminated think of the number of programs shortly to join it with the advent of 32 bit Windows. In fact Agenda is like Sherlock Holmes, an old friend who never tires.
The folks at Lotus Development Corporation are intrigued at the continued enthusiastic response Agenda receives.
Q Is unusual for Lotus Agenda users who abandoned it for Windows to return to it?
A No, many users find there is nothing like Agenda available on any platform. Although it is fashionable for some products with a graphical user interface ("GUI") to claim they perform like Agenda, none are as complete. In some cases product promotions will quote former Agenda users as satisfied new customers. That maybe the case but they have had to sacrifice many Agenda features to gain a GUI. Users of OS/2 have a proven operating system together with the "full featured, original Agenda"!
Q Are there other support products available for Agenda?
A Yes. Many of them are mentioned in other questions and answers. They include President's Planner (an advanced planner application by Alex Todd of Phase 3 Computing); Beyond 2 (a sophisticated print layout and database utility by Ron Freudenheim of Item Management Group).
SUPPORT FOR AGENDA
Q Where can I get support for Agenda now Lotus don't support it?
A That depends upon the kind of support you require. The CompuServe forum offers very good support from the SysOp, other members. If you require assistance developing applications, solving a macro problem or looking for a template the forum should certainly be your first place of call. After that you can always post a request for consulting assistance and obtain replies by mail.
Q Are there any Agenda user groups still meeting?
A Yes. Introduce yourself and post a query stating the locations that you can reach.
Q Should I bother with Macros?
A This FAQ has both a yes and no answer. Yes learn some macro programming if you need to work with arithmetic to summarise values across columns. No if you are content with pressing your keys and you don't have many repetitive tasks that are time consuming.
Q If I am interested in macros, will my experience with 1-2-3 macros help?
A Yes. Many features of 1-2-3 macros apply to Agenda macros. For example the following is a list of common features: - step and learn modes - availability of an AUTOEXEC macro to automatically execute when the file is opened - customisation of menus However there are two important differences. First is that the macros can be placed in a 1-2-3 worksheet while Agenda macros are held in the macro manager. Second, 1-2-3 macros are best written with range names while Agenda macros rely on a combination of View and Category properties, and macro arguments.
Q I think my application is getting large, what should I do?
A An Agenda application can reach critical mass anywhere beyond 3 Mb depending upon the number of Items and Categories it contains. Size is less important than the number of links an Item has to Categories counted both directly and as a result of conditions and actions. You can determine this by checking under File Statistics. One generally accepted technique is to multiplying the number of Items by the figure given for the average categories/item. When the number is in the region of 40,000 you should not delay any longer reducing the size of your application file.
Q When my file size needs reduction, what can I do?
A You have several options. They include: - outright straightforward deletion of unwanted Items - export selected Items because they meet the criteria you set (eg old in terms of date and/or inactive in terms of needing to refer to them)
Q Is Agenda's compress feature safe to use or should I rely solely on the compression conducted by the checker utility?
A Both Agenda and the checker perform the same compression. The difference is the Agenda compression is restricted to that activity only. Other forum members have successfully used the compression feature with program update B although problems were reported with the earlier version. Running checker simply confirms the integrity of the file after compression done by the checker.
Q What difference is there between running AG_CHK <filename> and AG_CHK /f <filename>
Both commands check the integrity of your application file (.AG). Running the /f parameter causes the checker to be more circumspect in its integrity checking and as a consequence to fix any minor damage found. Both versions will report either "File ok" or "File is damaged".
Q I have heard it is unsafe to run the [F10],[s]how,[m]atch View. Is this right?
A Creating a temporary View by running [F10],[s]how,[m]atch in the initial version of Agenda 2 could produce file corruption. It will work if you have the "B" release.
Q I'm told printing in Agenda is very limited and that it does not support the major time planner or calendar formats.
A Printing in Agenda version 2 is much improved. If you want specific calendar or diary formats or just improved control over printing the solution lies in the add-in product called Beyond 2 from the third party Agenda developer the Item Management Group. It is a fine program which includes an excellent set of tools for creating and displaying contact information. One of the purposes of Beyond 2.0 is to facilitate importing and exporting of contact data. Contact Ron Freudenheim, the developer of Beyond 2.0 on CompuServe at 76550,253. Telephone (301) 585-0128 or fax number (301) 585-5046.
EXPORTING APPLICATION FORMATS
Q If I buy Beyond 2.0 what else can I use it for?
A Beyond 2.0 is more than just a printing utility. It can also perform data conversion. If Beyond can convert Agenda files to comma delimited files, then either DBUTIL.ZIP or GDBIO.ZIP ( both in LIB 11 of HPHAND ) should do the importing work.
AGENDA ON COMPUSERVE
Q How do I post messages on CompuServe, Agenda forum?
A You can do it online or offline. Either reply to an existing message or create a new topic for if your message raises a new matter for discussion.
Q Are there any pitfalls to look out for when posting a question?
A When posting a question or information in the forum please take a moment to verify that it is being posted in the correct section of the forum. A number of programs default to posting messages in Section 1 which is the general area. This can create confusion and slow responses to your message. When posting a question or topic, don't hesitate to start a new thread if the title of the existing thread is unrelated to yours. Many people browsing the forum will miss a potentially important piece of information because the title of the thread doesn't interest them. The more people that read your thread the wider your audience for either dissemination of information or obtaining answers to your questions.
Q Are there any important files I should have if I am going to download files from the library?
A When you visit any forum there are some standard files worth finding: - Related forum information. It is handy to know the names of the other forums sponsored by the vendor as well as any related forums (eg hardware) - Complete file listing. It is handy to know all the files available in a forum - New files. If you visit regularly and have downloaded some files it is useful to have a brief description of files uploaded in say, the past 30 days. This way you can check if later versions have been posted. Some forums also mention new files in their threads or discussion will mention the new files. In addition to uncompress files you will need a copy of the common utilities. Files with a .ZIP extension can be compressed and uncompressed using PK204G.EXE from PKWare.