This scheduling software provides remote access and platform independence

OnTime Enterprise 4.0 from Campbell Services provides a platform-independent alternative to the scheduling capabilities of Microsoft Outlook and Exchange and gives users remote access through a Web server. OnTime's major advantage over scheduling in Outlook and Exchange is its Web interface, which provides true platform independence. However, the program lacks other features that the Microsoft products include, such as an integrated telephone directory, email functionality, and the ability to work with third-party products (such as fax services).

OnTime in Action
When you launch the OnTime client software, you can log on to OnTime by supplying a username and password, or you can configure default settings to open the program automatically. When you have logged on, your daily planner appears. The default daily planner divides the screen into three panes: two on the left and one on the right. The right pane contains monthly calendars you can scroll through. The upper left pane contains your appointments for the current day, and the bottom left pane contains your To Do list. Users can configure the lay-out of their daily planners differently. Screen 1 shows a typical client session.

Scheduling a meeting with OnTime is simple. You can either select the New Appointment icon on the toolbar or right-click the block of time during which you want to schedule the meeting. During the scheduling process, you can invite other OnTime users to your meeting, and have the software ask them to respond to your invitation. You can also use the software to list tasks, such as making phone calls and arranging meetings, and then check off the tasks as you complete them.

OnTime's Web interface is not as sophisticated as the program's regular client software, but the Web interface provides everything you need to use OnTime from a non-Microsoft client, such as an SCO host running a Netscape Web browser. The software does not depend on ActiveX controls that would render it platform-dependent.

OnTime in Setup
For my testing, I ran Windows NT Server on a Digital Prioris HX and NT Workstation on an Acer America. Installing OnTime and setting up the software proved complex and difficult, and I spent more than 6 hours on installation before my OnTime server and clients were fully functional. When I ran setup.exe on my server, OnTime gave me the choice of installing the server software, the client software, the administration utility, or the Web interface.

Installing the server software, administration utility, and client software was not difficult. However, I found problems with the Web server component's installation. Although I provided the information OnTime asked for and selected Internet Information Server (IIS) 3.0 as my Web server, the software did not create the necessary virtual directory. I had to add this entry. In addition, OnTime's printed documentation says that the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) program that interacts with OnTime's Web interface is in your CGI-bin Web directory, but OnTime installs the program in the Otweb directory with the rest of the Web support files.

Another confusing aspect of the installation program is that the main installation menu has no Exit button. After you have installed all four components, your only choices are Back and Cancel. You can exit the installation only if you select Back--if you choose Cancel, the program tells you the installation is not complete. Campbell Services clearly needs to improve OnTime's installation program.

I don't find OnTime 4.0 to be worthwhile for most users. Exchange and Outlook offer greater functionality, and OnTime 4.0 is a mediocre product. Campbell Services claims that OnTime 4.1, which is now available, solves many of version 4.0's problems. Still, OnTime's price is comparable to the cost of implementing Exchange. Unless you specifically want to access your data remotely through the Web, you would be better off with another product.

OnTime Enterprise 4.0
Contact: Campbell Services * 248-559-5955, Web: http://www.ontime.com
Price: $59 per seat (decreases as number of users increases)
System Requirements: Windows NT 3.51 or 4.0, TCP/IP functionality 16MB of RAM, 5MB of hard disk space