capsule review

MemoMaster (English)

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder MemoMaster (English)

MemoMaster 3.5 from JBSoftware falls into that all-too-large category of software with the feature list from Heaven and the implementation from purgatory. MemoMaster (free) is basically a freeform text database, like TreePad Lite, AskSam, and several others, with an extensive list of additional functionality. These extras include an "Excel compatible" spreadsheet, the ability to create fillable forms, import/export of Word and Excel files, and very rich formatting capabilities. Most of these features work--kind of.

First, a few caveats. The downloadable file is the "shareware" version, with many features enabled, which go away after 30 days when you go to the "free" version. There is a "private" version, which has the same feature set as the Free version, but which costs $19 and removes a nag screen from the window. Then there are Small Office and Enterprise versions, which offer progressively more features at progressively higher prices. Unfortunately, most of the Really Cool features require the Small Office version at a minimum; when the 30-day trial expires, the feature set collapses considerably. At that 30-day mark, the Calculation field--essentially a spreadsheet memo--loses the ability to calculate, becoming just a big grid you can type numbers into. You cannot create templates. You can't even drag-and-drop items to rearrange them in the outline (although you can still move them into folders via menu picks).

While MemoMaster's "shareware" feature set is impressive, it is also a bit quirky. Its Microsoft Word import does not handle some types of formatting perfectly, though I observed no obvious data loss. The calc sheet has a very rich function set, but if you enter a formula incorrectly, it doesn't warn you or let you re-enter it; it simply erases the cell with no error message or warning. Type a long formula and leave off one parenthesis, and you're back to typing it again. There's a slight sluggishness to interface responsiveness. Once when I created a new memo, I got an "Invalid Section Number" error which required me to dismiss the error dialog five times in a row; however, I could not replicate the sequence which led to this error.

On the positive side, and there are a lot of positives, MemoMaster has quite a few features to add information to your information--icon tags and background colors, for example. Many other features, though, such as links between memos, formatted tables, and detailed search results, are available only in the commercial versions. MemoMaster spares no chance to remind you of this, as the non-functional features seem to be available until you try to use them. They're not even grayed out; you have to actually try to use a feature to find out if you have access to it.

MemoMaster 3.5 is a program I'd really like to like, but the free version is too feature-sparse for my needs, and my experience with the occasional quirkiness of the functionality of the shareware version makes me hesitant to pay. I do recommend trying the download, though, as there are a lot of good ideas here. Even if the free version doesn't have what you need, it may prove to you that one of the paid versions does.

--Ian Harac

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder MemoMaster (English)

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