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What is a Personal Information Manager?

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  • Written By: David White
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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A personal information manager is an electronic record-keeper, the kind of take-it-with-you filing system that the executives of yesterday wish they had had in the palms of their hands. The PIM, as its acronym styles it, can be as simple as a software application or as complex as an entire device.

Common versions of personal information manager software include Microsoft Outlook and Entourage, which are primarily email programs but can also provide services such as address books, calendars, reminders, and data tracking and storage. Another kind of software-driven PIM is the online version offered by Yahoo!, among others. Herein you will find the same sort of services that the Microsoft products offer, along with certain distinguishing characteristics such as music, movies, and games. Microsoft offers its own version of this through the MSN network. In this way, mobile phones simulate Internet-ready machines.

The advantage of an online personal information manager is portability: You can access your information even if you are nowhere near your primary PC; this also allows you to sync your info between devices--enabling, for example, the transfer of data from PC to laptop or from laptop to handheld PIM. The disadvantage of an online PIM is that it requires an Internet connection, meaning that data transfer is impossible if you are outside a wired or Wi-Fi zone.

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Handheld PIMs come in ranges of functionality. Some of the most basic these days are mobile phones, which are increasingly resembling miniature laptops. In conjunction with the largest online presences, many mobile phone manufacturers are offering software suites that allow on-the-go personal information manager functionality as never before seen. Some of these phone PIMs have keyboards, which are rather small but can still function just as well as a full-size version on a laptop or desktop computer. Phone makers sometimes go to great lengths to hide the keyboard, inserting it into a certain part of the phone, like the bottom of the interface, or by installing it into the top of a flip-fold phone.

The more traditional handheld personal information manager is the PDA, or personal desk assistant. This is commonly a device that is larger than a mobile phone and includes a keyboard and dataport, for connecting to a PC. One of the best-known PDAs is the Blackberry. Another is the Palm Pilot. These PDAs traditionally have more functionality and memory than mobile phones.

All of these devices not only allow you to take your office files with you but also allow you to access them, if need be, without depending on a traditional Internet connection. Through the magic of satellite technology, you can now surf the Web without the wires and even without the Wi-Fi. The personal information manager acts as the access point.

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