Trying to stay on top of a business can be a very difficult task – whether you’re a freelancer, or manage several hundred staff. Without a system to keep everything well organised, it can be easy to miss deadlines and lose focus. Today I’ll be taking a look at Daylite, an impressive suite of tools for managing a business.
One of the main selling points behind Daylite is the ability to have everything related to your business in one central place: calendars, contacts, projects, tasks etc. Emphasis is also placed on sharing information, as Daylite is designed to work well in a collaborative setting.
This review will walk through the main features of Daylite/Daylite Touch and outline what I like and dislike about the application. It’s a mammoth piece of software, and it wouldn’t be possible to cover absolutely everything in one review. Instead, I’ll try to give you a feel for what the tool is capable of.
Disclaimer: Although Marketcircle (the developers of Daylite) sponsor AppStorm, our reviews are always completely impartial.
Setting up Daylite
When opening Daylite for the first time, you’re asked how you would like to use the application. If you plan to use it on multiple computers or alongside the Daylite Touch application, you will be prompted to also download Daylite Server. It creates a central place from which to synchronise everything between computers and devices.
This is a fairly simple process, and involves creating a secure database for your business. You can add a number of different users (which is how the pricing structure for Daylite works – you pay for the number of people using the tool in your organisation).
Daylite Server comes with a simple administration interface for looking after the backend system. You can manage where your database is stored, set up automatic backups, add/remove licenses for the software, and see an overview of users and devices connected to the system:
Using a Template
When opening Daylite itself for the first time, you’ll be asked whether you would like to use a pre-built template for a particular type of organisation. These include Film & Video, Photography, Print & Design, Real Estate, Sales, Law, Recruiting, or Software Development. You can see a useful overview of each different template at the Daylite website.
If none of the templates fit your business, starting with the “basic” template is advisable rather than a completely blank slate. It makes everything a little easier to understand as a first time user!
The Daylite Interface
The interface to Daylite itself can be quite daunting at first. You’re presented with an awfully large amount of information, and there’s no immediately obvious place to get started. There are two ways to proceed:
- Read through the help and introductory documentation (it’s extensive, and really good)
- Just start experimenting!
I chose the latter option, and decided to get to grips with the application by using it. Here’s a quick overview of the interface:
The toolbar across the top handles adding new information – whether that be a contact, appointment, or task. The second important area is the grid navigation towards the left, which allows you to flick through the different areas of information handled within Daylite. Everything else changes contextually depending upon the area chosen.
Exploring the Business Areas
A vareity of different types of information can be handled within Daylite:
- Calendars – A way to manage your time, and the time of other users within your company. You can see when different people are free and stay on top of your schedule.
- Contacts – You can store a ridiculous amount of information about a contact, attach them to a project, organisation or task, and keep notes about your relationship with them.
- Organizations – An overarching way to organize contacts, including a field to help understand where each contact fits into the organisational hierarchy.
- Projects – Projects contain multi-step objectives, and can be tracked using a “pipeline” system. You can prioritise projects, ensure they don’t run over time, and assign different tasks within them to different users. You can attach all manner of content to different parts of the project – forms, letters, URLs etc.
- Opportunities – As you’d expect, this is where new potential leads/business are stored. You can forecast close dates, assign a probability and importance to each opportunity, and produce detailed reports.
- Groups – This simply offers a way to combine related contacts, organizations, projects etc. Great for marketing campaigns that target particular types of company.
- Tasks – Essentially powerful to-do lists that can be linked to different projects/contacts, be given a due date, and have automatic reminders.
- Appointments – These are fairly self explanatory! Appointments can span minutes/days/weeks, can have other users invited to them, and can automatically be scheduled for a time when other attendees are free.
- Notes – A piece of information that can be linked to any other object in Daylite.
After you’ve got to grips with these, you’ll be well on the way to understanding how effective Daylite is at integrating all the different areas of your business.
Daylite comes bundled with a tool for integrating the application with Apple’s Mail.app, useful for quickly assigning an email to a particular contact or project. It means that all your information is then accessible from within one location, and it’s easy to create an “actionable” item from an email (such as a new task or appointment). Suitable contacts and opportunities/projects are found automatically based on who the email is from.
With so much information stored in one application, some form of mobile software is absolutely vital. Marketcircle have done a good job of approaching this with Daylite Touch, their iPhone/iPod touch companion application. It is marketed as “Your business in your pocket”, and certainly has that feel when being used.
The iPhone companion application is far from just a “viewer” – it can interact with the Daylite Server, and perform almost the same range of actions available on the desktop. Any changes made on your mobile device are automatically synced back to the server every 5-10 minutes, providing you have some form of internet connection on your iPhone (3G or Wi-Fi).
I particularly like the mobile calendar view in landscape mode – something that Apple need to get around to adding for their own calendar application:
It’s worth noting that Daylite Touch isn’t a standalone iPhone application – you need a copy of the desktop software in order to use it. That said, if you do use Daylite, purchasing the mobile application is a no-brainer. It adds a great deal of value, and works seamlessly.
Areas for Improvement
Although Daylite has certainly impressed my as a way to manage every aspect of a business, there was one area I wasn’t completely bowled over by – the application interface.
Unfortunately, my ever-present love for Things leads me to use it as a benchmark when looking at another application’s look-and-feel. Daylite is far from bad, but I feel that it could use a few tweaks to look slightly less imposing when first opened. A few pointers as to what the various empty sections are to be used for would be appreciated.
When opening Things for the first time, any empty section has a helpful explanation such as the following:
The challenge with Daylite is the sheer scope of the software – it’s capable of storing and managing such a wide array of information, the challenge to present everything in the best way possible is immense.
Until now, Daylite was an application that I felt was far out of my league. The number of features seemed over-kill for someone running a small business, and the slightly intimidating interface always put me off. That said, after using the application for a few days I’m starting to understand why so many people swear by it.
The integration between different areas of your business – contacts, projects, opportunities etc – is incredibly useful. After you spend a while getting your head around how the software is structured, everything becomes much clearer and benefits are more apparent. This, coupled with the mobile software, leads to a system that offers a fantastic way to manage a small/medium sized business.
Pricing varies depending upon how many users you have. For an individual license, the price is around $200. Packages for 5+ users start from around $1300. Various add-ons and support services are also available to purchase.
It may seem expensive, but Daylite isn’t really aimed at single users. The real value becomes apparent when you have a team collaborating on a project, arranging joint meetings, and trying to close a lead. For a larger company, I feel that Daylite is a first class solution for managing your business on OS X.