The Chandler project has been
around since 2001, periodically releasing new versions of its personal
information management (PIM) tool, but never quite reaching the 1.0
milestone—until now. Over that time, Chandler has undergone various
major revisions of both code and philosophy, while the rest of software
industry has hardly been standing still. Whether Chandler is relevant or
important going forward is an open question, but it does have some
interesting ideas as well as potentially useful code.
Chandler is the brainchild of Mitch Kapor, of Lotus 1-2-3 fame, who started
the project as part of his Open
Source Applications Foundation (OSAF). Kapor and others have funded
OSAF to work on Chandler over the last seven years, but in January all that
announced that he was leaving the board and only continuing to finance
Chandler until the end of 2008. The 1.0
release is to some extent a "last gasp" attempt to build a community of
developers to continue Chandler development down the road.
Since the time when Chandler was originally envisioned as a shareable
information manager, many other, similar tools have come about. Evolution
is a free software example, while Google Calendar is popular, but
proprietary and closed. Neither of those cover the full feature spectrum that
Chandler aspires to, but they have been available for quite some time.
The idea behind Chandler will be familiar to those who know about the
Getting Things Done system. Organizing and integrating to-do lists,
calendar events, email, and notes into a single system—and single
application—is the driving force. These items (known as "notes") can
be tagged into various
collections (like Home, Work, etc.), assigned as events in the calendar, or
mailed to others.
The calendar works like one would expect. Events have the standard fields:
start/end time, frequency for recurring events, various alarm options, etc.
Events get color-coded based on their collection and the calendar itself
can be viewed at various granularities: day, week, or month. Based on
their proximity in time, as well as user choice, events get "triaged" into
categories of "Done", "Now", or "Later".
There are multiple synchronization options available with Chandler.
Keeping calendars in sync amongst multiple different systems, with
different import/export formats is clearly something that the Chandler team
focused on. Because Chandler is cross-platform—written in Python and
available on Linux, OS X, and Windows—it can interface both with tools
that run on those platforms as well as with internet services like Google
Calendar. As yet there is no Outlook/Exchange synchronization available
which leaves out a rather large portion of the potential audience one would
The Chandler desktop is only one of two pieces of the Chandler project;
the other is the Chandler
server. It is the means to share Chandler
information, either with other users or just with other computers. Data
can be synchronized to the server, then retrieved on another Chandler desktop
elsewhere. For those that do not want to run their own server, the project
runs a version of the server as the Chandler hub, which offers free
The 1.0 release looks like a solid tool. It has some enthusiastic
users, but will that translate to a larger development community?
Chandler development has always been directed—and funded—by the
OSAF, so it suffers from a smaller development community than it might have
Projects that start as proprietary, but then open their code, sometimes
have difficulties allowing a community to influence or control the
direction of that code thereafter. We
have seen that with OpenSolaris and other projects. Chandler seems to
suffer from some of those same problems, even though it came about differently.
By removing the funding, Kapor may well have jump started Chandler
Seven years is a long time by any standard, but for software, it is an
eternity. By keeping a relatively tight grip on the direction of the
project, the OSAF may well have kept interested folks who were not on their
payroll from getting involved. If the project can move to a more open style,
with frequent releases, it may be able to regain some of that lost time.
It is an intriguing tool, but it is way behind schedule.
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