The newspaper that I delivered through my teen years is out of business and the insurance company where I began my IT career has merged so many times that it is unrecognizable.

So, how is it that EssentialPIM keeps shining after 16 years when we use an every day event — sunset — to describe the disappearance of so many personal information managers and other apps?

Two reasons stand out: Beta testers and the developers' responsiveness to feedback.

More than 300 users have been beta testers through the years, helping to evaluate modifications before their general release. They live in various countries and use EPIM various ways:

  • on a network or flash drive or desktop;
  • on their Android devices;
  • for business and personal;
  • for everything EPIM has to offer regarding contacts, passwords, appointments, tasks and notes;
  • or for just one module, such as note taking or time tracking.

About 150 are active testers; four have been on board since 2004 and another 79 since 2005. Their experience and commitment have produced results that prompt responses like these, taken from the support forum:

"Just started using EssentialPIM which will now be my default PIM. Have tried many and this one by far is the best!"

"Just wanted to offer praise for a great product.... What really impressed me, too, is the way you seem to listen to the users and act on all the great feedback. Good work."

As much as their testing safeguards the quality of EssentialPIM, beta testers frequently offer suggestions that contribute to EPIM's improvement. The introduction of an email client in EPIM v 3.0 is an example.

In September 2008 the developers announced plans to add a mail module, intending to launch a beta version featuring POP3 within the month. Testers responded quickly and fervently, either about the focus on POP3 or about introducing mail at all.

"Ouch," one posted in the testers' forum. "Please, NO email client inside EPIM. Let's keep EPIM a nice not-bloatware piece of software."

Another was apprehensive. "I'm concerned for this small and elegant app (as it is EPIM now) not to be transformed to a heavy monster, something like Outlook."

The developers forged ahead, confident that "these kinds of difficulties excite us." Max, a co-founder of Astonsoft, the company that produces EssentialPIM, added that their software "already now implements several solutions for which competition has yet to find a way to do it right."

The clamor for IMAP, however, was surprising and delayed the beta four months. "Demand for IMAP is larger than we thought," said Max, "so we had to add this to our development schedule." EPIM 3.0 Beta 1, which included both POP3 and IMAP, finally rolled out the end of January 2009.

Enthused by its release, one tester responded, "MAIN COMMENT: IT GETS BETTER AND BETTER". And a new round of testing began.

We are now at EPIM v9.0 Beta 2 and, looking back at the worries for EPIM 3.0, we can appreciate the durability of EssentialPIM. The developers were confident they could add functionality without bloat, and the executable remains a slim 10.6 MB even with the addition of modules for mail and passwords. Add the associated program libraries, and the app is still just 27 MB.

The email client, so controversial 11 years ago, is one of EPIM's popular features. The developers listened to the feedback, incorporated IMAP and other suggestions, and received these kudos, also in the forum:

"It is turning into a complete package that not only organizes contacts, notes and more, but does so much more."

"Thank you for listening to customer opinion. This really makes this product different."

EssentialPIM v9.0 is coming soon with new features that include a dark theme, anchors (or bookmarks) and colored tags. The level of beta testing has impressed at least one newcomer to the team, who posted "It's amazing to see how fast you guys/gals catch bugs."

Beyond EPIM v9.0? The developers are preparing a list of features for future versions that they are going to publish in the forum so users can participate in the development with their votes.

Sixteen-years after its launch, EPIM shines on, thanks to committed testers and responsive developers. There is no sunset on this horizon.