Calorie counting, stuck in the 1980s

I bought the BioWeblogic BWM calculator based on its glowing reviews, its integration of diet and fitness components and its ability to work on my Treo 700p. The product seems to work well enough, but it has both foibles and one serious problem – it remains menu-driven, despite the prevalence of both the graphical user interface and the World Wide Web. You cannot double-click on a category and see what’s listed there – you must highlight the category, search for your item (and don’t you dare type ‘berry’ instead of ‘berries’), highlight it again, and then go through the rest of the process needed to add something to your list.

I’ve used the program for a week now, and I find that I have mostly adjusted to the interface, though it still causes me problems at times. I would say it took me several hours of poking around to become comfortable with the interface for the food. The exercise interface is more difficult, because of the challenge of finding the right search term. If you go for a run on a treadmill, you can only enter the specifics of it once you’ve searched on your miles per hour. You can’t even search on ‘miles,’ — it has to be the acronym, ‘mph.’ If you don’t search on mph, you cannot enter your run (and of course, the walking search is not based on the same mph idea). To find out the proper search term for the category of ‘running’ and the subcategory of ‘general’ required me to fool around with the database edit function until I got it to expose the various categories under general. That’s directly related to having a menu-driven interface.

The ability to edit the database is useful, though it would be more useful if one could go to the BWM Web site and download updates from other users of the products (even with 21,000 items in its database, there are plenty of things I buy in the grocery store that it doesn’t have. A friend of mine with a different calorie counter says it has the same issue — the companies producing these tools seem not to have noticed the social networking phenomenon). However, the editing function has some quirks – especially in how it displays information. I added a cereal today, for instance, and my database entry shows all the information I entered from the box. But when I added it to my daily totals, the carbs, protein and fat totals displayed several multiples higher (the calorie count was correct, however). This isn’t the first time I’ve observed this with the product. Usually, going in to the database two or three times to reenter the information and save it seems to help with the display issue, but I am quickly losing patience with having to do this. [[An update: I have since realized that this ‘quirk’ is a feature. The BWM program will display food totals in, say grams of fat or fat calories. It shows grams in the main, but will usually display calories when you add something to your totals. This is in fact useful]].

Overall, I am not as pleased with this product as I had hoped, and I was surprised to see five-star reviews on Handango and elsewhere for a tool that has such an archaic interface.

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