(MoneyWatch) Ever since Apple's iconic Newton MessagePad, the idea that a digital assistant could supply the information you need, when you need it, has been tantalizing. Siri's and Google's Google Now card-based assistance has made that dream a reality. Now there's an iPhone app that promises to collect information scattered around your phone to help you manage your day more effectively.
Donna is a digital assistant that's mostly designed to get you to meetings on time. Every evening, it alerts you to tomorrow's meetings, and it has a specialized meeting reminder that builds on the rudimentary information available from Apple's native calendar app.
Donna, for example, can show you where your next meeting is on a map, tells you how long it takes to get there and even has a weather report for your destination. She doesn't notify you at the standard 15-minute interval before the meeting, but she does let you know when it's time to leave. So if it takes 30 minutes to drive to a meeting place, you don't get a reminder 15 minutes too late.
If you can't make it by the scheduled start time, Donna also has a one-tap link to e-mail the meeting organizers and let them know you'll be late.
Donna's magic really works only if the calendar appointments include location information. Without it, Donna has no way to know where you're headed, making the app no more effective than the default reminders.
To be honest, Donna doesn't do a whole lot, at least right now. It's great that she gathers together your calendar, maps and weather information in a single location, but the app feels lightweight, as if it's just the skeleton on which more personal-digital-assistance muscle will be added later. That said, Donna is free and a smart replacement for the standard iPhone calendar reminders -- especially if your meetings are often out of the office.