Palm Tipsheet 7.0 / June 2000
Are you interested in using your Palm handheld device as a writing tool? In this month's feature I'll share my techniques for writing with a Palm handheld and explore freeware, shareware and hardware tools which can enhance your writing experience.
Did you know that you can make use of your Palm handheld for shopping? This month, Deron Matson will be reviewing HandyShopper and will share his own unique uses for HandyShopper that do not necessarily include grocery shopping.
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Notable Palm Links
Writing With a Palm handheld
HandyShopper: Not Just For Shopping Anymore
**Cracking Palm IIIc Cases?** -- Some reports have appeared on the web lately, regarding problems with case cracks on some Palm IIIc color handhelds. This cracking problem appears to be somewhat rare and may be related to the plastics used in the Palm IIIc case. Palm Inc. is currently looking into the problem. If you have a crack on your Palm IIIc you can call Palm's service line at 888/956-7256.
**Sync Your Palm Online with AnyDay, FusionOne or iPalmDesktop** -- Last month I discussed the importance of backing up your Palm handheld; this May Palm Inc. acquired AnyDay.com, a web-based calendar. FusionOne.com and iPalmDesktop.com also offer similar web based calendar features. All three sites work by syncing a Palm's datebook, address book, to-do and memopad via a secure internet connection and a PC or Mac.
**OmniSky Wireless Service Launched** -- After the beta testing earlier this year by nearly 8000 users, OmniSky has now launched its Palm based wireless internet access service for Palm V and Vx users. The new service is a clear competitor to the wireless Palm.net service (used by the Palm VII) offering a similar service at very competitive prices. For $300 OmniSky subscribers receive a wireless Minstrel modem, while the $40 monthly fee provides unlimited network access. The service offers 'always on' access to the Internet via the AT&T wireless network, which includes instant sending and receiving of messages and access to Internet content. The company has also formed alliances with content providers, including ABC News, Barnes & Noble.com, New York Times, Bloomberg, USA Today and Yahoo.
**PocketMail BackFlip, Palm Email on the Go** -- The PocketMail BackFlip is an interesting connectivity solution for people who use their Palm devices on the go and want to keep in touch via email (or send faxes) using any standard telephone. Choose either a device for the Palm III, IIIx, IIIxe IIIc, IIIe, VII for $100, while the Palm V & Vx version is $130. BackFlip connects via the toll free PocketMail service over regular telephones, for $10 per month. Local toll free service is currently available in the US and Australia, while calls can be made from international locations if you don't mind an extra long distance fee.
**Kodak PalmPix Debuts** -- This May, Kodak released a new product for Palm branded handhelds called the PalmPix, a $180 digital camera that snaps onto your Palm's serial port. The PalmPix utilizes a Palm handheld (Palm III, IIIe, IIIx, IIIxe, VII, IBM Workpad, TRGPro and Palm V/Vx with an adapter) for controlling the small camera and storing images. The PalmPix can shoot either either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 24-bit VGA color photos in JPEG or BMP format, though they will only appear in black and white on all machines but the Palm IIIc. The PalmPix includes Win95/98/NT desktop software which syncs with your Palm device and offers photo management on your PC.
**Use Those Palm III Peripherals with your Palm V** -- This nifty little $35 adapter converts your Palm V or Vx connector into a Palm III compatible one, allowing you to attach any Palm III peripherals such as an external keyboard, modem or cradle. This item might prove very useful for teams with a mixture of Palm III and V PDAs who need to use common peripherals.
**InnoGear InnoPak/2V** -- This recently released $45 Springboard module for the Handspring Visor offers 2 megabytes of Flash RAM for the storage of data and applications and a vibrating alarm to replace the Visor's audible alarms. The module is available in either graphite or ice.
**ePocrates: A Drug Database in the Palm of Your Hand ** -- Physicians, would you like an entire drug database at your fingertips? If so, ePocrates might be an excellent solution for you. This free software database requires about 900k of your Palm handheld's memory and is revised regularly, so your drug reference always stays up to date. The Software requires Palm OS 3.0 or later, 1000-1500k of free RAM and a Windows 95/98/NT PC for the desktop app. Mac users can just download the install files separately, and install them directly onto their Palm handheld.
**Datebk4 Released, Packs More Features** -- Pimlico software has released a new version 4 of the popular enhanced Datebook replacement application for the Palm. Amazingly, Datebk4 offers even more features than Datebk3 while maintaining the same ease of use, though it is significantly larger at 400k while version 3 is only 260k. Some new features include powerful category controls, beaming of events, display of multiple categories, linking between datebook, address, to-do and memo databases, enhanced color capabilities for Palm IIIc users, advanced font controls, the ability to save views, advanced warnings, enhanced sound controls and more. Datebk3 users may upgrade immediately for $10, or wait until Pimlico offers free updates through a special automated web page sometime in mid-June. New users can purchase Datebk4 for $24.95. Pimlico donates the proceeds from all Datebk3 and 4 sales toward wildlife conservation.
**Quicksheet 5.0 Released** -- Cutting Edge Software has released the latest version of their popular spreadhseet application for Palm handhelds. Over 15 new functions have been added, enhancing the application's usability, including the ability to sort by row, column or selected region. Also included is a desktop application (PC only) supporting drag and drop of Excel (XLS) and Quicksheet (QSH) files into a spreadsheet and a HotSync conduit for direct synchronization with Microsoft Excel. Cutting Edge has also reduced price of Quicksheet 5.0 from $50 to $40, which includes free upgrades for life.
**Fast Contact Entry with QuickPhone** -- If you often add telephone numbers to your Palm address book and are looking for a quick, more streamlined entry method check out QuickPhone. This freeware application created by John Yaggie features a large numeric keypad for fast number entry.
**You Seek Yoda?** -- For the die-hard Star Wars fan or aspiring Jedi warrior, Yoda is the ultimate freeware utility. Learn about the Force or the future from an animated Yoda who imparts his wisdom via quotes from all 4 Star Wars films.
**Palm Mac Desktop and HotSync 2.6.1 Released** -- Resolving issues with MacOS 9.0.2 and 9.0.4, Palm Computing, Inc. has released a new version of the Macintosh Palm Desktop and HotSync software. The new software also improves USB support and enhances the desktop application with access to HotSync and Installation features right from the Palm desktop.
**Linux User?** -- If you're interested in running the Linux operating system and are concerned about connectivity with your palm device, this link on the O'Reilly site may interest you. The article by Chris Halsall discusses Palm HotSyncing with a Linux box and the surprising variety of software available.
Writing With a Palm handheld
by Mike Rohde
I love to write. in fact, I'm always looking for efficient ways to write while I'm on the road, where the lightest and smallest writing tool I can carry is many times more important than how powerful the tool may be. My Powerbook subnotebook generally works well for these kinds of tasks, but is still bulky and battery life tops out at 3 hours, which limits how long I can write without AC power.
This is where my Palm handlheld becomes especially useful, since it's very small, light and runs for several weeks on a pair of AAA batteries. While a Palm device is definitely more limited than a small subnotebook, it makes up for these limitations by being extremely portable.
**Using a Stock Palm PDA for Writing** -- I'd like to begin this article by exploring ways to use a plain old stock Palm device for writing. I'll point out the the pros and cons of this method, before moving on to software and hardware writing enhancers.
**The Pros** -- Using a stock Palm device is the smallest and lightest way to write; just you, your Palm and a stylus. There are no additional items to pack or carry and you can write in nearly any situation. On a trip to Sweden in 1998, my PalmPilot worked very well for writing several travelogue entries while riding on a train, using only grafitti and the memopad.
Another advantage is compatibility, since what you write in the memopad will be transferred into your desktop database at the next HotSync. Sheer ease of use this makes this method very attractive. Once the text is synced to your desktop it can then be moved via cut and paste to your favorite word processor for spell checking, formatting, printing and distribution.
Using the memopad has the added advantage of being searchable on your Palm handheld or in the deskktop application on your Mac or PC. This feature might be especially useful for quickly searching through journal entries.
**The Cons** -- The first disadvantage to writing with a stock Palm handheld is the limitation of entering text via grafitti or the built-in software keyboard. I'm reasonably efficient with the grafitti method, but its still much slower than touch typing. Unless you're a master at grafitti or can tap the built in miniature software keyboard like a wild chicken, you most likely won't be able to take detailed notes using graffiti and the memopad.
Some companies have offered graffiti alternatives, some of which claim high word-per-minute rates. While these solutions may improve your WPM without a keyboard, they may not suit everyone.
Another limitation to this method of writing is that the PalmOS memopad is limited to 4k text maximum per memo. When you run out of space, the memopad simply will not accept any further text entry and you must create a new memo to continue. Increasing the 4k limitation has been a wish list item since the days of the first Pilots, though I think this simply reveals that the memopad was never designed for heavy text writing or editing.
**Writing Enhancers: Software** -- To expand beyond the memopad, you might want to consider a wide variety software enhancers which may help improve your writing environment.
**Doc Format Editors** -- I've talked about the 4k limitation that the PalmOS puts on its memopad; Doc editing software lifts this limitation. The Doc format was created in the infancy of the Palm by Rick Bram, who later sold his shareware 'Doc' reader software to Aportis. Since then, several other companies have released Doc readers and a few have released applications that can edit as well as read Doc files, such as SmartDoc, QED and TakeNote. The GoType keyboard (mentioned later in this article) comes bundled with TakeNote, a Doc editor from LandWare.
With these applications you can edit existing Doc files and create new Doc files right on your Palm handheld. Your only limitation on text file size is the amount of free RAM on your device. Some of these Doc editors also offer find and replace features and the ability to create bookmarks in the Doc files you create or edit. SmartDoc even offers the capability to upload your files via FTP through a Palm modem.
**Doc Conversion Tools** -- Once you have created a new Doc file on your Palm handheld, the next step is to get it off of your Palm and onto your Mac or PC. There are a variety of desktop software tools available which can convert Doc files into plain text files, which can then be opened and edited in any text editor.
QVadis Express Reader DX (Windows)
One of these software tools will also be necessary if you plan to import text files already created on your Mac or PC for editing on your Palm handheld. These tools can also convert Text files into Doc files, ready for installation on your handheld at the next sync. Also available is a free web-based Doc conversion service called The Pilot Screwdriver, which can grab a web page and convert it to Doc format, possibly very handy in certain circumstances.
**Dictionary and Thesaurus Tools** -- Other tools you might also want to consider adding to your Palm writing toolkit are either a dictionary or thesaurus. These tools may improve the spelling and word choices for your remote writing, saving further processing when exported back to your desktop text editor.
**Writing Enhancers: Hardware** -- Using a stylus and Graffiti (or other stylus based input method) can be limiting, so why not consider a Palm compatible keyboard? If you're a fast touch typist, or even a fast hunt-and-peck typist (like me) a keyboard can significantly enhance your writing experience with a Palm handheld.
**What Keyboards Are Available?** -- There are two types of keyboards currently available for Palm devices; either the LandWare GoType or Palm Portable Keyboard. These two keyboards have very different shapes and sizes but both will work well for getting large amounts of text into your Palm.
1) The GoType Keyboard -- The $70 GoType keyboard from LandWare has been around for a few years, and offers a slightly reduced key size in a relatively small package. The GoType offers Palm, IBM and Handspring versions of the keyboard featuring a translucent gray flip-up key cover which doubles as a support for your handheld. The GoType Pro (for Palm V) and GoType Pro for Visor also feature a pass through serial or USB sync port so that you won't lose your USB sync connector while typing.
GoType for Palm III/VII
GoType Pro for Palm V/Vx
Go Type Pro for Handspring Visor
2) The Palm Portable Keyboard -- Just this year, Palm introduced a competing keyboard called the Palm Portable Keyboard. It differs from the GoType in that it folds up to a package roughly the size of a Palm III, yet when unfolded offers a full size keyboard. This $100 keyboard was originally developed by ThinkOutside and branded by Palm and Targus. This keyboard is also available for Palm, IBM and Handspring devices.
Palm Portable Keyboard for Palm III or V Series:
Stowaway Keyboard for Handspring Visor:
Both keyboards have been designed to work with Palm handhelds, offering specialized buttons for accessing the 4 stock applications (datebook, addressbook, to-do and memopad). The LandWare GoType keyboard includes the TakeNote text editor and works better than the Palm Portable Keyboard when used on a lap, while the Palm Portable Keyboard is much smaller when fully folded up. For a more detailed comparison of these two keyboards, check out this comparative review at VisorCentral.
GoType vs. Palm Portable Keyboard
**Some Writing Tips** -- Having done a fair amount of writing with my Palm handheld, I'd like to share some ideas I've gathered in my experiences. Hopefully these suggestions will help you should you decide to use your Palm handheld to do any text editing.
**Remember Spare Batteries!** -- Since writing keeps your Palm active while writing, it's important that you carry along spare batteries. Because the your handheld remains turned on much longer than in everyday use, your battery level can drop more quickly than you may be used to. If your battery level is already low, it might be wise to install a fresh set of AAA's for writing and carry the lower level cells along as an emergency backup set.
**Backup Your Writing** -- Because battery levels can reduce more quickly than normal there's also more of a risk of losing your work. For those who have Palm handhelds with Flash RAM, you might want to consider a utility like FlashPro or JackFlash, which allow you to transfer your Doc files or even your memopad file into your Palm's 824k of Flash for safe keeping.
Handspring Visor owners may want to investigate two Springboard modules designed to keep your work safe and sound while on the go. The $80 8MB Flash Module offers easy viewing and Flash backup of individual files or applications, while the $40 Backup Module simply makes a complete backup of a Visor to protect the data until the Visor until the next HotSync.
Handspring 8MB Flash Module
Handspring Backup Module
Backing up your data also includes HotSyncing your Palm when you arrive at your home or office, to be sure that your writing isn't lost. Don't put it off -- sync as soon as you arrive back from your remote writing session.
**Conclusion** -- Using a Palm handheld to write remotely can be incredibly freeing; leaving behind a desktop computer or even avoiding the extra weight of a laptop has been very liberating for me. However you might choose to use your Palm handheld to write -- either with memopad and stylus or Doc editor and keyboard -- I encourage you to give it a try.
HandyShopper: Not Just For Shopping Anymore
by Deron Matson [email protected]
How many times have you gone to the store only to find you've left your shopping list at home -- or came for four items and can only remember two of the four? Rather than wasting hours aimlessly wandering the store trying to remember what it was you came for, try HandyShopper.
HandyShopper 2.0 (Beta):
Handy Shopper comes with high recommendations from many palm users. The Palm Gear H.Q. website currently rates the application at number 20 on its top 50 downloads of the month and number 4 on the top 50 overall download list. Best of all, the author of the program, Christopher Antos, offers it as freeware! You can't beat that. It's currently available in English and German. Minimum requirements are a PalmPilot Personal running Palm OS 2.0.
**A Variety of Features** -- You can set it up for multiple stores and track several lists or you may view all items at all stores on one list. There may be items you buy frequently at a store but don't need on this trip (the "all" list). Just check the items that you want to get this time and view the "need" list separately. As you put items into your cart, check them off. They disappear from the need list and return to the all list for your next shopping trip. If you have added a one-time item you'll never need again simply delete it from your all list.
**Comparison Shopping and Coupons** -- HandyShopper is great for comparison shopping, since there's a separate field where you can place the price of each item. When you're at the next store for the same item refer back to the cost at the first store. There's also a field that can be filled in if you have a coupon for an item along with quantity and aisle fields.
**Other Unique Uses** -- HandyShopper reviewers list a wide variety of uses for the application, effectively demonstrating its versatility. Some of the alternate uses include: organizing camping/travel lists, repetitive work tasks, prescription refills, daily prayer list, diet-listing daily menu, and cost estimates for projects. One reviewer is a father who has adapted HandyShopper for use as a delivery tracker while he chaffeurs his daughter on her paper route.
In my work for a church, I am responsible for collecting rents from 7 congregations, 3 non-profits, and 10 apartment tenants. I enter the group's name and amount one time. At the beginning of each month I mark all as needed. As the rents filter in I check them off and they disappear from my need list until next month. I can see at a glance what rents are still due.
**Conclusion** -- This program can put an end to all of those shopping lists strung around the home, office, and car on post-its, restaurant napkins and the like. It neatly organizes your shopping lists while also working effectively as a general checklist tool. I wouldn't be exaggerating by saying that I use it daily and sometimes several times per day. I highly recommend HandyShopper and believe that it can help you utilize your Palm handheld effectively for shopping and general task-tracking.
Thanks again for reading another issue of the Palm Tipsheet. I do hope this month's articles will inspire you to use your Palm handheld for writing or encourage you to experiment with HandyShopper on your next visit to the supermarket. If you would like to read an archived issue or happen to know someone who would enjoy receiving the Palm Tipsheet via email each month, visit the Palm Tipsheet page:
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