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Palm Tipsheet 36 - November 2002
iSilo Edition (20k):
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Our baby's due date is now less than 3 weeks away (November 28) and we are getting very excited while hurriedly preparing the baby's room and getting ourselves ready for the whirlwind that is parenthood. We're heading into the home stretch now.
If any parents out there have suggestions for us, please feel free to drop us a line and share your wisdom. Nothing like getting helpful parenthood advice from 10,000 of our closest Tipsheet friends! :-)
Something else is new around here -- Tipsheet gear! I've had our CafePress store in the works for a while now, but wanted to choose just the right items and graphics before launching. In short, you can now buy clothing, drinkware and stickers with the Tipsheet logo on them right here:
Whatever you buy helps support the Tipsheet (we get few bucks from each sale) and might even give you a few more days before having to do the laundry or the dishes. :-)
Okay, we have a great issue for you, including Jason Johnston's review of Palm OS office suites and a chat with Philippine Palm user Babette Geronimo.
Palm Tungsten T Released -- The second Palm OS 5 device -- the Tungsten T was released by Palm, Inc. in late October. The new handheld has a slide in and out Graffiti area that makes this the shortest Palm device on the market. The $500 Tungsten T features a 144MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 1510 ARM processor, 16MB RAM, 320 x 320 hi-res screen, universal connector, SD card slot, built-in Bluetooth support, Infrared port, headphone jack, 5-way D-pad, voice recording features and more.
Early reports I've heard indicate the Tungsten T is small, quick, and feels very sturdy. As for OS 5, in general has no problems with most OS 4.0 apps. I think Palm has another winner here, providing a nice balance to the popular, budget minded Zire. Should be an interesting holiday season!
Palm Office To Go: Leave the Laptop Behind
After years of being a Palm user, I'm still amazed on a constant basis with what these tiny devices can do in the hands of capable programmers. Palm handhelds have evolved an insane amount in a short time. In the beginning, they were digital organizers. Now, as we all know, they are secondary brains, entertainment systems, digital libraries and portable offices.
One of the first utilities most new Palm handheld users look for is a way to convert, view and edit documents on their handheld. We all know about cutting and pasting text to and from the built-in Memo Pad, but what if you need text formatting or images, tables and bullet lists? What if you're hauling a laptop everywhere just for that one spreadsheet? Enter Palm OS office applications.
There are many different programs that fit in this category, but this article focuses on the suites. There are four major players at this time:
Documents to Go Standard & Premium by DataViz ($50-$70):
iambic Office by iambic ($40):
MiniOffice by Solutions in Hand ($40):
Each Suite includes a Palm OS word processing application, and a spreadsheet app along with a desktop conduit or program for converting and syncing files between your computer and your Palm handheld. While these suites all include additional tools, for this review I'll be focusing on the meat and potatoes of any office suite -- the word processor and spreadsheet.
Truly, each of the packages reviewed here is the best choice for a certain type of user. I'll try to spill their features out with enough detail to help you determine which type of user you are.
All four of these suites are designed to work with Microsoft Office's proprietary formats, in addition to some open formats such as Rich Text and comma delimited files. Documents to Go also supports Word Perfect, Quattro Pro, AppleWorks and several others.
*MiniWrite (Solutions In Hand MiniOffice) -- MiniWrite is a plain text editor with no text formatting support, so it really doesn't belong in this category. MiniWrite is compatible with expansion cards and will read Palm Doc and MiniWrite files from anywhere on the card. It includes a Microsoft Word for Windows macro for converting Word files into MiniWrite files.
MiniWrite is fast and takes up very little room on your handheld. It's perfect if you need quick and dirty access to your documents, but you don't need to view text formatting on your Palm handheld.
*Fast Writer (iambic Office) -- Fast Writer has the text formatting features that are missing from MiniWrite, but it appears to be a generation behind in other areas. It's a low-resolution application, and it completely ignores system hi-res settings. MiniOffice looks great in hi-res, even though there's not much to look at. Fast Writer is the only one of the four that doesn't support expansion cards. This may be the deciding factor that pushes many users toward one of the other solutions.
Fast Writer can display text formatting such as color, size, bold, italic and underlining as well as paragraph alignment and bullet lists. The high point of Fast Writer is its ability to create, edit and view six different document formats right on your handheld. These include plain text, rich text, HTML, Palm Doc, Memo Pad and Microsoft Word. Some of the other applications can view and edit these formats, but you can't use them to create this many different formats on your Palm handheld.
If hi-res and expansion card support don't interest you, Fast Writer may. It's safe to say that Fast Writer is due for an update. Right now, it represents a happy medium between text editor and word processor.
*Quickword (Cutting Edge Software Quickoffice) -- Quickword brings us into the realm of true word-processing power. It has all the text editing features of Fast Writer and more. It includes the all-important expansion card support, and supports hi-res devices. It even has a zoom function that includes 11 levels of magnification. Quickword also includes a limited spell checker and a powerful thesaurus.
Quickword has some handy document distribution features for those who want to share their documents with non-Quickword users. You can export your files to Memo Pad or as a Doc file for beaming to others, leaving the rich formatting of the original intact.
Quickword has a distinct interface, with a toolbar across the bottom that can be hidden for more screen space. Buttons for the most frequently used commands are anchored here. Most functions in Quickword have an assigned Graffiti shortcut. These shortcuts also work with most portable keyboards. Quickword includes Hands High Software's Font Bucket for the ability to use and display different fonts. Unfortunately, the fonts take up quite a bit of space on your Palm handheld. It may be better to add specialty fonts on the desktop rather than clutter up the RAM with hundreds of KB of font files.
Quickword acts as an HTML editor that lets you toggle the view between the code and WYSIWYG. This is a nice feature that really sets it apart from the other three. The problem with it is that the HTML isn't exactly the cleanest. For example, a single word may have several font tags even though one will do. Better to leave the HTML authoring to a desktop editor, and use Quickword strictly for viewing HTML documents.
Quickword offers many nice features, including expansion card support and spell checker, wrapped in a clean interface with plenty of speed. Quickword is designed to let you leave the laptop behind and accomplishes this goal quite nicely.
*DataViz Word to Go (Documents to Go) -- Word to Go by DataViz is the most capable editor of the four. It includes all the formatting options that Quickword and Fast Writer offer in addition to limited support for images and tables. Word to Go is really the only choice if you need true synchronization of complex documents between your computer and your handheld. Images display inline, but not in their proper place if you have text flowing around them. Tap an image in a Word to Go document, and it will be displayed full size in the included Pics to Go. Tables are supported, but don't expect to see any complex formatting such as diagonal lines or fill and border colors.
However, text color within a table displays properly. The important part is that all of the formatting remains intact on the desktop. If you're dependent on images and tables in your Word documents, I have two words for you: bring your laptop. The truth is, Word to Go is the only Palm OS word processor that supports these features, but viewing them on your Palm handheld is cumbersome, at best. Stick with your laptop for now, and see what the next generation of Palm OS word processors brings.
Word to Go's strong point is support for a wide variety of desktop formats including Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, AppleWorks, ClarisWorks, Word Pro, rich text, plain text, Palm Doc and Adobe PDF files. Kudos to DataViz for realizing that there is life outside of Microsoft Office. If you are clinging to that copy of WordPerfect, or are blissful in the simplified world of AppleWorks, this should be the deciding point for you.
What? No spell checker? And where's the thesaurus? All signs point to Word to Go being superior to Quickword until this comes to light. One of the most-used features of any word processing application is the spell checker. Here is Word to Go's biggest fault, brought to life in bright red squiggly lines. Without a spell checker, many users will still be dependent on their laptops. Shame on you, DataViz. I thought we had a winner.
Unless you need the specialized features Word to Go offers or you don't need any special features at all (MiniWrite), Quickword will answer your word processing needs without lugging the laptop. This is surprising news, even for me.
All four also offer support for hi-res screens. Once you've spread your sheets across 320 or more gorgeous pixels, that m515 you just bought will look like an Etch-A-Sketch. Is high-resolution support important in a spreadsheet application? You bet. With high resolution, you can fit approximately four times more readable information in the same screen space. This saves a lot of time otherwise spent scrolling back and forth, up and down, searching for the information you need.
All four spreadsheets include essential functionality such as sorting, cell locking and freezing. Any one of these apps can free you from your laptop. Read on to find out which one has that little extra to get your cash.
*MiniCalc (Solutions in Hand MiniOffice) -- MiniCalc comes with a stack of 86 functions and the ability to create six different types of charts through the separate MiniChart app. It's a very capable spreadsheet application, but the interface is a little rough around the edges. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the preferences menu. A load of Palm OS user interface conventions have been broken here. I'd recommend not opening that door too often, or you might forget you're using a Palm. MiniCalc is similar to MiniWrite in that it gets the job done simply. It doesn't have all the features of the other apps, but it might have just enough for your needs.
*Quicksheet (Cutting Edge Software Quickoffice) -- Quicksheet offers a nice interface with over 80 functions. The preference and cell formatting dialogs are much easier to navigate than MiniCalc. This is where the improvements seem to end.
For some strange reason, the default view doesn't take advantage of the extra screen space of hi-res devices. It looks smooth, but the cells are still too bulky to fit very many on the screen at once. Cutting Edge would do well to add Quickword's cool zoom function to Quicksheet.
Another drawback is the charting feature. Your choices of chart types are limited, and it's less intuitive to create charts. In order to create a chart, you have to put a chart formula in a cell and assign it a range of cells like you would with a SUM formula. Then you can tap on that cell to view and edit the chart. This is a bit awkward compared to the other apps.
After the high quality I found in Quickword, I was surprised to find Quicksheet at the bottom of my list. While the interface is superior to MiniCalc, the functionality isn't. Quicksheet isn't a bad choice, especially if you don't use a high-res device, but I feel it's not quite up to the level of the other three.
*Sheet to Go (DataViz Documents to Go) -- Sheet to Go ups the ante with 110 functions, but do numbers really matter as long as the functions you use are there?
Sheet to Go has most of the functionality of the other three without the clutter. The charting capabilities are built in, while the other three depend on a separate application. There are more than a dozen different chart types including three-dimensional charts accessible through the handy Chart Wizard. Unfortunately, the charts don't always look so hot. Text labels on the Y axis look low-res, even though the rest of the chart is smooth. Hopefully, this is a minor issue that will be fixed in an incremental release.
Sheet to Go's interface smacks of quality. There are very few buttons to get in your way. Tapping the function button pops up a row of buttons to help you build your formula with ease. Toward the end of the row you'll find a button that accesses the big list of functions. And what's this? A SUM button! Quicksheet and MiniCalc make you wade through the list of 80 plus functions to find it. In Sheet to Go, it's very handy, just like your desktop spreadsheet application.
Speaking of desktop spreadsheet applications, DataViz has done it again. Sheet to Go supports files from Microsoft Excel, Corel Quattro Pro, Lotus 1-2-3, AppleWorks and ClarisWorks.
*TinySheet (iambic Office) -- TinySheet wins the prize for a whopping 113 functions, but, again, do the numbers matter? Its charting features are fantastic. The included TinyChart is fast, full-featured and completely user-friendly. There are 29 chart variations -- more than double the amount of the closest competitor.
Everything about TinySheet is every bit as good as Sheet to Go, except that it only supports Microsoft Excel files. Sheet to Go and TinySheet are both amazing applications. TinySheet offers a slight speed advantage and excellent charting features. Sheet to Go supports five different spreadsheet file formats. Now's the time to decide what's most important as a user.
*PowerPoint -- Documents to Go Premium Edition and Quickoffice Pro both include viewers for PowerPoint presentations. We have to ask, what's the point? According to DataViz, you can rehearse your presentation on the plane or in the cab with the built-in timer. Woe unto your travel companions if you're rehearsing your proposal in the aisles. You might want to leave the entertainment to the in-flight movie. ;-)
Quickoffice Pro's Quickpoint is their answer to PowerPoint, which boasts compatibility with Pitch for Palm by iGo which lets you run your presentation directly from your Palm handheld. Imagine the gee-whiz impact you'll make! Forget about selling your product -- it's not going to happen. But you'll sell a truckload of Palm handhelds and copies of Quickoffice!
*Email -- Documents to Go Premium Edition and Iambic Office include email applications that have the unique ability to receive and view email attachments. DataViz Mail is strictly for syncing mail from your handheld to your desktop. It does not support wireless access. The attachment support is very robust. All of the file formats supported by Documents to Go are quickly and easily viewable within the suite. Iambic Mail supports syncing and wireless access, but will only open Word and Excel attachments.
*Photo Viewer -- Documents to Go Premium Edition comes with Pics to Go. This application is really not very useful in the face of all the other image viewers available today. It's low-res and doesn't have a lot of options. However, its usefulness lies in its integration with the other applications in the Documents to Go suite. Tapping an image in a Word to Go file will drop you into Pics to Go, as will opening an image attachment from within DataViz Mail. Pics to Go is very handy for those purposes, but, for full-featured hi-res image viewing, consider something like Acid Image by Red Mercury or JPEGWatch by Handwatch instead.
*Calculator -- Mini Office includes a scientific graphing calculator enigmatically called mcCalc. It's way over my head. I couldn't even figure it out with my pocket protector in place. This application is strictly for the geek elite.
In the end, you may be best suited by mixing the individual applications, rather than investing in a suite. In fact, buying individual apps to suit your office on-the-go needs can greatly expand your options. WordSmith, for example, is an excellent stand-alone Palm OS word processor with powerful features on the Palm side and desktop synchronization for PC, Macintosh and Unix desktops.
You truly can't go wrong with any of these office suites. So lose the laptop and take your Office on the road!
Palm office suites at a glance:
*DataViz Documents to Go:
* Mini Office:
You're welcome! I'm always more than happy to share my experience with my palm and be featured on this very popular newsletter!
Palm handhelds have become more popular the past couple of years. We also have a Palm users group which meets every now and then. When I got my Palm in 1998, few people knew what a PalmPilot was. Those who knew were impressed that I had one.
Yes, my palm uses an English OS. We don't really have any need for special characters. My Palm Pro didn't even have Philippines in the country settings. The Vx does.
The first time I got a reaction was when I just got my Palm. We were in our van and I turned it on. The blue-green backlight sparked the curiosity of my sister-in-law who asked what it was.
The first time I used it at work, someone said, "Oh, you got one of those huh? Is it any good?" Now he has one too.
For some time, I was hesitant to use it in public because of strange reactions and because I didn't want to have to explain to them what it was. Also, it is expensive, so it's really a luxury to have one. I didn't want to have people saying what a show-off I was. When the new models came out, I kinda felt left out for having an old model.
These days, I still get strange reactions from some people when I use my Palm. Once, someone asked me for a phone number and when I looked for it on my palm, he curiously asked what it was.
It keeps me organized. I can't live without it! It's great since you can add so many applications. That is, as many as the memory will allow!
I mainly use it to schedule appointments, remind myself of due dates/payments and also keep contact information. I'm using AvantGo and its great! It saves me time reading the news or downloading info when I can sync it and read later whenever I'm free, wherever I am.
The new use I have for AvantGo is for checking my mail. Sometimes I don't have access to a PC and since I don't have POP access for my Yahoo mail, AvantGo comes in pretty handy. I just open the Yahoo web page with AvantGo, then send and check mail in the same way you would with a PC. I also used spreadsheet applications for my business. It's very handy for monitoring daily sales and inventory. Whenever I travel, I also download city guides which are quite helpful.
*HandyShopper -- for my shopping lists:
*Happy Days -- for tracking down birthdays:
*AvantGo -- for news and email:
*mMail+ -- for POP mail:
*CSpotRun -- for reading eBooks:
*TextPlus for word completion:
*Quicksheet -- for spreadsheet work:
*Album To Go -- for my photos:
*For games: Bubblet, Bejeweled, Emerald Hunt and TetrisV:
Yes, I would like to buy a portable keyboard but I've been postponing that for so long because I'm considering buying a new Palm from the m500 series.
One time, I was entering a hotel and the guard, who routinely inspects bags for security, took a look at my Palm & asked what it was. Maybe he thought it was a bomb or a trigger-mechanism! It was too complicated to explain so I just told him it was a calculator.
I think the Palm is one of the greatest inventions! I think everyone should have one. We all have different needs and Palm offers different solutions for everyone. Thanks for inviting me. I hope I was able to help your readers in one way or another. :)
Upcoming interviews include: Chile, Italy, Belgium, South Africa, Bahrain, Barbados, Russia, Romania, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Guatemala, Portugal, Slovenia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Kenya, Croatia, Denmark, South Korea, Indonesia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Austria, Tanzania and Syria.
Thanks again for joining us for another issue of the Tipsheet. I sincerely trust Jason's excellent article helps you select the right Office suite (or best parts) for your needs and Babette's interview was intriguing.
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Until next month,
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