10 must-have products for your Palm
10 must-have products for your Palm
These tools help you get the most advantages from this popular handheld
By Michael Cheek
No doubt about it, the Palm is popular. At the next conference you attend, look around and see Palm OS device owners beaming each other contact information or taking notes in the Palm Graffiti shorthand.
As a reviewer, I try to be noncommittal about products. A few weeks ago, I got a Palm V. For six months before that, I'd carried an older handheld running Microsoft Windows CE. I tended to leave it behind because it was more often a bother than a help.
I have reviewed many devices from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., but my Palm V is the only one that has become indispensable. I don't go anywhere without it. On long flights, I can write e-mail or play games without worrying about battery life. On one weeklong trip, I never recharged my Palm V, which had about half its charge remaining at week's end.
In exploring the Palm world, I've noticed a lot of grassroots support. More products are surfacing. This article will outline 10 I found most worthwhile. If you've got a Palm, these products will make it indispensable. And if you're a WinCE user, some of the applications are available for that platform, too.
Take the Web with you, or at least part of it. Many Palm users don't have wireless Web as Palm VII users do. But we all like to keep up with news and weather, not to mention lots of other types of Web sites.
The free AvantGo applet updates chosen Web content, such as news and weather information, at each synchronization, but it takes up a lot of storage space.
AvantGo does it'and for free. It downloads a selection of content and formats it for a small display. Depending on the selection, some content comes through clearly and nicely formatted. Other content looks a little out of whack but is still legible.
Of course, you can't refresh it in the field without wireless access. But at every synchronization, AvantGo updates your choices. A good example is weather data provided by the Weather Channel, at www.weather.com
On your handheld, enter a city or ZIP code. At the next synchronization, that area's weather data and forecast will download onto your unit.
AvantGo also can provide content from The New York Times, and it will let the user downloading maps and directions from MapQuest.com.
AvantGo takes a little too much storage space'from 324K to 426K without content. On my Palm V, AvantGo consumed more than 700K, hefty for the unit's 2M of memory.
AvantGo would work better on the Palm IIIx, IIIxe, IIIc or Vx. Users of the Visor Deluxe from Handspring Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., might also like AvantGo.
If you have a device that runs the WinCE operating system, you can download a version of AvantGo, too, although it takes up even more memory.
The Palm's Date Book applet does an excellent job of keeping up with appointments such as a lunch but not so well with daylong events, travel days, vacations, holidays and co-workers' birthdays.
The Date Book is geared toward events that have a well-defined beginning and end.
DateMate handles customized entries and reminders of upcoming events or anniversaries. It has its own alarm to notify you days or hours in advance, so you can order flowers for Secretary's Day, for example.
I wish the alarm had a snooze feature.
Moreover, DateMate synchronizes with your handheld's Date Book applet, leaving out nothing when you check your schedule.
It takes up only 53K and even lets you import dates in the Address Book's custom fields, so you need enter them only once in the contact database.
The price is a little high, but this applet is truly handy.
If you travel worldwide, the bundle with WorldMate makes the price a little more reasonable.
|Documents to Go|
Maybe you're in the habit of carrying around bulky folded printouts to refresh your memory of last month's management memos or budget expenditures.
Did you know you can save a Microsoft Word document or an Excel spreadsheet to your Palm? Documents to Go does the job easily.
After installing it, select the documents you want from your PC. The DataViz application shrinks their size; one of my 105K spreadsheets shrank to 18K, and a 28K Word document decreased to 5K.
Documents to Go strips out clip art and other large graphic elements but leaves text and basic information intact. Some formatting'such as bolding and italics'remains. Other formatting, however, such as strike-throughs, disappears.
DateMate keeps schedules for events that don't fit into strict hourly slots.
Documents to Go keeps essential text from memos and spreadsheets.
WorldMate tells what time it is in five chosen locations around the globe.
The application includes a text search function to find particular passages in long documents. And, you can add bookmarks so that you can rapidly move through a document.
Documents to Go doesn't allow any editing. I wish it could resize spreadsheet cells and had more font options.
Four applets have to load.
The primary applet, 53K in size, accesses all documents synchronized with the Palm unit.
SheetView at 76K shows all spreadsheets.
WordView at 35K and WordView+ at 90K access plain text documents and formatted ones with tables, respectively.
The overall 254K total is a little weighty. DataViz should combine the two word processor viewers into a single applet.
In fact, it would be great if the pieces of Documents to Go were all in one application.
Documents to Go supports most recent Mac OS and Windows versions of Microsoft Word and Excel, Corel WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, Lotus Word Pro and 1-2-3, and ClarisWorks.
DataViz also includes in the package Attachments to Go, which works with any Documents to Go-compatible file types so your e-mail attachments can go with you, too.
|Earthmate Road Warrior Edition|
DeLorme Publishing Co. Inc.
Ever wondered how to get where you want to go or where the heck you've arrived?
This inexpensive suite incorporates mapping and Global Positioning System sensing.
Earthmate Road Warrior Edition consists of Street Atlas USA 7.0, Solus Pro 1.5 and Earthmate Hyperperformance GPS Receiver.
Street Atlas USA installs first on your PC, followed by Solus Pro. Street Atlas can act as a standalone mapping application to plan routes or get the lay of the land.
Solus Pro serves as the conduit for maps and directions to your Palm unit. It's also the software that operates on the Palm. Solus Pro and its associated files take up 119K. The maps are larger, from 300K to 600K.
I recently drove from the Washington area to the Pocono mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania.
After setting up a map and directions on a PC, I clicked the handheld's button and downloaded both to my Palm V.
The Palm Portable Keyboard makes
character entry a cinch, and it's compact.
It sells for $99.
Throughout my journey, Earthmate kept me apprised of location and upcoming turns.
I had trouble seeing the crosshairs icon over the current location, especially in metropolitan areas that had many roads and highways. And I would have appreciated the ability to select the level of detail I wanted in the map.
The Earthmate GPS device, larger than a Palm, requires four AAA batteries.
DeLorme should consider adding a couple of lights to indicate when the GPS is connected to a user device and when it is properly receiving satellite signals. Under fog and heavy clouds, the GPS sensors sputtered a bit. Even so, I was impressed that the system knew exactly the speed of my car, practically copying the speedometer.
It also did an excellent job of estimating arrival time.
It's too bad there's no way to reverse the Solus directions to track a return trip. And I wished I could zoom in when I got lost once in the mountains.
|Palm Portable Keyboard|
Santa Clara, Calif.
During this review, I examined several shareware products that required inputting a long string of characters, such as 5*/[7hGm~>?df5+$@, for activation.
If anyone knows all the correct handwriting strokes to enter those characters on a Palm, my hat's off to him. It took me a long time.
The Palm Portable Keyboard came to my rescue. After unfolding the 8-ounce wonder and connecting it to my Palm, I could type as easily as on a full-size keyboard.
The keys, which are about the size of those on a standard notebook keyboard, are responsive and have a solid feel.
A stand for the Palm is included with the keyboard.
Some special keys serve Palm-specific commands such as Show, Details and Delete. These commands also launch many of the basic applications.
One of the best uses for the Portable Keyboard is in responding to e-mail.
UnDupe removes duplicate entries but behaves somewhat erratically.
PalmPrint wirelessly prints from the Clipboard, Memo and ToDo views.
Quicksheet is a full spreadsheet application with 60 math functions.
SimpleSketch is a fast, easy tool for making drawings, and there is no stylus lag.
Unfortunately, the arrow keys fail to highlight e-mail for selection.
There's also no Reply or Done function key'you must pick up the stylus.
The keyboard applet is no space-sucker; it takes up 26K.
Some command keystrokes can be defined, but only to launch Palm applications.
The keyboard requires no batteries, borrowing what little power it needs from the Palm itself.
At $99, the keyboard would be indispensable for any Palm power user'especially Palm VII owners who can respond to e-mails wirelessly.
Need a quick printout on the road? Some printers have an infrared port for wireless printing. PalmPrint does a solid job of getting basic text documents from your Palm to paper in that fashion.
PalmPrint prints from the Palm's Clipboard, Memo or To Do List.
Other third-party applets support PalmPrint; check out the list at Stevens Creek's Web site.
The documents and text are basic'no fancy formatting and no large print, just text on a page.
PalmPrint works with most common printers. I found that the setting for Hewlett-Packard Co. printers did not work at first with one HP DeskJet, but when I selected Plain Text, the job went through fine.
I'm not blaming PalmPrint; that particular printer's IR port would not print from other devices either.
Here's a useful trick. If you have a Word file in Documents to Go and want to print it, you can copy text to the Palm's Clipboard and then print with PalmPrint.
Cutting Edge Software Inc.
Sometimes just seeing a spreadsheet isn't enough. Numbers have to be changed and calculations figured up.
Quicksheet 5.0 does all that. Although it consumes almost 250K, but it provides perhaps the most complete spreadsheet application on any handheld anywhere.
It can import and synchronize Excel files on a desktop PC. One version can even access Open Database Connectivity-compliant applications.
Besides more than 60 mathematical functions, the application has a component called Quickchart to make pie graphs, bar charts and practically any other basic diagram you might need.
Earthmate's GPS receiver tracks speed and location well, but you cannot zoom in on maps for closer inspection.
Users familiar with Excel or other spreadsheets will have no trouble with Quicksheet.
The application maintains most formatting and can support multisheet files.
One minor problem bothered me. When entering information in a cell, I would try to select the checkmark, which acts like the Enter key on a keyboard.
Unfortunately, the checkmark is right above the X mark, which clears the cell when a mistake is made.
On the small Palm screen, the two icons need to be farther apart to prevent this from happening.
To keep an almost completely full-featured spreadsheet application right in the palm of your hand, get Quicksheet.
The Palm unfortunately lacks software for making quick sketches or handwritten notes to yourself.
Several companies offer sketching applets, but I like SimpleSketch best. Simple-Sketch works fast, responds quickly without stylus lag and is very easy.
Too many drawing applets take a couple of minutes to figure out which tool the user has selected. And they can't keep up with handwriting.
At 65K, SimpleSketch imposes little overhead.
It synchs up your sketches in the handy Windows bitmap format for easy desktop PC access.
Basic drawing tools include thickness markers, squares, circles, triangles and lines. SimpleSketch has an eraser tool but not an undo function.
Each sketch is represented by a thumbnail with a long filename. SimpleSketch supports the Palm IIIc color screen.
It doesn't draw in grayscale on monochrome Palms; all the applets I tried that do grayscale were just too slow.
My Palm V has 2M of RAM. That much has been adequate for trying all the products in this review, but every kilobyte still counts.
UnDupe takes care of removing any duplicated entries in the Palm's Date Book, Memo Pad, Address Book or To Do List. Unfortunately, the entries must be identical.
I wish UnDupe would notice fairly similar entries and let the user confirm deletions.
Moreover, the Fast Search option often missed exact duplicates although the Exhaustive Search option caught them. But UnDupe frees up memory space and is worth its small, 33K footprint.
If you travel globally or work with colleagues abroad or across the country, WorldMate is a handy Palm partner. Its main screen shows the date and time at its location and at four other locations around the world.
WorldMate covers dozens of international cities, although prominent ones such as San Francisco and Frankfurt, Germany, seem to be missing and have to be added by editing.
WorldMate includes two extra screens with clothing measurements for the United States, Europe and Great Britain plus a currency converter for three foreign money denominations.
The clothing measurements might be handy for picking up a new Italian suit as you travel abroad, but the currency converter is much more useful. You must enter the current exchange rate.
Thereafter, enter any number under any currency and the other two automatically convert.
The 55K WorldMate is a little expensive considering that it has clocks but no alarm of any sort.