Palm Tipsheet 11.0 / October 2000
Would you like to manage projects with your Palm handheld? In this month's issue of the Palm Tipsheet I'll share techniques for using Aportis BrainForest as a project management tool. Also in this edition, I'll talk with Brazilian Palm user Vladimir Campos about his experience using a Palm handheld in the Tipsheet Interview.
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Notable Palm Links
Project Planning with Aportis BrainForest
The Tipsheet Interview: Vladimir Campos
Handspring Releases VisorPhone -- In September, Handspring took a first step into the wireless arena, announcing the VisorPhone Springboard module. VisorPhone is a $300, 2.9 oz. Springboard module which plugs into any Visor or Visor Deluxe, turning it into a full-featured GSM digital mobile phone.
The VisorPhone makes use of the PalmOS address book for dialing and recognizing numbers while the phone application and module provide other phone features such as: Caller ID, 3-way calling, call waiting, call history, speed dial, voice mail, SMS text messaging, and vibrating alert. The VisorPhone can also work as a wireless modem for email and web access at 14.4 kbps, using third-party applications. One feature I find interesting is the headset (sold separately) which allows a user to talk while still accessing the Visor's applications.
The VisorPhone uses a rechargeable Lilion battery and includes a travel charger to keep the module juiced up. The $300 price tag includes a service plan with the module. However, the VisorPhone can also be purchased for $500 without service plan, similar to higher pricing when buying a mobile phone without a long-term service plan.
ZDNet Predicts VisorPhone and Two New Handhelds -- Several days prior to the Handspring VisorPhone announcement, ZDNet reported on the mobile phone module and two new handhelds to be released in October. The two new devices are reported to be called the Prism and Visor Platinum.
The Handspring Prism handheld is reported to have a 16-bit color screen with 65,536 colors (the Palm IIIc is only 8-bit or 256 colors), a 30MHz Dragonball chip, 8MB RAM, Lilion rechargeable battery (like the Palm V/Vx and IIIc), Palm OS 3.5 and will have a slightly thicker case than current Visor handhelds.
The second unit called the Visor Platinum, should also feature the new 30MHz chip, but will still have a monochrome screen, 8MB RAM, Palm OS 3.5 and will still use AAA batteries. The name 'Platinum' might suggest either a metal colored plastic case or possibly a true metal case for this model -- we'll see come October 19th.
Two Springboard MP3 Players Released -- Have you been asking where the promised Springboard modules have been since the Handspring Visor was released a little over a year ago? In mid-September, two third party companies have replied, each releasing Springboard-based MP3 players.
InnoGear was the first to release the MiniJam MP3 Springboard module. GoodTechnology released a competing product called the SoundsGood MP3 Springboard module shortly afterwards. Both MP3 players are priced between $200 and $270 and sport very similar features.
For more detailed information and a comparison of features, check out VisorCentral's comparison review of the MiniJam vs. SoundsGood Players:
A Trojan Horse and A Palm Virus -- I was afraid it was only a matter of time before virus-like attacks to the Palm platform would come. Late in August a Trojan horse application called 'Crack 1.1' was released, masquerading as a 'crack' for the popular Palm Gameboy emulator Liberty. When Crack 1.1 is run on a Palm to supposedly illegally unlock or 'crack' Liberty, it deletes all data on the device. Norton Anti-Virus has since released a virus definition to detect the Trojan horse 'Crack 1.1' on your PC before syncing takes place.
Then, in September, CNET reported on a new, self-replicating virus discovered by McAfee and the Finnish security group F-Secure called 'Phage.936'. This new virus attacks and destroys all third-party software on an infected Palm handheld and turns the screen gray. Worse yet, this virus can be spread by beaming to other devices. F-Secure is providing updates to their own virus protection software for the desktop as well as a virus protection application for the Palm.
It's truly unfortunate that the popularity of the Palm platform has also attracted virus writers who abuse their skills to destroy information rather than applying those skills to create useful software.
Palm Provides a Desktop Updater for Windows 2000 Users -- Palm had a few updates too, though they're a bit less significant than Handspring's. Win2000 users can now download a 4.6MB updater for the latest Palm Desktop which clears up three main problems with HotSync and some PCs running Win2K.
Track Palm Software at PalmTracker -- As a Mac user, I love using the VersionTracker website to keep up on Mac software updates. I've often wished for a similar site to list Palm software updates. Last month my wish came true with the launch of PalmTracker! This useful service provides daily listings of updated software, as well as automated email notifications by day, week or specific software title. User star ratings are especially helpful for determining an application's reputation before download.
Oi-Vey, It's IOL! -- If you happen to be a Hebrew-speaking Palm user and would like the latest online information in Hebrew, the Palm area at Israel Online (IOL) could be the site for you. I'd offer more information about the site, but I can't read Hebrew! :-)
Resources for Palm Developers at Developers Nation -- If you're one of the thousands of developers for the Palm platform and are looking for good resources and support, check out Developers Nation. This new site offers information on code and tools, jobs, a developers community, events and business information.
Create Your Own Visor Flip-Cover -- If you own a Visor handheld and are envious of the flip cover Palm and TRGPro colleagues have, then this home-grown flip cover solution from Steffan Andrews may be just for you. His page offers step-by-step instructions for converting a spare plastic snap cover and rich, Corinthian leatherette case into a Visor flip cover.
Battery Comparison: e2 vs. Energizer -- Have you seen the e2 brand of AAA batteries? Have you been tempted to try them? Well, the Red Mercury website has an online comparison of e2 vs. Energizer alkalines, to help with your decision. In a nutshell, you'll pay 23% more for 9.7% more battery life than standard Energizer alkalines. Read the full story for details.
The Cure for Palm m100 Notes Envy! -- When the m100 came out and I had a look, I wanted a copy of the new Palm 'Notes' application. Unfortunately Palm isn't offering it for download or sale. I've since found the excellent freeware application DiddleBug from Mitch Blevins. DiddleBug allows you to write freehand notes in digital ink and set alarms so that they pop up and remind you at the appointed time. What a great little application!
Manage Your Time With LifeBalance -- Not enough time in the day to complete your tasks? Are you disappointed about tasks left uncompleted at the end of the week? If so, LifeBalance from Llamagraphics may be a solution. First enter each task along with importance, effort and the time it takes to complete. Once your tasks are entered, LifeBalance generates a to-do list based on your criteria and provides feedback via pie charts. LifeBalance is $40 with a RAM footprint of 300k. For more information, read Jen Edwards' excellent in-depth review of LifeBalance at Geek.com.
Speed Installations with Pilot Install -- If you regularly install applications on your Palm handheld but dread running HotSync each time you want to install an ebook or application, check out Pilot Install. This Windows PC-only application is free for personal use and can even be run from a command line for the DOS geeks out there.
Metro: The Ultimate Subway Guide -- If you regularly use the subway or are planning to visit a city with an extensive (and possibly confusing) subway or tram system, then Metro is for you. This freeware text-based application created by Patrice Benard and Frank Van Caenegem lets you choose stops on a subway line (many lines are represented) and provides complete step-by-step information to get you from point A to point B.
Keep Track of Your Munchkins with MyKids -- If you're a parent and would like to better use your handheld to track your child's information, check out MyKids from PalmSoftNet. This $8 shareware application is a database which tracks doctor info, doctor visits, prescription info, school info, friends info and after school program info for each child. A limited trial version is available for download if you'd like to give it a test drive.
Gran Prix Racing On Your Palm! -- If you're a racing fan and would love to spend a little of your free time as a Gran Prix race driver, check out Rapid Racer from Palm Ellams. This $9 shareware app uses the Palm buttons to accelerate and steer and offers head-to-head IR racing. A track creator for Win95/98/2000 is also available if you want to build your own tracks.
Carry Secure Data Anywhere With Web Confidential -- If you'd like to carry your secure data on your Palm handheld and have it on your desktop too, have a look at this innovative software suite from Alco Blom, René Laterveer and Arno Stobbe. Web Confidential uses a $20 desktop application (Mac or PC) in tandem with a $20 Palm application and HotSync conduit. This suite stores sensitive data using strong encryption (448 bits) in a card-like format, viewable on the Palm or desktop app.
AOL On Palm -- If you're an AOL user, you can get AOL email or chat in Instant Messenger on your Palm handheld! The 425k Mail and 163k IM freeware applications require PalmOS 3.0 and either a Palm wireline modem, OmniSky or Minstrel modem (Palm.net isn't supported) to connect.
Beam Almost Anything With BeamWare -- If you've ever been frustrated by the beaming abilities of the Palm OS, check out this $5 utility. BeamWare allows you to beam almost anything (except locked apps or databases) from your Palm handheld. Beamable items are categorized by Apps, Hacks and Data or you can search for a file with the Find feature.
Toll-Free Access Numbers Via The Palm WorldPhone Companion -- If you happen to use MCI for your long distance telephone service, check out the WorldPhone Companion for Palm handhelds. This free 36k reference application provides instant access to international dialing instructions and toll-free WorldPhone access numbers for over 125 countries worldwide.
Project Planning with Aportis BrainForest
by Mike Rohde, Editor
One of the applications which I love and have used religiously nearly as long as I've owned a Palm handheld is the heirarchical outliner Aportis BrainForest. In this month's issue I'll share how I utilize BrainForest to manage projects.
First A Little History -- BrainForest has been around nearly as long as the original Pilot handheld. Originally this Palm shareware application was known as Outliner, created by Florent Pillet. Outliner was purchased in 1997 by Aportis, Inc. then re-released as BrainForest Mobile for Palm.
BrainForest Mobile costs $30 and was available in Palm-only form for two years. In January 1999 BrainForest Pro for Mac was released, the PC version followed in April 2000. The Palm and desktop suite costs $40, while existing BrainForest Mobile users may purchase the desktop upgrade for $10.
How Does BrainForest Work? -- BrainForest is a heirarchical outliner; a task list manager which operates similarly to the disk filing system of a Macintosh or Windows computer. Directories in BrainForest are called Trees, and these Trees are built of Branches, each consisting of multiple Leaves. Diamonds appear to the left of Branches which contain sub-Leaves (similar to the folders of a filing system) and can be toggled to either hide or reveal contents.
To help describe the system visually, here's a simple text diagram:
|> Leaf B
Project Management -- I especially like BrainForest for managing projects, making heavy use of its 'Project' item feature and percentage options. The heirarchical nature of BrainForest allows me break a large project into small tasks, making it much easier to complete.
Creating a Tree -- The first step to managing a project with BrainForest is to create a Tree. To do this, open the application and click the 'Create' button in the main window and enter a name and category for your Tree. You can select the 'Private' checkbox to protect it from casual viewing. Usually I keep Trees as general as possible (i.e. 'Personal Tasks' or 'Work Projects') rather than creating a Tree for each project. This technique helps me avoid constant switching between Trees to manage projects.
After naming and categorizing your tree, click OK and the Tree will open. At this point it's a good idea to set the prefs of your Tree. You can also change Tree prefs later if you choose. To do this, choose the menu item (Options--Tree Preferences...). Here you choose the of type of Tree you'd like to create: either Standard (checkbox) or Project (percentage bar).
What Are Standard and Project Trees? -- Standard Trees are great for to-do lists, while Project Trees are better for items that take several steps to complete. I use Project Trees most often for managing projects, since checkboxes frustrate me. For instance, if a task is 90% complete, the Standard checkbox won't allow me to indicate progress unless it's 100% complete. Project Trees offer me the option of selecting the percentage of completion for any task ranging from 'Not Done' to 100% in 10% increments.
Additional Tree Options -- There are a few more options in the prefs area which are also useful for project management. The 'New Items Are Action' option tells BrainForest to make new items either a checkbox or percentage bar. If you leave this option unchecked, new items will have a bullet next to them instead. Bulleted items are often useful if your list is for informational purposes and doesn't require action features.
The remaining options include "Show Due Dates' which is useful for start date and deadline information. The 'Show Numbering' feature numbers your items automatically and even numbers sub-items in series. Sub-item numbering looks like this in BrainForest:
Show Priorities is the final option, and adds a small black 'priority' icon to each item between 1 and 5. You can easily identify high priority items in lower positions within a Tree, while keeping your Tree structure intact.
Creating Branches -- Now that you've chosen the preferences for your new Tree, let's add some Branches. I generally use one Branch per project.
To create a Branch (assuming your Tree is open), click on the New button at the bottom of the screen and a new Branch will be created. Notice that a text window automatically pops open with 4 lines and a checkbox; this is where you enter text with Graffiti. Once you've added text, click the checkbox (or anywhere outside the open window) to close the window. To edit text, simply click on the text itself to reopen the text-editing window. To create another Branch, follow the same procedure.
Sometimes I like to change project Branches from action to bulleted items for clearer organization. To make a bulleted item, highlight the Branch and choose the menu (Edit--Toggle Action). To switch back, repeat the process.
Creating Leaves -- Now it's time to add Leaves to a Branch, which I use to represent the tasks of a project. First, highlight the Branch you'd like the new Leaf to appear under and choose the menu item (Tree--New Leaf). Now enter your text and close the window. To create new Leaves at this level, highlight a Leaf on the level you wish to match and click the New button on the bottom left of the screen. When Leaves are added to a Branch, notice a small toggleable diamond appears to hide/show the items within the Branch.
To create a sub-Leaf, highlight the leaf under which you'd like the sub-Leaf to appear and choose the menu (Tree--New Leaf). Again, enter your description in the pop-up window.
Managing Branches and Leaves -- Once you've created the desired Branches for projects and Leaves for tasks and sub-tasks, you can begin to manage your Tree. For instance, you may decide that a sub-task under one leaf may be better suited to another project. To move a Leaf, highlight it, then drag and drop it on top of the Leaf where you'd like it to go; the Leaf will be highlighted and the sub-Leaf will be moved there.
Whole Branches can be moved up and down as well; simply highlight a Branch and drag it to a new location either above or below another Branch. You'll see a small diamond and horizontal line across the screen indicating where the Branch will move to. Branches and Leaves can also be moved to other Trees by using cut and paste features found under the Edit menu.
Add Notes For More Detail -- Four lines of text for each item might be too limiting in some cases, so BrainForest lets you attach up to 32k of text notes to every Tree, Branch or Leaf. To add a note to any item, select the item and choose menu item (Tree--Attach Note). A note window will appear. To view notes, simply click the note icon to the right of the item.
Using Percentage Features -- The percentage option is by far the coolest feature in BrainForest, since you can quickly get a feel for a project's status by viewing the percentage bars for each task. To activate the percentage bars, make sure that you have 'Project' bars selected in your Tree preferences in the menu (Options--Tree Preferences...). Next, select a Leaf's rectangle and a percentage menu will pop up. Select the percentage which best matches the status and the bar will change visually to a black progress bar indicating the chosen percentage.
If you have several tasks and sub-task Leaves under a project Branch, the Branch's rectangle will change from a solid to dotted edge and display the average percentage of all sub-items it contains. This is a nice way to quickly assess a project's status without ever opening the Branch.
Use Filters To View Project Status -- A quick way to weed out completed tasks and view only undone items is to use the Show/Hide function. Access this via the menu (Show--Show/Hide) or by clicking the small octagonal icon in the lower right corner of the screen. Show/Hide offers the option to show 'All' or just items 'Due/To Do' with additional checkbox options to 'Show Done Items' or to 'Only Show First Line' if you have a very large Tree.
Additionally, the Show/Hide function lets you decide a due date limit for the items you'd like to show, including None, Today, Week or Month. The octagon icon shows a plus symbol (+) if filtering is turned on and a minus (-) symbol if filtering is turned off.
Desktop Application -- Aportis also offers a Mac and PC desktop companion called BrainForest Professional, used to edit and view Trees. Unfortunately, the desktop application falls short since it doesn't make use of a custom conduit. Instead, synchronization is achieved through a complex work around using the backup/install functions of the standard conduits. I've tried several times to get Palm to Mac synchronization working only to become frustrated with this Byzantine process.
Improvements Needed -- While I think the BrainForest application for the Palm and desktop are excellent tools for project management, there are certainly some areas where they both could be improved.
Some Suggestions for the Palm version:
* Text Entry -- BrainForest uses a new pop-up window to enter your text. While you can adapt to this, Arranger's  direct entry method is better.
* Alarms on Items -- The addition of Alarms on Leaves or Branches would help greatly with deadlines and due dates.
* Interaction with Stock Palm Applications -- Even better, I'd love to have the ability to link items with stock Palm applications such as the datebook, addressbook, to-do or memopad, as Arranger  currently offers.
* Mixing Project and Standard bars in Trees -- It would be great if the two types of bars in BrainForest could be mixed in a Tree. For most uses, the either/or method works, but in some instances mixed project bars and checkboxes would be very useful.
Suggestions for the Desktop version:
* HotSync Conduit -- The beauty of the Palm is certainly one-touch, two way conduit synchronization. Conduit technology has been around and freely available for a long time, so I'm not sure why Aportis hasn't adopted it.
 Arranger is a $20 shareware outliner like BrainForest. Arranger still lacks percentage project bars and currently has no desktop application.
Conclusion -- BrainForest is a great tool which I find essential for managing projects on a daily basis. I hope that these techniques will encourage you to use BrainForest to manage your projects. Hopefully, Aportis will consider my suggestions to perfect their already powerful software.
The Tipsheet Interview:
Welcome once again to the Tipsheet interview! Last month's interview with Polish user Dominik Oslizlo brought many positive responses and encouraged several international readers to request interviews. I'll be presenting those users interviews in upcoming issues of the Palm Tipsheet, including Palm users from Norway, China, France and England.
*Let the interview Begin -- I'm pleased to introduce the Brazilian Palm user Vladimir Campos, the creator and director of PalmBR.com, Brazil's leading Palm-centric website. Vladimir uses a Palm IIIx, his mobile phone and Palm modem to keep up with news and email on the go. He also carries family photos and reads classic Brazilian literature on his Palm.
*PT: Vladimir, thanks for taking the time to share your Palm using experience with the Palm Tipsheet.
I think Palm Tipsheet is a great idea and an excellent e-zine... So, it is a pleasure to be interviewed ;-)
*PT: You live in Brazil -- I'm curious to know how popular Palm handhelds are there. Have they been gaining popularity recently, or have you noticed them being used by people for a long time?
They are not so popular, but they are now beginning to gain more popularity. We have HomeBanking (or PalmBanking) software from four commercial banks and a lot of new companies developing services and software for the PalmOS. In my opinion Palm popularity will grow even faster because of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) technology. WAP mobile phones being developed in Brazil can be connected to Palm devices and soon Palm users will be able to access wireless Internet and even mobile services like those offered to Palm VII and OmniSky users in the US. But I don't believe in WAP itself.
*PT: Would you explain a bit more why you don't believe in WAP?
I think WAP is too slow, the mobile phone screen is too small, imputing text is very hard and sometimes different WAP phones don't understand the same WML (Wireless Markup Language) code. I just can't imagine all the information on the web working well under these conditions. On the other hand, PalmOS handhelds have bigger screens, Graffiti, images, color options and a lot of wireless services working and to come: Palm VII/VIIx, OmniSky and @ctiveLink Wireless Messaging Module for the Visor.
*PT: Is your Palm an English version, or a localized Portuguese language operating system?
My OS is in English and for me that's not a problem because I speak English, but I think an OS in Portuguese would be great! If so, I'm sure Palm Inc. would sell many more devices in Brazil.
*PT: Is there a version of Graffiti which allows you to write special Portuguese characters on your Palm? Or must you use other methods to enter special characters?
In fact the Portuguese alphabet is the same as English -- the only add-ons are accents. So, the only difference in Graffiti witting is that we must write the letter first and then the accent. This is difficult to adapt to since with a desktop keyboard, we normally first type the accent and then the letter. Writing the opposite way with Graffiti is very easy to get used to, but I wish somebody would develop a Hack to change this order for the Palm. I'm sure this problem must affect other languages like Spanish, Italian, French, etc. We all use the same alphabet, but when using Graffiti, we have to change the 'typing' order of the accents and letters.
*PT: When you are using your Palm, what kinds of reactions do you see from people? Are they intrigued by your Palm? Do you have opportunities to 'evangelize' the Palm to them?
Most of them are intrigued and I always evangelize them and of course invite them to visit my website :-). They think Palm is just another electronic address book, but when I show them the e-mail program, text editor, AvantGo, eBooks, etc., they go crazy.
*PT: How does the Palm help you in your everyday life?
I use it to do almost everything. Keep my contacts in order, to schedule my meetings, to remind me of birthdays, to take quick notes, to write memos, to read eBooks and news, etc. I also use it to check and write my e-mail when out of the office or traveling.
*PT: Are there any applications which you use daily and can't live without?
Yes, a lot of them. But I think any software which explores "Communication and Palm Mobility" is essential. Therefore I use AvantGo, MultiMail and Yahoo!Messenger. Of course I have a lot of other very important applications, but I love to be mobile. In my opinion this is the most important Palm feature: a small and powerful device which can be connected to Internet. With a Palm Modem I can synchronize with AvantGo anywhere, check my Mail with MultiMail and chat with friends using Yahoo!Messenger.
*PT: Are there any hardware or software items that you plan to buy in the near future? What functions will you use these for?
Yes. I would like to have Palm VII and/or OmniSky in Brazil. I hope the mobile phones integration with Palm can bring us services like the US has.
*PT: Would you share a funny story that relates to your Palm? :-)
I wouldn't say that my Brazilian history is funny, but when I am reading Brazilian Classic literature eBooks in my Palm I keep thinking about the situation of reading a very old book in an electronic device. Some of the Classics I read on the Palm, I've never read in bound book format.
This makes me think about the world my son will live in. In some point of the near future all kinds of media, information, transactions, commerce, electronic money, etc. will be available via the Internet and accessible by wireless handheld devices. Think about a completely different world; without CD players, wallets, paper address books, bound books, magazines, etc. Isn't it incredible that all this will happen in a few short years?!
*PT: Thank you for taking time to share your Palm using experience in Brazil with the Palm Tipsheet. Are there any final comments you'd like to share with the readers?
I would like to invite all of your readers, especially the Portuguese Language Palm users to visit PalmBR.com website at:
Interview Slots Still Available! -- If you're a Palm user outside of the US and are interested in being interviewed by the Palm Tipsheet, please send an email to email@example.com with 'interview' in the subject line!
Once again we're at the end of another issue. I hope you've enjoyed the notable links, BrainForest project management article and the interview with Mr. Campos. Remember to make the most of your Palm handheld!
If you'd like to read archived issues of the Palm Tipsheet, they're available on the Palm Tipsheet website for your reading pleasure in HTML and Palm Doc format. To subscribe to the Palm Tipsheet, or to direct a Palm-using friend to subscribe, the website also has a subscription tool. As always, feel free to stop by and explore!
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