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Palm Tipsheet 14.0 / January 2001
Whether you're a new or veteran user, learning handy Palm tips & tricks are always a good thing. This month I'll share the most useful tips & tricks gathered in my three years as a Palm handheld user. I'll also talk with French Palm user and developer Patrice Bernard about his Palm use, the popularity of Palms in France and his subway navigation application, Metro.
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Handy Palm Tips & Tricks
The Tipsheet Interview: Patrice Bernard
Coming Soon: Palm OS 4.0 and 5.0 -- PalmSource, the yearly conference
sponsored by Palm, Inc. provided many product announcements, though most
interesting was the release of new information about upcoming Palm operating
systems. Details of Palm OS 4.0, coming in early 2001, include: system wide
support for 16-bit color, USB Sync connectivity, integrated plug-in media,
Bluetooth wireless connectivity and telephony features.
PalmOS 5.0, with a suggested arrival of late 2001, has a fuzzier list of features: support for faster ARM processors (requiring any earlier
PalmOS to run in emulation), screen resolutions larger than 160 x 160
pixels and a toggleable 'software' Graffiti panel for more screen space.
It seems Palm is aware of the PocketPC platform; hopefully new Palm
handhelds will maintain a wide range of features and prices to continue attracting both new and expert users to the platform.
Glowing Review of the Handspring Prism -- Leander Kahney of Wired News has written a very positive review the Handspring Prism. The Prism's bright color screen was highly praised; Kahney admits to using it as a flashlight and prefers the Prism for reading the morning news with AvantGo.
ABC News Reviews Handhelds -- A sure sign that handheld use is becoming more popular is an article about palmtop computers at ABC News. The story compares Palm and PocketPC prices and features. Read the full story:
Claudia Schiffer Palm Vx Released -- Don't be surprised to hear supermodel Claudia Schiffer is a Palm fanatic. In December she appeared at PalmSource to announce the Claudia Schiffer special edition Palm Vx. The $400 handheld sports an attractive aqua blue case and includes a collection of Palm software specially selected by Claudia herself.
Also worth reading is an interesting Interview with Claudia by Ian Fried of CNET's News.com. In the interview, Claudia talks about being "totally hooked" on her Palm and discussed the Schiffer edition Palm Vx:
AvantGo Offers Multi-Language Channels -- Content at AvantGo has been expanding quickly, in particular with channels of various languages. AvantGo's new drop-down channel chooser now lets users select channels from the US, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark.
HotSync a Smile at Happy Palm -- This new Palm centric website provides the latest news, message board forums, polls, software picks and suggestions and even an AvantGo channel to make any Palm handheld happy. :-)
Great Content at PalmLoyal.com -- Providing news and commentary, along with reviews, polls, web links, forums, a FAQ and even a newbie Palm user area, PalmLoyal is another great user-created Palm website to check out.
Palm Open Source Has a New Website -- A few months back I reported on a portal site listing open source freeware for Palm handhelds. Now PalmOpenSource has its own domain name and a brighter look to boot.
Get the Most From Your Palm at MaximumPDA -- This new PDA site provides news on the handheld community and industry, reviews of hardware and software, forums, links, guides, free email accounts and an AvantGo channel.
Deutsch Palm Infos Mit Lycos Mobil -- German users, check out this new
German language portal site, hosted by Lycos and powered by Handango. The
site provides software downloads, a FAQ, WAP and SMS services. Sehr gut!
Tu Palm Habla Espanol! -- Spanish speaking Palm users should definitely check out PDAInfo.net, a Spanish language website offering Palm related news, reviews, articles, polls and links. Message boards and an AvantGo channel will be available on the site in the next several weeks. Muy bueno!
Alex Catalogue Offers Free Palm Doc Texts -- From Aristotle to Wilde, If you love reading literature and philosophy, check out the Alex Catalogue of electronic texts. This resource lets you search or browse by authors, titles or date. Once you've selected a text, click the Palm Pilot link, a Doc file will be generated for download, ready for syncing to your Palm handheld.
Docs To Go and Quickword vs. WordSmith -- BlueNomad (formerly BackupBuddy) has released the public beta version of the new Palm word processor WordSmith. The application provides features such as bold, italics, underlining, justification, font faces and sizes, Memo editing and more. WordSmith also supports the Palm Foldable Keyboard, Targus Stowaway Keyboard and GoType keyboard. The Key to WordSmith is it's synchronization with Microsoft Word documents via conduit (Windows-only). Document converters are available for Mac and Linux. WordSmith is priced at $20; a demo of the beta is available for download.
Thinking Bytes Offers Free thinkDB -- In a interesting move, Thinking Bytes software is offering their flagship product, the thinkDB 2.0 Palm database application as a free download, choosing instead to charge $40 for the PC desktop application or $20 for the dbSync PC HotSync conduit.
FileMaker Releases Mobile Client for Palm -- If you're a FileMaker database user and would love direct synchronization to your Palm, check out FileMaker Mobile. This $49 Palm application offers HotSync connectivity with FileMaker Pro 5 for Mac and PC. A tour of the Palm app is available online, though no demo download of FileMaker Mobile is available.
Impress Trekkers With Tricorder -- Forget organizing your life and take time to scan for tachyon emissions! Tricorder, a fun freeware tool features a futuristic user interface useful for the mission critical tasks of surveying geological, meteorological, and biological phenomenon.
Make Your Palm V/Vx More Colorful -- Here's a way to spruce up your gray Palm V or Vx; Personality Packs from Parallel Design. These colorful screen protectors require no hardware to attach them; simply snap one on and you're good to go. A snap-in stylus holder is also available. The flip-cover alone is $16, stylus holder is $3 and a package of both costs $18.
Add a Flip Cover to Your Visor -- The Visor Smart Cover, developed by Ng Chi Fai attaches to any Visor handheld and provides flip-cover protection much like a Palm III series handheld. Visor Smart Cover is $20.
Alternately, check out the $6 graphite or clear Flip-Clip from Tactilis, which clips to a Visor and lets you attach Palm III flip lids. Tactillis sells flip lids for $4 or a Flip-Clip and flip lid combo package for $10.
iBIZ Releases the Handspring Folding Travel Cradle -- If you travel and own a Visor, have a look at iBIZ's new $30 Folding Travel Cradle. The cradle folds up for easier packing and provides both USB and serial connectors and 5 color-coordinated faceplates to match whatever Visor you may have.
UPDATE: PalmOS Beaming Update -- In last month's feature article 'Supercharging Your Memo Pad' I mentioned how any beamed memo is automatically placed in the Unfiled category when received. Reader John Jones mentions PalmOS 3.5 fixes this bug by allowing the receiver of beamed memos, to 'categorize' them upon receipt. Thanks to John for the update!
Handy Palm Tips & Tricks
by Mike Rohde
I'm always happy to find tips & tricks to help make my own Palm experience better, easier or quicker; in three years I've gathered several handy Palm-related tips. However, the problem with using a Palm for such a long time is the tendency to take tips & tricks for granted.
Therefore, in this month's feature article I've taken time to identify and write down the most useful software and hardware tips & tricks learned as a Palm user. Sharing these tips & tricks seems a perfect way to help new users and maybe even surprise a few veteran users at the same time.
Software Tips & Tricks
Figure 8 Equals Y -- Graffiti text entry is by and large pretty accurate once you know the common strokes. However, one of the most problematic symbols for me to write was the Y character. A few years back, I came across an alternate figure 8 stroke, which creates a perfect Y every time:
1) First, place your stylus in the upper left corner of the graffiti area.
2) Next, stroke downward and right to the bottom of the screen.
3) Now begin looping sharply left and upward.
4) Finally, pull your stylus up and cross to the right side of the graffiti area, over your first stroke to form an open-topped figure 8 shape.
Customize Hard Button Launchers -- A useful, often unnoticed feature of the PalmOS is the ability to customize your Palm's hard buttons (Datebook, Address, To Do and Memo Pad) to launch other applications.
To do this:
1) Locate the Prefs application and choose the 'Buttons' menu selector in the upper right corner of the screen. You'll see a screen of hard button icons appear with text menus to their right.
2) Next, click an icon's text menu for a pop-up list of available Palm applications. Selecting an application from the list will launch it when the hard button is pressed.
Let There Be Backlight -- Here's another feature to check out while you're in the Buttons area of the Prefs application. Click the 'Pen...' button at the bottom of the screen and assign one of several functions to a vertical Graffiti upstroke. My wife and I have assigned backlight activation to this stroke; other options include activation of the on-screen Keyboard, Graffiti Help, Turn Off & Lock function and the Beam data function.
Make HotSyncs Wait Forever -- From time to time, my Visor Deluxe gets stubborn at HotSync and refuses to connect with my Mac's HotSync manager through the serial cradle. When it does, I use a programmers backdoor trick which forces my Visor to wait until the desktop makes a connection.
To activate this feature:
1) Open the HotSync application on your Palm.
2) Next, press and hold the up and down scroll buttons simultaneously with your left thumb while using the stylus in your right hand to double-tap in the uppermost right corner of the screen.
3) A small dialog box will appear in the lower part of the screen entitled "DEVELOPER'S BACKDOOR" containing the text "DLServer Wait Forever is ON". Click the 'OK' button in this dialog to force your Palm to wait until the desktop makes a connection.
Once you successfully HotSync, the 'wait forever' state will be deactivated.
PalmOS System Reset -- If your Palm handheld is acting strangely and you're dreading a hard reset, try resetting the PalmOS system first. Resetting the system won't cause a data loss like a hard reset will and may eliminate any strange problems you're experiencing.
To reset your Palm system:
1) First, locate the reset pin inside your stylus or a paper clip with one end bent out to allow for resetting your handheld.
2) Next, press and hold the up scroll button with your left thumb while using the reset pin in your right hand to reset the handheld (the reset port is a small pinhole located on the back of your Palm handheld).
3) When you see the Palm startup screen, release the up button. No indication is provided on screen, but your system will now be reset.
Recent Calculations Tip -- If you've ever made a calculation with the built-in calculator and wish you could re-check your sums... you can! Open the calculator and choose the menu 'Options' and submenu 'Recent Calculations'. A dialog box will appear with your last calculations listed.
Purge & Prune to Speed HotSyncs -- If you've been noticing your HotSyncs have slowed significantly, you may want to consider pruning and/or purging your built-in Datebook, Address, To Do and Memo Pad databases. Slimmer databases will help speed up the HotSync process.
Your first option is to prune data in the Address, To Do and Memo Pad applications manually, by reviewing and deleting old, outdated and unnecessary items. The 'Delete' function is found under the 'Record' menu in the Datebook, To Do and Memo Pad apps. The Delete function is found under the 'Edit' menu in the Address Book and functions only when an individual contact is open for viewing or editing.
If you'd prefer to purge and archive your data rather than pruning it, the Datebook and To Do applications both offer a purge option. In both applications the purge feature is found under the menu item 'Record' and submenu 'Purge'.
Note that purging works a bit differently in each application. The Datebook allows you to purge appointments which are 1 to 4 weeks old (and older), while the To Do application purges any checked to do items. Both offer the option to save your data to an archive file on your Mac or PC or completely delete it without a backup. When you perform a purge, a dialog box will appear asking which option you prefer.
For more powerful Datebook purging options, Handspring Visor and Prism owners can use Datebook+ (included on every Handspring device) to purge old appointments. Other handheld users can download demo versions of Datebk 4 ($25) or Action Names Datebook ($20) to harness advanced purging options:
Action Names Datebook:
Be sure to check out all the features of these powerful Datebook replacements. Datebk 4 and Action Names Datebook are both great values, since they provide many useful features not available in the built-in Datebook application.
Tracking Actions Between Meetings -- My wife uses this Datebook tip to keep tabs on action items discussed and assigned during meetings. She attaches a note to a meeting appointment and records action items and responsible parties during the meeting in this note. These tidbits of information help her follow up at later meetings.
Here's the tip procedure:
1) First, attach a note to an appointment for your initial meeting and use it to take notes about action items assigned and responsible parties.
2) Next, schedule the upcoming meeting appointment and attach a blank note.
3) Now return to the note attached to the initial appointment, copy your meeting notes and paste them into the new blank note attached to the new appointment.
Now you're prepared with all the critical meeting details in this attached note, ready to go for the follow-up meeting.
Hardware Tips & Tricks
Carry Your Palm Data On A Floppy or CD -- A great idea to insure you always have a copy of your Palm's built-in app data when you travel is to carry your Palm Desktop files on a floppy disk or CD. To do this:
1) First, locate your user data files on your computer (they should be within the Palm Desktop directory, in the Users folder, in a folder named similarly to your user name: RohdeM for instance).
2) Next, copy the Datebook, Address Book, To Do and Memo Pad data files to a floppy disk (you may want to zip compress the databases if they're too large to fit on one floppy) or burn them to a CD.
3) If you have a crash on the road you'll need access to a Mac PC to recover your data, so it's a good idea to bring your installer CD. This way if you need to install the Palm desktop on another PC you'll be all set.
Protect Your Graffiti Area With Tape -- The graffiti area of my screen gets heaviest wear. To protect this part of the screen, I use 3/4" Scotch tape, which also provides a firmer writing surface. I prefer Scotch Satin tape (in the purple package), which provides a nearly invisible layer of protection. Other Palm users prefer Scotch Magic or Magic Removable tape.
Cutting and applying tape is a bit tricky, since a clean application makes for a smooth, bubble and fingerprint-free writing surface. Here's the easiest procedure I've found for applying tape to a Palm handheld:
1) Cut a piece of tape wide enough to wrap slightly around the front of your handheld and stick it to the left and right sides of the case on either side of the screen. Don't make it too taught; leave a little slack in the tape.
2) Next, use an Exacto knife or razor blade to cut one side of the tape near the edge of the screen, being very careful not to cut the screen. Let the cut edge drop down until it adheres to the screen.
3) Now begin smoothing out the tape toward the opposite side with a burnishing tool (like a stylus) using an up and down motion. Take your time and watch for air bubbles. Going slow and easy keeps bubbles to a minimum.
4) When the tape is adhered as much as possible, carefully cut the other edge of the tape (which is attached to the other side of your Palm) and finish burnishing until the tape is smoothly adhered.
It's a good idea to replace this tape about every 3 to 6 months, to keep it from sticking too tightly to your screen.
Batteries, Batteries, Everywhere -- You never know when your batteries may get dangerously low, so I keep sets of 2 AAA batteries in various places, just in case. I keep a set in my jacket, a set in my backpack, a set at the office and even a set in the car so when the low battery warning appears, I'm prepared to swap in a fresh set. Tape the cells together to prevent them from separating and getting lost in transit.
Visor Springboard Slot As Cargo Bay Trick -- Visor owners who don't need a Springboard module installed all the time can turn an empty Springboard slot into a handy cargo bay. You can carry small items such as a mini sticky note pad, folded paper money or coins for a phone call (taped in place), postage stamps or even a shortened stubby pencil. Be creative! :-)
From Paper Clip To Reset Pin -- These days, both stock and third party Palm styluses have reset pins built right into them. However, if you happen to lose your stylus or like having a spare reset pin, read on. My father came up with this great way to make a reset pin out of any paper clip:
1) Take the smaller curved end of a paper clip and cut it off with a wire cutter after the curve.
2) Next clip the long edge of the paper clip until you have a long bit of wire with a curve on the end shaped like a U.
Store this reset pin in between your batteries under the battery bay cover. The gap between batteries is perfect for holding the reset pin in place.
Conclusion -- I hope these tips and tricks are as useful for you as they have been for me over the years. I suspect not every tip or trick will suit your needs, though I'm sure one or two should make a useful addition to your own library of tips & tricks.
If you happen have any handy tips or tricks, feel free to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll consider publishing a follow-up article with the best reader-submitted tips & tricks.
The Tipsheet Interview: Patrice Bernard
In this month's installment of the Tipsheet Interview we'll talk with Patrice Bernard, a French information systems consultant who uses his USRobotics PalmPilot Professional to manage his daily life, learn Japanese, read texts and play a game or two. Patrice is also the author of the freeware subway navigation software, Metro, which he uses to navigate his daily commute on the Paris Metro.
*PT: Patrice, thanks for taking the time to share your Palm experience!
Hi Mike, it's always a pleasure to exchange views with people from around the world.
*PT: You live in France -- 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?
I'd say people have been using Palms for quite some time now, and it's getting more and more popular. Among people with whom I work, about 2 out of 3 own a Palm (and not only the computer geeks).
*PT: Does your Palm run a French localized version of the PalmOS?
Everything is localized in French (PalmOS & desktop) and has been from the start. It would never have been a success if it had not (French people are quite conservative about their language).
*PT: Is there a version of Graffiti which allows you to write special French characters on your Palm? Or must you use other methods to enter them?
Our graffiti version allows us to enter French characters (mostly accented letters) but it's a bit clumsy to tell the truth. However, I think many people write without accents on their Palm.
*PT: When you're using your Palm, what kinds of reactions do you get from people? Are they intrigued by your Palm? Do you have opportunities to 'evangelize' the Palm with them?
As I said, the Palm is quite popular so you don't look like an alien when using one. It's true some people try to understand what you use it for but they generally know what it is, basically. I understand your question about 'evangelizing' but French (and especially in Paris) are not used to engaging in conversation with strangers, so there is not much evangelization this way.
*PT: How does the Palm help you in your everyday life?
Essentially, it keeps my schedule and my address book (as for everyone, I imagine). It's also a convenient tool to take short notes and reminders. Apart from that it keeps me busy reading novels or learning Japanese while commuting every day.
*PT: Are there any programs which you use daily and couldn't live without?
That's something I've recently discussed with other users and we all agreed that there were no "killer apps" for the Palm. The ROM apps and the third-party softwares are useful, but we all lived without a Palm before :-)
My opinion is that the magic of it is only that you can have a lot of useful tools on a little machine you can carry everywhere. Palm Computing is the winner here, not the software developers.
*PT: Are there any hardware or software items which you plan to buy in the near future? What functions will you use these for?
Yes, I'll have to buy a newer model Palm soon, because there are more and more applications that don't work on PalmOS 2. And with all the WAP hype around, I may soon fall for a GSM-enabled palm or at least a modem. This may be an opportunity to create the "killer application" that's missing today, since I'm also a Palm developer.
*PT: You mention you're a Palm developer and I understand that you've created the popular subway navigation program Metro for the Palm. What inspired you to create this application?
When I bought my Palm, I was interested in the fact you can develop software for it and I love to learn how to use any technology.
The first idea I came up with was to create a program that could replace my Paris subway map (at the time, I found nothing doing that). Thinking it would be useful to others, I've released it in early 1999. Then, Frank Van Caenegem (my partner on it) contacted me from Tokyo to see if I could modify the program to use with other cities as well (for which he would send me the data). That was the real start for Metro, in mid-99.
*PT: Why did you decide to offer it for free rather than charge for it?
Why free? Why not? could be an answer. First, I think it would not be as successful if it was shareware (you can compare with the competition) so we would not make a lot of money with it (particularly if you know that French people generally don't pay for sharewares). And we both have a good job to earn our living ;-)
But the most important reason (and it was from the start) is that when users find a bug or when there is a change in a network, they're more inclined to send you all the information you need because it's free: when you pay for something, you're expecting it to be perfect without work on your part.
You can see from our contributor's list (nearly 200 names!) that the idea proved right. Whole databases have been created with data gathered and sent by users who trust us. And I don't mention localization of the software.
*PT: Would you share a funny story related to your Palm? :-)
I can't think of a really funny story, but I sometimes get funny exchanges in my mailbox about Metro, example (translated from French and summarized):
User: "I've just discovered Metro and unzipped it but it doesn't work, can you help?"
Me: "You just have to install the metro.prc and one city file on the PALM (you can check the manual)."
User: "I'm a bit technically challenged and I really can't start metro.prc, I think a file is missing. By the way, what is a PALM?"
*PT: Thanks for taking time to share your Palm experience with us. Are there any final comments you'd like to share with the readers?
Long life to the Palm! If you don't have Metro on your device, I recommend you download it from PalmGear, where you find the best softwares for the Palm:
Interview Slots Still Available! -- If you're a Palm user outside of the US and are interested in being interviewed by the Palm Tipsheet, I invite you to send an email to email@example.com for consideration. Thanks!
Thanks again for reading another issue of the Palm Tipsheet. I sincerely hope the tips & tricks provided in this edition improve your Palm experience and sparks ideas for your own tips & tricks. Special thanks to Patrice Bernard for sharing his thoughts on Palm use in France and the inspiration behind Metro.
Hungry for more? I invite you to check out the new Palm Tipsheet website for archived issues, article and interview listings, the Tipsheet Mobile AvantGo channel and the new search feature:
Feel free share the Palm Tipsheet website with new Palm users. If this issue was forwarded by a Palm friend, you too can get the Palm Tipsheet sent to your e-mailbox free each month. Follow the subscription instructions below, or use the subscription tool on the website to join the mailing list.
Happy 2001 everyone! :-)
Copyright 1998-2001 (C) Mike Rohde. All rights reserved. There is no guarantee of accuracy in articles. The mention of a product or service does not imply an endorsement. Company names mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective companies. This document is freeware and may be redistributed freely without modification with written permission. No portion of this document may be altered, reprinted, or sold to any person or entity without written permission of Mike Rohde. This copyright applies to all versions of the Palm Tipsheet, whether in plain text, HTML, AvantGo or Palm doc format. Remember, it's always fun until someone loses an eye.
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