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The "Assistant" ... In Personal Digital Assistant - Part 2 - Beyond A Digital Diary PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mohd Nazley Mohd Fadhley   
Jul 21, 2002 at 05:43 PM
Third Party Applications

The 4 main built-in applications, datebook, addressbook, to to list and memopad, are by no means the only tools available on a Palm PDA. There are thousands of other third party application created by developers to tap into the power of a Palm Powered PDA.

In my previous writing, I mentioned Action Names an application that improves the usability of the datebook. There are others like Financial Consultant, a replacement for the built in calculator, enhanced to do some finance related calculations, like mortgage and loan payments. There are even applications that let you port along your office documents in you Palm ... like letters and quotations from your word processor, price list and products code from your spreadsheeet and database... A mini "office suite".

Although the processing speed of the Palm is slow compared to current standards of a notebook computer, coupled with its miniscule display, one can still make use of this "small wonder" to one's advantage.

This time around, I'll continue to relate the use of my HandEra330 (Palm) with my daily activities.(from now on I'll generalise all PalmOS PDAs as Palms).

I use my Palm as my Primary computer ... with a PC at my office for back-up purpose :)

.Jokes aside, I think the Palm is sufficient to provide "portable power" for those who don't really need a notebook to to work with. I for one just use the basic office suite application. Either to extract information from a database, do a little writing with a wordprocessor or crunch a few numbers on a spreadsheet ... And I can do all that on my Palm.

The Palm comes with a built-in memopad that enables you to quickly jot notes, draft email or whatever information that you need to note. However, the memopad limits an "entry to only 4K of data... it is OK for short notes but if one is to write a long letter or draft a report to be submitted to the manager, memopad could not handle it.

I am so used to a wordprocessor on my desktop that I want my Palm to be able to do the same .... well, it can, with third party softwares created by all the genius programmers out there (for that, I thank you all).

Softwares like Wordsmith from Blue Nomad and Quickword from Cutting Edge Softwares works almost as good as wordprocessor on a PC/Mac minus the ability to incorporate tables and images into it... which I won't deny that you need a full-blown word precessor. My palm wordprocessor of choice is Wordsmith, the best mini wordprocessor on a PDA, in my honest opinion.

Drafting a report or a letter when you are away from your desktop is possible with a Palm. That is what I normally do.

During course of my working the day, I will keep notes to what happen (by attaching to notes an appointment and keeping a daily journal), who I met and what were discussed. Normally, just before bedtime, I will review these events. Sometimes from these events, I draft a letter or fax or email to prepare for the next day. Come tomorrow, I'll just do a hotsync, my draft is now in my PC, proof read and do necessary corrections and modifications, then straight to the printer. I admit, I don't do this on a daily basis (the reason I don't really need to use a notebook computer) but its a life saver when I have a very short deadline ...

Other than work, I do write once in a while, like keeping a journal when I am on vaction or something on the time spent with my family ... also masterpieces like this one here ... ("masterpiece", eh!! Ha...ha...)

After wordprocessing, comes "number processing" .... the tool .... a spreadsheet.

Hmmm.... Before wordprocessor, there was the typewiter. How about spreadsheet?

I like to believe that computers came into being because Man got tired of doing repetitious calculations and was figuring out how to automate and simplify "big" computations.

My first encounter with a spreadsheet application was in 1988/89, called TurboCalc. Comparing what TurboCalc could do then, I think my present Palm PDA could do better. (A sidetrack here; If my memory serves me right, the computer I used back then was an Intel286 10MHz processor with 2MB RAM and a 20MB Hard Disk memory ... Today, I have more computing power in the palm of my hand ... pun intended).

Quicksheet and Tinysheet are two of the most used spreadsheet application for Palm PDA's ... my choice, Quicksheet. Reason; one, it supports the HandEra 320x240 resolution display and two, I got it free in a lucky draw :)

OK, back to spreadsheet on the Palm. Someone ask me, "why would you need a spreadsheet on you Palm for?" I answered, " ... Because I have a Palm!". I then showed him how I use a template to calculate a hire-purchase loan monthly payment. Then, a quick what-if demo calculating the monthly installment, for instance, if the loan was RMx thousand compared to RMy thousand. The friend need no further convincing after that :)

I also created a simple "calculator" to calculate the motor insurance premium to help me service my customers. Even, my customers were impressed.

Spreadsheet can also be used to store list of data for reference, like a database. However, I find a dedicated Database application is more helpful when it comes to searching and sorting data ... organizing data.

HanDBase and ThinkDB are two most popular database programs you can find for a Palm PDA. Plug in the word "database" and do a search in Palmgear.com , and you'll find these two applications among a few others.

Again, why maintain a database in a PDA?

In "PDA", Personal Digital Assistant, the key word is "Assistant". I have ThinkDB to assist me organize my data. I don't really have a large database but enough for me to use it to keep track of my inventory and receivables from customers. For my personal use, a listing of softwares, I registered, information on developers and registration numbers.

Work wise, I keep a database of my orders and use it to keep track of the order status, whether the order has been shipped and when. Also keep track of arrival dates of the new stock. Once the order arrives Port Klang and transferred to my showroom, it is easy to update ... just change the catagory from "vehicles in transit" to "In stock"... Later changed to "sold" when the time comes.

ThinkDB is able to synchronize with Microsoft Excel file and Microsoft Access database (via a desktop application) on a PC which is a great tool. All I need to do is do a hotsync and changes I made to data on my Palm will update the list on my PC ... It is true vice versa.

The Mini Office Suite
Well, I have the three main components of an "Office Suite" in my PDA, Wordprocessor, Spreadsheet and Database. Add the four built-in application, I have, in the palm of my hand, an indispensible tool.

Acknowledging the Palm is capable of handling office tasks, Software developers like Cutting Edge Softwares are bundling wordprocessors (Quickword) and spreadsheet (Quicksheet+Quickchart) programs as Quickoffice, as a mini office suite.

Iambic.com goes one step further by adding an email client (IambicMail) on top of its wordprocessor (Fastwriter) and spreadsheet (Tinysheet)

.... retrieving and sending email ???...
.... On a Palm ??? ....
.... Oh yes!!! It can do that too ...

'>Mohd Nazley Fadhley
Last Updated ( Oct 29, 2005 at 05:14 PM )