CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, September 6, 1999

Inspector Gadget comes through

For someone who's the kitchen-gadget queen, proud owner of most Ron Popeil products, I've never been much of a computer-gadget person. A scanner and digital camera represents the sum total of my extravagant accessories, though there are literally hundreds on the market for streamlining every imaginable task.

Many years ago, I purchased a Sharp EL 6250 organizer with a whopping 4KB memory that was an address book, phone dialer, memo pad and calculator and could also export information to your desktop PC. This first generation of personal information managers proved more taxing and frustrating than it was worth, so I gave it away after just one week.

Alas, history has repeated itself, but with a fortuitous twist.

Hardware guru and consultant Dave Kent, owner of Microhelp! recently gave me a brand-new Palm IIIx Connected Organizer that he abandoned before ever opening the box, questioning need over want with little time for gadget mania.

"One man's junk is another's gold" never proved truer than with the Palm Computing Connected Organizer, by 3Com. Also called a Palm Pilot, this personal organizer has been a lifesaver keeping my work computer, home computer and a laptop all synchronized with current e-mail, calendar, address book and task lists using Microsoft Outlook as the common denominator. I've had an epiphany: This gadget is great.

The Palm Pilot is literally a baby computer that sits comfortably in the palm of your hand with the following tasks at your fingertips: address book, calculator, calendar, expense reports, e-mail, memo pad and to-do list. The reason this device finally made perfect sense for me was its integration with my existing Microsoft Office products. There was almost no learning curve since Outlook, my primary organizer, imported quickly and easily to Palm Pilot. Information from the personal organizer can also be integrated with Word or Excel for word processing or spreadsheet calculations.

What's more perfect for a baby computer than its own cradle? A cradle is the device that sits next to your computer connected via serial cable to the desktop or laptop system. Once the Palm Pilot is docked in the cradle, pressing the HotSync button on the organizer activates the synchronizing software, and in just seconds your Microsoft Outlook data is configured identically on both the PC and the portable organizer.

Calendar, e-mail messages and other lists are instantly in sync, allowing you to take a current Outlook configuration on the road, everywhere you go. Palm comes with its own organizing software that can be synchronized with any PC for those who don't use MS Office products.

You can input data directly into the Palm Pilot using a stylus, a small pencil-like device that's the equivalent of a mouse. Writing and tapping on the screen takes a bit of getting used to, but it gets easier with practice. A keyboard screen can be activated to enter data, or you can use the patented Graffiti software to write freehand.

Regular e-mail activities -- such as create, forward, delete, reply -- can all take place from the remote Palm, but the actual send and receive takes place once you synchronize your Palm and PC. A Palm modem is available for the Palm IIIx, but the Palm VII has wireless communication features and Internet connectivity already built in.

Palm Pilot weighs a mere 6 ounces, has 4MB of RAM storage capacity, and requires just 2 AAA batteries for operation. There are five models of the Palm Pilot ranging from $250 to $600 in price. Refer to www.palm.com for more information.

Thanks again, Dave, for the Palm Pilot. Feel free to borrow my Showtime Rotisserie anytime.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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