Palms: Can You Leave Your Laptop Behind?
by Jeff Carlson, author of Palm Organizers: Visual QuickStart Guide
HAVE YOU SPENT TIME IN an airport lately? Once, it was fun to see if anyone else carried a laptop, but now its hard to avoid getting jostled by someones overstuffed Targus bag. Laptops have freed us from the desktop, letting us get work done on the road (without requiring a satellite office somewhere) and stay connected via email and the Web from nearly any location.
However, even a compact laptop can get heavy when youve been carrying it all day at a trade show. As handheld computers become more popular, more people ask me if its possible to leave the laptop at home and just carry a Palm organizer. While I was writing Palm Organizers: Visual QuickStart Guide, I had the opportunity to try several programs and technologies and found that they make a handheld much more than just an electronic calendar. (However, there were times when the combined weight of various Palm devices and accessories was more than that of my PowerBook.)
The verdict? Yes, its possible to replace your laptop with a Palm device, but, depending on your needs, there may be too many sacrifices to do it well.
Getting Your Input
If youre serious about leaving your laptop at home, you should consider buying a keyboard for your handheld. After using various Palm organizers over the years, Im very proficient at Graffiti, the Palm OSs shorthand for writing characters. But theres a limit to how much I can write before my hand cramps up, not to mention the drastic decline in accuracy that occurs when I try to write quickly. I can recommend two keyboards for your Palm device.
The GoType! and GoType! Pro keyboards from Landware, Inc. were the original models designed specifically for the Palm platform. With a clamshell design, theyre light, relatively inexpensive ($70), and slip easily into a carry-on bag. They feature Palm OS-specific keys, such as programmable function keys that launch the Palms built-in applications, plus command-key shortcuts for activating on-screen buttons and responding to dialog boxes.
The only downside is the GoType!s slightly smaller keys, which take some adjusting to if youre accustomed to typing on a full-size keyboard. But, as with the keyboards found on PowerBook Duos and the PowerBook 2400c, people whose fingers are smaller than most often prefer these scaled-down keys.
The GoType! works with Palm III and Palm VII devices; the Pro models come in versions for the Palm V and Handspring Visor and let you synchronize your handheld with a computer directly from the keyboard.
The newcomer to the field is the Palm Portable Keyboard, which is the only Palm accessory I carry that consistently elicits oohs and ahhs from people. It too includes Palm-specific features like programmable function keys and shortcut keys, but the kicker is that its a full-size keyboard that folds up to roughly the size of the Palm organizer itself. Palm licensed the design from a company called Think Outside and sells the $100 keyboard for its line of organizers. Targus will offer a version for the Visor in mid-June.