A High-Tech Office, on my Treo 650 and in the Palm of my Hand!

Ok, for those of you who have been asking me about my newest toy, I thought I’d let you know a few of the things I’ve found that make this great little tool an exceptional one.

IMPROVED KEYBOARD
The Treo 650’s Keyboard is much more user-friendly. It’s designed with a different shape of key which makes use much easier (and faster) for the thumbboarder.

HARD BUTTON FOR PHONE
The last Treo required that you tap the screen to turn the phone off. Sometimes that would hang and a software issue could keep you “on the call” until you did a soft reset. With this new hard button set up, that never happens. Great improvement.

MEMORY TYPE
With the Treo 600, if you let the battery go down all the way, you lose the data. It’s the same as a hard reset. That can be a real nightmare. With the Treo 650’s memory, you can let it run all the way down and all your information will still be there when you recharge. Invaluable!

MUSIC
It came with Real Player for the palm which addresses the need for music on the road as well (if not better) than the former incarnation (a copy of PocketTunes purchased for my Treo 650). Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not highly demanding on this issue. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, I just need a rock-solid way to play the MP3’s I keep stored on my expansion card while I’m out and about.

PHOTO VIEWING
Although there is a multimedia platform onboard when the Treo 650 is shipped, I find that it still won’t do for photos what the Splash Photo product will do. Right now, I have my favorite photos on my Treo 650 and can select to have them displayed in a slide show, complete with music. It’s a nice touch for those top 25 photos with our favorite music from our Renaissance themed wedding last March.

CAMERA
The camera does a fine job for my needs. Again, I’m not that picky here. I’m not a camera buff anymore. I gave that up when I gave up my black and white lab some years ago. What I need now, more than anything else, is a quick way to capture the cute stuff and document things. The Treo 650’s camera does a fine job of that, whereas the Treo 600’s camera was barely serviceable.

INSTANT MESSAGING
I can IM from anywhere. By downloading a freebie program, VeriChat by PDAApps.com. I’ve tested it with Yahoo’s IM program (the only one I use for both business and personal) and it works beautifully. It’s a multi-platform chat and offers AOL, MSN and ICQ platforms as well. Personally, I’ll stick with YM.

EMAIL
I can e-mail from anywhere. Although I purchased the SnapperMail program for the 600, I’m trying the “as packaged” program (VersaMail) with the 650 for awhile before deciding to change to another mail handler. So far, it’s not too bad.

PHONE
For communication by phone, I need I MUST HAVE the TakePhone package. It’s prettier (although I’d like to see some improved hi-def skins), it’s easier to maneuver with one hand, and it works without a hitch. It’s a must.

DICTATION: IT’S FOR EVERYONE
For taking quick notes on the road: I highly recommend the PalmDictate program by NCH Swift Sound (www.nch.com.au). Whether I am “voicing” notes to myself, an assistant or a sub contractor, recording ideas for my next article or fleshing out characters for my novel, this is the tool to make it all happen. And, you can email the voice note to yourself or someone else directly from the Treo! I can see fantastic uses for this product for all business, medical and legal professionals as well and I’ve recommended it to two of my real estate clients to help keep them organized when out in the field.

CALENDAR
I use DateBk5 to keep all the details of my life organized and this program meshes seamlessly with the Palm Desktop’s resident datebook program. I will advise that with this particular device that you ensure that your firmware is updated before loading any programs, particularly this one. You may also need to actually READ the manual on this program to make it work seamlessly with the Treo 650. I had a few issues that were quickly resolved with a firmware update and a couple additional (and free) downloads to overcome some rough edges in the compatibility.

Be sure to download the DBScan program to keep your DateBk5’s database in tip-top shape and to catch any errors early.

Over all, I’d not trade the DateBk5 functionality, the use of the icons (a much bigger deal than one might imagine) and the other extras – like color coding dates and types of appointments, etc. It’s a winner.

ICONS
If you are going to use icons on this device, I’d skip what’s usually packaged with DateBk5 and go for the IconManager program, which does a better job of handling the high-def icon sets. Personally, I went online and downloaded a dozen or more of the freebie and partial (trial) icon sets and then used Icon Manager to select the ones I could use, create some (right on the Treo) that fit my needs better, and put them all in one Wicked Icon set that I use for everything.

A word of caution for first time icon users: organize your icons in order of frequency of use. Once the database is built, the “path” to an icon is based on the number that icon is given. This number is based on position in the icon set. If you rearrange or move icons, you will throw off your entire system. So, organize and be happy with the order before you begin assigning icons. When and if you create or collect new icons, add them to the end of your set. If you want to replace, for example, a “cake” icon with a “present” icon to mark birthdays, be sure that the new icon is placed in the exact same location where the old icon resides.

In the case of icons, less really is more. If you don’t love the icon, you won’t use it – so don’t add it to your set. Remember, you aren’t collecting tiny works of art- you are collecting a few visual cues that help you organize your day at a glance.

ORGANIZATION TOOLS
Both ListPro and eWallet are essential programs (Pro Version) and are offered by Illium software. They are the backbone of my palm-resident organization. With the desktop versions, I find that I use them at my computer nearly as often as I do when I’m on the road. If you use these as much as I do, you will want to include them in your weekly full system backup on your main computer… just to be safe.

REFERENCE SHELF
Pocket Lingo offers Dictionaries of several types and a great thesaurus. Not cheap, these are great tools, nonetheless. As a word person, they are invaluable to me. You wouldn’t believe how often I use them for both business and to answer questions and settle arguments among family members! I have the American Heritage Dictionary with PocketLingo Pro, the Idioms Dictionary, the Cultural Literacy Dictionary and the Roget’s New Thesaurus (of course). I fully intend to add more as my budget and their offerings expand. Visit them on the web at www.pocket-lingo.com or download at palmgear.com.

I’ve not yet found an encyclopedia I like, but I’m still looking. A 2-gig expansion card is going to be in my future – and soon! Being able to answer my own questions usually involves the web at this point, but I have a seven year old who could benefit from the more definite (and shorter) answers offered by an encyclopedia for questions like… what do baby snail eggs look like and what do badgers eat?

MORE ABOUT eWALLET
eWallet keeps all of my passwords for the dozens of websites I access, financial, personal and business information in a password protected spot that keeps me from ever wondering… what was my registration code for this software or what’s my username and password to access this site again? In the age of information, it’s really nice to keep all this information secure and in one, always available location. I highly recommend a longer password with upper and lower case and both alpha and numeric elements for your security if you use such programs.

MORE ABOUT LISTPRO
ListPro is my savior. This is where I keep that often-accessed, but seldom remembered information. I have one section for just tech tips. For instance, this is where I keep information like, how to boot into safe mode in computers running Win95, 98, 2000, and XP and how to do file associations (I can never remember it off the top of my head because I don’t do it often enough to retain it. Finding this type of information takes a couple minutes online, but with those types of items in my ListPro, it takes seconds. I also keep a list of HTML tags and attributes and a list of websafe colors and HTML color tags and essential TCP/IP information (all downloads).

Your imagination is your limit with this tool. I’ve even used it to outline large projects while stuck in a waiting room or while riding in the car.

Aside from business and tech tips use, I also keep my daily checklists, organized by day of the week, so everything always gets done and I can SEE that I’ve checked them off.

I keep records of my daughter’s immunization shots and the dates in this program, my shopping lists (organized by store and department within that store), I have a list of my favorite quotes (and can add more on the spot when I hear them). I keep a list of common kitchen substitutes (downloaded from the site and used more often than you might think) and a list of healthy substitutes for unhealthy ones in recipes and a list of measure equivalents (all downloaded for free from their site).

I have a travel packing list for weekend and a week, for business and for vacation that stays at the ready and makes getting away much less stressful. I just go through and gather the items on my specially customized list, check them off, zip my bag, tuck my Treo in my pocket and GO! The original for this was downloaded from the Illium site (www.illiumsoft.com) and I customized it for me when traveling alone, and one for when traveling with the family.

A great little cookbook is also available for free download called the “Simply Six Cookbook” and it gives recipes which require exactly six ingredients. It’s also in my ListPro.

I keep a list of my current DVD holdings so when I’m out, I can check to be sure that we don’t already own the movie before purchasing. Sounds simple, but my collection is nearly at 1000 DVDs now, and sometimes I can’t remember if that movie I really wanted last month was just a want, or if it was a purchase.

Basically, any information that you don’t use often enough to retain it, but too often to look it up or recreate it all the time belongs in a tool like ListPro.

UTILITY
SuperUtility by HandMark is the best of several of these types of “techie” user utility programs. With this, I can completely delete any remnants of old programs, can rearrange what’s on the card and in the handheld and can enjoy much more control than is possible with only the built-in software. And, I like to SEE what’s going on. This permits me to keep tabs on my little palm. Visit www.HandMark.com to learn more.

ALARM CLOCK AND WEATHER
TreoAlarm  is a wonderful little timer, alarm clock and weather program. Although I might sleep through an alarm clock, I NEVER sleep through a phone ringing, and this little gem lets me set my early a.m. alarm to sound like a phone ringing and activates my Treo to come up with a snooze button on the screen. There are a total of eight fully customizable alarms which can be one set and used as one time alarms or repeating alarms. It also collects local weather information daily from the web and has it available for me anytime I want to see it (really nice first thing in the a.m.)

DOWNLOADS AND ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS
Go to PalmGear.com. Don’t even bother with the other vendors. I’ve purchased a substantial number of programs and have downloaded hundreds more to test and evaluate during my voyage with the Treo series. I’ve gone to other vendors who don’t have properly functioning downloads, don’t respond to emails and ignore customers. I find that PalmGear’s watch list, the records they keep on what you download and what you purchase, etc. to be extremely useful. Although I’ve listed the manufacturer’s websites on many of the items above, I still recommend you download, whenever possible, from PalmGear, just to keep your information in one place. Go to the vendor’s sites for more information, to download lists for ListPro, and to get additional skins, etc for the programs you use.

GRAFFITI
Some people don’t like using graffiti, and although the keyboard on the Treo 650 eliminates the need in most cases, there are still times when it’s nice to have. You can download Graffiti Anywhere for free and have a great little “on demand” graffiti tool whenever you want it. I’ve set mine up to work with all my data entry type applications with a simple tap at the lower right corner of my screen.

PLAYTIME
Ok, I admit it, I like to have some entertainment while I’m out and about. Since there are several here, I’ve divided them up into “freebies” and “worth the money” categories.

WORTH THE MONEY:

SIM-TYPE GAMES
One of the things that I needed to make the Palm a real replacement for my desktop from the play perspective was a sim-type program. On the Treo 600 I had Fish Tycoon, by Last Day of Work (www.ldw.com). I loved it, but it wasn’t PEOPLE. I wanted sim people!

Just after I got the Treo 650, I was invited to enjoy a pre-release of Village Sim. It’s fantastic! And, it was just released yesterday to the general public. If you love Sims and Sims2 on your computer, you MUST HAVE this little beauty on your palm. Each little sim has their own voice, own work preferences and own tiny little personality. Play God on a smaller scale by controlling these shipwrecked sims and teach them how to survive and thrive. Solve puzzles, find little treasures and enjoy the adventure! I love it, even if I’ve killed off all my island’s inhabitants once and had to start again-sigh.

If I were rating palm games, this one would get a 10 out of 10 – hands.. er…palms down!

WARFARE, INC.
Although I’m not a huge “wargames” fan, this one is pretty cool. I’ve not played it too much, but I like the fact that you can download a desktop tool to create your own missions. Any game that permits users to expand on the core is a winner for me. The graphics and sounds are nice too. Brought to you by the folks at HandMark (www.handmark.com/warfare). A little pricey for the handheld market, it’s still a cool little app and has won several “best game” awards for the palm in 2003 and 2004.

WORDPOP!
Great little solo-scrabble type of word-puzzle game by Smart Box Design LLC (www.smartboxdesign.com) and available for download from palmgear.com. Great for every age. I love it, my seven-year-old daughter loves it. Even my teenage boys like this one! Has an expansion available when you purchase. If you like words, download the trial and give it a spin. My guess is you will purchase it.

FREEBIES:

OTHELLO
If you like classic Othello, you will love Frank LaRosa’s (www.franklarosa.com) Inverti game. It’s a free download from PalmGear and looks simply beautiful on the Treo 650 and plays as slick as it looks. Thanks Frank, for the great game (and for making it free!)

MAHJONG
If you spend hours playing mahjong on your computer, you can now take it with you! This game, aptly named FreeJongg, can be downloaded from palmgear.com to keep a nicely designed and beautifully priced game in the palm of your hand. The graphics are a bit tiny on the Treo 650, so if you need to wear your glasses to read, you will need them for this cute little freebie.

STRATEGY GAME
Pionmor 1.0 is a free game written by Denys Seguret, and based on an idea from Bernard Tavitian. Pionmor involves strategically placing bars and circles to dominate the board against your computer opponent. Simple to learn, not so easy to win. Download from PalmGear.com.

SEA-BASED BATTLE
A shareware for the palm battleship-type game is offered at PalmGear.com called Sea War MP. This cool little app lets you play against the computer, or against human opponent through IR or Bluetooth. I’ve not tried the human opponent route yet, but I must admit that the computer opponent is quite fun. Great graphics, full color support and nice “bomb” graphics when you hit. :O) I had forgotten how much fun this game from my youth really was, and the palm interface makes setup quick and easy. Visit Palm-Games.com for more info.

PEGGED
A marble-jumping puzzle logic game by Alex Smirnov available for download from Palmgear.com. Great game with several puzzle format options, this one looks good on Treo 650 (but actually looked better on the Treo 600 – where it was impressive pre-high def screen). It’s a program I’ll probably always have on my palm. Simple concept and a classic mind bender.

There are several other apps that I am in the process of testing now. I’ll blog an update when I have the time. For now – if you don’t have a Treo, and you think you might like one… go for the 650. Be sure to get a large expansion card (mine is a 1Gig card) and enjoy the ride!

Right now, I’m working on a way to copy DVDs to my palm for on-the-road viewing. I’ll let you know how this goes. I’ve tried several programs already, and the current attempt is looking fruitful.

A mobile office, complete mobile communications and thoroughly enjoyable entertainment really can be “all in the palm of your hand”!

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