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Personal Data Assistants
FAQ's for Palm and Pocket PC devices

John Woody is a net working communications consultant specializing in small office, home office networks, training setup, and internet connectivity.

Michael Espinoza is owner of Technology Coaching, a training and consulting firm that specializes in the PDA market. He co-chairs the PDA SIG with John Woody.


This article is going to be devoted to answering some of the typical questions I get on the Pocket PC and Palm Pilot PDAs. I have compiled a list of questions I have received from the Alamo PC PDA Special Interest Group and many of my clients over the past year. Please use this article to help you get more out of your PDA and please send me any questions you may have about your Palm or Pocket PC device. 

Which PDA should I buy?
That is the ultimate question. In my opinion it is best to stay with a PDA that is using the Palm OS or Pocket PC OS. There are many choices available, the best place to start would be with people you know and trust. Ask your friends and relatives what PDA they use and how their PDAs have worked for them. There used to be a big price difference between the Palm and Pocket PC PDAs but that is no longer the case. To give you an example the least expensive Palm color PDA retails for about $199, where Dell has a Pocket PC at $249 and has been advertising rebates that make the price $199. I do not know how long these rebates will last but you can see how close in price these two competing systems are today. The important thing is for you to do your research, there are many things to consider before you buy so dont purchase one on impulse.

Where can I get software for my PDA?
 The majority of the software for PDAs is available on-line. Many of the consumer electronics stores offer software but they only offer a small portion of what is actually available for PDAs. You should search the Web for the type of software you are looking for, a few good sites to look at are  Handango, PocketGear, and PalmGear. Handango is a site that sells software for the Palm and Pocket PC as well as other portable devices. It is probably the most popular site for PDA software; it claims to have over 20,000 applications. It is well organized and easy to find the software you need.  The two gear sites are the same company but use two sites to separate the Palm and Pocket PC software. These sites also have a very good selection of software as well as other information about the Pocket PC and Palm products.

What are the best sites for information on PDAs?
To keep up with the PDA market there are many sites you can go to, a few of the sites I have found that are great for keeping you up to date are PDA Buzz, Bright Hand.

Can I read books on my PDA?
Yes, they are called E-books. The Palm OS has not typically come with an e-book reader so one has to be installed to read books. The best site for this is Palm Digital Media. You can download a free E-book reader as well as many of the E-book titles available online. The Pocket PC comes with an E-book reader, MS Reader and if you go to the MS Reader site  you will find links to sites that have E-books in the MS reader format. There is more than one format for E-books, Pocket PC has one and Palm has others. The Palm E-book site has a reader for the Pocket PC and you will probably want to install it because you will find more E-books in the Palm format than in the MS Reader format.

How do I clean my PDA screen?
To clean the PDA screens use a soft cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol or use one of the cleaning kits for PDAs. It is not recommended to use glass cleaner as it could damage the screens over time.

Are there ever any software patches for the Palm and Pocket PC operating systems?
Yes, you should check your manufactures site. You may be surprised at how many patches or fixes for PDAs have been released. Palm and Microsoft have also upgraded their syncing software, so check their sites for these upgrades.

How come when I use the keyboard on my PDA the letter I tap on does not display, another letter is displayed?
In some cases your PDA becomes out of alignment and when you tap in one place another place is actually activated. On the Palm all you have to do is go to the Preferences application and in the top right hand corner tap on the digitizer, then follow the instructions on the screen. On the Pocket PC go to settings on the start button and then go to the system tab at the bottom of the screen. You will see an icon called Align Screen, tap on it and follow the instructions. After these steps your screen tapping should be back to normal, if not you may have more serious problems with your unit.

Can a Palm OS device beam to a Pocket PC and vise versa?
Yes, as long as the Pocket PC device has the Pocket PC 2002 operating system. You can beam contacts, calendar events, to do items, and notes. Just use the beaming feature on either device to send to one of the other devices.

Can I read Adobe acrobat files on my PDA?
Yes, the Adobe Acrobat file format is one of the most popular file formats on the internet. Adobe has an Acrobat Reader for the Palm and Pocket PC on its site. These readers are free for the download.

Can I read MS Word and MS Excel on my PDA?
The Pocket PC has a Pocket version of Word and Excel that allows the transfer of these documents to and from the Pocket PC. One important thing to note is that there is some conversion done when the files are moved from the desktop to the Pocket PC and you may loose some of your formatting.

Many of the Palm devices come with a software product called Documents-To-Go. This allows you to read and write Word and Excel documents on a Palm device. Check your installation CD for this software.

Can I read Web pages on my PDA?
There are many solutions to get Web page information to a PDA. One of the simplest ways is a free solution that comes with most all Palm and Pocket PC devices. Avantgo is an application that works with its Web site to reformat Web sites or preformatted Web site information to your PDA in a layout that is convenient to read. For the Palm you have to check the installation CD for the software or go to the Avantgo Web site to get the software and set up the service. For the Pocket PC, it is already on the device, all you do is go the Pocket IE application and tap on Avantgo and follow the instructions.

Do I have to learn graffiti to use the Pocket PC?
No, the Pocket PC has multiple input methods, one method actually lets you write in your normal handwriting as a way to get information into the Pocket PC. Note there is a input method called Block recognizer that allows you to use graffiti to input data into the Pocket PC, this is great for Palm users moving over to the Pocket PC.

Can I upgrade my older Pocket PC (Pocket PC 3.0) to the new Pocket PC 2002 operating system?
Most of the older Pocket PCs are not upgradeable. The exception was the Compaq IPAQ; Compaq (now HP) has an upgrade you can purchase on the HP Web site that will upgrade the older IPAQ models to the new operating system.

When I tap the X in the top right hand corner of an application in my Pocket PC why does it disappear but still stay open?
When you use the X in the top right corner of an application, unlike in The Windows desktop operating system the program is not closed. You must close the application using an exit command or use the stop application command under settings. Depending on your Pocket PC manufacture you probably have another method to stop programs. Check your manual for details.

Can I synchronize with both Microsoft Outlook and Palm Desktop?
If you have PocketMirror from Chapura (included with certain Palm handhelds), you are asked during installation if you would like to synchronize with MS Outlook, and this will synchronize the Date Book, Address Book, To Do List, and Memo Pad. You can choose to synchronize these applications with either Palm Desktop or Microsoft Outlook, but not both. If you need to synchronize with Microsoft Outlook after you have installed you Palm software, run the PocketMirror setup from the CD that came with your handheld, follow the instructions on the screen. The Pocket PC comes with MS Outlook so this question is not relevant to the Pocket PC.

Can I read e-mail on my Palm OS device?
Yes, but you have to do a separate installation of the mail software. The software that moves the e-mails to you Palm device is not installed automatically. If you go to the folder that has the Palm software, Palm Desktop, and click on mail setup. This setup allows you to set up the E-mail solution that Palm offers.


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