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Old 05-28-2005, 05:37 PM   #1
Bob Russell
Recovering Gadget Addict
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Bob Russell's Avatar
Posts: 5,379
Karma: 590871
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Device: Note3/DVP11
Back To PalmOS... Goodbye Pocket PC!

This past week I bought a brand new (Verizon) PalmOne Treo 650. So I am officially back in the PalmOS camp, and happy to be there. I want to thank everyone for their input as I looked for my next PDA. As you will see when I write about it later, the 650 or any other PDA is not perfection, but it really seems to be excellent and well-built.

But in this article, I'll talk a little about my impressions of PalmOS after my brief stay on the "dark side." And, of course, I'll talk a little about the conversion process.

After the trials and tribulations of going from PalmOS to Pocket PC, I wondered whether it would be difficult going the other way. So far, not really. It has been a bit time consuming, but easy due to a few factors...

  1. I am already on MS Outlook, so all my Outlook information comes to my Palm without any special effort.

    Other than picking the right apps, this was the biggest trial when I was trying to adopt Pocket PC because I was converting from an older PalmOS device that didn't have Outlook synching.
  2. I know, for the most part, what software I want to use. And I even picked my Pocket PC software with a possible move back to PalmOS in mind. Therefore, software like Handy Shopper, iSilo, eReader, eWallet, etc all have a seamless transition and no data conversion issues for me.
  3. Palm is more "ready to go" than Pocket PC. By that I mean that you really only need a decent datebook application and a file manager to be functional, and the datebook isn't even all that necessary because the built-in PIM calendar is not too bad. My only regret is that there is no weekly date view with a 7 day grid and text entries (like WeekView by Pimlico Software).
  4. And, of course, I already know PalmOS pretty well from my Clie SJ33 days. There's no learning curve this time. My next learning curve will probably come with Linux PDAs, whether with PalmOS or something else. The Moral: You get a lot of flexibility if you get familiar with both sides. And a Warning: You will spend a lot of time and money if you decide to keep switching platforms, so if you do that, you had better enjoy the process!
Early Observations about PalmOS

It was pretty easy to set up everything. I don't like software that simplifies by not telling you exactly what's happening behind the scenes. That info should be available if you want it, even if it's not the main info on the screen. If files are being queued for hotsync, then say so. If existing data on the device will be maintained with the first default hotsync settings, then let us know that. If an application is only putting the installer on the Palm, tell us that. And if there is anything at all being installed by an application that will not be deleted automatically when the application is deleted, by all means tell us what files are there and whether or not we can delete them.

You know, it's MY memory. And in the case of the Treo 650, it's pretty scarce. I'd really like a list of all files that come with the 650, so I can distinguish things that are "piling on." In fact, every app ought to have documentation to let you know what files are created or installed for that application, by version. I don't like carrying around files like "Temp Install Data 320" and "Jack" and "TinyChart" on my PDA and not being able to delete them because I don't know what they are 100% percent.

I guess this is a computing issue, not just PalmOS and not just PDAs. But I just don't understand why no one has solved it yet. Doesn't anyone else want to be able to keep their machine "clean"?

Believe it or not, I miss ActiveSync. Wow. That is something that really amazes me. I don't miss the sync errors without an error message or error log telling you what record had a problem, but I do miss the constant synchronizing. With Palm Hotsync, you have to sync everything when something gets changed that you want to have updated on both sides (unless you go to the bother of changing the custom hotsync properties). No a big deal, but a bit of a nuisance when doing all the installs to set it up initially.

The biggest issues with going back to PalmOS for me are going to be the drop off in PIM applications, and the lack of a nice PC-like file system. With regard to the PIMs, there's no comparing Pocket Informant on PPC and the built-in PIM apps, or DateBk5, or Agendus. Pocket Informant is a great program. It works great and it looks great, and it has all the right custom preferences. The Palm apps get the job done, but are not as easy to use, not as easy to see what's what, and are basically pretty ugly.

Because this is one of the most important things any PDA will do, I don't know why PalmSource doesn't work with someone like the Pocket Informant people to build something like that on PalmOS that can be added to the OS bundle, or at least bundled by device makers with the device. It just makes me shake my head when I think about the state of PIM apps on PalmOS.

As far as the file system, yes, I know that PalmSource considers a PC file system to be an inappropriate model for a PDA. But as a user, I'm afraid I like it because of the way it changes how I work with files. For one thing, it means there's no learning curve, and you don't have to worry about .pdb extensions or wonder what kind of file is in that .pdb.

For another, a "regular" file system means that I can keep files organized in folders so they are easier to work with. And finally, it makes it so much easier to integrate with my PC files. For example, on PPC, a program called Tombo has folder based hierarchical sets of text files to keep info in. There's a desktop app that you can use on your PC, but you don't even need it if you have ActiveSync and NotePad because you can just edit them from your PC and ActiveSync keeps everything matched up with your PDA. It works great. I don't care what's under the covers, but I like it when it looks like folders and files when I see them. Palm may be moving that way with the mobile manager category. I hope so.

What do I like about PalmOS? Well, I've always had a special place in my heart for Palm. But I also do like the simplicity, even if it's in a sort of retro fashion. It's not flashy, and almost reminds you of Notepad as opposed to MS Word. I'm sure I use Notepad a whole lot more than MS Word, even though eveyone agrees that MS Word is much "better," at least in capabilities. But I enjoy it more when I use Notepad.

The Zen of Palm is real, and there's always an emphasis on usability and tap count reduction. The beginnings of one hand operation are impressive even though not all apps fully support it. Project Rome is going to bring much more ease of use to the table in future Palm devices, especially for one handed operation and for small screens. It's hard to put into words, but Palm is just plain "nice."

Stay tuned for more. I'll be sure to give my first impressions on the Treo 650 phone itself.

My Treo 650 Installed Software List

Until I write about the Treo 650 device, here's my intended list of software. Note that there are some great software compatibility lists for the Treo 650 and the Tungsten T5 at PalmFocus (very nice site!)

I think this list will be a pretty complete set for me. I don't put everything I'd like to on the PDA because I don't like clutter, I don't like to be tempted to fiddle with it too much (it's supposed to help me, not just distract me), and because I want to keep it as stable as possible.
  • DateBook5
    Tried Agendus, but didn't like it at all. KsDateBk may not be compatible with the Treo650 yet, but I would have liked to try that one.
  • FileZ
    Very nice freeware file utility. Not very d-pad friendly for one handed use, but a great program that I like.
  • ShadowPlan
    One of my very favorites for keeping text info in outline/hierarchical form. Created and supported by a really nice guy.
  • MyBible & Daily Reader (Laridian)
    I already had this from my SJ33, and it works great. Olive Tree and Bible+ and QuickVerse seem to be nice alternatives, but I'll stick with this because it works, and it has the integrated One Year Bible daily reading plan that is the reading plan I like best.
  • eWallet
    Nice password vault. I don't use it like it's created to be used because I'm too lazy. I just have text notes with lists of passwords and info by category. Works fine, even though search only finds to the file level, not the line inside a file. (If I was using it like it was designed, it wouldn't matter.) Big benefit for me is that it has both Palm and PPC versions.
  • Corecodec/TCPMP
    This is the PalmOS version of BetaPlayer. I love BetaPlayer, so have to give this one a try, even for my new tiny screen. Won't add all the codecs, though, because of space and speed. That means I won't be able to play as many file types, but that's okay. Also don't plan to add Win Media player or Pocket Tunes or other software like Adobe Reader, or even Documents To Go. Like I said, I want to keep it simple. I'll add those only if I really have a frequent need. Surprisingly, I don't really use MS Office docs on my handheld very much, and I don't think you can use native document formats unless you pay for an upgrade anyway.
  • BackupBuddyVFS/TealBackup
    Haven't decided which one to use, but I won a free copy of my choice of TealPoint software so this seems like a good program to use that for. Haven't really researched much what works well with the 650, so we'll see what happens.
  • eReader
    This is the program I most often use to read eBooks. It's very nice. Don't like DRM anywhere, but theirs is pretty reasonable compared to others. I'll keep it to novels I would have bought and thrown away even in paper form. For me, that's the case where DRM isn't too invasive. The tiny screen on the Treo is going to be a problem, but I'll give it a go.
  • iSilo/iSiloX
    Awesome program. iSilo is used in conjunction with iSiloX on the desktop to clip from web sites. But I'm going to try not to clip daily news anymore. We'll see how long that lasts!
  • Zlauncher (maybe)This was a nice launcher for my Clie, especially with regard to moving programs to and from the storage cards. If I keep things simple on my Treo, maybe I won't need it. I'll start without it, and if I need to buy the upgrade and use it, I will.
  • Sunrise Viewer (future maybe)
    This is a very interesting piece of software, from a really nice develoer, and I am very tempted to try it. I'd like it even though I have decided to try to keep this sort of thing off my device! I wonder if it will handle podcasts also? I guess there's time to decide on this after it comes out.
That's it for now. If you're thinking about adopting PalmOS, it's really a nice experience. You might even find you really like it!
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