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This column is being written on a Palm VIIx handheld organizer connected to a Stowaway portable keyboard made for Palm by Thinkoutside Inc., using a Palm word processing program called QuickWord. When the initial draft is complete we will hotsync the file to the desktop computer, read it into Microsoft Word, spell check, clean it up and send it out. While it isn’t surprising to see that this job can be done with what is usually considered a “handheld” PDA (Portable Digital Assistant), it is surprising to see that the job can be done in relative comfort without much loss of speed and without sacrificing accuracy. This week we look at the Palm Stowaway keyboard and a couple of office applications that permit seamless use of word processing Microsoft Word for Windows (WinWord) compatible files. We’re not certain that we’d like to be divorced from our laptop or desktop computers for weeks a time, but for a day or two, a handheld and a keyboard combination isn’t bad at all. The Palm Stowaway Keyboard comes folded as a 3.6 by 5.1 inches, .8 inches thick package, not much larger than a Palm III, and comes with a zipper case to keep it safe. Take it out of its case, the unit unfolds to four connected sections that push together to a 13 by 5.1 inches by .5 inches thick device. A cradle-like connector sits at the top of the keyboard. The Palm fits on the connector, at about a 45-degree angle. The manufacturer makes similar keyboards for other Palm configurations, and various Pocket PCs and other handhelds. We installed a small driver using standard Palm conventions, set the driver to enable software-based key clicks and repeat speed, and we began to type into the memo pad. The keyboard is virtually silent unless the software click is enabled. As we have had difficulties, in the past, typing on noisy keyboards while taking notes in court, we recommend that the software clicks be turned off before a judge or jury gets annoyed. The keyboard doesn’t have to be connected to a power supply; everything is powered by the handheld. This means that the keyboard/handheld combination can be used anywhere you can find a relatively flat surface — on a library or courtroom table or an airplane lap tray. It took a couple of days to adjust to the keyboard, as it isn’t exactly the same as the ones on most computers. However after a couple of hours working with the keyboard, it’s possible to touch type about as well as on more permanent desktop or laptop keyboards. Devotees of wrist rests or the Microsoft “natural” keyboard will find some difficulty with the process, but most lawyers will probably not be using this keyboard full time. While the Stowaway Keyboard does not have the special function keys available on the typical PC keyboard, the keyboard does have Palm-friendly special function keys which can launch the unit’s Date, Phonebook, ToDo and Memo programs, replicating the keys on the Palm. These keys have other functions when combined with the Fn key. We’ve been playing with Palm OS hardware long enough that we’ve become accustomed to tapping or scribbling short pieces of information into address book and calendar programs and even create e-mail messages to be sent on the wireless Palm VII. Although some people take copious notes using the software keyboard or Palm Graffiti, we found this approach too slow and inaccurate to bother with any large document. We were more than a little skeptical that the keyboard/Palm combination would be sufficiently useful to actually use it. But after using the Stowaway in various situations for several days, we think otherwise. This thing really works. Don’t bother with the keyboard just to enter names and addresses, appointments, time entries or play games, but the Palm and Keyboard combination works for writing e-mail, taking notes and even adding to documents that have been mostly completed in a desktop machine. When we first began lugging laptops to the library to do legal research, we received a lot of interest from lawyers passing by who were intrigued by the thought of taking notes and quoting from cases using a computer. Laptops, of course, are commonplace these days. But when we sit down at a public space and start working with the Palm/Stowaway combination, people do stop and take a look. We suspect it won’t take too long, however, that such a setup will become commonplace. PALM WORD PROCESSORS Of course, the hardware is only part of what is needed. The Palm’s Memo Pad is acceptable for short items, but to do a good job of note taking, a user requires additional software. QuickWord and Wordsmith are both designed to extend the Memo Pad capability and coordinate with WinWord. Both programs install easily to the Palm, sending files to the Palm with the hotsync process. Both programs install a menu on the WinWord 97 or WinWord 2000 Menu Bar, to enable a user to load hot synced files originating or modified on the Palm into WinWord, or to save WinWord files so they can be hot synced back to the Palm. Both programs have find/replace capability but Wordsmith has a bit more sophisticated editing capability, and can designate Fonts and Font Sizes to be used when the document is sent back to WinWord. QuickWord can’t do that, but it’s easier to display QuickWord documents in a large and bold screen display that is useful for older eyes. Wordsmith also has a very large font option. But either program works well with the Stowaway Keyboard, or without the Stowaway if you get really good with Graffiti. Neither Wordsmith nor QuickWord is expensive: the former costs $29.95 while the latter is $19.95 or $39.95 when purchased with the vendor’s Excel-compatible electronic spreadsheet and charting programs. Both programs are available for download as a time-limited trial version. The Wordsmith folks note that the trial version can be used as an extended Memo Pad and as a reader for Palm .doc files even if you decide not to purchase the program. You can’t go wrong with either program. And if that 6-pound laptop has gotten too heavy to carry around, lately, the Palm Keyboard/Word Processor combination is a very attractive and very workable and cost-effective alternative for note taking and generation of other documents. SUMMARY AND DETAILS The Palm Stowaway Keyboard is a light add-on for the Palm handheld computer and enables the user to enter information into the Palm with much greater accuracy and speed than by tapping or scribbling. Palm Stowaway Keyboard Version for Palm III/VII Price:$99 Address:Think Outside Inc. 5790 Fleet St., Carlsbad, Calif. 92008 Phone:(760) 431-9090 Fax:(760) 431-7875 QuickWord and Wordsmith are inexpensive but very useful Palm word processing applications that coordinate documents with Microsoft Word for Windows documents. Download trial copies of both, and take your pick. QuickWord, Version 5.1 Price:$19.95 Address:Cutting Edge Software Inc., 2351 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas, Texas 75220 Phone:(800) 991-7360 or (214) 956-9806; fax: (214) 956-9678 Web: www.cesinc.com E-mail: sales@cesinc.com. Wordsmith, Version 1.12 Price:$29.95 Address:Blue Nomad, 4 Hyde St., Redwood City, Calif. 94062 Fax:(413) 740-8375 Web: www.bluenomad.com E-mail: sales@bluenomad.com Barry D. Bayer practices law and writes about computers from his office in Homewood, Ill.

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