How my new Palm V is helping me do my job

Jeff Thompson got a Palm V for Christmas. Find out how it's making his life in tech support easier.

Knowing my undying love for small, expensive gadgets, someone near and dear to me was kind enough to give me a Palm V for Christmas. (In turn, I handed down my old Palm Pilot Professional to a cousin.) If you haven’t used a PDA yet, here are some reasons why you might want to make a Palm your next hardware purchase.

Out with the old
Naturally, my first move was to migrate all of my data from the old unit to my new one, which was a much easier process than I thought. It was literally a matter of pressing two buttons: the first to do a final HotSync with my Palm Pilot Pro and the second to HotSync all that data onto my Palm V.

At first, I was just excited to have my new “toy.” It seems that the smaller and shinier a gadget is, the more I seem to like it (go figure—I’m a techie).

In all the excitement and appreciation, I had forgotten just how much of an asset a handheld is—on and off the job! The first day back on the job site, I was already reaping the benefit of the Palm V’s size. Unlike its predecessors, the Palm V is a true pocket-size handheld. I can easily fit my PDA in either my shirt or back pocket.

The handy, dandy features
The Palm V comes with the Palm OS v3.0. There is a free download that allows you to upgrade to 3.3. Upgrading to 3.3 allows you access to a slightly wider array of software (much of which is shareware) than that of earlier versions of the Palm OS. The Palm OS comes with several features characteristic of Palm handhelds, one of which is a simple notepad application that allows me to simply jot down whatever’s needed for the moment. This ease of use gives me the opportunity to immediately list tasks and get moving without having to return to my desktop—I just whip out the Palm V.

You can create text “shortcuts” on the Palm for common tasks. This shortcut feature allows you to just jot down a couple letters and create an entire entry, which provides for even more efficiency and timesaving. If you support users in a large facility, the Palm V can help you tackle more advanced projects. For example, if you are running Outlook, which is fully compatible with the Palm device and its desktop software, you can have task requests sent.

Suppose you have an additional dock on your desktop; just do a quick HotSync and all your current tasks are listed nicely and neatly, waiting to be checked off after completion. This handy applet is known as the To Do List, which synchronizes seamlessly with Outlook’s Tasks folder. Since the synchronization process works both ways, after you’ve checked off the current list of tasks, you can do another HotSync, which will mark off the completed items in Outlook and record new tasks onto your Palm. Life is grand.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of an additional cradle at work, so I make more use of the Memo Pad than anything. But if your company has made the wise choice of supplying its desktop support group with Palm devices (III or newer with infrared capability), you and your cohorts will have it made. Let’s say you have more tasks in your queue than you can handle. With a quick tap or two, you can beam some of those tasks right over to your coworker’s handheld.

Does your job require that you travel to customer sites? The Palm V includes an expense application, which interfaces with Microsoft Excel to produce a fully customizable spreadsheet.
If you’d like to share your favorite PDA story or tip, please post a comment below.
The power of the PDA
From jotting down CD keys to composing e-mail to scheduling meetings to tracking expenses to maintaining contact information, you simply cannot go wrong with a Palm device. One of the nicest features is that with one fell swoop, you can create a redundant copy of all your e-mail information on your PC at work and/or home.

There is a downside. As you may already know, the Palm V is a little pricey. When the Palm V was first introduced, it retailed for around $500. Prices now range between $300 and $400, depending on where you get them. If you’re lucky, you can catch an Internet auction selling them, but be careful you’re getting a NEW unit and not a refurbished device. (Personally, I’m not one to trust a lot of refurbished devices of any kind.)

Fortunately, the customer support behind the Palm devices is excellent. After notifying 3Com about an issue I had with my Palm Pilot Pro, I received a new unit in the mail exactly two days later. That’s what I call service and support—the new unit even came with return packaging and prepaid shipping!

All in all, the Palm V offers top-of-the-line functionality, seamless compatibility, excellent portability, and even money-saving features such as rechargeable internal batteries, charged on the included HotSync cradle. There are well over 2,000 shareware and purchasable applications as well as a plethora of add-on components you can use to get even more timesaving benefits out of this gem of a product.

Jeff Thompson is a systems engineer who is based in Louisville, KY.