PDAs Simpler to Use With Enhanced Entry Points


Getting words from brain to screen is relatively simple for users of a desktop or notebook computer. Just use the keyboard. For users of hand-held devices, though, it's more of a challenge.

Palm-based personal digital assistants use Graffiti, a sort of block printing style that can be effective once users learn its idiosyncrasies. Mastering Graffiti takes some time, but many users can get comfortable with it in a day or two. On the Pocket PC side, Microsoft uses a version of ParaGraph software to help recognize block printing and some cursive writing--although cursive is a little more hit-and-miss.

One item that might help is the $13.95 Floating Point stylus from LandWare, at http://www.landware.com. Unlike the stylus supplied with most PDAs, this device's tip has a spring behind it so the point adjusts to the pressure of your hand. On a Palm device, this means more touch-sensitive navigation and much better and faster Graffiti input.

Interestingly, the stylus also did wonders for my ParaGraph recognition on a Compaq iPaq device. With no significant change in the way I wrote, the recognition of my cursive handwriting was noticeably better than it was with the Compaq-supplied stylus.

Right now, the Floating Point is available to fit the sleeve only in Palm III-style devices. A version for the m500 series is promised. If you want to use this with other PDAs, it becomes an extra item to carry--and potentially lose.

LandWare has also released a new version of its $69.95 GoType Pro keyboard, this time for users of Handspring Visors. Unlike the popular Targus Springboard keyboard, the GoType is one piece, with a flip-up cover that serves as a support for the inserted Visor.

The GoType has its fans and its attractions, including a place to park your stylus. In this new model, a pass-through Universal Serial Bus port connection and cable are handy for synchronizing the Visor with a desktop computer from the keyboard.

Function keys at the top of the GoType invoke the basic Palm OS applications--calendar, to-do list, contact file and memo pad--as well as the Find command for searching for information in a file. A Num Lock key turns a block of keys into a numeric keypad, a trick found on some notebook computers as well.

Also included are an adequate word-processing program, called TakeNote, and WordSleuth, a thesaurus. Of the two, the thesaurus is the more interesting since there are several word processors available for the Palm platform.

Yet I must admit some disappointment with the product: Its Chiclet-size keys are a bit too close for my ham-fisted grip.

Try as I might, I kept mistyping, something that didn't happen on the Targus product. Once, I hit the Num Lock and ended up with strange word-number combinations that had to be corrected manually.

Some people will consider the GoType Pro just fine. For others, the fold-out Targus is a much happier solution, even if its retail price is $30 higher.


Mark A. Kellner is editor at large for Government Computer News and hosts "Mark Kellner on Computers" at http://www.adrenalineradio.com from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays.

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