PDAs can store thousands of phone numbers, appointments, tasks, and notes. All models can exchange, or synchronize, information with a full-sized computer. To do this, you connect the PDA to your computer via a cradle or cable top Palm Beach architects.
For models that run on rechargeable batteries, the cradle doubles as a charger. Infrared, Bluetooth, and WiFi let you synchronize your PDA with a computer without the use of wires or a cradle. Most PDAs can be made to work with both Windows and Macintosh computers, but PDAs with the Pocket PC operating system usually require third-party software for Macs.
PDAs with Wi-Fi (wireless) capability can access the Internet. Those without can as well with the addition of a separately purchased modem. Some PDAs can record your voice, play videos, display digital photos, or hold maps, city guides, or a novel.
Most PDAs on the market are the familiar tablet-with-stylus types that feature a squarish display screen, a design pioneered by Palm Inc. (now called PalmOne). Today the main choices are models that use the Palm operating system (OS)–mostly PalmOne–and PocketPC devices from companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Toshiba.
The latter use a stripped-down version of Microsoft Windows. A few PDAs use a proprietary operating system. Kyocera, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson offer units that combine a cell phone and a PDA.
Palm OS systems. Equipped with software to link with Windows and (for PalmOne-brand units) Macintosh computers, PalmOne units and their clones have a simple user interface. You use a stylus to enter data on the units by tapping an onscreen keyboard or writing in a shorthand known as Graffiti. Or you can download data from your computer.
Most Palm OS-based PDAs can synchronize with a variety of desktop e-mail programs, such as Outlook Express and Eudora. (PalmOne models with VersaMail software are good at handling e-mails with attachments.) And all include a basic personal-information-management (PIM) application. Palm OS units are easy to use, although navigation between different programs is cumbersome because of the operating system’s “single-tasking” nature.
Most Palm OS models have expansion slots that let you add memory or attach separately purchased accessories. All Palm OS-based PDAs can be enhanced by adding third-party software applications–the more free memory that a model comes with, the more software it can accommodate.
There is a large body of Palm OS-compatible freeware, shareware, and commercial software available for download at such sites as www.palmgear.com. Many Palm models come with “Documents to Go:” word-processing and spreadsheet software similar to that used in Pocket PCs but more versatile. Price range: about $100 to $800.
PalmOne’s top-of-the-line-model, the Tungsten T5, combines a PalmOS-based PDA with many of the best features of the PocketPC operating system. When it’s connected to a Windows PC, you can drag and drop files to the T5’s built-in “flash drive,” even on PCs that don’t have Palm’s desktop software installed.