UHN Palm Newsletter ( April 2000)
Welcome to this edition of the Palm Newsletter. Today I would like to draw your attention to a web site or two and some software you can use to develop reference or teaching materials for the PalmPilot (or Personal Digital Assistant, PDA, as it is now known).
One of the first clinical or educational applications for the Palm device that comes to mind is portable databases or references. And in fact there are a great many ways one can do this. First, we have to delete some games to make room
Next, we have to give some thought to the material we want to put on the Palm screen. Just what sort of material lends itself to review on that tiny screen anyway? How easily can it be organized for searching out any given tidbit? Do I want the material to appear as free text, lists, tables or pictures? Do I have to create it by hand or are there tools available for converting computer files into Palm-format documents? How can I tell what it will look like before I load a file onto the Palm?
I've done some digging around and have a few answers to these questions.
Let's start off by considering something simple, such as that laminated plastic card many of us received with the instructions for using the new dictation system. This is a really small amount of material, entirely in text format (no pictures or tables), and it would be useful to have in a pocket when one needed to do some dictation or access a report. If your pockets are like mine (close to structural failure due to overload of "indispensable" things) you might like to put the contents of this card on your Palm.
Fortunately the Palm comes with a Memo function. It won't take too long to use the little stylus to transcribe all that material into the Memo feature of your Palm, will it? But you can avoid writer's cramp in two ways:
1) use the Palm Desktop software on your computer to type the material or
2) use the email that was sent out to everyone before the laminated cards were distributed, and just cut and paste the text into the Palm Desktop software.
The next time you HotSync your Palm to your desktop PC, the memo gets uploaded and you are in business.
The memo function only permits small items (equivalent to 2-3 typed pages). For larger amounts of text you need a new application to load onto your Palm: a text reader. I will describe a few of these beasts very briefly below, and I include WWW addresses to find them at the end of the Newsletter.
Text readers allow you to load and browse through anything on your Palm with the only limit being your available memory. Some also permit you to modify the text on the Palm itself (eg. SmartDoc). This is handy for things that may change (the dictation system has already undergone some changes since those cards came out).
Others require preparing or modifying the text on a PC, converting it to Palm format with a specific utility program, then loading it onto the Palm (AportisDoc, TealDoc). This is handy for distributing materials which are not to be modified by the recipients on their Palms.
There are programs that organize text hierarchically into lists and sublists like an outliner. Or database software that lets you set up tables and reports. One or two applications can even take web pages and download them onto the Palm, complete with hyperlinks (more about all of these in future issues).
To start with, let's keep it simple. I have attached two files to this issue of the Newsletter. One is a simple text file with a list of the dictation commands for the UHN. I urge you to copy the text file into your Memo function on your Palm Desktop software on your computer (see? Homework disguised as a freebie!).
I also recommend that you download TealDoc. The other attached file has the same dictation system information in TealDoc format. You can install it onto your Palm using the "Install" feature in the Palm Desktop software. If you try it, notice that TealDoc gives you "bookmarks" (when you tap on them with your stylus, the screen jumps to that section of the text). (Sorry! the TealDoc format file has not been archived. You can convert the text file and experiment with bookmarks if you wish).
You will notice that, although memos are modifiable, TealDoc files are not. If you want to be able to edit files on the Palm but they are too large for the Memo application, try out SmartDoc.
Any one of these may be the solution for you - and there are lots more out there. Here are the URLs for the software programs described above:
AportisDoc can be found at www.aportis.com.
TealDoc can be downloaded from www.tealpoint.com.
SmartDoc is available at www.cesinc.com.
Finally, here is a note about a medication prescribing handbook that is worth a look. It's called "ePocrates". It's an American product and lists drugs by brand name rather than generically, but it has several useful features:
1) indexing is by name or by class of drug (eg. antimicrobials) and you can search through the listings.
2) it's free to download as long as you don't mind filling out a short online questionnaire at the web site.
3) It's small enough to leave lots of room for the other software you want to run on your Palm.
Look for ePocrates at www.epocrates.com.
Next month we will have a look at more ways you can present information and reference material on the Palm. Even though I have described several programs which allow you to read text on the Palm, I haven't yet discussed how to convert existing materials into Palm format or where to find libraries of them.
We will also discuss how to make backup copies of your important files in case of accidents. Please give me feedback about this Newsletter.
If you have difficulty obtaining any of the software I have described, or need help installing and using it, please let me know and I will try to help.
Please also share with me any interesting websites, software or problems you come across so I can pass the information along in future issues.
This is the latest issue of a newsletter on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, paramedics, IT professionals and others who need tools that work. Feel free to pass copies around electronically or on paper. To subscribe, unsubscribe, present burnt offerings, obtain back issues, change your email address or complain, contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org