|UHN Palm Newsletter (October 2000) - Shortcuts |
Have you ever been reading a file in one Palm application when you suddenly had the need to look up something in the MemoPad? Afterwards, to get back to work, you have to tap on the "home" button, find your application, open the relevant document, find your place, etc. Quel drag, as we say in Montreal.
Is there any way you can switch between tasks without laboriously reloading them? The answer is "yes and no". There are several approaches to this problem - one or more of them may work for you. Your options include:
- Tweaks to the Palm screen and buttons
- Popups that let you do one thing without leaving the current task
- Software that lets you swap between tasks and/or gives you menus of tasks to choose from
- Launchers that provide more features than the standard Palm OS
- Software that has a combination of some or all of these approaches
The Palm operating system does not permit you to have multiple applications open at the same time as you might with a Macintosh or Windows PC. But you can swap between any of the four built-in applications (Appointment, Phone Book, ToDo List, MemoPad) with just one button push. You will still lose your place in the Phone Book, say, but at least you won't have to rummage through the menus too much.
And you can reprogram those buttons or create other shortcuts. The Preferences utility on your Palm permits you to redefine the action taken by a button. You can arrange it so the "Phone Book" button launches your favourite game instead. Of course, you then have to make sure you know how to find the Phone Book some other way.
The "Home" icon on your Palm screen has some useful features built in, too. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with this as it might be all you need and you can't beat the price. Turn on the Palm and tap on the Home icon. Notice in the top righthand corner of the screen the name of the current category of applications you are viewing. You can create new categories and assign different applications to them (click on the little triangle beside the current category name). If you set the Preference from the Menu icon for "Remember Last Category", and you have all your most-used apps in just one place, then you will always be just one tap on the Home icon away from reloading whatever you need. OK, it's not perfect, but it's a start and the Palm manual is pretty clear on how to do this sort of thing. Of course, anyone who needs help can give me a shout, too.
Task swappers bring additional goodies.
One strategy is to use HackMaster (reviewed last month) to load a popup with the ability you require. That way you can cheat the system: do a second task without ever leaving the first one. For example, you could have a popup calculator so that checking a drug dosage wouldn't take you out of your current task. Then you wouldn't need to reload the task when you are done calculating. PopCalc (available from Benc Software at http://www.benc.hr) is probably the best known of these but it isn't unique. There are also many popup "hacks" for notetaking and other simple tasks as well.
If you want one stroke ability to swap between any two tasks, without restriction, there are HackMaster hacks for that too. (There are hacks for just about everything). SwitchHack (http://www.deskfree.com) lets you tap on the Home icon to switch between the current task and the previous one. It also remembers your place in the Phone Book when you switch back and forth and has a popup menu of the apps you use most commonly). PhlegmHack gets my vote for worst name of the year but also provides a menu and a task swapper. It's available from http://blevins.simplenet.com/palm. PhlegmHack is free but it will not remember your place in the Phone Book the way SwitchHack does.
Would you like to rearrange the way your Home icon presents applications? Would you like to choose from a list of DOC files rather than just the see the name of your reader program? "Launchers" perform this job. As usual, there are many, some free, some not. Personal preference plays a greater role in this category of software than with the others - you may love an interface that I hate. Here are a few of the best known launchers.
Launcher III (http://www.benc.hr) is a good example. It's free, with tabbed folder views of your applications, and one tap access to many tools such as the backlight, password locking, and more. One very handy shortcut is that Launcher III supports DOC files so that your list of applications can also include lists of reference files. When you want to look at a particular text you need only click on its title instead of launching the reader program and then selecting the title from within the reader.
Launch'em (http://www.synsolutions.com/software/launchem/) is a shareware (also called "try before you buy") program. It has all the features of Launcher III with many extras, including a task switcher and the ability to select which files to backup when performing a HotSync.
Handscape (http://www.mobimate.com/) is another popular shareware application launcher. It has its own approach to file management which looks a lot like Windows Explorer.
These three programs are emblematic of the state of third party software for the Palm. Some is free, some not. None have every bell and whistle. Most have their own idiosyncracies So you must pick and choose. In my humble opinion, Launcher III has most of the features the average user will need, particularly if combined with PhlegmHack as a task swapper. I just wish they'd change that name. For the power user who must have every possible gadget, Launch 'Em is the obvious choice.
Medical "Doc" of the Month
For a look at what is happening in Medical Handheld computing currently, check out the following website (if you like it, this site issues an interesting newsletter about high-tech developments by email - just like you know who
Hack of the Month
Come on, folks! I listed several in the article above. Why don't you head on over to www.palmgear.com or one of the other big web sites that cater to Palm computing and do some exploring on your own.
We Have a Winner
Last month's issue closed with a challenge to readers to identify the literary source of the line "Share and enjoy". For those of you who didn't know, the line was popularized by the satirical novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Congratulations to reader Daniel Wigdor who came up with the first correct answer. Actually, Daniel was the only respondent with the correct answer. Well, if you must know he was the only respondent, full stop. Thanks Daniel, and your reward is in the email: a HackMaster program that replaces the Palm logo (when you turn on your handheld computer) with the cover picture from the Hitchhiker's Guide book.
In Times to Come
My Palm has gone wonky. After the initial panic, a deeper and more enduring panic set in. Then I had a go at fixing it and the fun really started.
So next month we will have a look at what to do when your trusty "peripheral brain" bites it. Think of it as brain surgery without the post-graduate training
Until then, enjoy!
This is one of a continuing series of newsletters on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, IT professionals and video game afficionados at the UHN. Feel free to pass copies around electronically or on paper. To subscribe, present burnt offerings, or complain, contact the author at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org