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    UHN Palm Newsletter (February 2001)

    Whether it's a quick note or a detailed patient record, we all have to get information into our Palms. And wouldn't we like to make that easier? In this month's issue, we examine several approaches to inputting text on the fly.

    Miss Jones, Take a Memo

    Graffiti is the system, a bit like shorthand, used by Palm devices to enter text using the pen-like stylus. If you find Graffiti a little counter-intuitive, then you aren't alone. Unless you use it fairly regularly it's easy to forget some of the special squiggles that are used to generate various letters and punctuation marks.

    You can overcome this in several ways. One is to get more practice - just force yourself to use it more often. Alternatively, when you forget you can call up a help screen which shows you how to generate any character you wish. While in an application which accepts text entry (eg. Memo), just touch the stylus tip anywhere in the text entry box and drag it up towards the top of the screen. The Graffiti Help screens will pop up. To get help for punctuation marks first, tap on the screen before dragging.

    You can also practice your graffiti technique using the Giraffe game which is available from your Install Tool. You open the Install program on your desktop PC or Mac. Click on "Add" and the game will be listed in the Install directory. After the next HotSync, you will find Giraffe in your Palm's directory. Try not to spend too much time playing, er, improving your shorthand.

    Another timesaver is to use keyboard shortcuts. Access the Preferences program on your Palm and select "Shortcuts". You can add or modify shortcuts here. Shortcuts are invoked using a special Graffiti character, then writing the shortcut. The Palm manual is really quite good on this section. Check it out: If you use certain phrases or technical terms frequently, this can be quite handy.

    Editing your notes and text in Graffiti can be speeded up by any number of utilities. MagicText ( is a good example. A quick search at a good Palm software website should turn up a fair number.

    If you really can't abide Graffiti, you do have some alternatives. Best known is Jot (, a shareware program which provides more normal text entry. You still have to print (no cursive text) but the strokes you use to form each letter are more natural. Jot also allows you to see the character as you write and provides other shortcuts. You can try a five day demo to see if this speeds things up for you or not.

    When all else fails, you can hunt and peck using the popup on-screen keyboard that is built into the Palm's software.

    You can even write notes and save them as, well, handwritten scrawls using a "paint" program or InkSnaps ( You write down whatever you like and it preserves the original appearance. Of course, you can't cut and paste this note into any other text application.

    Then again, you can always write off (so to speak) the stylus and use a portable keyboard or a software program that lets you use your fingers, like AlphaPad ( We reviewed Alphapad and the Palm keyboard in last month's issue.


    Perhaps you want to do more repetitive data entry tasks. Perhaps you have seen housestaff doctors (always the trend leaders) keeping patient records on handhelds. There are ways to make this process less onerous also.

    There are a whole raft of Palm applications that attempt to improve or accelerate patient charting or even prescription writing. A very incomplete list includes the following:

    A few comments are in order. First, many programs are obsessed with various American billing systems and diagnostic coding. If this doesn't meet your needs then an otherwise interesting program may not be helpful to you. Furthermore, if you work in an institutional environment, you may want to link to a computerized record system and that is not straightforward. Few hospitals permit you to access patient records with handheld computers due to concerns about data integrity and confidentiality. How do you avoid duplication of your charting work?

    Also, if you have specialized requirements, you may want to "roll your own" data entry program and there are several approaches to that. At its simplest, you can use the ToDo list, or the Appointment list to make a note of tasks that need attention, and set alarms to remind you. Actioneer ( makes this easier because you can program code phrases and reduce repetitive

    Slightly more sophisticated action lists can be generated with BrainForest ( or ListMaker ( These outliner programs can also import or export text to other programs. ListMaker allows you to create a set canned patient encounter templates for different situations and reuse them repeatedly if you wish.

    For brief notes that need to be printed but not added to a central computer database, you could use the MemoPad and a printer that accepts infrared links. You jot down a note, point your Palm at the printer and beam the note over. Using "Cut and Paste" you can save time with a few boilerplate paragraphs.

    How to print from your Palm? You can find lots of useful information at Stevens Creek Software ( Infrared adapters for your printer can be purchased from Active Systems ( and many newer HP and LexMark (for example) printers have a built-in IR port.

    For your own office database you can HotSync your Palm to an office computer and store your notes there. We have looked at database and data entry programs in previous issues. Most now permit you to link data to Microsoft Access. HanDBase v2.5 now permits you to create your database structure and fill in data from your desktop PC (less tedious) as well as from the Palm handheld. PenDragon Forms (, and Satellite Forms ( provide much more power but do take a fair bit of effort to learn to use. I reviewed these briefly in the September 2000 issue.

    More obscure perhaps, are barcode readers, cameras, and dictation recorders that you can attach to your handheld. Specialized hardware like these can be found by searching on the internet.

    Clearly there are many potential solutions to reducing the amount of writing on the Palm. Have fun looking for one or more that work for you.

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    There is an interesting annual publication for those who use Palms or other handheld computers in medicine or nursing. At this web site you can order a book with a quite good list of devices and software made for these purposes. Learn more about it at (

    Hack of the Month

    Here are two small programs to affect how you enter text on your Palm. MyGlyphs ( or download it here) changes the stroke required for some characters. You may prefer this to the standard Grafitti strokes. DotHack ( or download it here) overlays a small keyboard onto your Palm's Grafitti area so you can peck away. You be the judge of whether it is more handy than the popup keyboard already built-in.

    Medical Computing

    Last month I attached an iSilo Doc file with the list of "Most Commonly Prescribed" medications from the Limited Use Products directory of the MOHLTC. After sending out that issue, I was advised that there is no listing in there for Levofloxacin. I know how fond all of the housestaff here are of "vitamin L", so I have added the code in and recompiled the Doc file. Herewith, please find the new version of LU2000.PDB to load onto your Palms. As with the original version, any Palm software (not just iSilo) that can read Doc files can be used.

    "Somebody Stop Me"

    These newsletters just keep on getting bigger and longer. Should I make it briefer next time? Would you like more or less on any particular topic? More pictures? If noone writes back I will feel free to do whatever I want. And what choice will you have? (Hmmm - what's that button marked "Del" do?)

    Until next month, 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, unsubscribe, present burnt offerings, obtain back issues, change your email address or complain, contact the author at:

    Visit our website for the latest Medical Palm Review newsletter and the archive of back issues.