Can a Handheld Replace a Laptop?
I received an e-mail a while back that said:
Whenever I travel, I have to lug along a big laptop. I just bought a Palm and I was wondering if it is possible for the Palm to take the laptop's place? I need to check my e-mail, surf the Web, and use some Word docs.I recently quit carrying my laptop with me when I traveled and I have been really happy. Now my heavy, expensive laptop has become a permanent part of my desk. Well, actually, I'm thinking about selling it but that's another story.
MultiMail is the way to go for e-mail if you want a full-function app. You can use multiple accounts, set rules, use attachments, the whole shootin' match. Palm liked it so much they bought the company. It costs about $40 but it is the best one out there. If the right price for you is "free", HotMail will work with many handheld browsers, as long as they support secure connections.
If you end up buying an e-mail app, you can re-coup some of the expense by using AvantGo as your Web browser. It is free and, in addition to being a wonderful service for downloading and reading offline its channels of content, it also includes an online browser that is top notch, for a handheld. It can handle SSL, cookies and tables but not frames. Many people also swear by ProxiWeb, which is free and supports SSL, cookies, tables, and frames. It is a good browser but with the limited space on my Palm, I decided that one browser was all I had room for and AvantGo's offline channels made it the one for me.
Please keep in mind, the Web browsing capabilities of any Palm app are going to be severely limited. You are dealing with a small screen, limited memory, and slow processor. AvantGo or ProxiWeb will do the job but it isn't going to be as rich an experience as on your laptop.
For access, I use the now-discontinued 14.4 PalmModem. It is fine for me and you can still get one off eBay. I see several out there now about $50. I also bought the new 33.6 PalmModem but I'm about to return it because it wouldn't place nicely with my company's dial-up server and Palm's tech support was no help.
Psion makes a 56K infrared modem that will work with Palm handhelds. It is a bit pricey with a SRP of $190 but it can work with both land lines and GSM. I think this is cool but I like to hold my IIIx when I use it and I'd keep breaking the connection.
As for which app is best for reading Word documents, that could be a whole long article all on its own. I have to admit I don't do this much so I'm not going to express an opinion; I'll just mention a few of the options. If your needs are pretty basic, as mine are, I use PalmDocs, which converts Word documents into Palm document files (PRC or PDB) and Palm document files to text files. It is $20 shareware.
The giant in this area is probably Documents To Go, which can convert Word, WordPerfect, Word Pro, as well as Excel, Quattro Pro, and Lotus 1-2-3 files so that they can be read by the Documents To Go app on your Palm. It is $40 shareware.
Like I said, my laptop is now gathering lots of dust as it sits solidly on my desk, but I still use it every day. While I no longer need a full-strength computer when I'm out of the house, my Palm can't even come close to replacing my desktop when I'm at home. I think handhelds will remain desktop computer peripherals for the foreseeable future; it will be a long time before a handheld is all the computer you need.
Naturally, these are just my opinions and I'm sure plenty of you have different ones. Feel free to express them below.
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