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Datecs PP-50 Palm Printer Review
By Robert Zach
"The DATECS PP-50 for Palm III is a unique piece of portable equipment specially designed to cradle the world's most popular palm-sized computer - the Palm III series, Palm V and Visor [and HandEra 330 too]." That's what the web site says, but in this review we'll explore what it doesn't say; This Printer Rules!
The PP-50 is the most compact printer available for PalmOS devices. It is a thermal type printer which utilizes thermal roll paper. It is capable of printing text as well as graphics in amazing detail -- it prints at 8 dot/mm or 203 dpi. Power is supplied by a 7.2V rechargeable power pack.
The device is basically a "sled" type cradle. The Palm device slides into the printer as shown to the left.
The printer itself has only three interfaces - a combo ON/OFF paper feed button, a serial port connector (more on that later), and an AC adapter inlet. There are also two LEDs - an ON/OFF indicator and a battery charge indicator (the ON/OFF LED will also blink to indicate paper out and slow blink to indicate printing mechanism overheat - holding this button for over 2 seconds prints a detailed test page). All of these are located at the front panel - right below the buttons on the Palm.
The tech specs note that, when fully charged, the PP-50 can print out over 5000 inches of alpha numerics!
Included in the box are the palm-sized printer, the AC batter recharger, a User's Manual, and four software applications. A serial HotSync cable (for use in the PP-50's serial port) is optional.
The five included applications are:
From this one screen the icons can be selected for the PalmOS apps and printouts commenced of specific data (i.e. the Memo pad in the middle screenshot). Items can be printed from the clipboard as well as "other" types of printing - including Mail from the PalmOS Mail application and a wide variety of bar codes (EAN13, EAN8, UPC-A, UPC-E, Code39, Code93, 2 of 5 interleaved Codabar, and Code128). Settings such as enable/disable the ScreenPad stroke, altering the printed font size, and enabling Auto LF between prints (feeds an additional 3 lines of paper for seeing and tearing off the whole print) can also be adjusted here. Quite a versatile application.
But, it doesn't stop here...printing from the built-in PalmOS applications also brings on a bevy of options for WHAT to print from each app as well. For example, printing from DateBook allows "This Week", "This Month" and "Due" (everything until the end of the year) selections; "To" and "From" date ranges are also possible; even "Today's" forthcoming events. If that wasn't versatile enough you can even "Print Repeated Event" to print appointments of similar nature which are met at regular intervals or fixed dates. And, oh yes, you can print a single event too ;-)
Options here include printing headers and footers (in various font styles and sizes), print intensity (up to 150%), and clipping. Clipping is pretty neat, it allows you to select an area of the screen to print - this can be useful for printing a longer screen by scrolling it.
This application is an important part of the PP-50 solutions. It allows the downloading of alternative fonts and logo graphics to the printer. The printer has two internal fonts 9x16 and 12x24 as well as two loadable fonts in the same size. From these fonts you can print up to 32 symbols/line with the large font and 42 symbols/line with the smaller one. Print can also be bold, underline, rotated 180 degrees and rotated 90 degrees.
Two fonts are permanently loaded into the PP-50 memory: WESTERN and National; National allows the selected (from a font list) national alphabet to be downloaded and edited. Entirely new characters and symbols can be created on the Palm directly with the "Edit" screen or on a PC.
DATECS also includes a Windows application (no Mac version as far as I know) to convert logos into .PDB format for upload to the Palm. A logo can be downloaded to the printer with the Font Manager and used as special formatting for all printouts. This would be nice for logos on printed receipts - using the PP-50 and the Palm as a great portable POS device.
Palm Print Emulator
I can also see some vendor creating a Palm Credit Card swipe device that can be connected to and operated via the serial port on the PP-50. Add a Palm VII or a newly announced "always-on" wireless device (such as the Palm i705), and you've got one accomplished POS system.
Please note, you WILL need to purchase the right version of PP-50 for your Palm. I tried a Palm V series with a Palm III serial adapter, it didn't work; the shape of the devices themselves is different enough that it won't slide into the PP-50's cradle.
If you need a Palm printing solution this is a very fine one. Here's the technical matrix:
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