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.

Article Comments


The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. PalmInfocenter is not responsible for them in any way.
Please Login or register here to add your comments.

Comments Closed Comments Closed
This article is no longer accepting new comments.


Agreement and more

PFloyd @ 9/30/2000 12:04:11 PM #
My Palm doesn't really come close to replacing Windows 2000 (insert your OS of choice here) but things really are at the point where I'm comfortable leaving my laptop on my desktop. In addition to the applications you wrote about I use BackupBuddy. I'm on my eigth Palm and BackupBuddy has been a lifesaver. I use Outlook 2000 and sync my Palm with the included (with Palm) Chapura PocketMirror. It's very sophisticated and basically I have anything and everything from my Calendar, To-Do, Address Book, Notepad on my Palm and in Outlook. Outlook completely replaces the Palm Desktop. You don't need both. The upcoming PocketMirror 3.0 allows even greater control such as adding group Calendar from Outlook to your Palm. JFile Pro let's me walk around with a lot of data from Access and Excel for work such as all the telecom data I could possibly need for supporting our PBX (user's name, extension, phone set type, programming, and more). I also carry a customized inventory of all our desktop computers in the office (machine type, user name, Ram, HD, OS...). These sync easily and automatically with InstallBuddy. I don't know if JFile is the best app for this. WFFM. I'm a sysadmin and I could have to program a router or somesuch at any moment. ;-) I can use PTelnet and a handy cable from Mark Space to connect to make some quick programming changes and all without a laptop. I'm going to be getting a Palm/Think Outside/Targus type keyboard shortly. Targus makes a handy little case that would hold a Palm, modem, and keyboard in a Daytimer like package. Whew!

RE: Agreement and more
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/2/2000 12:40:48 AM #
What Targus case do you have that holds a Palm, a Palm modem and the fold-up
keyboard? I've been looking for something like that for a while...

RE: Agreement and more
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/21/2001 4:37:07 AM #
just install a telnet client on your palm, and get a IR-enabled modbile phone, or a modem of any sort. Then install a Telnet client on yoour palmie. Then you can connect to your FreeBSD box at home or work =)

It wont replace a laptop, but gives you the possibility to work at your desktop.

Nice thought huh? ;)

RE: Agreement and more
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/6/2001 4:56:29 PM #
I bought my Palm to take the place of a laptop. I needed to translate a book from Russian to English, and needed something into which I could type a text file. The $150 m100 and $100 keyboard I got were much cheaper than a laptop, as well as more convenient, less fragile, and more portable.


Edward Doan @ 9/30/2000 7:38:26 PM #
Did I mention you can run Linux on CE devices? CE devices have good HW, just a crappy OS.

A Place for WinCE

Edward Doan @ 9/30/2000 7:38:26 PM #
OK, not trying to start a flame war here, but I actually think a WinCE H/PC Pro would fit the bill nicely. I recently acquired an IBM Workpad z50, and with its big keyboard, screen, and VGA output, it makes a great platform for e-mail, simple document creation, and Web surfing. Plus, WinCE supports Ethernet PC Cards & CF, which only the TRGPro does (but no Ethernet).
Now don't get me wrong, but my Palm V is the center of my universe. I'm using AvantGo right now, in fact. I carry it everywhere, but after trying to take class notes on it for a semester, I was ready for something bigger.
Just my .02 worth.
RE: A Place for WinCE
EGarrido @ 10/1/2000 11:34:38 AM #
I completely agree. My friend and I have a IBM Workpad z50 and it's great for replacing the fundamental aspects of a full-size laptop.

Actually, we also use it in class, and it's works wonders. We have other friends who use their Visor and the Stowaway keyboard, but I personally prefer greatly my z50.

Don't get me wrong, either, I ALWAYS carry around my Palm V (looking forward to the next gen, by the way) and I love it to death.

And that's MY 2 cents worth.


Another E-Mail/Browser

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/1/2000 11:31:53 AM #
I use Eudora on my Visor & it works great. Haven't tried the Web browser yet because I'm waiting for the Innogear Six-Pak

No Outlook/Exchange email support

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/1/2000 11:40:35 PM #
One point to bear in mind is that if your Company uses Outlook/Exchange mail rather than a POP3 server, you will not be able to access your email directly on a dialup connection.
As far as I know, there is no Palm application that can access an Exchange server directly.
You will have to leave your laptop/desktop on at the office and perform a Network Hotsync.
Either that or splash out on a sub-notebook.

RE: No Outlook/Exchange email support
Ed @ 10/2/2000 7:49:52 AM #
Exchange can act as a POP3 server; I know, I use it as one every day. But this is under the control of your SysAdmin. If they aren't offering this, ask them why.

Palm InfoCenter
RE: No Outlook/Exchange email support
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/19/2000 8:53:04 PM #
Yes but is there any way to keep all of your devices synched up, email on the palm and the enchange account? As far as I know, not.

RE: No Outlook/Exchange email support
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/28/2000 7:38:21 AM #
Or go the whole hog with a more corporate solution

This is probably one of many such solutions, but I've used this, and it works well with Psion, PalmOS, WinCE and Lotus Notes and Outlook.

BTW. No, I am not a salesman!


No Way!

James @ 10/2/2000 5:23:39 AM #
Get a Psion 5mx and stop kidding yourself that a Palm can do the job. A A Palm is fine as a tool not a workbench.

Which Targus case?

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/2/2000 9:50:36 AM #
Which case holds the PV, modem, and keyboard?

Word Docs

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/2/2000 12:43:19 PM #
I really like RichReader as a Doc display app. I like the ability it gives me to use different fonts.

Can a Handheld Replace a Laptop?

robins19 @ 10/2/2000 3:29:18 PM #
Yes and no.

Since I bought my Palm last December I've mostly stopped lugging my laptop around with me. I say "mostly" because there are still some things my laptop will do that the Palm won't.

Specifically, I can download pictures to my laptop from my digital camera. And while I can shell out a hundred bucks or so for an external keyboard for writing on the Palm more easily, I can't embed those downloaded photos into what I'm writing.

I can also put my laptop on the corporate network when I need to download software from the Web, or upload web pages, etc., at higher speeds.

But that's about it. Except for those few exceptions, there's nothing I do on my laptop that I can't do on my Palm.

In fact, when I rolled my pickup truck last May I didn't even consider that my laptop might be damaged. But I wouldn't let them put me in the ambulance until they found my Palm and put it in my hand.

My palm of doom

Robby @ 10/2/2000 4:11:09 PM #
My friends call my Palm3c my palm God. I love it. I want to get the modem, and I'm very glad to hear my palm can do hotmail. Thanks for the tips. I wonder if I can do AOLIM? Thanks again.

Traveling with Palm

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/2/2000 4:32:38 PM #
Can the Palm replace a laptop? They do different things, but a Palm can do what most of us need/want when traveling.

I have a IIIx, and because of great software and information (usually free), it does more than I *ever* expected a Palm could do.

My Palm IIIx now runs the PQA apps available for the Palm VII - I use a wireline modem to use them. (see for how to do this ). With Palm's 14.4 modem traveling is great and connecting to the internet is a breeze. I never have to worry about an area having digital cell converage or not. For crunches such as digital phones, european phones, or places where only a payphone is available (campgrounds). I use an acoustic coupler with the modem (max speed of 28.8). It works great!

Both the Palm and the modem fit into an "Otter Box" when traveling. This is a hard plastic case that is crush proof, shockproof, and waterproof. It also costs $20.

I use an international commercial ISP, and have also configured the Palm to work with several of the free ISP services out there. I am never without an internet connection if needed.

Palm VNC has been installed. This lets one dial into their PC and control it remotely with the Palm - the PC's screen appears on the Palm's screen. You are actually running your PC. So if one had to e-mail a document on their desktop PC to a client, one can dial in, run Outlook, and send an e-mail as an attachment.

TopGun Postman is regularly used to send and recieve POP3 mail on the Palm. It was free and has met 98% of my needs. MultiMailPro would be nice since it supports IMAP, different server configurations, attachments, and more.

For text editing, the choice has been a GoType keyboard (because of it being rigid) and TakeNote! (free with the GoType). Both the Palm Portable Keyboard and the GoType! keyboard were tested at home side by side. The GoType! fit my needs and price point better. TakeNOTE! has proven to be a good stable editor. The TakeNOTE! conduit converts Palm docs to a .txt file for use with any wordprocessor. If you convert your document to a text file at your PC and drop it into the TakeNOTE! folder on your PC, it is converted to a doc file and put on your Palm. This combination works great.

TinySheet and QuickSheet 5.0 for spreadsheets. I prefer QuickSheet because links between worksheets don't have to be reset up when the file comes to the Palm. For less complex databases, TinySheet is great.

HanDBase to move database information back and forth between the Palm and MSAccess on the PC. The HanDBase conduit will append new data to the end of your Access Databases.

There is a small faxing program (currently in beta testing so it's free) if you need to send and receive simple faxes.

Is it a laptop? No. But with a Palm being able to do all of that, I have never needed or wanted anything else.

RE: Traveling with Palm
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/3/2000 5:26:54 AM #
I would love to get a palm modem so I can check e-mail and surf from work. My only question is what free ISP will work with it? You said there are a few, please help!!!

email at

not yet - Pocket PC can

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/3/2000 12:55:43 AM #
having own every single palm
now using the sony clie
and must say
not yet for the palm os

i have a cassiopeia
and i would say it is a capable
laptop replacement
check out my review at">">
Henry Kong

Palm & Exchange

Rod Lewis @ 10/3/2000 2:52:22 AM #
Exchange has POP3 & IMAP enabled by default so connection is easy. I am testing the IMAP4 connectivity of MultiMail to pick up my exchange mail and thats through a Securid and Shiva box. You can only sync the first 7 folders though.

I travel w/o a Laptop

ScottEDT @ 10/5/2000 7:09:24 AM #
I have been travelling for years w/ a Laptop and within the last 8
months I have only taken my Visor Dlx. It certainly is capable for emails,web surfing and Doc work, but the Stowaway keyboard is a must.

All the functionallity is fom sale

Dan @ 10/9/2000 12:08:57 PM #
I love my Palm IIIxe! I admit that, being only in high school, I have never owned a laptop, but I have never felt that I needed one. I was recenaly away from my desktop for a month, the only functionality I wanted back was internet access (mail & news), which a Palm+modem could do as well as a laptop. Personally I now spent more time with using Avantgo than IE, and I read/write 95% of my e-mail on my Palm.

In short, my Palm is 1/2 way to replacing my desktop, I am on it now.

handheld vs laptop

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/10/2000 4:55:31 PM #
I am currently writing an article for my quarterly newsletter and I ran across your comments while gathering information about palm pilots. There is so much information out there that it was hard for me to focus on one topic. I've decided to focus on handheld devices vs laptops and would like to include the free internet and email information you've provided. I'd like to attribute the information to you since these are your opinions. How should I site you as a source, if indeed that is okay?

handheld vs laptop

I.M. Anonymous @ 10/10/2000 4:55:31 PM #
I am currently writing an article for my quarterly newsletter and I ran across your comments while gathering information about palm pilots. There is so much information out there that it was hard for me to focus on one topic. I've decided to focus on handheld devices vs laptops and would like to include the free internet and email information you've provided. I'd like to attribute the information to you since these are your opinions. How should I site you as a source, if indeed that is okay? is my email address

I am new user of IIIxe and it comes pretty close!!

Beav-Mav @ 2/21/2001 2:01:59 AM #
I been playing with the Palm IIIxe for just one week and have downloaded QuickOffice as my word processor and spreadsheet programs with the combination of the folding keyboard makes this more compact than laptop!

One of my business partners was really amazed that I could accomplish so much with such a limited device. He went the other route buying a laptop, but the accounting application is only available for laptops and PCs.

The IIIxe was a personal purchase more than a business one. I find that, I get more done with the Palm than the with laptop for my needs anyways!

Avantgo is really a great way to get all the necessary info that you need. I like this when there are quiet times at work, so I can catchup on my news, buiness news and other interesting subjects to read.

The e-mail feature is great that I can download new mail and also send messages as well.

In my opinion the Palm does replace the laptop, even though I don't own one. I find that I am doing more with the Palm than with my desktop. It is so compact and easy to use with all the applications installed!



Register Register | Login Log in