Tag Archive: Apple

Mar 03

iPod Touch Tip #3: Safari Screen Rotation

Here's a simple, yet not always intuitive tip. Have you ever been using Safari while lying down in bed or on a couch? You get comfortable, and as you tilt your iPod Touch, does the screen auto-rotate the wrong way? You then go through the delecate balancing act of finding that "sweet spot" just before it rotates, then you cock your head uncomfortably, just to view Safari in widescreen mode? Well, the solution is so simple, if you follow Apple's intuitive UD design. Because the iPod Touch only rotates 90° in either direction, once it is rotated, it will not rotate further. So when rotating yout iPod Touch, simply rotate it in direction you are lying. For example, if you lye down on your right side, rotate it clockwise. If you turn over to your left side, rotate it counter-clockwise.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/ipod-touch-tips/ipod-touch-tip-3-safari-screen-rotation

Feb 26

iPod Touch News: Software Development Kit (SDK)

Apple announced that in February 2008, they would release a Software Development Kit (SDK) enabling third-party developers to create applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Many people are placing a lot of hope into this tool. As of this writing, it appears that its release will be delayed until March, 2008. Read on to see my take on what the SDK may or may not bring….

On one hand, I am very excited that the availability of the SDK could potentially provide some excellent and useful applications. Opening up application development to third-party developers could potentially rival the literally thousands of applications released for PalmOS PDA's.

But on the other hand, I have several concerns or questions:

1. Because the applications will be distributed exclusively through iTunes, it is currently unclear what applications will cost. My guess is that it will probably follow a pattern similar to PalmGear with free, shareware, and commercial offerings, but it is also likely that Apple will always want their cut, so we may not actually see any free applicaitons.

2. The SDK will obviously provide the ability to develop and distribute onboard applications, but it is unclear if the SDK will also allow syncing data with the new applications which, in my opinion, is essential. For example, I would like to see an eBook reader application be developed, but to work, you would need to be able to sync various file types through iTunes. Being able to sync data will open up many capabilities, but it depends on what Apple provides.

3. What will be the "approval" process to accept applications? Who or how will applications be approved for distribution through iTunes?

4. Finally, what will be the cost of the SDK? Will it be free, or will it cost? Amd what about the "digital signatures" required for control and distribution through iTunes? Will these be free as well? If it costs anything to develop applications, the pricing will need to be so as not to price out small, hobbyist developers. Unless, of course, that is Apple's intention.

Time will tell as to how this plays out.

In the mean time, I'm craving a number of software updates or additions, so here is my current wish list in no particular order:

  • Calendar application that syncs with Google Calendar over WiFi and through iTunes
  • Notes application that syncs with Google Notes over WiFi
  • ToDo application that integrates with Calendar
  • Bible Reader application
  • eBook Reader that syncs documents (.txt, .html, .pdf, Word, excel, and Palm DOC) through iTunes
  • Calculator that is more comperhensive
  • Offline RSS reader
  • Application to simply toggle WiFi on or off from the Dock
  • Ability in Safari to "save" pages for offline reading

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/ipod-touch-tips/ipod-touch-news-software-development-kit-sdk

Feb 26

iPod Touch Review: “January Upgrade” Applications

Apple released a firmware update (v1.1.3) providing some system tweaks and bug fixes, but it also came with a controversial upgrade that included 5 additional applications and some enhanced system functionality. What made it so controversial was that Apple charged $20 for the applications and enhanced functions. Some of the applications are simple, and some are full-featured, but they all add excellent functionality. I think they give us a great taste of what is to come. Read on to see the details of these new applications….

Here is a brief rundown and commentary on the new applications and enhancements:

iPod Touch - Mail

Mail

This is a surprisingly feature-rich and very useful POP/IMAP/Exchange multi-account email client. I use Gmail, and it auto-configures, connects, and syncs to my Gmail account very well. What's most useful is that it maintains a (user-selectable) number of messages offline, so you can read, reply to, and manage these messages while offline. All changes or sends get updated the next time you go online. Though it is not without its quirks, it is a very solid application. To me, one of the most useful feature is that the Mail app will download and let you view a number of attachment types including .PDF, Word, and Excel files in a viewer component that provides Multitouch zooming, panning and screen rotation. Can't wait for an eBook application to be developed? Just Email yourself a document, and you can read it offline.

iPod Touch - Maps

Maps

This is an amazing application. It is a standalone Google Maps application that has some offline capabilities. You can view the map, satellite, and hybrid views as well as traffic if (available.) It uses Multitouch to zoom in and out of maps, and you can search for destinations as well as define routes. And once you have a route set and downloaded, you can easily and quickly step through the route while offline. It displays the route text as well as the map surounding each route point. Though Maps only provides for one offline route, it's still a very elegant and impressive application.

iPod Touch - Notes

Notes

To me, this one application was worth the price of the cost of the upgrade (with a couple minor caveats.) Being able to quickly and easily add information into the iPod Touch on-the-go is very important to me, and is an essential PIM component. The Notes application is simple, yet very functional and fun to use. Its animation, though not necessary for function, was unexpected and is very pleaseing. Editing uses the fingertip keyboard entry, but it's very usable.

So far, I only have two complaints with the Notes application: The first one is minor–I would like to be able to control the sorting of the notes, specifically being able to sort alphabetically. Notes are sorted by last modification date which is really not a big deal, but as you get more and more notes, this could become cumbersome. My second complaint is that Notes does not sync with anything through iTunes. The files may be backed up, but they are not editable or accessible. I think this is a huge oversight on Apple's part, and I hope that Apple releases a version that will sync with Outlook or some such. (Hmmm…how about WiFi syncing with Google Notes?) I'd also like to see it optionally sync to and from .txt text files through iTunes. Being able to enter notes on a computer using a real keyboard is really essential for long text entry, and could leverage Notes as an extremely useful reference tool.

iPod Touch - Weather

Weather

This slick little weather application is simple: Define one or more locations, and when you open the application while WiFi is connected, it pulls in the current and forecasted weather conditions for the location. The weather data comes from Yahoo, and is presented in a very clean graphic format.

iPod Touch - Stocks

Stocks

This little application will let you define several stocks to track, and like the Weather application, it will go out onto the Internet via WiFi and pull in the latest stock and index quotes with corresponding graphs.

Web Clips

This is an integration enhancement that lets you save a Bookmark of a Web page in Safari as an icon on your iPod Touch's Home page. This means that, for example, next to your Calculator icon, you can have a tappable link directly to the CNN home page. It works on any Web page, and makes access to your desired Web pages a snap.

Customized Home Page

This system enhancement lets you move around and order the icons on the iPod Touch's Home page. It supports up to nine pages of icon groupings, so you can more logically organize your applications and Web Clips. You can also customize what icons appear on the Dock.

Bottom Line

So the bottom line is that Apple has provides some excellent applications and enhancements. Is it worth your $20? That completely depends on your needs and wants, but for me, it was well worth it.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/ipod-touch-tips/ipod-touch-review-january-upgrade-applications

Feb 25

iPod Touch Review: “Jailbreaking”

Jailbroken iPod TouchI’m going to get this topic out of the way early on, as it is a topic that is taboo in many circles, but important, none the less. I am not going to explain here how to Jailbreak your iPhone/iPod Touch–a Google search can lead you where you need to go for those details. I am going to explain what Jailbreaking is, the reasons behind Jailbreaking, some cautions, why I Jailbroke my iPod Touch, and what you can do with a Jailbroken iPod Touch. So read on to see my experience with Jailbreaking my iPod Touch…

“Jailbreaking” is a method of hacking your iPhone/iPod Touch such that you can install and run third-party applications. It is typically done by taking advantage of one of several vulnerabilities in the iPod Touch’s software. These vulnerabilities, could conceivably be used to spread malicious code such as trojans and viruses, but in this case, it has one intention: install a small, yet powerfull application called Installer.app. Once installed and launched, Installer.app provides several important functions: Connect to one of many user-definable application repositories to select, download, and install those applications; manage updates; uninstall applications; and to manage the sources of those repositories. It’s currently at version 3 and is a very solid and well-developed application.

One of the original (and for many, current) intentions of Jailbreaking was to be able to unlock your iPhone so the user could use a different SIM card, thus “freeing” you from AT&T. I’m not going to address the legal ramifications of this, but suffice it to say, a huge side effect of a Jailbroken iPhone was that you could install and run other applications as well. Thus the Installer.app was born. Obviously, the iPod Touch does not have phone capabilities, so the only reason to Jailbreak an iPod Touch is to provide the ability to run additional applications. And it is proving to be a very useful feature.

As a word of caution, it is important to understand that Jailbreaking your iPhone/iPod Touch is not supported by Apple. Any applications you install are considered “unauthorized” because they are not digitally signed or distributed by Apple. It is obvious that one of Apple’s design goals is to provide a product that requires as little support as possible. By Apple controlling what gets installed, the likelihood of support issues goes way down. When you let the user install whatever applications come along, you raise the potential for support issues. In fact, there have actually been a couple instances of malware that slipped into the applications available to Jailbroken devices to which Apple promptly says, “I told you so.”

Further, some methods of Jailbreaking, if not followed precisely, can leave your iPhone/iPod Touch in a “bricked” state turning it into a sleek-looking multi-hundered dollar paperwight. And some people have either had problems with the Jailbreaking process, or simply don’t understand the process resulting in a messed up device. The bottom line here is that as an iPhone/iPod Touch owner, you really have two choices: Follow Apple’s upgrade and support path, or venture out on your own into the world of jailbreaking. (One point of note is that currently, in almost all cases, simply doing a simple “restore” through iTunes will bring your Jailbroken iPod Touch back to a “stock, non-jailbroken state.)

So once you have Jailbroken yout iPod Touch, what can you do? Well, launching the Installer.app application reveals a modest list of available applications. One of the categories is called “Sources” which, if installed, add yet more application repositories, expanding your list of available applications. And all of these applications are true, honest-to-goodness applications ranging from very simple to amazingly sophistocated. From eBook readers to games to UI enhancements, the list is vast. And yes, you can even install Apache, turning your iPod Touch into a full-blown Web server!

So why did I Jailbreak my iPod Touch? Installation of third-party applications is obvious, but it went deeper. My original goal was to try out the various applications that were being developed to get a feel for the true capabilities of the iPod Touch. Folks, the results really were amazing. Many of the applications I played around with showed off what the iPod Touch can do, and many were amazingly professional. If the skill and imagination of the authors of Jailbroken applications is any indication of what is to come once Apples releases it’s forthcoming Software Development Kit (more on tha later) we have lots of exciting times ahead of us!

I’m currently running firmware v1.1.3, and I purchased the “January Update” applications (more on that later.) After jailbreaking, I have installed a nice suite of applications, utilities, and tools that have transformed my iPod Touch from an advanced media player to a powerful entertainment and information resource. Here is an example of what I have installed and use regularly:

advanced calculator
eBook reader with the full text of the KJV Bible, many of the U.S. Founding documents, several works of Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe, the five books of the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, and a number of other eBooks
Dictionary containing one of Miriam Webster’s dictionaries
Sketch Pad to jot hand-drawn notes
Wiki2Touch, an amazing offline Wikipedia application providing the entire text content of Wikipedia–offline
And a few games

Here are some screenshots of several of the applications:
Books - eBook Reader Wiki2Touch - Offline Wikipedia Reader

Sketches - Freehand drawn notes PDFViewer - View PDF files

iSolitaire - Beautiful card game Term-vt100 - Internal Terminal window

MACalc - Advanced Calculator

And all this leaves me well over 4GB of space to load up my favorite photos, songs, and a few videos.

I have high hopes for Apple’s direction in releasing their SDK, and I hope that even a small portion of what I’ve seen on my Jailbroken iPod Touch is “officially” made available. But until then, I’m enjoying the vast resources in my pocket.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/ipod-touch-tips/ipod-touch-review-jailbreaking

Feb 25

iPod TouchReview: iPod Touch 8GB

I've been a long-time proponent and user of PalmOS PDA's, but lately I have become very by Palm's lack of innovation in their offerings. And innovation is something Palm was regularly known for. For example, consider the Palm V, arguably one of Palm's most innovative designs with its sleek form and powerful (for 1999) capabilities. This was an example of a innovation driving the market.

The PDA trend eventually shifted to "convergence" devices like the Smartphone. But despite their popularity, many of us prefer to have separate devices. Over time, Palm's PDA offerings have really amount to permutations of the same old thing. Now don't get me wrong, I love Palm PDA's. It's just that nothing really new has come out to cause me to want to upgrade or consider a device from another company. So another company appears to be picking up the ball and running with it.

The Apple iPod Touch

Enter the Apple iPod Touch….

Read on for my review of Apple's iPod Touch…

After poking around on the Internet and reading articles and commentary on Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch devices, I decided to give the iPod Touch a closer look. The iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without the phone, camera, or Bluetooth. What's left is a solid, elegant WiFi-enabled media player that also happens to run other applications. I've never actually owned a portable MP3/media player, so I was entering uncharted territory. The closest I came was the several PalmOS multimedia PDAs that could play MP3 files and videos, but they were primarily PDA's, and media playback often seemed like an afterthought.

Now, before I go too far with this, I need to clarify one thing. While I do understand that Apple markets the iPod Touch primarily as a multimedia player, it really is (or has the potential to be) so much more. The iPod Touch is a powerful, pocket-sized, OS X-based (derived from BSD UNIX), WiFi-enabled, touchscreen computer that is very well-suited to run and manage so much more than just music and video playback. Having significant experience with many PDA's over the years, I feel that the iPod Touch has the potential to become the PDA that could significantly refine the concept of what is a current PDA. It is this kind of innovation that very well could launch Apple far ahead of Palm. It could very well be the "Palm V for the 21's Century", if you will.

Hardware
The iPod Touch is very sleek and very small. It measures just 4.3" x 2.4"  x .31" (110mm x 61.8mm x 8mm) and weighs in at 4.2 ounces (120g). Yet, it has a very substantial, comfortable feel, though not too heavy. It is solid and does not bend or creak when flexed. The front of the case surrounding the screen appears to be plastic, and the back of the case is metal–mirrored chrome. The chrome back, like on other iPod models, is very prone to scratching, so you'll want to quickly grab some sort of case to protect it. Overall, it is very solid and very sturdy.

Compare this to the Palm V, and you'll see how advanced it is:

iPod Touch     Palm V

The touchscreen is really nice-looking and solid. Unlike most PDA designs where the touch sensors are on top of the screen, the iPod Touch's sensors are under a screen of solid glass. This means that the touchscreen is very sturdy and not as easily scratched as are plastic-based touchscreens. Obviously, glass can still scratch and wear, so simple a screen protector is all that is really needed for decent protection.

With the addition of a simple sleeve or cover and a screen protector, there is no reason why the iPod Touch can't be "front-pocketable". If the pocket you put it in has keys, coins, or other metal objects, you may want a more durable case. In any case, it's so small that you are more likely to have it with you. Also, a word of caution: I personally never "back-pocket" any PDA simply because I don't want to risk damage.

WiFi
Apple's inclusion of WiFi is very well done. The Settings screen that controls connectivity is very intuitive, and also serves as a basic "stumbler" application showing you all avaiilable WiFi Access Points within range, bith open and locked. The settings are quite customizable, and once set to your liking, connectivity is a snap. I have used a couple WiFi-enabled PDA's and the iPod Touch is by far the fastest and easiest to use, and so far, the most reliable. Its integration is seamless.

If I could change one thing about Apple's WiFi implementation, it's that they did not provide any simple way to toggle WiFi on or off. Leaving it on will drain your battery, so being able to toggle it on or off is essential. Yes, you can do it through the Settings screen, but why don't they include a Home page icon that will do it simply and wuickly, similar to excellent the WiFiSwitch application for Jailbroken devices?

And as long as I'm complaining, the my only real complaint with Apple's hardware choices is the lack of an external speaker. The included transducer simply doesn't cut it. Other than some very basic system sounds like some clicks and very soft-sounding alarms, you need earbuds or headphones to hear any real sound. I realize that other iPods don't have external speakers, but this is quite limiting, in my opinion, given the advanced capabilities and potential of this device. How many times have you wanted to play a quick audio or video clip for someone, but don't because you either don't have or don't want to hassle with earbuds? Having an external speaker would really make this so much easier.

User Interface
The iPod Touch's User Interface is very responsive and very well-suited to fingertip navigation. For example, scrolling is not done by the typical tapping or dragging of a scrollbar. Instead, you just use an up or down "flick" gesture on the screen, and the content scrolls–it's very intuitive. And then there's the "Multitouch" gestures that make interaction fun and easy. Doing a "pinch" motion with two fingers on the screen will zoom in where applicable, and doing a "spread" (or "reverse pinch") will zoom you out. In many cases, "double-tapping" will do a quick zoom in, and "double-tapping" again will quickly zoom you back out.

Another nice feature is an automatic "Landscape" mode that rotates when you tilt the device. There is an accelerometer built-in that detects when you tilt the iPod Touch, so when you turn it on its side, if the application supports it, the screen will rotate in that direction to a landscape format. This is excellent for functions as Cover-Flow and Web browsing.

iPod Touch Landscape

Text input is done with an on-screen keyboard–there is no handwriting recognition here. Surprisingly, the implementation works very well with the fingertip. You won't get the speed of thumb-typing on say, a Treo or a Blackberry, but it's quit usable. My fingers occasionally tap the wrong letter, but correcting is easy. The only real shortcoming of text input is the absence of any Cut and Paste functions, though
it is rumored tha
t a forthcoming firmware upgrade will add this.

Software
The
iPod Touch was originally marketed as an innovative media player, but it does include several other applications like a Calendar, Contacts, and Web browser that bring it closer to the PDA world. Here is a brief description of the included applications:

Music
The heart and soul of all iPods is its ability to play music. The iPod Touch really shines with a slick, intuitive interface. Just sync your music files through iTunes, and you can browse by artist, album, song, genra, and more.

There is also an alternate view called "Cover Flow" that takes advantage of the iPod Touch's landscape mode. While in the music app, tilt the device 90° in either direction, and you see a fanned-out cover-art display of all of your albums. Doing a "flick" gesture left or right scrolls through the animated display, so you can quickly navigate to any alnum. And tapping on a cover "flips" it over revealing the songs on that album. Tapping any of the songs begins playback.

My only complaint with Cover Flow is that it appears to sort the albums by the name of the first artist listed on the album, not album name. For single-artist albums, this is a non-issue, but it can be confusing when dealing with compilation albums. I wish there was a Settings option to define how Cover Flow sorts the albums.

On not-so-know feature allows you to control music playback and volume from within any application or even when the device is locked. Just press thr Home button twice in seccussion, and a small music control pad will pop up. Given that the iPod Touch does not have any external volume controls, this is an excellent and convenient solution.

Videos
Like several other iPod models, the iPod Touch will play videos. From short clips to full-length movies, they look and sound great. Videos can be purchased through iTunes or converted using either iTUns or several third-party applications. Browsing the videos is straight forward, and playback offers full control. In my opinion, compared to the Palm OS PDA's I have used to play back video, the iPod Touch leads the pack.

Photos
The Photos application launches displaying scrollable list of "categories" derived from the directories the photos are stored in. Tapping a category brings up a scrollable list of thumbnails. tapping a thumbnail will display the photo full-screen. Like several other applications, rotating the iPod Touch will put it into Landscape mode whci may make some photos easier to see. You can use the "flick" gesture to scroll, the "pinch" gesture to zoom in or out, and double-tapping will zoom in and out. When zoomed, you can pan around. You can also view the photos as a slideshow.

From within the Photos application, you can select one of the pictures to be used as your Lock-screen background. It's a great application store and show off your pictures. Images must be synced through iTunes.

Calendar
The Calendar app is a modest appointment calendar that will sync with iCal or Outlook. It does not include ToDo's or Notes, but as an appointment manager, it works well. I do wish, however, that it would sync wirelessly with Google Calendar.

Contacts
The Contacts application is fairly complete offering lots of fields for your needs. It syncs with iCan and Outlook. I don't use it that mutch, but the UI is very slick and friendly.

Safari
The Safari Web browser is simply amazing. I have used Web browsers on several Palm OS PDA's, and there is simply no comparison. Safari beats them all hands-down in all counts. Pages render quickly and accurately in Safari, and best of all, they aren't proxy-hobbled or stripped pages–they are the real pages. There is no Flash support, but it is rumored that a forthcoming firmware update will add this feature.

iPod Touch - Safari

Of course, on the small sreen of the iPod Touch, many pages are simply unreadable, but this is quickly and easily resolved by the using the iPod Touch's advanced User Interface. First, you can tilt the device into Landscape mode giving you a wider, more readable display. This is all you need to do in many cases. You can also double-tap on any part of a page, and it will zoom that section to fit the screen. Double-tapping again will zoom you back out. The "pinch" gestures will zoom you in and out as well. A "Flick" gesture up or down will scroll in the desired direction, and if you are zoomed in, tapping and holding then dragging will pan the screen. And to select a link, just tap on it. Internal links load in the same page, while external links take advantage of Safari's Multi-Page view. Safari can maintain several open pages, conceptually similar to Firefox and IE7's Tabs, except pages are chosen through a thumbnail-like viewer. It's a very fresh and intuitive way to navigate Web pages.

Obviously, getting the Web pages requires WiFi connectivity, but the pages are still viewable while offline–almost. Safari's page cache seems to be dependent upon available memory, so if you have more than a few pages open, or have one or two large pages open, if you navigate to another application and return to Safari, the pages may be lost. Unfortunately, what or how much is stored is not predictable, so you cannot rely on having pages always available offline. I would like to see Apple provide an enhancement to Safari that would provide for viewing of saved pages while offline.

Also, Safari displays Adobe .PDF file in an excellent rotatable, zoomable viewer, but you must get the file online, as Safari prevents viewing any local files (file:///…) Of course, there is currently no "official" way to store .PDF files locally, so this may not be an issue.

YouTube
I haven't used this app much, but it provides you with direct access to YouTube videos. The interface is solid, quick, and you have full control over playback. You can browse various video lists or search for specific videos. YouTube fans should enjoy this.

iTunes WiFi Music Store
This slick little application lets you connect directly to your iTunes account while connected via WiFi. You can browse and search for songs and albums, you can listen to previews, and you can purchase and download the song or album immediately with the purchase being charged to yout iTunes account. You cannot access PodCasts or Videos through the app, but for music lovers, this should give you what you want.

So, there you ahve the basics of what the iPod Touch is all about. If you would like an even more detailed hardware and software review, jump over to over at The Gageteer's site: http://the-gadgeteer.com/review/apple_ipod_touch for their excellent review.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/ipod-touch-tips/ipod-touchreview-ipod-touch-8gb

Feb 15

Welcome to iPod Touch Tips!

iPod Touch iPod Touch Tips is a new section on JimsTips.com to provide Tips, reviews, and other information about Apple’s iPod Touch . The iPod Touch, originally marketed as media player, is capable of so much more. With WiFi, Web Browsing, and the addition of a few new applications, the iPod Touch is much improved with some new and extended capabilities.

The domain iPTTips.com redirects to this page, so you can always get to iPod Touch Tips by pointing your browser to http://iPTTips.com.

Apple’s AppStore has hundreds of applications for the iPhone & iPod Touch, so stay tuned as I give my thoughts and reviews of my favorite apps!

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/ipod-touch-tips/welcome-to-ipod-touch-tips

Oct 24

Gmail Tip #64: Gmail Rolls Out IMAP!

Gmail has finally rolled out its long-awaited IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) compatibility enabling users of such email clients as Outlook, Lotus Notes, Thunderbird, a host of others, and even Apple’s iPhone to now take advantage of IMAP instead of the more limited POP connection.


Google is rolling it out, and it needs to migrate to many accounts, so it may not be available on your account yet. To enable IMAP, click on the Settings link on any Gmail page, and look for the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab. Click that, and follow the instructions in the IMAP Access section. For some general Gmail help information on IMAP, click here. This help section contains configuration information, FAQ’s, and troubleshooting links–very useful. You can also find a list of supported IMAP client applications here. Also, here is a link to Google’s official blog announcing and explaining IMAP.


This really raises the bar for Gmail by opening up more and more of its functionality to client apps. POP has served many well for Gmail, but this opens the door to many more uses, especially for some mobile devices.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/gmail-tips/gmail-tip-64-gmail-rolls-out-imap

Jan 05

Gmail Tip #57: Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Here’s a quick tip inspired by "garfalk" for you Mac users out there…. Gmail’s Mac key combinations are almost the same for the Mac as for the PC with a couple exceptions. "Shift" clicking on the beginning and at the end will "select all". "Command" or "Apple" (same key) clicking will select items one at a time, allowing you to skip some. Also, "Command" + s will Save a draft. Those who tend to be "keyboard-centric" may find this helpful in reducing mouse grabs and clicks.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/gmail-tips/gmail-tip-57-mac-keyboard-shortcuts

Apr 17

PDAs: Back To The Basics

A recent article on Palm247.com discussed moving to the Palm Z22 as a method of simplifying things got me thinking about just how I use my PDA. I have been reading David Allan’s book "Getting Things Done" (GTD), and it has prompted some serious pondering about the fact that so many things in my life are simply way too complicated. I’m trying to make "simplicity" my new mantra, and one area of complexity that I have noticed is my use of my Palm PDA. Read on to see how I have simplified by PDA use by embracing a more simple PDA

I am a long-time user and proponent of PDAs with my first being a Casio "Zoomer" PDA way back in 1993.

{mosimage}

The Casio Zoomer was an amazing PDA that was unfortunatly overshadowed by the Apple Newton’s popularity. Interestingly, the Zoomer had an optional version of the Graffiti handwriting recognition software which was later incorporated into all PalmOS devices.

In 1996, I next purchased Palm’s original Pilot 1000 sold by US Robotics:

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"In the day" the Pilot 1000 was a stunning, amazing device. Its power through simplicity reigned through quite a number of succeeding Palm’s models. But then something happened: feature overload. Along came color screens, expansion slots, MP3 playback, photo and video capture, video playback, Bluetooth, WiFi, phone integration, internal hard drives…the list goes on.

I then progressed through these PDA’s:

Palm iii Palm Vx Sony NX70V
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Palm Tungsten T3 Palm Tungsten C
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While the added features are certainly high on the cool scale, I consistently find that I’m simply not using most of these extended features. Some features are certainly quite useful, (I find a nice color screen to be nuch more readable than the original monochrome screens) but I find that most are simply not "essentials", and I never use them.

So this got me thinking about what features do I really need, and what features are just "fluff" that serve as nothing but distractions? And that’s important to me, because I find myself very easily distracted "by the device" instead of actually productively "using the device." In trying to achieve more simplicity, I decided to choose a device that would provide the functions I need while providing few extras so as not to be distracted from real productivity. So, I decided to take the plunge and convert from the gee-wiz, feature-laden Palm Tungsten T3 to Palm’s latest "entry level model", the Z22.

{mosimage}

So far, I have no regrets!

I’m not going to review the Z22 here–I’m covering that in greater depth in another article–but I am going to explain how some of the Z22′s features (or lack thereof!) are turning out to be very useful and productive.

Size

The first item of note is the Z22′s size. Wow! This is the smallest PalmOS PDA (save the wristwatch version) and I really find it stunning. Everything is proportioned nicely, and it looks very slick (kind of "iPod-ish".) It fits in my hands very well, and it is very front-pocketable. The simple fact that I can easily pocket the Z22 means that I’m more likely to have it with me, and I’ll be more likely to use it productively. While I was never ashamed of proudly sporting a large, belt-clipped PDA, being able to comfortably pocket the Z22 certainly draws less attention, and really reduces the overall Geek Factor.

Memory

The next item of note is the Z22′s limited memory. While 20MB can certainly hold a lot of data, coming down from a T3 with 58MB of space and my added 256MB SD card was difficult. The Z22′s 20MB seemed, at first glance, paltry. But let’s remember my goal: Simplicity. Over the last decade, I have amassed a large collection of PalmOS applications, so this presented an excellent opportunity to re-assess just what applications would be useful, productive, and non-distracting. The end result is that I now have all of the applications and data that I need with over 3MB free space to spare! I’ll detail my setup below….

Screen

The final item of note is the Z22′s screen. After owning several high-resolution PalmOS PDAs, I thought that reverting back to a 160×160 screen would be huge step backward. It turns out that I was dead wrong. The colors render just fine, and I can very easily view all the information I need to view in any of the installed applications without any problems. No, I won’t be showing off high-resolution photos or videos, but remember the goal of simplicity. I simply don’t a high-resolution screen to be productive with it. My only real complaint is that there is some "bleeding" on the screen, and text is definitely not as sharp as a high-resolution screen, but it is very functional, and surprisingly pleasing to look at.

As a side note, I do want to address PDA "protection". Out of the box, the Z22 comes with no case or screen cover. I’ve always been a proponent of PDA cases, so I purchased Palm’s Air Case. The Air Case is a clear plastic case that completely covers the Z22, and has a "flip" cover on the front. It’s made of the same material from which they make safety glasses, so it offers great protection, especially when in your pocket. You can read a more detailed review of the Air Case <>. This combination really can’t be beat for form and function.

Applications

So what do I have installed? Remember that my goal was to strip back all of the superfluous stuff that caused me distractions and prevented me from being really productive with my PDA. So, I assessed that I had, and came up with the following list of applications that I find to be functional and useful:

ZLauncher
(Zhangzhe Technology)
While this application could go somewhat against the "simplicity" concept because of its actual complexity, it provides form and function that I really like, and it integrates some essential tools that I find indispensible (notably, file management.) Its rich feature set, though complex, can be tailored down to a fairly minimal view that is functional, pleasing, and doesn’t distract.

Hi-Launcher
(RNS::)
I purchased this popup launcher long, long ago and haven’t used in a while, but on the Z22, I’m finding it to be invaluable! I assigned it to "trigger" when pressing the Contacts (right) hard button, so I now have one-touch access to my most-used apps. No more fumbling with the stylus to launch a quickly-needed app. This really more than makes up for the limited number of hard buttons on the Z22. Regardless of what launcher app you use, I highly recommend this one! UPDATE: This is an essential. I use it daily, and it has proven to be a true gem of an application!

PIM
(Palm)
Surprisingly, I find the native PIM applocations to be exceptionally useful. I have been a long-time user and proponent of Pimlico Software’s DateBk, but I find that the installed PIM applications have evolved into surprisingly robust applications that do almost all I need. For example, the Calendar’s "Agenda" view provides an at-a-glance list of upcoming appointments and pending Tasks which, though concise, looks great on the 160×160 screen.

LifeBalance
(LlamaGraphics)
This is a very interesting application that I am demoing. When I first looked at this program, it was confusing and not very useful to me–I just didn’t get it. But after finally understanding the GTD methods, this application makes total sense. In fact, its execution is really how Palm’s Tasks application should work. I’m still demoing it, so we’ll see where I go with it long-term….UPDATE: I find that though LifeBalance is an excellent application (and I really wish some of its functionality could be rolled into Palm’s PIM) I I reverted to using Tasks and Memos to handle things. The main reason is synchronizing: Having everything sync with Lotus Notes or Outlook keeps things consolidated and simple. Having to maintain data in yet another Windows application reduces my productivity.
.

MyBible
(Laridian)
I installed the KJV and Life Application Notes files, and they take up a HUGE amount of space–over 9MB! But, it is important to me to have this, so I’m willing to devote the space.

mNotes
(Common Time)
mNotes is essential for syncing the Z22 with Lotus Notes at work. For Outlook users, other excellent solutions exist.

Note Studio
(Dogmelon)
I am demoing this application to see if it will be useful for me for taking and maintaining notes. It provides a simple interface with a Wiki-like structure that could me manage notes efficiently. It’s kinda pricy, but its power through simplicity might prove very userful. UPDATE: I decided that maintaining memos works just fine. Though I do Wish that Memos had wiki-like links, in trying to simplify, it’s a level of complexity that I simply don’t find useful at this time.

Other Applications
I also have several other useful applications and some small games to kill time when I’m waiting in a line or trying to fall asleep. (Come on, you have to have some diversion!)

The Benefits

I find two main "features" that will benefit me in moving to the Z22: Design limitiations and size. Accepting the imposed design limitations has made me re-think how I use a PDA. It’s no longer the photo-displaying, video-playing, information grabbing, gameing, wireless data repository behemoth that I used to have. It’s now a lean productivity device that I can use and trust. And because the Z22 is so easily pocketable and easy to use, I’ll have it with me all the time, and I’ll be more likely to use it.

I am hoping that combining these benefits will give me a device that I can truely consider to be my "trusted place" to keep my thoughts, ideas, tasks, actions, etc. You see, one of the key GTD concepts is to get all of that "stuff" you constantly think about, dwell on, and juggle around in your head, out of your head and into a "trusted place" so that you don’t have to waste time and effort keeping track of it all. For me, a solid, simple PDA just might be the technical solution I have been looking for. Of course, being successful with GTD concepts means understanding that the solution is never in the divice or method itself, but how you implement and actually use it.

Conclusion

While I cannot say that the Z22 is the solution to simplification, I can say that in moving to the Z22, my PDA use has become simpler and easier–and I like it. I believe that "power users" should take a step back from time to time to assess just what they really use in their PDAs. I think they would be surprised at what is useful and what is not. And at under $100.00, it’s not that steep a price to pay to try out a Z22.

Update: 2006-04-18

I received an email from Mike Rohde of rohdesign.com , and it seems that moving back to more simpler PDAs just may be a new trend! Check out Mike’s article about how he transitioned from a lost Zire 72 to a Sony Clie N610C.

If anyone has any stories of their own about intentionally moving to simpler PDAs, let em know, and I’ll add a link here to your article!

Update: 2006-12-11

I’m really liking the Z22, and I find that I’m simply not craving the bells and whistles I used to have. Yes, there are times when I miss my Clie’s camera. Yes, I sometimes miss the Tungsten C’s keyboard. Yes, I miss the SD card memory expansion. And yes, I do wish it had a high-resolution screen. But you know, the Z22 really gives me what I need, and I don’t find its simplicity limiting. And I’m still amazed by its excellent pocketablilty.

Permanent link to this article: http://jimstips.com/palmos-pda-tips/pdas-back-to-the-basics