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Be a Palm pro

PC World

May 24, 2000
Web posted at: 10:24 a.m. EDT (1424 GMT)

In this story:

Graffiti ShortCuts

Using built-in ShortCuts

Creating your own ShortCuts

Pen strokes and button switching

Mailing lists for mobile e-mailers

Regain precious memory


(IDG) -- Within a week of purchasing your Palm handheld, you were using it to schedule appointments, track your expenses, keep track of birthdays, and remind yourself to buy dog shampoo on the way home. (We know you also play Frogger on the thing, but your secret is safe with us.) You became a Palm whiz in no time. Not surprising: Palms make staying productive and organized simple.

But you can never be too productive or too organized. To that end, we've dug deep into the nooks and crannies of the Palm OS and unearthed a treasure chest of shortcuts and tips. We'll show you how to enter data faster on your Palm, tweak the system settings so you can navigate faster, and boost your handheld's font sizes so you don't go blind checking your Address Book.

Also on the docket: Date Book tips, a handy pointer for the lucky folks who connect to e-mail with their handheld, and a method for clearing garbage out of your Palm to free up precious memory. And before you leave us, be sure to check out "Top 10 downloadable Palm utilities," link below.

Graffiti ShortCuts


Graffiti writing is pretty easy, but let's face it: It's printing by hand, and you don't have as much time to make nice big block letters as you did in first grade. If you get into the habit of using Graffiti ShortCuts, however, you can cut the time it takes to write words or phrases you use all the time.

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A ShortCut is a code that, when combined with the Graffiti ShortCut stroke, inserts an entire word or phrase. Think of ShortCuts as Palm macros.

The ShortCut stroke is easy to make: It's the lower-case cursive letter "L".

It doesn't matter whether you write the ShortCut stroke on the letter side or the number side of the Graffiti entry area. Your Palm has a number of built-in ShortCuts. To see them, tap Prefs in the Applications Launcher, and select ShortCuts from the drop-down box in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Using built-in ShortCuts

Suppose you want to keep track of your winnings during your vacation in Las Vegas. You could use the Memo Pad in your Palm handheld to list what you won each day. Instead of entering the date yourself, you could use the Date Stamp ShortCut (ds) to enter it for you.

Let's assume you've created the memo that tallies your winnings. Here's how you enter today's date using the Graffiti ShortCut:

  1. Open the memo you're using to track your winnings.

  2. Tap the line on which you want to enter today's winnings.

  3. Draw the ShortCut stroke (the cursive letter l). The ShortCut symbol will appear on the line in the memo.

  4. Write the Graffiti characters d and s, with no space between them (ds stands for "date stamp"). Your handheld automatically inserts today's date on the line.

Creating your own ShortCuts

You can add your own ShortCuts to the list that already exists on your Palm. Suppose you have a friend with whom you exchange e-mail. Unfortunately, he has a long name that's hard to spell and an equally long e-mail address:

You can create a ShortCut that will throw that whole address into the To: field of your Palm handheld's Mail application with just a few strokes of your stylus. To create this ShortCut:

  1. In the Applications Launcher, tap Prefs to open the Preferences application.

  2. Tap the drop-down box in the upper-right corner of the screen and select ShortCuts.

  3. Tap New.

  4. On the edit line under ShortCut Name, write jim.

  5. On the edit line under ShortCut Text, enter Jim's e-mail address. Don't let the number of blank lines fool you. That e-mail address is just seven characters shy of the maximum length for ShortCut text.

  6. Tap OK. Your new ShortCut shows up in the list.

Here's how you would use the ShortCut either in Mail or in the iMessenger application of a Palm VII handheld:

  1. Open Mail or the iMessenger application.

  2. Tap New.

  3. Draw the ShortCut stroke. It shows up in the To: field.

  4. Write the "jim" ShortCut

  5. The e-mail address appears

Pen strokes and button switching

The pen stroke power-up
A common trick of experienced Palm users is the "pen stroke." You can think of this magic maneuver as a special macro that lets you perform various tasks. To see it in action, turn on your handheld. Place your stylus at the very bottom of the screen, in the middle of the Graffiti area. Now run it swiftly to the top of the screen, in a straight line. It's important to drag the stylus the complete length of the glass screen, and do so quickly.

The result? If you did it right (and haven't changed the default behavior), the first screen of Graffiti Help appears. Whenever you're stuck for a Graffiti character, you can use the pen stroke to bring up Graffiti Help.

But suppose you're a Graffiti master and don't need to consult Help. You can redefine the pen stroke to do any of the following:

  • Display the onscreen keyboard -- instead of tapping the tiny dots in the lower-left and lower-right corners of the Graffiti writing area.

  • Turn the backlight on and off -- instead of pressing the power button for two seconds.

  • Turn off and lock your handheld -- instead of using the power button to turn it off. (You also need to define a password for this operation.)

  • Beam data -- instead of trying to remember where the Beam commands are. This has my vote for best use of the pen stroke, but your choice will depend on which of the pen-stroke actions is most useful to you.

To define a new action for the pen stroke:

  1. In the Applications Launcher, tap Prefs.

  2. Tap the drop-down box in the upper-right corner of the screen and select Buttons.

  3. Tap Pen.

  4. Tap the drop-down box and select the option you want.

  5. Tap OK.

Idle apps lose their buttons
The four buttons on the front panel of your handheld are there so you can turn on the handheld and open the basic applications. But suppose you don't use one of the basic handheld applications very much -- the To Do List, for instance. At the same time, you've fallen in love with a third-party application that you downloaded -- say, DiddleBug. Here's how you can assign the To Do List hardware button to DiddleBug instead:

  1. In the Applications Launcher, tap Prefs.

  2. Tap the drop-down box in the upper-right corner of the screen and select Buttons.

  3. Tap the drop-down box next to the app you wish to replace. (In this example, it would be To Do List.)

  4. Select the app that you want to assign the button to. (In this example, DiddleBug.)

That's all. The next time you press the To Do List hardware button, your Palm will come to life and open DiddleBug.

Mailing lists for mobile e-mailers

If you do Mail on your Palm handheld, or if you own a Palm VII handheld and use the iMessenger application, try this handy method for creating a mailing list.

To create a mailing list in Address Book:

  1. Open Address Book.

  2. Tap New.

  3. In the Last Name field, enter a name for your mailing list.

  4. In the E-mail field, enter the e-mail addresses that make up the list. Separate addresses with a comma.

  5. Tap Done.

To use the mailing list:

  1. Open Mail or the iMessenger application.

  2. Tap New.

  3. Tap the highlighted word To: to display a screen in which you can enter as many e-mail addresses as you like.

  4. Tap Lookup.

  5. Go to the mailing list either by scrolling there or by entering one or more characters of its name in the Look Up field.

  6. When the mailing list is selected, tap Add.

  7. Tap Done. On the New Message screen, you'll see only the first two lines of your mailing list, but all the names are there.

Regain precious memory

Get the 411: Device info
Before you left for Las Vegas, your buddy Jim gave you a Palm app that supposedly described a surefire system for winning at blackjack. It didn't work. Now it's just taking up space on your Palm and reminding you how much money you lost. You don't know how much space it's hogging, but you're sure it's too much. You want to find out just how big that application is.

You can find this information, along with other statistics about your apps, by going to the Info screen:

  1. In the Applications Launcher, tap the Menu icon in the lower-left corner of the Graffiti writing area. The App menu drops down.

  2. Tap Info. At the bottom of the screen, you'll see tabs for Version, Records, and Size. You're on the Size tab now. The numbers at the top tell you that you still have 1474 kilobytes of memory left out of the total of 1920 kilobytes (this total varies depending on the kind of handheld you have). The black bar in the gauge tells you how much memory you've used up. From this point, you can tap Records to see how many records are in each application, or tap Version to see which version of the Palm operating system your handheld is using, as well as the version numbers of all your applications.

Palm housekeeping: The Purge command
If you're like most people, you save everything, and your Palm is filled with junk. Those old poker dates, the reminders to pick up shirts at the cleaners, the deleted e-mail messages in Mail, and all the tips, hotel bills, and taxi fares you tracked in Expense during your last few Vegas trips -- all this is using up memory. Your biographer will certainly find all this stuff pretty fascinating. But do you really need that stuff?

Why make your faithful little Palm handheld preserve all that data? Why not remove it and free up some space?

Use the Purge command in each application to delete data wholesale. Most of the data you delete can actually be stored in archive files on your desktop computer anyway, so it's not like you're losing your history for good.

To purge items from Date Book:

  1. Open Date Book.

  2. Tap the Menu icon. The Record menu drops down.

  3. Tap Purge.

  4. Tap the drop-down box and select which events should be purged from the handheld.

  5. This is important: If you want an archive of the events you're about to purge -- say you're a lawyer or a consultant and you need to keep a record of meetings and so on -- be sure to check the check box next to "Save archive copy on PC."

  6. Tap OK.

There's a Purge command also available in the following applications:

  • To Do List: You can purge all to-dos that have been checked off as completed.

  • Mail (and iMessenger on Palm VII handhelds): You can purge all the e-mail in the Deleted folder.

  • Expense: You can purge all the expense items grouped in a category.

About archive files
When you purge or delete data from your handheld, a dialog box appears asking if you want to save an archive copy of the data on your desktop computer. If you fill in the check box, the next time you synchronize with your desktop computer, an archive file containing the purged data is created on your computer. The archive file is stored in a folder named for the application; these folders, in turn, live within the Palm folder. Look for files with the following extensions:

Date Book: .dba
Address Book: .aba
To Do List: .tda
Memo Pad: .mpa

To review an archive file:

  1. Open Palm Desktop software on your desktop computer.

  2. Open the application for which you want to review an archive file.

  3. From the File menu, choose Open Archive.

  4. Select the file.

  5. Click Open.

The data is displayed in the application on your desktop.

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Top 10 downloadable Palm utilities
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Palm tips: Save your eyes
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(PC World Online)
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Palm, Inc.

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