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ISSUE 577: Alan Zisman- Nov 14 2000


The high-tech office

ALAN ZISMAN

Choose the most useful utilities for handhelds

For a few weeks, we're going to be looking at utilities, the software tools for your computer that you may not use every day -- but when you need them, you'll be glad you have them.

Last week, we looked at two products from DataViz, MacLink Plus for Mac users and Conversions Plus for Windows. Both let users read documents from a wide range of sources without having the program that made them.

The company has also developed a product to fill an important need for users of the popular Palm and Visor handhelds. While Microsoft Office accounts for an overwhelming percentage of the word processing and spreadsheet documents created on both Macs and PCs, there's no direct support for these files on Palm-type handhelds.

Palm (and when I say Palm, I'm including Visor) users can send their short memos to Word and presumably can copy and paste from Word and sync the text into their handheld's Memo application, but it's awkward. Shareware Word add-ons such as PalmDocs can be used to save a Word document in Palm-style Doc format (not to be confused with the similarly named Word format). But it's even more awkward getting those documents back and forth between your handheld and desktop computers. And that's not an option for Mac owners.

Users of handheld computers using Microsoft's Windows CE or Pocket Windows avoid this problem. Not surprisingly, Microsoft has provided its version of the tiny computers with built-in support for Word and Excel documents. But Palm-standard handhelds account for about 80 per cent of the market for tiny computers.

DataViz's Documents to Go provides an easy way to bridge the gap between Palm-type gadgets and Microsoft Office.

Now in version three, the program started life as a way to allow Palm users to view word processor and spreadsheet documents. It features an admirably simple interface -- on your desktop computer, simply drag a document onto its icon or open window. The document is converted to a Palm-friendly format and uploaded with your next HotSync. And if you update the document, the new version is sent to the Palm as well.

On the Palm, there are three new icons: WordView, SheetView and Documents to Go. The first lets you view any word processor documents, the second works with spreadsheets, while the last opens both sorts of documents. Yes, this seems a bit redundant to me, too.

Inevitably, the document loses something in the translation. Your Palm lacks your desktop's fancy fonts, for instance. And you will have to do a lot of scrolling to navigate through a typical spreadsheet.

But it does a surprisingly good
job of working with text. Bold and italic, bullets and numbering, even tables are supported. And users of other office suite products are not abandoned. PC users get support for word processor and spreadsheet formats produced by Corel Word Perfect Office and Lotus SmartSuite while Mac users get AppleWorks support. There's also support for Palm Doc format documents.

All documents are automatically compressed to make best use of the limited space available.

New from DataViz is Documents to Go Professional. This version moves an important step beyond the basic version by adding the ability to edit text and spreadsheets on your handheld. Given the limitations of the little computers, don't expect to produce your novel this way, but the ability to modify your text or enter data into your spreadsheets could
be what you need. If you choose,
the changes will be automatically synched back into the original versions on your desktop computer.

Expect to pay more for the privilege, however. While the basic version costs about $45 and is now only available by download from www.
dataviz.com
, the retail Pro version will set you back about $75. The Pro version is available for download in a 30-day trial version. *

 

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan