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Software To Scratch Palm's Itchy Niches.

Two handy new ways to get Word or Excel files.

In mobile computing, the Palm OS holds a dominant position, similar to that held by Windows in desktop computing, and, like Windows, the Palm OS has created lots of niches for specialized software to fill the gaps in functionality that it doesn't address. One of these gaps is the inability to get files created by popular productivity applications such as Microsoft Word or Excel onto handheld devices powered by the Palm OS.

Many different applications exist to overcome this particular functionality gap; I've recently been working with two of them: Documents To Go Version 2.003, from Data Viz, Inc. (Trumbull, CT; www.dataviz.com) and Quicksheet 5.0 from Cutting Edge Software, Inc. (Dallas, TX; www.cesinc.com). The two programs actually address very different needs: one might say that Documents To Go offers broad, but shallow, functionality, while Quicksheet delivers narrow, but deep, features. Both are quite useful and I would find it hard to do without them.

Documents To Go (DTG) offers a simple way of putting virtually any document created by the major productivity applications on your Palm OS-compatible handheld and keeping the copy on your handheld up to date with changes to the desktop original. Using it couldn't be much simpler: simply drag a file into the Documents To Go window. A copy of the document is converted to the DTG format and automatically transferred to the handheld at the next synchronization. From then on, until you remove it, DTG monitors the file and automatically updates the handheld copy to correspond to any changes. You can't, however, modify the files.

Yet Documents To Go's functionality goes beyond simply synchronizing with the desktop. You can beam copies of documents to other. Palm OS users, even if they don't have DTG. The program beams a copy of the reader to them along with the document. If the recipient does have DTG, then a properly formatted copy of the document will end up on their desktop the next time they synchronize. The program's Attachments to Go add-on automatically converts email attachments so that you can read them after local or remote synchronization.

Documents to Go works exactly as promised and is definitely worth its $39.95 MSRP, but I found it most useful for text documents, especially now that the program supports tables, bulleted lists, and various forms of text formatting such as bold, italic, etc. Spreadsheets come across intact, but the limitations of the handheld screen make viewing them somewhat of a challenge.

In the case of Quicksheet, however, this challenge is worth dealing with, for Quicksheet gives you an Excel-compatible spreadsheet program for the Palm OS: it's not read-only, like Documents To Go files are. Quicksheet and its companion program, Quickchart (just what it sounds like), install as Excel addons (for either Mac or Windows). A simple desktop program, the Quicksheet Desktop, also lets you manage spreadsheets outside of Excel, although converting an Excel spreadsheet requires opening Excel, which the program does automatically. Simply dragging a file into the desktop will convert it to the Quick-sheet format.

Although Quicksheet works best with spreadsheets with less than 2,500 cells (its maximum is 996 rows by 254 columns), within those limitations, it is a full-featured spreadsheet and a steal at $39.95 MSRP. Unless you're a real Excel maven, you likely won't find it incapable of anything you want to do--I certainly didn't. Quicksheet includes over 60 built-in functions with support for many scientific, financial, date/time and statistical calculations, and numerous cell formatting and editing functions, including sort. It even offers support for advanced table lookup functions like HLOOKUP and VLOOKUP that allow you to build decision-making applications. Best of all, those functions not supported are not affected by conversion. In other words, you can move a spreadsheet to your handheld, work on it, and resynchronize and cells that were nonfunctional on the handheld (you can still read them) will come back properly calculated and formatted. Quickchart is equally capable, enabling a user to create charts on a P alm OS-compatible handheld, including line, bar, pie, scatter, and stock charts supporting multiple series, automatic labeling, and grayscales.

Of most interest to the readers of CTR will be the enterprise features of Quicksheet. It can synchronize with Excel files stored on a network, email spreadsheets as attachments (using another program, MultiMail Pro from Actual Software), and offers an ActiveX/COM API to enable the incorporation of Quicksheet into a custom solution by ISVs, even without Excel. The company even offers seamless integration with various back-end data sources using the Aether Technology ScoutServer and Symbol barcode reader support, as well. The spreadsheet, long ago, became the sine qua non of corporate computing. Now, with Quicksheet, it may become just as central to handheld computing as the interface of choice for a wide range of custom solutions
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Title Annotation:Software Review
Author:Trowbridge, Dave
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Words:818
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