Monday, March 1, 2004

Choose the right software for your Palm


By Dennis Crane

Since Palm OS 5.0 released, the Palm handhelds became the real computers rather than just portable digital assistants. The myriad of new software titles burst into the market featured audio and video players, wireless solutions, high-resolution games, and digital media applications. Just visit or to browse the thousands of similar products.

You'll see that it might be a challenge to make the right software choice among the tons of similar sounding titles. If you use freeware, a mistaken choice can cost you nothing but the time spent and possible some data loss. But when you order an expensive product, you risk your money as well.

Being a manager of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) department of software development company, I chat with dozens of Palm users everyday. They are often worried about which product to choose. The software must solve their problems for a reasonable price, it should be easy-to-use and handy, the developers must provide the responsive support, and the updates must be free.

I always suggest they follow several simple rules to make the right decision. In this article I've summarized all the rules that help you find really essential software for your Palm.

Don't buy the software immediately

When you read the software description, you might be saying to yourself, "Yes, I need it! I must buy it right now!"

Don't! Stop and think first.

Most developers are good psychologists. They write descriptions in ways that make their offerings attractive. Sometimes it's full of nothing but misleading hype. Many times, on software sites I've seen reviews where the users complained, "The program doesn't meet the description provided. I had to claim the refund." See the samples at Figure A.


Don't buy the software on impulse and you might be able to avoid writing such reviews. (click for larger image)

Fortunately, most of software has demo or shareware versions that you can download free of charge and try before you purchase. So, do it!

Test the program

You have downloaded the software. What next?

Good software must have an installer that guides you through installation process. The package must include an illustrated user guide, preferably in multi-platform PDF, HTML, or in Windows Help formats. An uninstall program is also desirable. All the essential shortcuts should be easy accessible, for example, through the "Start" Windows' menu as pictured in Figure B.


All essential shortcuts should be easy accessible (click for larger image)