Friday, January 1, 1999

Edit large text files on your Palm computer with QED


By Eric Newman

When I was contemplating the purchase of a handheld device, I of course had to consider the purposes for which I wanted it. Yes, it would be nice to have my contacts and appointments (such as they are) with me at all times, to calculate the number of days left until the year 2000, and to play games. But I really needed the ability to write and edit long documents while away from my desktop PC.

The Palm organizer at first seemed to come up short in this department, but I bought one anyway. For working with text, the Palm computer offered only the default Memo Pad application; however, each note is limited to 4,000 characters. As I understand it, each note is merely a field in a database. Of course, you can simply create additional notes upon filling one up, then paste them together once you've performed a HotSync, but isn't there a more "elegant" solution? It turns out there is.


First there was Doc (now AportisDoc), an ingenious program by Rick Bram that allows you to convert plain-text files of any size to a proprietary format, install them on the Palm organizer, read them, and then (optionally) delete them, thereby reclaiming memory. This was a step in the right direction, but Doc files are read-only -- you can't edit them. A companion program, Doc+, allowed editing but is still available only in a beta format.


Along comes QED, a shareware program written by Kurt Schuster, which as far as I am concerned is about as close as we're going to come to a word processor for the Palm device. It handles files of any size (you are limited only by the available memory on your machine, of course), uses the same file format as Doc, employs a mostly standard interface, and easily exchanges documents with your PC. It can't do word processor-like formatting, but there's a workaround for that.

QED's icon bar

Once you've downloaded (from and installed QED (which occupies less than 13K of your Palm computer's memory), you can either create a new file or open an existing one, such as those used by Doc or AportisDoc. (This article assumes that you already know how to convert text files to Doc/QED format and install them on your Palm. If not, it's a relatively simple process of using one of many converter programs.) On-screen icons and standard menus make navigation within QED very simple.

As shown in Figure A, a row of icons appears at the bottom of the QED screen. From the left, the icons (1) create a new document, (2) open an existing document, (3) search for specified text, (4) scroll up, (5) scroll down, (6) scroll left, and (7) scroll right. The rectangular bar allows you to jump to a specified point in the document, and the paper-clip icon at the far right manages bookmarks.