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IntelliLink, Ecco, and the HP 100/200LX

IntelliLink, ECCO, and the HP 100/200LX

By Charles Humble

[Charles Humble is a former newspaper reporter and business editor who is now a partner in a public relations and marketing firm in Portland, Oregon . He can be reached via MCI Mail: CHumble; CompuServe: 73077,2027; Internet: chuckh@insyncp.com.

This article is about using ECCO with the HP 100LX, but applies to the 200LX as well.]

Ever since purchasing my first personal computer 12 years ago, I've been in an uninterrupted pursuit of the "perfect" Personal Information Manager. Needless to say, I'm still searching. Don't get me wrong. PIM software has come a long ways since the original DOS SideKick, but most of it is tied to a desktop or notebook computer. The problem is that I can't take a desktop with me when I leave the office and note- books are inconvenient to lug around.

Most often, I need my calendar and address book when I'm away from a computer. Most PIM makers gloss over this fact by offering poor quality paper printouts for your appointment and phone book, or assume that you'll lug a notebook computer everywhere you go.

HP Palmtops bring portability to PIMs

Until the arrival of new and capable Palmtop computers like the HP 100/200LX, I had always placed the burden of proof for portability on a PIM's ability to produce attractive and useful paper output -- most PIMs still aren't doing this very well. My ongoing dilemma was how to marry my desire for the convenience and power of a desktop PIM with my need to have the information available in a more portable form.

Three years ago, I thought the answer would be the then-new HP 95LX Palmtop computer. I rushed out to purchase one but after about six months I fell out of love with the gadget primarily because its built- in applications lacked the capabilities of my desktop PIM. In addition, I found lacking the file translation capabilities of the Connectivity Pack, making it difficult to integrate the Palmtop with my desktop PIM.

After carefully scrutinizing the HP 100/200LX at several trade shows and grilling other users, I plunked down $500 earlier this year for the new and improved HP Palmtop. It was a huge leap forward compared to the 95LX and for awhile I abandoned my desktop PIM altogether in favor of working directly with the 100/200LX. However, I missed ECCO's features and soon found myself drifting back to using ECCO and maintaining two calendars and phone books.

IntelliLink helps integrate desktop ECCO and Palmtop PIMs

Realizing the futility and danger of maintaining two separate calendars and phone books, I decided to spring for a copy of IntelliLink, a Windows connectivity program that has built-in translation routines for a number of popular PIMs and Palmtops. While IntelliLink is a fairly straightforward program, it took me several weeks of experimentation to figure out how to use IntelliLink and develop a routine that met my needs.

IntelliLink overwrites HP Palmtop files when it translates and transfers files from ECCO or any desktop PIM to the HP Palmtop. There is no intelligent synchronization of data so beware! Changes you've made in the Palmtop phone or appointment books are overwritten by the converted files you are importing.

Moving data from the 100/200LX to the desktop PIM works better because IntelliLink actually synchronizes files moving this direction. Translated files are merged with the desktop PIM files and new appointments or phone entries you've entered in the Palmtop are added to the desktop's appointment and phone book without changing any of its existing entries.

IntelliLink includes several options for this synchronizing and is capable of either notifying the user of conflicts (e.g., two appointments for the same date and time) or automatically updating or overwriting conflicts. The notify is a nuisance because it requires too much user intervention. Each time a conflict arises, a dialog window pops up and asks you how you wish to handle the conflict. I use the Update option, which causes the data from the HP 100/200LX to take priority when a conflict arises.

I have experienced other occasional and unexplained problems when trying to move my calendar, phone book and To-Do list from the HP 100/200LX to ECCO. IntelliLink supports moving all three at once, but sometimes the communication link is dropped before all of the information is transmitted. I've also experienced IntelliLink crashes during a transfer. Fortunately, when I move each individually, I don't encounter the problem.

Since ECCO's data fields aren't exactly the same as those used in the 100/200LX, I added Category and Note fields to ECCO's phone book and mapped them to corresponding fields on the 100/200LX. I also created a priority field in ECCO's To-Do section to match the same field on the 100/200LX To-Do list.

Exporting phone book subsets to the 100/200LX

My ECCO phone book has become a large repository of names -- I add almost every contact I make. I don't, however, want to take all those names with me in my 100/200LX. To export a subset of my ECCO phone book, I set up a check mark field in ECCO, check all those entries that I want to export to my 100/200LX, and run a filter in ECCO. I then export them to an ASCII delimited file and use IntelliLink to translate the ASCII delimited file to PhoneBook format. By including a mail merge header in the ASCII file, field names are easier to map to the 100/200LX's phone book database.

Since ECCO allows you to save export setups, subsequent exports to the 100/200LX are more routine. Exporting your entire phone book to the 100/200LX from ECCO is much easier than going through the hassle of selecting a subset. It may make the most sense to people with smaller phone books on their desktop PC.

Going the other direction -- from the 100/200LX to ECCO -- works quite well and does not require the interim step of creating an ASCII file. I add new entries directly to my 100/200LX phone book and then synchronize the whole thing with my ECCO phone book.

How much time does all this take and is it worth the hassle?

Initially you'll spend a lot of time getting the hang of IntelliLink and developing the routine that works for you. If you want to use ECCO as your desktop PIM and if having your appointment calendar and important contacts information with you at all times is important, then all this is worth the hassle. It's certainly better than carrying around the inadequate paper printouts provided by most PIMs.

IntelliLink includes support for the HP 95LX, 100LX, and 200LX, Sharp Wizard, Casio BOSS, HP OmniBook, Tandy Z PDA and Casio Z7000. Besides ECCO, it supports Act! for Windows, CaLANdar, Commence, Packrat, dBase III and IV, Lotus Organizer, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Schedule+, Paradox, Sidekick 2.0, ASCII and Windows accessories. IntelliLink version 3.2 also supports the Psion 3 and 3a (see product announcement, Vol.3, No.5, Pg.9).

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