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REVIEW

REVIEW: The HP OmniGo 100 Handheld Organizer

HP's new OmniGo 100 comes with a built-in suite of PIM and financial applications. This new GEOS-based organizer supports keyboard and pen-based input. The next four articles take a look at its features and compare it to the HP Palmtop.

By Paul Merrill

Picture of HP OmniGo

 In mid-October HP announced the introduction of the HP OmniGo 100, a handheld organizer, with both keyboard and pen interface, for a price just under $350. Small enough to fit in your pocket, the HP OmniGo 100 has a rotatable screen that allows horizontal or vertical display. It comes with Appointment Book, PhoneBook, Database, NotePad (similar to NoteTaker) and WorldTime applications. It also boasts a bevy of powerful financial built-ins which include a simulation of the world class HP 12C financial calculator. GEOS-based graphics capabilities allow the user to draw pictures, directions or to jot down a quick note or phone number for later entry.

In our OmniGo 100 coverage, we review the machine, look at connectivity issues and interview the head of HP's OmniGo division. Also, Executive Editor Hal Goldstein compares HPs line of handhelds (the OmniGo 100, the soon to be released OmniGo 700 LX and the HP 200LX) and a user takes an OmniGo 100 apart (literally) for a look inside. Sidebars in this section include: an explanation of the GEOS operating system, Geoworks programs for developers, a look at OmniGo 100 accessory products, the OmniGo 100 Spec sheet, OmniGo 100 foreign language versions and a look at our new support publication, HP OmniGo World.

The HP OmniGo 100 as an Organizer

Well, its out! After much buzzing around and some inquiring phone calls to The HP Palmtop Paper (that we had to take the fifth amendment on), The HP OmniGo 100 is officially unveiled the new GEOS-based Organizer with graphics capabilities and a pen interface that retails for $349 suggested U.S. retail price.

Back in early September, I was given a pre-production HP OmniGo 100 and told to play with it every chance I got. I want to know how this compares with the Palmtop, Hal said. Will Palmtop users want to switch over to this? What type of user will want to have an OmniGo 100? (We had been preparing for the first issue of our new publication, HP OmniGo World since HP first told us about the OmniGo 100 project, so speculation here had been rampant.) This article takes a look at the OmniGo 100 as an Organizer the strengths and weaknesses of each application, and the machine as a whole. (For more on the Finance, Spreadsheet and Calculator applications, and HP OmniGo 100 connectivity, see (pages 24 and 22.). Here's what I found.

OmniGo 100s unique design

Whoever designed the look of the OmniGo 100 knew what they were doing. It is very stylish. The screen folds back on itself 360 degrees. You can open it like a Palmtop for keyboard use, or fold it back flat and use it like your were writing on a regular paper notebook. The screen is square, and the picture can rotate 90 degrees for notebook or keyboard use. The pen, used for the graphical interface, disappears flush into the case when not in use. It has five function keys, and absent is the built-in application keys on the Palmtop. The built-in applications on the OmniGo 100 are accessed by pressing icons to either side of the screen (with pen or finger) or highlighting them in the home screen and pressing (ENTER). There is one Type II PC Card slot and a serial port. There is no A/C adapter or IR port. The body of the OmniGo 100 is wider than the Palmtop, but still fits in your pocket easily. The keyboard has fewer keys, so there is more room for your fingers.

Putting it to the test

The first thing I did when I got it, even before looking at the built-in Demo, was pull out the pen, tap the Jotter icon on the left side of the screen, and start scribbling. (More on Jotter below.) This was a very impressive experience and immediately turned out to be one of my favorite options. Pen/drawing entries can be made in the Notes field of all applications, so you can include maps with an address entry, sketches of a room arrangement in APPT, or an idea for a new piece of circuitry in a Database.

Being a slow typist, I constantly have to tell people to repeat themselves when I type on the Palmtop. With the pen, I write merrily away. You do, of course, have to go back later and type up your notes if you need them as text, unless you use the Graffiti handwriting recognition option described below.

Below are my first impressions of the OmniGo 100, its applications, strengths and how it compares to the HP Palmtop.

Graffiti handwriting recognition

The built-in Graffiti handwriting recognition program lets you enter text using the pen interface. You have to write in Graffiti's prescribed manner. You make strokes in a certain fashion (see below) and they are recorded as text or numbers. Most characters are similar to the normal printed letters so it doesn't take much time to learn and you can get very fast at it. The machine is surprisingly forgiving. If you start a letter out slightly wrong, continue in the right stroke it will usually pick it up. Punctuation requires a little more effort to learn, but is still not difficult.

If you are a fast typist and you are fairly adept at the Palmtops keyboard, you will probably be faster at typing on the OmniGo as well, once you get used to it. However, you will probably use the pen from time to time, for the speed it affords you moving between fields or from application to application. I tend to hold the pen in my hand and switch back and forth from typing to the pen as the need arises.

Guided tour with Demo

The OmniGo 100 comes with a Demo program that runs automatically once you start it. It is a guided tour that gives you a glance at the OmniGo 100s built-in applications. You can't interact with the fields on the screen, so it is more of a show than anything.

Help provides basic help

The OmniGo 100s Help is context sensitive and includes underlined Hypertext links. It is good basic help. If you want anything more thorough, you will find yourself back at the manual.

Appointment Book

This is the application possibly used most by the average Palmtop user. From my experience I would say that the OmniGo 100s Appointment Book is a great little organizer, but its not as powerful as the 100/200LX.

STRENGTHS Clear, user-friendly format. Because of the graphical user interface, it is very quick to learn and easy to use. Has easy to read week, month and four month calendars. Fields are big and the font is easy to read the screen is taller than the Palmtops, which allows for the use of a larger (Helvetica) font. You can use the pen to drag and drop appointments to new time slots, and drop to-do items to different priority levels. You can draw/ sketch or take quick notes with the pen in the Note field.

COMPARED TO THE HP PALMTOP The OmniGo 100 has 15, 30, and 60 minute options for appointment display the Palmtop, in addition, has an appointments only setting.

  • The OmniGo 100's new appointment screens Description field holds 24 characters, the Palmtops holds 51.
  • The OmniGo 100 doesn't seem to have a type-ahead buffer to remember keystrokes. The Palmtop remembers somewhere between 10 and 15.
  • The Note field on the OmniGo 100 is only visible when you select a complete Note view (F3). On the Palmtop, part of the Note field is visible in the main data screen of Appointment Book, PhoneBook and World Time.
  • All OmniGo 100 appointments are automatically included in the week and month views. On the Palmtop, you can choose to exclude them.
  • On the Palmtop, week views show a partial text entry for an appointment. The OmniGo 100 shows which time slots are taken up by appointments, but shows no text.
  • On the OmniGo 100, you must press (F1) (New) at the Appointments screen, to create a new appointment. On the Palmtop you just start typing.
  • On the OmniGo 100 when an alarm goes off, you can choose a 5 minutes snooze option. On the Palmtop you can select up to 55 minutes.
  • The Palmtop's Appointment Book offers a digital clock display option in the Appointment/Event main screen. The OmniGo 100 does not have this option.
  • The Palmtop moves its unfinished To-Dos forward to the next day. The OmniGo 100 does also, but leaves a copy on the previous day.
  • On the Palmtop, you can Cut, Copy and Paste between appointments and ToDo's. On the OmniGo 100 you cannot.

  •  

     

PhoneBook

STRENGTHS Clear, user-friendly format. Because of the graphical user interface, it is very quick to learn and easy to use. Fields are big and the font is easy to read the screen is taller than the Palmtops, which allows for the use of a larger (Helvetica) font. You can draw/ sketch or take quick notes with the pen in the Note field.

COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP The OmniGo 100 PhoneBook allows up to 11 fields (including the Note field). The Palmtop allows up to 99 fields and is customizable. You cannot customize the OmniGo 100 PhoneBook. OmniGo 100 PhoneBook Subset sorts are limited to one choice from the category field.

Notepad

Notepad is similar to the NoteTaker application on the Palmtop. Unlike Jotter, which is one file that offers multiple pages in which you enter graphics or text, Notepad can be organize by separate entries of up to 17.5 screens each. Notepad accepts only a certain amount of drawing per entry I got as low as two pages of heavy graphics (pictures and heavy shading), and finally gave up at 16 pages of light graphic use. The average was 3.5 screens. You can enter virtually as much text as you want since the heavy memory user is the graphics capability.

STRENGTHS Separate entries in which you can enter both text and graphics.

COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP (NoteTaker application) The Palmtop allows you to sort by Title, Category or Note field. The OmniGo 100 sorts by Title or Category.

Database

STRENGTHS Graphical user interface. Clear, user-friendly format. Quick to learn, easy to use. Fields are big and the font is easy to read. You can draw/sketch or take quick notes with the pen in the Note field. Format options include text, number, date, time, category, choice lists and check button fields.

COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP Five pages of five fields each (includes titles if used) gives the OmniGo 100 user the ability to create up to 25 fields. On the Palmtop users have the option of up to 99 fields over four pages.

On the Palmtop you can modify existing databases. On the OmniGo 100 you cannot. You can, however, create a new Database template and load the first Database into it.

Jotter

ptp24-05.gif (13562 bytes)Jotter is a continuum of pages in one file. You can enter text or draw/sketch. The purpose of Jotter is to capture first, organize later. Great for writing quick notes or phone numbers on the run.

STRENGTHS Jotter holds a lot of graphics. The OmniGo 100 stopped me at 20 pages very full of graphics. It lets you enter your notes or drawings then Paste them to another application.

Graffiti Sample Sheet

 COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP Many people use Memo on the Palmtop for the same purpose. You can enter more text in Memo, but cannot sketch a drawing.

Finance

The Finance application includes the following options: TVM (Time Value of Money), Cash Flows, Business Percentages, Compound Interest, Solver , List Statistics, Conversions, Date Calculations, and a simulation of the HP 12C financial calculator. (I was very impressed with Finance and its ease of use. For more information, see the article by on page 24.)

Spreadsheet

The OmniGo 100's spreadsheet program is not a version of Lotus 1-2-3. It is easier to use than 1-2-3, but is still quite powerful. (For more information, see the article by Ray Kump on page 24.)

Calculator

Calculator is a graphically simulated standard calculator with Math, Trig, Angle, and other functions. I found it very fast with the pen, and easy to use. (For more information, see the article on page 24.)

BookReader

As the name implies, BookReader is an application for viewing reading material.

STRENGTHS I could see the potential for this application right away, even though I only had the built-in BookReader demo to peruse. Folded back into the notebook position, the OmniGo 100 is comfortable to hold and the screen easy to read. The menu offers a series of commands (Begin, Back, GoTo, History, Previous, Next) that make it easy to navigate around in. The tutorial has underlined Hypertext links that are very handy to move around. This could be very useful in books like technical manuals, etc., but probably wouldn't be necessary or useful in a novel.

OmniGo Book Reader Graphic

 COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP The OmniGo 100 screen is square compared to the rectangular screen of the Palmtop. This feature should make it easier to read for a book format. However, the Palmtop screen shows less glare. For those of us that have to squint, any screen could always be larger. The ideal would be both a large and no-glare screen.

World Time

STRENGTHS Quick to learn, easy to use graphical user interface. Big fields and font. Ability to draw/sketch in the Note field.

You can continuously display the world map with cross hair locators in the top half of your screen. This way, when you select a city, you automatically see its world location above the listing.

Like the Palmtop, the OmniGo 100 allows the addition of user defined cities.

COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP The Palmtop allows you to create your own Subsets for sorting. The OmniGo 100s World Time application only allows you to display separately, entries you have manually selected and marked.

OG 100 WorldTime Graphic

 Setup

STRENGTHS Graphical user interface is quick to learn, easy to use. Big fields and font is easier to see. Ability to draw/sketch in the Note field.

COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP The Palmtop allows you to change the System RAM / RAM disk ratio. The OmniGo 100 does not have this option.

Transfer

Transfer is the OmniGo 100 version of FILER, though much simpler in scope. It is used to copy data from applications to an SRAM PC Card or desktop, as well as to format SRAM PC Cards.

STRENGTHS Graphical user interface is quick to learn, easy to use.

COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP On the Palmtop you see individual files and their sizes. Because each OmniGo 100 application (APPT, PHONE, etc.) is one file, you copy your entire file to your SRAM card or PC.

On the OmniGo 100 there is no overwrite option, so you create a new backup copy each time you back up. (An exception is if you back up the same day: Then the original backup gets automatically overwritten.) You need to periodically delete them or you fill your SRAM disk with old backups. On the Palmtop, you can choose to overwrite the existing file.

Solitaire card game

STRENGTHS Very clear graphics. Easy and fun to use and addicting according to our resident game tester and specialist (Hal). Because of the clarity of the graphics, the OmniGo 100's game abilities will probably be exceptional.

COMPARED TO THE PALMTOP OmniGo 100 graphics are clearer and easier to read than the Palmtops.

Other Issues

Word processing capabilities The Palmtop has the MEMO (Word processing) application. The OmniGo 100 has NotePad which is limited in its text storage and formatting capabilities. See NotePad above.

Macros

There is currently no macro capability. This would be a logical candidate for third party product development.

Keyboard

HP put touch recognition bumps on the f and h keys of the OmniGo 100 I would cast my vote for even larger bumps, much larger bumps on all HP OmniGo 100s and Palmtops. Currently it is just too difficult to feel the home keys.

The OmniGo 100 seems noticeably hard to type on at first touch, but you get used to it quickly.

The Palmtop has ten function keys and a numeric keypad. The OmniGo 100 has five function keys no numeric keypad.

Screen

Having a square screen rather than a rectangular one allows the OmniGo 100 to rotate the data with no noticeable delay the graphics don't require any remapping, just redrawing.

Connectivity Pack

For information on synchronizing and running applications on a desktop, as well as transferring files from the DOS-based Palmtop to the GEOS-based OmniGo 100, see the article by David Shier on page 22.)

File Storage

Currently, the OmniGo 100 supports the use of SRAM PC Cards only. Flash cards require a higher voltage than the OmniGo 100 is capable of.

You cannot save application files directly to the PC Card, but additional applications installed on the card will store their data directly on the card. The general rule of thumb is that the data files for any given application will be stored in the same location (i.e. internal RAM, PC Card) as the executable for that application.

Battery issues

Lithium batteries ship with the product which may imply battery life is not as robust as the 100/200LX. As mentioned earlier the OmniGo 100 has no A/C adapter port. That certainly doesn't seem ideal to me, especially if PC Card modems are to work on it in the future. Distribution

The HP OmniGo 100 is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

Strengths and Limitations

Should you switch? The conclusion I drew from my testing is that the OmniGo 100 is a great machine for the right person. Who is that person? He or she puts user friendliness as a high priority. He or she doesn't like to spend much time customizing databases, creating elaborate PhoneBooks or writing his own macros. This person is willing to sacrifice some speed for the convenience of the user friendly format of the OmniGo 100 and the ability to include a graphical interface. He or she also uses financial applications a lot. And he or she will get his OmniGo 100 for a lower price than the Palmtop. If you're not buying a lot of expensive peripherals that can make a difference.

Will there be an OmniBuddy or other work-around programs to take care of the opportunities presented by the OmniGo 100? Judging from the past performances by ingenious Palmtop users, there will undoubtedly be work-around programs galore, enhancing the features and the usability of the product. We will be reporting on these things in HP OmniGo 100 World as they are developed.

Will I switch? As a matter of course, I will be heavily involved with the OmniGo 100 and our new publication the HP OmniGo 100 World (see page 14). There are already many things about the OmniGo 100 that I like and I suspect that I will grow even fonder of it the more I use it. This seems to be the trend so far.

But I don't think I will ever let go of my Palmtop. I like being able to sort my PhoneBook for things like all the writers I know who live in South America, hike and play music. Even if I never use it once. By Paul Merrill

The HP OmniGo World

International Language Versions of the HP OmniGo 100

What is GEOS?

What to do with your old HP Palmtop

iPhone Life magazine


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