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Carrying Your Office in Your Pocket

Carrying Your Office in Your Pocket

This on-the-road engineer tracks his contacts and correspondence, quotes prices, creates technical drawings, stays in touch with the world, and has fun all with the Palmtop in his pocket.

By Jorgen Wallgren

My motto is why use a desktop/notebook PC when I can use the power I have in my pocket? I have decided to do everything on my Palmtop, since it is for me the most portable and hence the most powerful PC available. When I talk about powerful, I do not talk about the CPU or clock speed a desktop PC has. I talk about how I use the Palmtop and the results I achieve with it.

I am in a business which requires frequent traveling. It is an interesting business, but not an easy one. Since I only spend about one week a month at home, I need to take my office with me wherever I go. I have tried all kinds of portable computers, including laptops, notebooks and sub notebooks. Once I experienced the HP Palmtop, the choice was easy.

As powerful as a portable!

I find that I can accomplish the same result with my Palmtop as with the portables I've tried. In fact, I hardly use the other computers any more. My Palmtop provides the power I need through a combination of the built-in software, old DOS software which can run on a CGA screen, and the Palmtops macros capability. I have a HP 200LX with 2MB of RAM. Additional file storage is provided by an 85MB flashcard from SanDisk. I also use the EXP ThinFax PCMCIA fax/modem card with 4MB flash memory for communications.

In my work I write many letters and memos, create technical drawings and provide estimates on projects. I send and receive many faxes and cc:Mail and compose most of them right on my Palmtop in WordPerfect 5.1. To organize my correspondence I've created an archive database with the built-in Database program shown below.

 Individual Data Item for the Letter/Fax archive file created with the built-in Database program.

 The archive database has the following data fields in it:

Name Type of field Purpose

&Date Date field Enter date created

&Ref.No. Text field Name of the fax/letter

&To Text field Client/company name

&Attn Text field Contact person

R&E Note field Subject of correspondence

Create this by opening the Database application, pressing (MENU) File Define New Database. Add the data field names and types listed above. Position and size them to look like the screen displayed on the previous page. After you've created this database, save it as C:\ _DAT\FMS_CLOG.GDB. Then press (F7) and sort the Database as follows: The 1st sort field should have Ref.No selected, with a descending sort order (uncheck ascending). The 2nd sort field should have Date selected, with a descending sort order. Then press (F8) to arrange the columns so that Ref.No. is the first column. Finally, fill in your first entry in the new communication log with the first Ref.No. as F/100/96.

Macro simplifies use of the archive database

At first I entered information into the archive database manually, but it required switching back and forth between applications and pressing many buttons. It took a long time, so I created a system macro to speed up the process. I have contact information for all my customers in the Palmtop's Phone Book file. When I want to send a fax to a customer, I just highlight the customers name in Phone Book and start my system macro. The macro logs my fax into the custom database, gives it a reference number and saves the contact information in a temporary text file.

I use WordPerfect 5.1+ on the Palmtop to compose faxes and letters. I then transfer the contact information from the temporary text file described above to WordPerfect. I open up Word Perfect and run a separate Word Perfect macro which opens up a fax template I've created in Word Perfect, appends the information saved in the temporary file described above and cuts and pastes the company name, person, date, and reference number to the appropriate location in the fax header.

Modifying Phone Book and creating the fax macro

Below I describe how to use the macro. As it is presently structured, it must be used with a modified Phone Book. You can do this by importing your Phone Book data file (with the .PDB file extension) into the Database application and pressing (MENU) File Modify Database. You can also create a new Database file by opening the Database application and pressing (MENU) File Define New Database. Save the Database file with the .PDB extension and open it up in Phone Book.

The new (or modified) Phone Book file must contain at least the following five fields to work with the macro described below:

Name Type of field

Company Name Text field

Contact Person Text field

Salutation Text field

Area Code Text field

Fax Number Text field

The individual Item screen of the new (or modified) Phone Book should look something like the screen shown below.

 Screen: Phone Book Individual Item screen shows separate data fields for Area Code, Fax Number, Company Name, Contact Person, and Salutation.

 You'll also have to create a Smart Clip to be used with the macro to cut and paste the desired information into the temporary text file. To do this, open the custom Phone Book you just created and press (F5) to go to the Smart Clip dialog box. Press (F2) to define a new clip. Press (F2) again to enter the fields you want in the Smart clip. Put Company Name as the first line, Salutation and Contact Name as the second line, Area Code and Fax Number as the third line. Press (F10) to save the clip, with &Fax To: as the name.

Next, use Memo to create the empty temporary text file and save the file as C:\_DAT\CLIP.TXT. The system macro and Smart Clip will save the contact data to this file.

Create the macro

Open the built-in Macro application and type in the following macro exactly as shown. Assign it to the Fn key of your choice. (Type this macro in with no carriage returns.)

{F5}&{Enter}{Alt}q{Memo}{Alt}fn{Paste}{Database}{F9} c:\_dat\fms-clog.gdb{Enter}{Enter}{Alt+R}{Left}{Left} {Left}{Left}{Left}{Left}{Shift+Right}{Shift+Right} {Shift+Right}{Copy}{F9}{Tab}{Enter}{Calc}{Alt}oma{Enter} {Paste}+1={Copy}{Alt}q{F2}{Alt+D}{Date}{Alt+R}{Paste}{Right} {Right}{Right}{Shift+End}{Del}{Home}F/{Right}{Right}{Right} /96{Home}{Shift+End}{Copy}{Memo}{Paste}{PgUp}{Home}{Shift+End} {Copy}{Database}{Alt+T}{Paste}{Memo}{Down}{Home}{Shift+End} {Copy}{Database}{Alt+A}{Paste}{Memo}{F10}c:\_dat\clip.txt{Enter} {Enter}{Alt}q{Alt+E}

Then open your modified Phone Book, highlight the name you want to send a fax to and start your macro. After running, the macro ends in the archive database (FMS-CLOG.GDB) with the cursor in the field named RE. Fill in what the fax is regarding and press (F10) to save the new entry.

The macro modified the CLIP.TXT file in C:\_DAT. This file now contains the archive reference number for the new fax/letter along with the contact information. As mentioned above, I append this file to a Word Perfect file containing the fax/letter and use Word Perfect's macro capabilities to cut and paste the information to the proper location in the document. You could use this procedure with any word processor that runs on the Palmtop, including the built-in Memo application.

Quick price quotations

I am in sales and marketing and frequently have to give clients quotations on the price of products. I have created a custom database to track products, specifications and list prices. Although its easy to view and maintain the product/ price list in the built-in Database program, it can't do calculations. To overcome this limitation, I've created a special Lotus 1-2-3 template to make the actual quotation.

I highlight a product name in the Database and start a macro which copies the product specification and price to my spreadsheet. In the Database the price is defined as a number, but when you copy and paste it to the spreadsheet it become a text label (i.e., 163 is entered as 163). To convert it back to a number, the macro erases the apostrophe (using {Paste}{F2}{Home}{Del}{Enter} as a part of the macro).

Creating technical drawings on the Palmtop with EasyCAD

The products I represent are of a technical nature and I must be able to display them in the form of drawings. I used a notebook computer for this until I found an older version of EasyCAD (V2.67) that worked on my Palmtop.

 EasyCAD display of technical drawing on the HP Palmtop.

 I use a Thumbelina mouse as a pointing device. EasyCAD is surprisingly fast and powerful and I no longer have to carry the notebook around.

Faxing from the Palmtop

I use the MiniFax software which comes with the Thinfax PCMCIA modem card for sending most of my faxes. But sometimes I have to send faxes which contain technical drawings or my signature. For faxes with graphics, I use Bitfax V3.09.05.

I've placed the Bitfax program on my Thinfax cards Flash memory (the F drive on the Palmtop when the card is inserted). I put the printer capture utility that comes with Bitfax (PRINTCAP .COM) on my Palmtops C drive. PRINTCAP redirects a printing job and saves it as a file on my Palmtops C drive. All I do is run PRINTCAP, then print the document containing the graphic to my LPT1 port. PRINTCAP saves this print to a file. This file can be rather large, but I have usually about 700Kb free on the C drive which is sufficient most of the time. When I am ready to fax, I switch to my fax/modem card. Start Bitfax, convert the captured print file to fax format, and send the fax. I must admit that the capture and conversion is slow on the Palmtop, but it works and that is the important part for me.

If you have Bitfax for DOS and would like to try it on the Palmtop, you can save space by installing only the following files to make the program smaller:

BITFAX .BAT 31

BF.EXE 81413

BITSCHED.EXE 101463

PRINTCAP.COM 19364

PRINTER.CAP 9139

FAXBOOK .DBF 738

BMP43720.FNT 84480

BITFAX .CFG 630

CONFAX.EXE 24712

SUPPLY.EXE 75504

COUR10F.WPF 12595

BITFAX .SCH 1922

BITFAXTX.LOG 1170

COUR10FF.WPF 12601

COUR10N.WPF 8301

COUR10NF.WPF 8309

COVER.FNT 15771

20 files 458143

Staying in touch is important

While on the road I need to keep in touch with my office on a daily basis. My head office in Singapore has a computer network installed with three incoming telephone lines: One for fax, one for e-mail and one for cc:Mail. I use my 200LXs built-in cc:Mail daily to communicate with the offices network system, which runs on Windows 3.1. The Palmtop connects with a Windows 3.1 version of Lotus cc:Mail without any problem. Since my office is using Lotus cc:Mail for internal and external communication, I can send and receive messages to/from any person in the office or our distributors. I can also receive urgent faxes through cc:Mail wherever I am.

Maybe I am overenthusiastic

Some may think I am bit overenthusiastic to attempt all this on the Palmtop. This may be so, but the Palmtop gives me an advantage as a sales and technical person. I have all the tools I need with me all the time, in one pocket-sized Palmtop. I can communicate with the world and retrieve information whenever I need it. When I'm traveling and need information about a country, I run PC Globe 5.0 to look it up. (I once settled an argument about which country produces the most beer in the world.)

 PC Globe display on the Palmtop, showing Indonesia as the selected country. The name "Indonesia" is displayed in the lower left corner and the country is highlighted on the world map (down by Australia).

 I've even run Windows 3.0 on the Palmtop. I did this mostly for fun and to see if I could do it. But it also enabled me to use Micrografx Designer 3.01 on the Palmtop to create some simple promotional signs for local stores.

I read books on the Palmtop using Vertical Reader (VR) by Gilles Kohl. I play Backgammon, Chess and Solitaire on the Palmtop. I play around a lot, trying new programs, changing settings and doing simple programming. I'm far from being an expert in programming, but am having success using LX Batch 2.0 (LXB.ZIP) by Rob Koenis, to make small applications which enhance my use of the Palmtop.

Since I spend much of my time on the road, I need to carry my office and entertainment with me. I use my Palmtop approximately 120-150 hours a month, at various locations and for various purposes. No other pocket portable computer can give me this power.

Thank you Hewlett-Packard!

Pricing and Contact Information for products mentioned in this article

Shareware/freeware mentioned in this article

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