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A Student and a Palmtop

A Student and a Palmtop

A busy college student takes time out to describe how he uses the Palmtop in and out of the classroom.
By David Sargeant
Since 1994, when I joined the HP Palmtop community, my life has changed drastically. One thing that has stayed constant, however, is school. It seems I'm always going to one class or another. There's always a report, a presentation or a project due in the next few days.

 How do I manage to fit fulltime course work into my busy schedule of full-time family duties, fulltime career, overtime avocation? The answer, of course, is that I use my Palmtop fulltime.

 The HP 200LX is well known for being a multi-talented machine. Most, if not all, of these talents can be put to use by students of all types to make the educational experience less painful and more rewarding.

 There are several different aspects of the Palmtop-savvy student's use of the 200LX, each of which I'll describe.

 The Built-In Apps

 Most of the built-in applications can be put to good use by a student. The most obvious use, and the reason I bought my Palmtop originally, is to use Memo to take notes in class. The HP 200LX's keyboard is unsurpassed in the palmtop/handheld world for speed of entry, with rates of 40 words per minute not uncommon. One user even reported 70 wpm on the palmtop keyboard in Memo. You may not be able to record every word that comes out of the professor's mouth, but you'll come close and the outlining feature of Memo will make it easy to organize lectures into logical blocks that can be learned more easily.

 When you're finished taking notes, you can copy them to your desktop if you have one. If not, a serial or infrared printer can be used to print a quick copy right from the palmtop. On the other hand, why print? The 200LX is easy enough to carry around, and less likely to get torn or lost. You can review study material on the screen while watching your favorite movie. (And try not to get distracted.)

 The Appointment Book is another very useful application for students. What I do is create a repeating appointment for all of my classes and then, as I get due dates, I add new appointments set to go off well in advance so I won't put off a crucial paper until the night before. When I get a homework assignment, I hit F3 (Note) and enter it into the appointment for that class on that day. At the end of the day another appointment goes off and reminds me to check for homework lest I forget. In this way I prevent myself from letting any deadlines slip by.

 The Phone Book is a great tool for the typical student. Not only does it allow you to keep track of the names, numbers and e-mail addresses of all your friends and study partners, it lets you keep track of your professors and their pertinent information such as office locations and hours.

 Who really keeps the syllabus for a class for the full semester? Not me. But having the contact information for an instructor in a special phone book has saved me from many misunderstandings on assignments. By knowing when to show up at the office to ask a question, I've narrowly avoided making huge errors.

 The built-in database program has many applications that might be useful for students. One of the best education-oriented databases is called DBLearn and it's available from the download section of www.Palm topPaper.com. DBLearn lets you use your database like a set of old-fashioned flash cards like the ones you used in elementary school. You can enter questions in one field of the DBLearn database and put the answers in another field DBLearn will then randomly select questions for you to answer and keep track of the score. This is extremely handy for memorizing anything from formulas in a statistics book to the answers for your favorite Trivia game.

 Lotus 1-2-3 is also a great tool for a student. It allows sophisticated mathematical analysis in the palm of your hand. I use 1-2-3 to keep track of data points during the course of labs, and then instantly analyze the data. This allows me to fill out the reports faster and more accurately than I could do on my own.

 In addition I use Lotus 1-2-3 to enter the grades from my report card and have it report on my semester and cumulative GPA's. You have to keep on top of these things when you have scholarships.

 Ed Keefe just sent me a copy of his GPA.WK1 worksheet. It looks rather complete. It works for grading systems that use A, A-, B+ grades as well as the usual A, B, C grades. It even has a formula to compute what GPA you must earn, down the road, to maintain or improve your final, overall GPA.

 HP Calc is, of course, useful for math classes and also statistics and accounting courses. The Solver application has allowed me to develop a sophisticated formula that lets me compute the score I must get on a test to avoid failing the class. (As if an HP 200LX user would ever fail a class.)

 Thus we see the main student uses for the built-in applications on the palmtop. Which brings us to:

 External Applications

 The built-in applications are great for student use, but with a few well-chosen external applications added to your arsenal, you can become academically invincible.

 You'll want a good dictionary on your palmtop; Thaddeus Computing sells an excellent product in the form of the Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus. This is an absolute must for school. All colleges require a solid core of language skills and you want to avoid misspelling and misusing words in any case. Poor language skills will not only affect your grades, but could send an otherwise sterling resume into a thousand circular files. In short, get a dictionary for your palmtop even if it means buying a larger flash card.

 Those studying other languages will want to check out the Collins Multilingual Dictionary as well.

 Since most dictionary programs let you enter new words, you can use this feature to create your own list of abbreviations and use them to improve your typing speed. Just prepend an easy to type character, e.g. "*" to each abbreviation you create. After a note-taking session in which you've used your abbreviations, run the dictionary program and you'll have notes that are readable and relatively complete.

 Another must-have, word-oriented tool is a GREP type program. GREP will let your track down a word or phrase in all the different files on your Palmtop and list the lines on which the word occurs.

 Sure, the MENU, Options, Text Search... command in Filer will do almost the same thing but it doesn't go far enough. It will find all the files that contain the word for which you're searching but it doesn't actually find the word. On the other hand, the Global Search program (GS.EXM) is System Manager compliant and, when GS finds a word in any of the files created with one of the Palmtop's built-in applications, it will let you automatically launch the application and run the built-in Find command. It may not be the fastest program you'll ever run but it sure beats digging through pages of hand written notes looking for a lost reference. This is especially true at the end of a semester when you're preparing for a final test.

 A good drawing program is always handy for taking notes that require graphics. I use AutoSketch 1.01 on my palmtop, along with the Cirque Easy Cat touchpad. The Easy Cat is a very small and very inexpensive companion for the palmtop. It gives me all the flexibility of a mouse in a smaller form factor. This combination (AutoSketch and a touch pad) allows me to take notes in classes such as chemistry, where I often need to draw circles and the like to represent atoms.

 Derive is a math student's dream come true. A powerful symbolic calculation utility, Derive can turn your palmtop into a lean, mean, problem-solving machine. Derive can handle tough integrals and derivatives without batting an eye. And it's a very compact program as well, easily fitting on your C: drive. Derive's interface is not intuitive but the manual that accompanies it will make an expert out of you in no time.

 There are plenty of utilities on the SUPER site for the more scientifically inclined student. The Palmtop Periodic Table is a great reference for chemistry students and SkyGlobe is probably the handiest resource an astronomer could ask for. CMCALC helps do computer related math, and PSpice on a palmtop is a great electrical engineering tool.

 The ability of the palmtop to compile C++ programs is a very handy one for computer science students. C++ is generally the language taught these days. In my last programming class I was able to type all of the programming assignments into the palmtop (often during the lecture) and compile them right there. Sometimes I'd have the entire assignment done during class, and I could then e-mail it (right from the palmtop, using Post/LX) to the grader for comment. You can bet I got an "A" in that class.

 Making the Most of Limited Time

 The third aspect of using a palmtop as a student is more philosophical. Students are busy. They're trying to learn material that's often difficult and they are usually judged by results rather than effort. Because of this, the 200LX is uniquely suited for student life. The powerful PIM functions can help organize your activities so that you don't waste time or forget what you are supposed to be doing. Along these same lines, having a Palmtop with you at all times allows you to work on assignments whenever you have the time. A large essay can quickly be cut down to size when you work on it a few sentences at a time during breaks at work, or at a stoplight, or in line at the bank. This allows you more time to revise, and to think about what you're writing, leading to a higher-quality finished product. Expect higher grades when you conscientiously use an HP 200LX to help with your studies.

 Most importantly, the HP 200LX can be used by students for the very reason they go to school in the first place: to learn. When there is a vast amount of information on a variety of subjects in your pocket, you're more likely to learn and remember. As a simple example, suppose you step outside to take a break from studying one night and see a particularly bright star in the sky. You wonder why that one is so much brighter than the others. If you were just an ordinary person, you would probably puzzle over it for a minute or two, then shrug it off and forget about it. Since you have your Palmtop, you can start the SkyGlobe program and check it out. From then on, you'll remember what the name of that brighter-than-usual object is. You've learned something you otherwise wouldn't have, thanks to the palmtop.

 Given all that, it's difficult to see why any student wouldn't want to use an HP Palmtop!

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