The HP 100LX: First Impressions!

More than just an upgrade, the new HP 100LX provides robust organizer capabilities, a database program, greater ability to run DOS programs, and built-in cc:MAIL.

By Hal Goldstein

I visited the HP Palmtop division in Corvallis, Oregon shortly before the HP 100LX was introduced. Tim Williams, the R&D lab manager for HP Palmtops, was most enthusiastic about HP's new palmtop. According to Tim: "The HP 100LX is truly a second generation product".

After using the 100LX extensively for the past three weeks, I agree. The 100LX has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for palmtop users. There are so many features packed into this unit, I can only give you a flavor of the HP 100LX.

Where the HP 95LX Wins

Before launching into my rave review about this new product, I'll give you a couple of reasons to stay with the 95LX. First of all, the 95LX is zippier. I can do an Only (F6) search in the 95LX PHONE application on HP contacts or people with a 415 area code and instantly have a list displayed. Doing the same thing on the HP 100LX takes more keystrokes and might take 10 or more seconds to produce the same results. (However, if you intend to do the same search more than once, you can set up the 100LX to do it more quickly.) Another plus for the 95LX is that it's easier to read in poorer lighting situations.

Having mentioned these points, I'll now try to give you a flavor of the 100LX by describing how I've used it these past few weeks. As you'll see, for me there's no turning back -- I'm a confirmed HP 100LX user.

Translating HP 95LX files

The first thing I did was move my key PHONE, APPT, 1-2-3, and MEMO files over to the 100LX. I did this by copying HP 95LX files onto a 1 Meg RAM card. I then inserted the RAM card into my 100LX and copied those files to my HP 100LX C:\_DAT subdirectory using FILER. Alternatively, I could have transferred files using my IR port or by transferring files to a PC and then back to the 100LX. (The HP 100LX Connectivity Pack probably won't be available until midsummer. However, you can purchase the 100LX connectivity cable (HP F1015A, $24.95) that plugs into the 100LX 9-pin serial port. You can transfer files using the 95LX Connectivity pack software or by using your favorite communications or PC-to-PC transfer program.)

The HP 100LX reads 95LX MEMO .TXT and 1-2-3 .WK1 files with no problem. (The 100LX default MEMO extension name is .DOC rather than .TXT. The default easily can be changed back to TXT if you wish).


I had a minor problem moving my 95LX APPT file to the 100LX. You see, the 100LX translates the HP 95LX PHONE and APPT files from the 95LX format to the 100LX format. Once the translation is done, you can open the file from the 100LX. When I first entered the 100LX APPT application, a file called APPT.ADB was opened. I then issued the command to translate my 95LX APPT file. The 100LX asked me to supply a new name for the translated 95LX file and I gave it the name APPT.ADB. I received a "file creation error" message because that name was already in use.

I gave the file a different name (APT.ADB) and the translation worked perfectly. I immediately tried the Week-at-a-glance and Month-at-a-glance features of the 100LX Phone Book and viewed all my appointments instantaneously.

Appointment Book's Monthly View:  Graphic

 I use ** to denote birthdays. As you can see from the above, I was able to see the May birthdays immediately. You can enter new appointments from the week or month screen by placing the cursor at the right date and time and pressing (ENTER).


Next it was time to translate data from PHONE -- my most used 95LX application. The translation went smoothly, but I noticed that my PHONE file grew from 30K to 55K. (Fortunately, there no longer is a 64K PHONE or MEMO file limit on the 100LX). Opening a PHONE entry gave me a hint as to why the file grew (see page 12 for PHONE entry view).

As you can see, PHONE provides a number of new fields to better capture your contact information. (You can modify the default PHONE fields by reading the PHONE file into the Data Base application and modifying its structure. For example, you could transform the 100LX Name field into two fields: First Name and Last Name.)

I discovered one problem translating the 95LX Phone Book file to the 100LX format. The 95LX Phone Book only has three fields; Name:, Number:, and Address:. The translation program copies the 95LX Name: field to the 100LX Name field, and the Number: field to the Business field. However, the 100LX translation program does not know how you have listed information in the 95LX Address field, so it doesn't know which 100LX filed to copy it to. It copies all information in the Address: field to the Notes field.

It is up to you to manually move the data from the Notes field to the appropriate fields in your 100LX data base, or to create macros to do this. Hopefully, by the next issue some clever programmer will come up with a less time-consuming solution.

More about HP 100LX Phone

PHONE lets me display any data field in its "Phone Book List" view (called the "Index" view on the 95LX). It also lets me select how much of each field I want to display, and in what position I want to display it. Furthermore, I can sort this list by any field. For example, if Company is one of the fields in my list, I could sort by Company.

I reconfigured the 100LX default Phone List to display the Name, Business (phone), Home (phone), and Fax fields (displayed in next graphic).

PhoneBook List View:  Graphic

 One other powerful feature of PHONE is the ability to easily print your Phone Book to a file or printer in a format of your choosing. For example, you can use the new "Smart Clip" feature to print address labels.

The Data Base Program

A secret of much of the 100LX's power, flexibility, and relative ease-of-use is Data Base, a program that underlies many of the applications. In fact Phone Book, World Time, and Notes are all variations of Data Base. Making optimal use of the Data Base application will be a topic of many future articles in The HP Palmtop Paper.

The two Phone Book screens above give you an example of what you can do with Data Base. Below is an example of a database that lists the files on The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK.

Custom Database Item View:  Graphic

Custom Database List View:  Graphic

 A quick way to enter the current date in the date field is to press (Fn) (,) (keypad comma). I can sort the List view above by the Due date field, Employee or PROJECT field. I can choose whatever fields I wish for list view.


Memo now has more formatting capability (margins, headers, footers, tabs, underline and bold). You can now find and replace as well as search. What I like most about the new Memo is its simple yet quite useful outline feature. To start an outline in a Memo document, press (F7) to "Promote" an outline point (from I. to A. to 1., etc.) and (F8) to "Demote" a point. Below is an example of an outline with a Roman numeral format. You can also select a decimal outline format.

The applications normally display on a 64x18 screen. The font is smaller than the 95LX font, but very readable. You can use the "Zoom" feature in

MEMO's Outline View:  Graphic

 Memo; in the NOTES field of APPT, PHONE, or DATA BASE; and in DOS text-based applications. Press (Fn) (<Spacebar>) and the Zoom feature toggles you between a 40x16, 64x18 and an 80x25 display. Here are examples of the same outline screen from Memo using the different 80x25 and 40x16 sizes.

80X25 View in MEMO:  Graphic

40X16 View of Outline:  Graphic

 The cut and paste features are useful in MEMO, and extend across all the built-in applications. To mark a section of text hold down (<Shift>) and move the ArrowKeys. Once the text you want copied or cut is highlighted, hold down (Fn) and press (.) (keypad period) to Cut or (Fn) (=) to copy the marked text. Then move the cursor to another spot in MEMO or any other built-in application and press (Fn) (+) (keypad plus) to paste.

HP Calc and 1-2-3

In future issues, Ed Keefe and others will discuss the newer versions of HP Calc and Lotus 1-2-3 v. 2.4. My favorite addition to HP Calc is its expanded List function now called List Stat. List Stat now offers two columns for two separate lists. The sum of each list is automatically displayed. You can also view the following statistical operations on each list: mean value, standard deviation, minimum, maximum, median, weighted mean, and group standard deviation. In addition, the 100LX will curve fit (linear, log, exponential, or power) the two columns of data on an graph with X and Y axes. For example, you can plug in two columns of data and select Linear. The 100LX will tell you how close the data is to a straight line (correlation coefficient). You can then plug in other X values to find other Ys based on the linear model.

List Stat Curve Fit Chart:  Graphic


Another favorite of mine is NoteTaker. NoteTaker is a simple but powerful use of the built-in Data Base application. NoteTaker has only three fields; Title, Category and Notes. Whenever I have an idea for The HP Palmtop Paper, I put it in NoteTaker. If I come across a quotation that I like, I put it in NoteTaker. Similarly, I have notes for books I want to read, investment ideas, and travel tips. Whenever I come across something that I want to remember, I jot it down in NoteTaker.

NoteTaker Screen:  Graphic

 NoteTaker's Category field (also found in Phone Book and Data Base) makes it easy to organize these notes. I assign one or more categories to every note. In the examples above I have the following NoteTaker categories: Palmtop Paper, quotes, books, investment, and travel. I can easily list only those notes that deal with books, the Palmtop Paper, etc.

Once you enter a category, the HP 100LX remembers it. The next time I enter a note on a book I'm interested in, I press (<Tab>) a couple of times to get to the Category field and press (<DownArrow>) and a menu of categories pops down. I type the first letter of the category or cursor down to my choice and press (ENTER). The category name is entered in the field.

Categories in NoteTaker: Graphic

 Stopwatch and World Time

These two applications were part of APPT on the HP 95LX. They are now separate 100LX applications. My favorite new Stopwatch features are the Alarm and Repeat Timer. I can set an alarm quickly for any time in the day. I can also have my 100LX beep at me every half hour. World Time includes a database of 478 cities. For each city you can find an area code, international access number, the longitude, latitude, and world time.

WorldTime Cities Screen:  Graphic

 World Time's list function automatically computes and displays the current time in the cities listed.

WorldTime List View All Cities:  Graphic


The HP 100LX comes with macro function (User Defined Function Keys). If you remember, when I translated the 95LX Phone Book file to the 100LX format, all the information in the 95LX Address field was dumped into the 100LX Notes field. I created some macros to transfer information from the Notes field to the newer fields in the 100LX Phone Book.

I haven't tried "chaining" macros yet (a new feature we'll leave for a future column from Ed Keefe). However, one change I like in the 100LX is the ability to delete previously defined macros on the fly. For instance, if I try to assign a macro to (Fn)-(F2) and it already has one, the 100LX will ask me if I want to delete the old macro to create a new one. Also, the macro edit screen is much faster to get into and out of.

Running DOS applications

HP hired an independent lab to verify 100LX's PC compatibility. The 100LX runs everything from Microsoft Flight Simulator to Quicken. IBM PC programs with large memory requirements or sophisticated graphic requirements won't run. However, the HP 100LX is quite successful running CGA compatible software with normal PC memory needs.

I find the ability to run off-the-shelf PC software adds another dimension to the HP 100LX. DOS is more accessible on the HP 100LX than on the 95LX. You can even open a DOS application and be able to switch back and forth between any of the built-in applications such as PHONE, 1-2-3, or APPT as long as too much memory is not being consumed.

If you are serious about running DOS applications, you will probably need more disk space -- hence a memory card. I use my HP 95LX SunDisk 5 Meg Flash ROM card in the 100LX. Thankfully, the HP system software now recognizes the SunDisk card (which HP and ACE will market under their own labels). That means you can use a SunDisk card on the 100LX without installing a special software driver as you do on the 95LX.

Two of the DOS programs I've run are Traveling Software's LapLink III and Banner Blue's Movie Guide. As reviewed last issue, LapLink III can be compressed down to around 50K. The nice thing about this well-known PC-to-PC file transfer program is that it can copy itself from the 100LX onto a PC (terminate applications first). This means that wherever you are, all you need is a 100LX and 100LX serial cable to transfer files back and forth between a PC. The new 9-pin HP 100LX serial port also helps speed up file transfers quite significantly.

I have also tested ZIP.COM's ZIPDUP program (from the Mar/Apr 92 On Disk) and it too can copy itself from the 100LX onto a PC.

As discussed in the Jan/Feb, 1993, having a Palmtop Movie Guide is a great way for selecting a movie at the video store. The full DOS screen and a 5 or 10 megabyte flash card makes the software more practical to use on the 100LX than on the 95LX. Many practical and fun DOS programs that fit well in the 100LX environment will be chronicled in future The HP Palmtop Paper issues.

Application Manager

Mark Scardina has promised to write a future article on the Application Manager and its many undocumented features. Those of you who tried Ed Keefe's Menu95 from last year's Subscriber Disk or who use Mark Scardina's Switch from ACE technologies have a flavor of Application Manager. Application Manager lets you launch DOS or system compliant programs by pressing (&...) (More) and typing a letter standing for the application.

Customizing Application Manager to launch your favorite programs is quite simple: it just involves filling out a few boxes. You can preconfigure any DOS program (with EXE, COM, or BAT extension) or any system compliant program (EXM extension). For example, I have my favorite DOS outline program, GrandView, configured in such a way, that all I have to do is press (&...) and the (V) and GrandView starts. Similarly, one can assign a hot key automatically to a system compliant program (say CHESS from the Sparcom Games disk). No more messing around with the undocumented APNAME.LST file.

The bad news is that in Set Up you have to predefine how much space you allow for DOS. That means in theory no matter how much memory your DOS application requires, the predefined amount gets allocated. The larger the predefined DOS space, the less memory is left over to hotkey back to PHONE, 1-2-3 or any of the built-in applications.

The good news is that there is a feature not documented in the manual that gets around this limitation. More will be explained in future issues. In a nutshell, the trick is simply to tell application manager how much of DOS memory is needed to run the application by typing a vertical bar followed by the number of K bytes required by the application.

So, for example, when I configured Application Manager to run GrandView, for the path, I gave it: a:\gv\gv.exe|218. That means even though in Setup I configured DOS to 384K, whenever I run GrandView only 218K is consumed.


I have not yet had a chance to try cc:MAIL or the COMM program. However, future articles will provide users experiences and tips in using these programs.

Context Sensitive Help

The HP 100LX context sensitive help feature is much more useful and extensive than the 95LX help function. With this help feature always available, you will only need the 100LX manual for occasional reference.


If the 95LX built-in applications and add-on products are sufficient for your needs, there is no need to purchase a 100LX. Also, if you have eye problems, you should see the screen and the 100LX font size before purchasing it. If possible, test it in different lighting conditions.

On the other hand if you would like more robust organizer capabilities, a data base program, greater capability to run DOS programs, or cc:MAIL then run to your nearest HP dealer checkbook in hand.

I asked Tim Williams, the HP lab manager, how many of the new machine's features came from user feedback (The HP Palmtop Paper, CompuServe, letters, internal users, 95Buddy). Tim estimated between 50-67%.

It shows!

What to do with your old HP 95LX