The fine art of appointment keeping

For many years, I've wanted a specialized component in my computing arsenal that lets me check my schedule, look up contact information, take notes, and read my email. After owning no fewer than seven different electronic organizers (none of them satisfactory), my quest has ended with the U.S. Robotics (USR) Pilot.

Right Tool for the Job
My biggest problem with other electronic organizers is that they work independently of my computer. They synchronize with my computer to some extent, but largely they are the masters of the information. Then a Pilot arrived for review in the Windows NT Magazine Lab. Let me fast forward to the end: I bought four of them. (After hearing me rave about the Pilot, several people in the office wanted one, too. We all use them and love them! In fact, we fought over who got to pick the Pilot as a favorite product for last month's annual review--see "NT Stuff We Like," January 1997, to find out who won.) Now for the details: I reviewed the Pilot 1000 (with 128KB of RAM) and used it with an AST Ascentia P series laptop running Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 1.

The Pilot comes with everything you need to use it immediately with your PC. A nifty cradle connects to the serial port on your computer and doubles as a HotSync connection for synchronizing data. The Pilot comes with both 16-bit and 32-bit software that features a date book, an address book, a memo pad, and a to-do list. After you install the software, you need to configure the Pilot to let it know who's boss. I configured my Pilot to notify me of changes from either data source (PC or Pilot).

You can enter data on the Pilot or your computer's keyboard. The Pilot supports handwriting recognition via the Graffiti alphabet. (Some of you may remember Graffiti from Apple's Newton computer.) Graffiti converts the single-stroke characters you draw with a stylus into computer type. Graffiti is not hard to learn (an hour or two and you'll never look back), but USR also provides the character formations on a sticker that you can affix to the back of your Pilot. After entering the appropriate information, just press the HotSync button to put the data on both your PC and your Pilot. Remove the Pilot from the HotSync cradle, drop it in your shirt pocket, and you're ready to go.

Applications Abound
The Pilot is programmable. For $99 you can purchase USR's Palm OS Conduit software development kit (SDK). With it, you can write software conduits that work with Pilot's Palm OS HotSync architecture on Microsoft Windows computers to synchronize PC application data with data on the Pilot. CodeWarrior from Metrowerks is also available. It runs on any Mac OS computer with System Software 7.1 or higher and lets you create programs for the Pilot. This tool combines Metrowerks's CodeWarrior tools and USR's Palm OS Client SDK and Palm OS Conduit SDK. The Pilot Developer Bundle is a deluxe developer package that includes the Pilot 5000 for Windows, a Pilot replacement stylus, a Macintosh adapter cable, and CodeWarrior.

Developers have created plenty of shareware and commercial applications for the Pilot. For shareware applications, try InfoRamp's Pilot Software Archive or StingerSoft's Online Pilot Resources. The StingerSoft Web site lists more than 70 applications and 40 Web sites. I downloaded StingerMail from StingerSoft's Web site. This application lets you insert email addresses from your address book into your outgoing email.

My favorite shareware Pilot application is Palmeta Mail from Palmeta Software. This application runs on your PC and delivers email from Exchange or other Messaging API (MAPI)-compliant clients to and from your Pilot. One handy feature lets you filter which email messages you want to receive on your Pilot. You can write quick responses on your Pilot, and the next time you HotSync, away they go. Although I wouldn't want to depend on these shareware tools for all my email chores, I've saved hours by using them to read and send email.

If you want to see the latest Pilot software from third-party developers, try http://www.usr.com/palm/pilotsoft.html. My favorite commercial application is IntelliSync for Pilot from IntelliLink, a subsidiary of Puma Technology.

IntelliSync lets you use your favorite personal information manager (PIM) and synchronize it with your Pilot. I use Schedule+ in Exchange (love that Meeting Wizard!) so that I can connect with everyone I work with. IntelliSync lets me synchronize Schedule+ data with my Pilot. Now I can schedule a meeting (invite the participants; set the time; reserve rooms, equipment, and danish) from my Pilot or my desktop. IntelliSync for Pilot works with these popular PIMs: Day-Timer Organizer 2.0 , Lotus Organizer 2.1, Microsoft Schedule+, NetManage ECCO 3.03, Now Up-to-Date for Windows 1.0, Starfish Software Sidekick 95, and Starfish Software Sidekick for Windows 1.0/2.0. IntelliSync for Pilot runs on Windows 95, NT, Windows for Workgroups, and Windows 3.1.

So now thanks to the Pilot, I can have important information about meetings, appointments, and trade shows with me anytime I need it, without maintaining two separate databases. I can use my computer for what it was meant to do and use the Pilot to keep me on time, up to date, and informed.

Pilot
U.S. Robotics * 408-848-5604 or 800-881-7256
Web: http://www.usr.com
Price: Pilot 1000: $249, Pilot 5000: $299, Pilot Memory Upgrade: $99, Pilot Mac Pac: $14.95
Code Warrior
Metrowerks * 800-377-5416
Web: http://www.metrowerks.com
Price: $299
IntelliSync for Pilot
IntelliLink * 603-888-0666
Web: http://www.ilink-corp.com
Price: $69.95
Palmeta Mail
Palmeta Software
Web: http://www.palmeta.com
Email: sales@palmeta.com
Price: $39.95, Download a free 30-day trial version from Palmeta's Web site.
InfoRamp
Web: http://www.inforamp.net/~adam/pilot
StingerSoft
Web: 198.70.114.128
Email: stingersoft@cc-inc.com