Organizing wherever you are

FCW's DotGov Thursday column looks at how palmtop computing can change your life and your Web site

My Palm and I — we are an inseparable pair.

But it didn't start out that way. When I made the plunge into the world

of handheld devices with Palm Inc.'s Palm Vx, I thought I was purchasing

a device that would help me manage a simple "to do" list and address file.

Instead, I found myself immersed in a new computing paradigm.

My first inkling that this was going to be a difficult learning process

was when I found that the simple "to do" list cannot be backed up. Instead,

I must use the "task list" for my "to do" list if I want a backup. But to

understand the task list, I needed to understand the calendaring system.

To understand the calendaring system, I need to understand Franklin Covey

planning software. To understand the Franklin Covey planning software, I

had to learn the PC side of the Palm Vx — and fast.

This learning process was somewhat painful because not only did I have to

learn several new software modules, but I also had to learn a new navigation

system and the "Graffiti" language for writing. I type around 80 words per

minute, so I find the "Graffiti" writing protocol awkward.

It's still often quirky when interpreting my writing, but the situation

is improving. Nevertheless, it has been one of the more difficult aspects

of the Palm Vx. I have lost data and found the manuals unhelpful. The manuals

skipped important details, such as how large a memo file can be (not very).

And my Palm Vx has gone into a reset on its own twice — apparently the equivalent

of a reboot.

In spite of these limitations, I find real value in using my handheld computer

that significantly overwhelms its limitations. I am encouraged by the way

it makes my life easier. Recently, I was writing notes from my last meeting

as I walked down the street — without even looking at the device. In meetings,

I can post all my notes to my to do lists and calendar. With its small size,

I find I really do carry it with me everywhere I go — unlike my laptop.

It "boots up" immediately with no waiting time. Press button — Palm Vx on.

What I enjoy most is the freedom to be away from my desk and yet still get

my data entry done for such activities as calendars, business contacts,

ideas and notes. I enjoy the keyboard as a substitute for the script language

for heavier note-taking, but I nevertheless appreciate the value of the

Graffiti language which allows me to input material more discretely.

I recommend the Palm device environment and the Palm Vx specifically. The

"life management software" of the Palm Vx is worth the effort and the personal

introspection it causes. However, don't expect a Palm device to substitute

for a laptop.

I also recommend entering data sparingly and testing the software first

to find the quirks before going into full production with your data. It's

a very effective tool for short bursts of activity. For long or complex

actions, I will still be tied to the desktop.

The handheld computing world is so different it can be called a new computing

paradigm. Federal Webmasters will have to address integrating the data in

Web sites with handheld devices. But first, you should have the daily experience

of working with these tools.

Once you have experienced the changes this technology creates (both the

positive and the negative) in your home and work life, only then should

attempts be made to add features to your Web sites to accommodate the new

handheld computing experience.

Kellett is founder of the Federal Web Business Council, co-chairman of the

Federal WebMasters Forum and is director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.