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Getting to Know Your Palm Device

A Palm device is a simple little contraption with almost no moving parts. Sometimes it's hard to believe that it's a computer at all. After all, computers are supposed to have zillions of buttons and lights and make scary sounds when they start up, right? Well, you don't have to think of your Palm device as a computer; think of it as your little electronic friend that helps you keep track of your real friends.

A Palm device really has only three elements: the buttons, the screen, and the stylus. No mouse, no cables, no disks — none of it. You'll probably want to use your Palm device along with a normal computer that has all those annoying gizmos, but as long as you're just using your Palm device, you can keep things simple. Figure 1 shows you what one of the latest versions — the Palm IIIx — looks like.

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Figure 1: The front and back of the Palm IIIx.

The case of your Palm device has a bunch of little buttons on it that do all sorts of cool stuff.

Application hard buttons

The application hard buttons are easy to use. The word hard means real, actual, physical buttons you can push with your finger to make something happen. Figure 2 shows you what those buttons look like.

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Figure 2: The buttons at the bottom of the case are hard buttons.

The application buttons are the four round buttons at the bottom of the case on a Palm device. Push any of these buttons at any time, and the Palm device shows you the application (or program) assigned to that button. Applications are just jobs the Palm device is ready to do for you.

Scroll buttons

At the bottom-center of the case on a Palm device is a button (or a pair of buttons, on top of the pre–Palm III models) named scroll buttons. If you own a Palm III or later, the two scroll buttons have been merged into one button that rocks up and down. Scroll buttons work like the power window buttons in a car. If you want to move down through a screen to see what doesn't fit, use the bottom button. If you want to go back to the top of the screen, use the top button. Sometimes, the scroll buttons change the way they act in different applications. Sometimes, pressing a scroll button makes the information in the display area leap to the next screen rather than crawl gradually. Sometimes, the scroll buttons do nothing, especially when there's no next screen to see.

Power button

The green button with the little light bulb on at the left edge of the case is the power button.

The power button has a second job: It turns the backlight on and off. To turn the backlight on, hold the power button down for at least two seconds. If you own an early Palm device (models 1000, 5000, or the PalmPilot Personal), you don't have a backlight. That's too bad. The backlight makes text on the screen of the PalmPilot Professional and the Palm III much easier to read when you're in a dark area and you can't read the screen or when you're in a bright area — outside, maybe — and lots of glare is reflecting off the screen. The Palm IIIx, Palm V, and Palm VII feature a reverse backlight that makes text much easier to read in complete darkness but helps only a little in dim light.

Contrast wheel

The contrast wheel isn't really a button; it's a real moving part that looks like a little volume control on the left edge of the case. On most Palm devices, the contrast wheel is on the left edge of the back of the case. In certain kinds of light, you can see the text on the screen better if you adjust the contrast a little. If you own a Palm V, it has a contrast button on the top left side of the case. Pressing the Palm V contrast button makes the Adjust Contrast box appear on the screen. You can use your stylus to adjust the contrast by sliding the little button to the left or right.

Reset button

Sometimes, you need to tell your Palm device to stop what it's doing and start all over again. That's called resetting your Palm device. Occasionally, a program you've installed on your Palm device misbehaves and makes it hang up or act crazy. That happens rarely, and resetting the Palm device usually fixes the problem.

You can reset your Palm device in two different ways: the hard way and the kinder, gentler, soft way. A soft reset just makes everything stop and start again. You can perform a soft reset on your Palm device by pushing the end of a bent paper clip into the little hole labeled Reset on the back. The stylus that comes with the Palm III and later models includes a secret, built-in reset pin. Just unscrew the end of the stylus to find the reset pin.

A hard reset erases all your data and your username. Needless to say, you don't want to do a hard reset without a good reason. If you're selling your Palm device to someone else, you could do a hard reset to make the unit act like it did when it was brand new. To perform a hard reset, hold down the power button and then press the end of a paper clip into the hole marked Reset on the back of your Palm device. When you do, a prompt appears on the screen, asking whether you really want to erase all your data. Think hard again whether you want to do that — then either press the scroll-up hard button if you do or the scroll-down button if you don't.

The screen

You can't miss the most important part of a Palm device — the screen, which you can see in Figure 3. It shows you the information you've stored in your applications and lets you know what the applications are ready to do for you next.

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Figure 3: The Palm screen.

An equally important function of the Palm screen is to take information from you. Two parts of the screen, the display area and the Graffiti area, take information from you in different ways, and the soft buttons (not to be confused with the hard buttons described earlier) let you do all sorts of other neat things.

The display area

The largest part of the Palm screen is the main display area, as shown in Figure 4, which not only shows the text you're working with but also contains a number of active areas on which you can tap your stylus to make something happen, such as display the contents of a memo or mark a task as complete. You can also slide your stylus across the surface of the screen to select (or highlight) the text that's displayed in some applications.

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Figure 4: The display area.

Most standard Palm applications organize the display area into areas that do pretty much the same job from one application to the next. The upper-left corner of the screen displays a tab that shows the name of the application you're using, such as Address List, To Do List, or Memo Pad. The upper-right corner usually tells you the category of the item you're viewing. The bottom of the display area usually contains buttons you can tap to create, find, or edit items in the application you're using. The main, central part of the display area is the part that shows the bulk of your information. Some applications offer a scroll bar on the right edge of the screen that enables you to scroll the display area to show information that's higher or lower on the list of items you're viewing. This scroll bar does the same thing as the scroll buttons at the bottom of your Palm device.

Soft buttons

Soft buttons aren't really soft, like a pillow; they're more like pictures of buttons painted on the screen of the Palm device. Unlike hard buttons, soft buttons have no moving parts, and they don't do anything until your Palm device is powered on. One advantage to soft buttons is that they're labeled with the name of the thing they do so that you don't have to guess. Figure 5 shows what the soft buttons look like.

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Figure 5: The soft buttons work only when the Palm device is powered on.

To use one of the soft buttons, just tap it with your stylus. The four jobs assigned to the four soft buttons are Applications, Menu, Calculator, and Find. The following sections outline what each soft button does.

Menu

The Menu button activates the menus in any application you're running. Most Palm programs have a set of menus that enable you to cut, copy, or paste text as well as create new items or delete old ones (these menus are similar to those you find in the applications for your desktop computer — except that these menus are not as involved). To use the menus in any application, start the application, and then tap the Menu button and tap the menu you want to use. Figure 6 shows a sample menu.

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Figure 6: If you don't like the specials, you can always order from the menu.

Calculator

The Calculator button contains no mysteries; it starts up the on-screen calculator. Tap the numbers just like you would on a handheld calculator. You can even press the on-screen calculator buttons with your finger.

Find

The Find button starts up a little program that searches your entire Palm device for a certain string of text. If you want to find on your Palm device every item that contains the word chocolate, tap the Find button and enter the word chocolate by using either the on-screen keyboard or Graffiti, and then tap OK, as shown in Figure 7. The Find program then finds all the chocolate on your Palm device, which is faster and healthier than finding all the chocolate in your grocery store.

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Figure 7: Use Find to search for a word that occurs in any Palm application.

The Graffiti area

Most of the bottom part of the screen is occupied by a large box between the soft buttons called the Graffiti area, as shown in Figure 8. A pair of tiny triangles at the top and bottom of the Graffiti area separate the part for entering letters from the part for entering numbers. You can use the Palm stylus to write letters on the left side in the Palm special alphabet, Graffiti. You can enter Graffiti-style numbers on the right side. Graffiti is much like the plain block printing you were taught to use in kindergarten, although a few letters are written a little differently.

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Figure 8: The Graffiti area is the place to enter text.

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